Almost too good to be true: in Volkartstrasse in Neuhausen, neighbours say hi to each other in the street, and people like to enjoy a nice cup of coffee in their rear courtyard. It’s hard to believe we’re just a few stops away from all the hustle and bustle of Munich’s central station.
The district of Neuhausen has a very distinctive location – it’s as central as Lehel yet as inviting and relaxed as Giesing. Even though you’re just two underground stops from Munich’s central station, you have peace and quiet, lots of greenery and a breadth of lovely turn-of-the century apartment blocks along the little side streets. It’s almost as if Nymphenburg Palace were to radiate its splendour out onto the surrounding neighbourhood: after all, Neuhausen boasts a remarkably large number of villa colonies and Art Nouveau buildings.
Volkartstraße is like the setting for a television series - if "Lindenstraße" hadn't been filmed in Cologne, it would have been here.
What is more, the neighbourhood has retained an air of being a small cosmos within itself – something of a rare gem. You have to talk to local residents to get really good insider tips, so I ask around among my friends: the neighbourhood has several particularly attractive and singularly authentic streets, including as Blutenburgstrasse, Donnersbergerstrasse and Schulstrasse, but the one that comes up most is Volkartstrasse between Rotkreuzplatz and Leonrodplatz, so we arrange to meet there on a hot summer day.
Maybe it’s the great weather, but this street is almost too good to be true: as the midday sun wanders slowly over the roofs of the turn-of-the century apartment blocks, neighbours greet each other in passing. In leafy rear courtyards with beautifully coloured plants and flowers, pensioners sit enjoying a nice cup of coffee in the shade, while restaurant owners calmly go about setting their tables for the evening. Amid all this serenity, it’s easy to forget about time. Volkartstrasse is like the setting for a television series: if Lindenstrasse hadn't been shot in Cologne, it would have been filmed here. If the street were a month, it would definitely be the tranquil month of August – when the people of Munich are away on holiday and you can always be sure of finding a parking space or getting a restaurant table without having to make a reservation first.
As we take a leisurely stroll down the street, an elderly lady smiles at me and gives me a compliment: “That’s a great dress you’re wearing!” I thank her and we start chatting. Her name is Renate, she is 78 years old and has lived on Volkartstrasse almost all her life – only the number of her building has changed again and again over the decades. She tells us: “After the war I lived in Laim until I was six, then we moved to Volkartstrasse. I worked for over 40 years as a civil servant with the Employer’s Liability Insurance Association for the Construction Industry in Neuhausen!”
“Oh, I just know every cobblestone here. Sometimes it takes me two hours to get home because I get into conversation with people on the way, start stroking a dog or simply enjoy looking at the plants and trees."
What is it that she particularly likes about the street? “Oh, I just know every cobblestone here. Sometimes it takes me two hours to get home because I get into conversation with people on the way, start stroking a dog or simply enjoy looking at the plants and trees. I love my acacias – they always smell so good!” There are many more people on the street today than there used to be, says Renate – and that’s not the only thing that has changed over the decades: in the old days, there were very few cars on Landshuter Allee, people did their shopping at corner shops, and on the large meadow opposite there was a circus with a traditional fair and bumper cars.
When Renate is not out and about on Volkartstrasse, she also goes to the Farmers’ Market which is held every Tuesday in Loristrasse: “I used to work in that street, so I still like to go there to shop. Everything is fresh at the market – and it’s no more expensive than at the supermarket.” Another tip she mentions is Grünwaldpark just around the corner – a great place to go if you only have an hour or so. If you’re looking to spend several hours in a natural setting, the place to go is Nymphenburg Palace Park.
We walk on and quickly realise that Volkartstrasse is a great place not only for plant-lovers but also to eat out: one particularly striking feature here is the large number of good Asian restaurants. The second branch of SAM Sushi and meat is located on this street, as well as Chay Vegan, DuFu Bun and AOI Ramen, while just around the corner you have Hanami Sushi Addict and JACCI Asian Kitchen. We opt for AOI Ramen – a family-run restaurant I’ve heard a lot of good things about.
Volkartstrasse is a great place not only for plant-lovers but also to eat out: one particularly striking feature here is the large number of good Asian restaurants.
Inside, you can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere as you sit among bottles of sake and small wooden tables. The menu features a variety of ramen with yuzu lemon, minced chicken and spicy sesame. You can add toppings such as boiled egg, bean sprouts or roasted nori leaves to every Ramen. The starters are great, too: we go for seaweed salad, fried dumplings (gyoza) and the Japanese chicken schnitzel with spicy Japanese sauce. Vegetarians will opt for the vegetable dumplings as a set meal, also including a small bowl of soup and a salad.
Volkartstrasse is home to a real Bavarian-style tavern, too: Großwirt is the oldest such establishment in the district – a new tenant renovated and re-opened it more than ten years ago. Its history goes back much further than this, though: more than 400 years ago, you could not only dine and drink beer here but also spend the night, deliver mail and stable your horse. Today, people come here on foot, by bike or by car and enjoy sitting either inside the restaurant or outside on the terrace. The menu includes genuine Weißwürste (Bavarian veal sausages), roast pork and schnitzel.
Quite by chance we then come across Perlerie in Volksstrasse – it’s not quite 400 years old, but it’s been around for at least 17 years. Not only can you buy a colourful range of products here including beads, accessories and ribbons of all kinds, you can also take one of several courses to learn to make your own jewellery and also put on a children’s birthday party. Ulrike runs Perlerie – one of the very last bead shops in Munich – and she lives in the neighbourhood, too: “Neuhausen is a very nice blend of leafy streets and a central location. You can get into town quickly but still enjoy the peace and quiet!”
Ulrike used to have an office job and would often help out at friends’ shops in the neighbourhood. That’s when she realised how much she enjoys this type of work: “There was always a demand for beads, so when my children grew up, I decided it was time to start a project of my own!” The shop on Volkartstrasse attracts lots of casual customers and regulars. The fact that Neuhausen is considered rather affluent doesn’t hurt business either, of course. “Nonetheless, the neighbourhood has retained a certain down-to-earth character, especially over at Rotkreuzplatz – there’s still a lot of cooperative housing over there,” Ulrike tells us.
“Neuhausen is a very nice blend of leafy streets and a central location. You can get into town quickly but still enjoy the peace and quiet!”
What she particularly likes about Volkartstrasse is the mix of people and shops, though this has changed over the years, of course. The toy shops have disappeared, more restaurants have sprung up. Ulrike has some tips for us here too: “Emporio Italiano and the Turkish place Pardi serve really tasty food. My favourite place is the little kiosk Cinque Panini over there by Grünwaldplatz. There you meet the whole neighbourhood and all kinds of different characters: it’s such a convenient place to enjoy a nice relaxing drink in the evening.” Without having to reserve in advance, of course.