A walk through the Westend: a district on the move. 25 nations live here next door in the best neighborhood.
Ilse the snail has the best view. This four-metre-tall clay snail beams a friendly smile as she looks casually out over Bavariapark while the daily hustle and bustle goes on around her. This is where children come to ride their bikes and where locals and visitors enjoy the good life in the nearby beer garden.
A snail like this isn’t particularly speedy, though carrying her home on her back means she is incredibly mobile. Ilse’s “parents”, respected American artists Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, had this mobility in mind when they placed their “Sweet Brown Snail” directly opposite the Verkehrszentrum (the transportation centre of the Deutsche Museum). This spot is full of exciting and entertaining exhibits – and not just for technology fans!
With its unique collection of land vehicles, the Verkehrszentrum tells the story of travel and mobility of the past, present and future. A glimpse of an old Vespa, a blue and white train from the 1972 Olympic Games or the first pair of roller skates may conjure up feelings of nostalgia, while a carriage simulator can help you to learn about the uncomfortable travel conditions in the age of Mozart.
From specially constructed platforms, you can climb aboard historic and modern trains. With a loud blast of its whistle, Puffing Billy, the world’s first steam train, sets off from here every day at 3 p.m. Regular demonstrations show a range of different vehicles in action.
During the two-week-long Oktoberfest, this spot at the foot of the Bavaria is perfect for listening to the music from the beer tents and the sounds of the fairground rides as the scent of grilled fish and toasted almonds wafts beneath your nose.
A few metres to the east in Bavariapark you will encounter a sudden steep slope. This hill leading to the Bavaria statue is a unique, natural grandstand terrace, which was also used for the horse race that was part of the festivities to honour the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese (the first ever Oktoberfest in 1810). From here, you can enjoy unobstructed views over the world’s largest folk festival.
During the two-week-long Oktoberfest (held from mid-September until early October), this spot at the foot of the Bavaria is perfect for listening to the music from the beer tents and the sounds of the fairground rides as the scent of grilled fish and toasted almonds wafts beneath your nose.
In December, this spot affords views over the beautiful sea of lights created by the Tollwood Winterfestival and the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
It’s not that long ago that locals used to think of Westend as the run-down part of town. It just didn’t seem to fit in with the grand, classical architecture of Athens on the Isar (as Munich is sometimes known) despite the fact that it was home to the magnificent Bavaria statue and the elegant Ruhmeshalle building (Hall of Fame).
The area was very sparsely populated all the way up to the early 19th century. It was not until the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1850 that the first factories began to spring up. In the 19th century, it was mainly workers from the surrounding region who moved here to live close to the factories. In the 1960s, however, many foreign workers moved to Westend to start their new lives in Germany. Thanks to countless initiatives and social facilities, the area is now home to up to 25 nationalities who live together in a thriving community.
The last of the factories were closed and torn down in the 1980s, to be replaced by beautiful green courtyards. Many of the Gründerzeit (Wilhelminian-style) buildings here have since been restored. Since the city’s trade fair grounds were moved to the east-end of Munich in 1998, a new residential and business district has sprouted up in Schwanthalerhöhe in the area around Bavariapark.
With the Wohnturm residential block, which was inspired by the tower in the former trade fair, Munich’s famous architect Otto Steidle created one last architectural monument prior to his death in 2004. Thanks to its colourful ceramic cladding, the KPMG building – designed by Steidle and Partner – is another of the area’s landmarks. The jewel in its crown is the double helix installation in the courtyard, created by world famous artist Olafur Eliasson.
For fans of tradition, Westend is the home of Munich’s oldest brewery, Augustiner, which has been based here for 130 years. The large, rustic beer garden at Augustiner-Keller to the north of Hackerbrücke bridge remains a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors.
If you’re looking for an unconventional place to eat breakfast, head to Parkstrasse 2 where you’ll find a shop-cum-café housed in a recently restored textile warehouse. The wooden interior features shop counters and shelves full of hundreds of tiny drawers left over from the 1920s. The mix and match settee sets from the period between 1900 and 1960 are available to buy.
The large, rustic beer garden at Augustiner-Keller to the north of Hackerbrücke bridge remains a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors.
As an ideal example of just how deeply rooted residents are in this area, an elderly lady who used to work as a waitress at Oktoberfest explains how she now travels into the city every day to say a prayer for the residents in her building at Alte Peter church. Everyone here knows each other and looks out for their neighbours. And because very few flats have their own garden, they often meet on the squares to chat and play.
The colourful community of this multi-cultural neighbourhood is reflected in the diversity of its eateries. From Turkish to Ethiopian, Italian, Greek and French to Caribbean, Thai and Japanese, and from Spanish to Vietnamese, there is something here for every taste.