The Munich Surf Open, held each year in June or July, is a daylong event at the Flosslände near Thalkirchen, a neighborhood of Munich with its own subway stop (U-Bahn Thalkirchen). Dozens of surfers perform, and hundreds of spectators watch from the banks. The date for a given year’s contest is announced at http://grossstadtsurfer.de. Surfers can be seen on the Eisbach and Flosslände waves at other times, too, most consistently from May through September; even German surfers don’t like freezing water.
Permanent waves, soggy schnitzel, and accordion tunes in Bavaria's landlocked capital
Where to stay
The Hotel Carlton (www.carlton-garni.de) is near the bottom of the English Garden, just a few blocks from the Eisbach wave. The rooms are small, and the place has a somewhat dingy European-business-traveler vibe; but the kitchen serves an excellent breakfast, complete with fresh eggs and English-style sausage, and the downtown location is hard to beat.
Also close by is the Vier Jahreszeiten, or Four Seasons (www.kempinski-vierjahreszeiten .com), one of the city’s old grand hotels. Built in 1858 and rebuilt in 1947, it has hosted royalty from around the world.
If you’ve come to surf, or just want to travel like a surfer, make reservations at the Euro Youth Hotel (www.euro-youth-hotel.de), which has cheap single rooms, even-cheaper dorm beds, free WiFi, and bikes for rent. It’s not far from the Eisbach, either, and it’s across the street from the Hauptbahnhof, or train station, making the trip from the train to the hostel with your surfboard almost hassle-free (board rentals are practically nonexistent in the city). The hostel is also within easy walking distance of the downtown pedestrian zone.
Where to eat and drink
Downtown Munich has plenty of options, from gourmet restaurants to the famous beer halls, and the selection in the pedestrian zone will be obvious to any wandering tourist. Here are two good choices outside the pedestrian zone but still centrally located, near the Hauptbahnhof. For an authentic atmosphere and no- nonsense southern German food—pork schnitzel, perch filets, and the like—look for the Gaststätte Bavaria (www.gaststaette-bavaria.de) at Bayerstrasse 81. This is the sort of smoky, open-room restaurant where train conductors come to relax after a shift. For something fancier, try Lutter & Wegner at Lenbachplatz 8 (www.l-w-muenchen.de), where entrees range from sauerbraten with potato puree and red cabbage to duck breast with truffled Savoy cabbage and glazed chestnuts.
Things to do
Kayaking on the Isar, unlike surfing, is fully legal. Not many places rent out boats, but some local groups, including the Munich Kayak Riders’ Club (www.cmk-muenchen.de) offer lessons.
For an unabashedly tourist experience on the canals, you can catch a daylong log-raft tour, complete with music, food, and kegs of beer. These are operated by numerous “Isarflossfahrt” companies (www.isarflossfahrten.de or www.flossfahrt.eu) and run between May and September. Most tours leave from the town of Wolfratshausen, about 20 miles south of Munich.
Nearby land-based activities include a visit to the Haus der Kunst (Prinzregentenstrasse 1; www.hausderkunst.de), Munich’s modern-art museum, just a stone’s throw from the Eisbach wave. The museum is in a stone building erected during Hitler’s rule, when it was called Haus der Deutschen Kunst, or House of German Art. Now it’s a world-class institution that has exhibited works by artists such as Paul Klee, Joseph Beuys, and the living avant-gardists Anish Kapoor and Gilbert & George.
The Tierpark Hellabrunn (Tierparkstrasse 30; www.tierpark-hellabrunn.de), a short walk from the Flosslände wave, is one of the largest zoos in the world; it’s also the first “Geo-Zoo,” built in 1911 with the idea of keeping animals in large enclosed habitats instead of cages.