Munich may be best known for Oktoberfest, but visit in spring and to escape the crowds and enjoy an array of unique experiences.
Go surfing – indoors and out
Munich may be landlocked but that needn’t stop you from surfing in the city.
Since 1972, surfers have been catching waves at Eisbachwelle, a manmade, 1-metre high swell on the River Eisbach by the entrance of the English Garden. But with fast currents, hidden concrete rocks and temperatures hovering between 10°C and 17°C, only experienced surfers with their own board are encouraged.
If that’s not you, then you can learn to ride the waves at Jochen Schweizer Arena instead. The adventure sports centre, to the south of the city, has an indoor wave pool with poles to hold on to making it ideal for beginner surfers. Sessions last 90 minutes and wetsuits are provided.
The arena also has indoor skydiving, a high ropes obstacle course and a zipline. Craving more of a thrill? Then strap on a harness and go house running instead – and experience the sensation of darting vertically 30 metres down the side of a building, just like the DC superhero, Flash.
Jochen Schweizer Arena, Ludwig Bölkow Allee 1, 82024 Taufkirchen, Munich
Climb across an Olympic stadium roof
It’s not everyday you get to climb across the roof of a stadium, so take the opportunity to join a 2-hour guided tour of Munich Olympic Stadium in the north of the city.
Inspired by spiders’ webs, the German architectural firm Behnisch & Partner designed the stadium’s tent-like canopy for the summer Olympics in 1972.
Made from transparent sheets of Plexiglass™, the roof shelters the stadium’s 77,000 grandstand seats, protecting spectators from the elements.
Today you can strap on a harness to climb across the bouncy awning, its peaks like tufts of meringue. As well as views of an artificial lake and meadows flecked with marguerites in spring, you’ll see lawns planted with cherry blossom, pine, lime and Chinese ginkgo trees. The Olympic Tower looms over the park, while in the distance you can spot the turquoise domes and terracotta tiled roof of Frauenkirche church. On clear days, look out for Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, in the Bavarian Alps.
Once you’ve completed your climb, you have the option of ziplining 200 metres across the pitch or abseiling in mid-air, 40 metres to the ground.
Munich Olympic Stadium, Spiridon Louis Ring 27, 80809 Munich
Float on a raft
Germans have been transporting goods on rafts down the River Isar since the 12th century. By the mid 19th century, more than 8,000 rafts were in use until the rise of steamboats and railways led to the industry’s decline towards the end of the century.
Today you can voyage along the river with various companies including Isarfloss Fahrt, which runs all-day tours everyday from 1st May to September. The route begins in Wolfratshausen, 37 kilometres south of Munich, and ends in the residential neighbourhood of Thalkirchen.
With capacity for up to 50 people and a brass band dressed in lederhosen, the trip is a sociable affair. As you drift past leafy riverbanks, you’ll sip on Bavarian keg beer and snack on pretzels, cheese and leberkäse – sandwiches filled with slabs of meat loaf.
The rafts are propelled by a motor and navigated by a pole, which results in an exhilarating journey – especially when you whizz down Europe’s longest log raft slide. The 350-metre long decline resembles a log flume at a theme park, so if you’re sitting near the front prepare to get splashed as you hurtle down the river at 40 kilometres per hour.
Once you’ve passed the hurdle and your lunch has settled, you can swim in calmer parts of the river.
After a day of adventure, return to The Charles Hotel to wind down over drinks in Sophie’s Bar, which is dimly lit with candles and lanterns.