Schwabing is Munich’s avant-garde district and a magnet for locals and visitors alike thanks to its diverse range of drinking establishments, gourmet eateries and intriguing boutiques. The neighbourhood came to fame in the late 19th century when it was home to an impressive group of poets, painters and writers, including Rainer Maria Rilke and Heinrich Mann. Having gained a reputation as Munich’s artistic quarter, Schwabing remains an important creative and social hub today.
Located in the northern part of the city, Schwabing is a lively shopping destination by day and is packed full of boutiques, jewellery stores and art galleries. At night the area is transformed into an energetic entertainment venue and is home to many contemporary bars and restaurants. Bordered by the Olympic park to the west and the stunning Englischer Garten – one of the world’s largest public parks – to the east, and with two of the city’s universities nearby, it is constantly buzzing with vitality.
Take in the sense of energy with a stroll down Leopoldstrasse. This long boulevard is lined with fashionable stores, restaurants and bars and runs all the way from spectacular, triple-arched Siegestor, or Victory Gate, through Münchner Freiheit square to handsome Odeonsplatz. Around the corner on Bahnhofplatz you will find Karstadt, one of Germany’s most popular department stores, which carries an array of womenswear from brands including Vera Mont and Adidas Originals, menswear from Levi’s and Daniel Hechter, and a selection of seasonal homeware.
On the way, visit the stores of well-known labels such as Benetton, Esprit and Zara. Make time, too, to explore the side streets off Leopoldstrasse, which contain some of the city’s most memorable small shops. Wandering along Kaiserstrasse, Hohenzollernstrasse and Franz-Joseph-Strasse, you’ll find that striking art nouveau buildings have been transformed into clothing boutiques, jewellery shops, bookshops and antiques stores. Don’t miss local favourite Emanuel Berg, on Franz-Joseph-Strasse, for fine tailored suits and accompanying bow ties, cufflinks, braces and other gentlemanly accoutrements. Stop by independent concept store Falkenberg, on the same street, and you’ll be entranced by the clever curation of interesting home accessories, fragrances, coffee-table books, artisanal tea and chocolates. This is the perfect place to pick up an unusual souvenir from your trip.
If you are hungry, you will find yourself spoilt for choice in Schwabing. Stop for a snack at the tempting daily food market on Elisabethplatz. With its array of locally sourced fresh breads, meats and cheeses, it offers an epicurean flavour of the borough. But if you’re more in the market for a sit-down meal head to Alter Simpl pub on Türkenstrasse, which is much applauded for its Bavarian menu. Once a famous meeting place for writers and artists, it is today hung with their pictures. That means you can soak up some of Schwabing’s bohemian atmosphere while tucking into classic dishes.
Even greater delights await at two-Michelin-star Tantris on Johann-Fichte-Strasse. Chef Hans Haas has kept his restaurant at the top of the critics’ lists in Munich for several years. Opt for the eight-course gourmet menu and savour dishes such as roasted lobster with octopus pasta.
Smaller dishes and sweet treats can be enjoyed at Schwabing’s many cafés and patisseries. Try intimate yet chic Occam Deli on Feilitzschstrasse, which specialises in tapas-style smaller plates.
End your tour of Schwabing in Englischer Garten. Encompassing lakes, woods, gently rolling terrain and flower-dusted meadows, the park is gloriously green and generously big: it spans 350 hectares and so is larger than London’s Hyde Park. It was created in the 18th century ostensibly in the style of an English country park, hence the name. Eye-catching additions over the ensuing years include a Japanese teahouse, a Greek temple, and a pagoda. In winter Englischer Garten is just as much of a must-visit as in summer. Its pagoda, or Chinese Tower, is the site of a Christmas market offering craft items and festive delicacies which are ideal as gifts for friends and family. For an additional touch of Christmas magic, carriage rides through the park are also available.
The painters, artists and poets who once lived in Schwabing may be long gone, but the creative and dynamic atmosphere of their time lives on. With its ample shopping opportunities, traditional pubs, fine dining restaurants and charming cafés, it is still the beating heart of creative Munich.