TRAVEL Resurrected from the cinders of war, München is a must

A panoramic view of Munich with the green domes of the Frauenkirche and the peaks of the Austrian Alps in the background.
A panoramic view of Munich with the green domes of the Frauenkirche and the peaks of the Austrian Alps in the background.

Largely obliterated by carpet-bombing during the latter stages of the Second World War, Munich is a city which has been forced by history to rise from the ashes.  

In 1939 it was the fourth-largest city in Germany, boasting thriving culture, industry and a population exceeding 830,000 people. 

The Neues Rathaus and the Frauenkirche, in the background, illuminated by Munich Christmas Market at the Marienplatz.

The Neues Rathaus and the Frauenkirche, in the background, illuminated by Munich Christmas Market at the Marienplatz.

But in the six years that followed, nearly 300,000 residents were killed or displaced by the efforts of Allied bombers – who brought more than 50 per cent of the city's structures crashing to the ground. 

What exists in their place today is a remarkable feat of mimicry, with many given a new breath of life through pinpoint post-war reconstruction. 

But make no mistake, Munich does not only look back, it looks to the future too.    

Like London, its districts are sewn together by a vast underground rail network, the U-Bahn – which boasts 96 stations and 390million journeys made each year. This service is the traveller's best friend, with all-access day tickets costing 8.90€ (£7.85). 

Among the top stops along these tracks are two of Munich's most-loved squares, the Marienplatz and the Odeonsplatz, both within walking distance of some of the city's standout attractions. 

Hop off a tube at the former, and you'll arrive at the beating, sociable heart of Bavaria's capital, which once a year is transformed for Oktoberfest – the envy of the beer-swilling world. 

Or visit in late November through December, when it transforms into a stomping ground for all things festive, for Munich's renowned Christmas market. 

Every day, though, it is proudly home to the stunning 15th century Frauenkirche, a Roman Catholic church once led by Pope Benedict XVI, alongside the Neues Rathaus – Munich's neo-gothic town hall, where three-times-a-day there is an eerie-yet-revered glockenspiel performance from its facade. 

Silently bearing witness to all this is a statue of Shakespeare's Juliet Capulet – a gift from Italy – cemented close to the square's eastern arch. Hearsay claims anyone who rubs her right breast will receive good luck. It's plain to see this naughty gesture is well tried and tested day-in-day-out, as the bust of Romeo's fatal darling sports a polished, brassy sheen. 

To get a panoramic view of all the Marienplatz has to offer, climb the 299 steps of St Peter's Church – open all-year-round – pitching you a sweet 90m above the ground. 

And to reward yourself, visit the nearby Hofbräuhaus – a three-storey, 16th century beer tavern. So frequented is it by locals, many pay to keep a personal vessel in the venue's own stein locker area, complete with a communal sink for rinsing.  

As night begins to descend, a direct 10-minute trip on the U-Bahn to the Odeonsplatz is the key to making lasting memories. Upon arrival, a short stroll down Theatinerstraße – passing the square's beautiful imitation Florentine loggia, the Feldherrnhalle – will proffer vast choice for food and drink. 

But for a true taste of Bavaria, recently renovated Donisl is the place to be, not least for its killer pork knuckle and fluffy potato dumplings. Visit on a warm summer's day and the restaurant's glass roof – three storeys up – will part in stadium-like fashion. Or, make a winter reservation and beautiful Christmas decorations with embellish every fixture. 

To finish the evening, the jaw-dropping Goldene Bar, a worthy 15-minute walk away, offers an experience immersing its visitors not just in alcohol but fearsome history.

One of Munich's best-kept secrets, this spot is nestled among the towering cloisters of the first monumental structure built by Nazi hands, propaganda art gallery Haus der Kunst. March beneath its portico, look up and you are faced with motif mosaic Swastikas – a chilling reminder of the building's heritage.

But wander through Goldene's subtle side entrance, and you are met by the sheer contrast of shimmering interiors and scores of metropolitan drinkers – sipping cocktails and burning the midnight oil.  

You will pay London prices for a slow drink here, but it'll be just that – sit back and enjoy, no one is rushing you. 

When you and Munich's night scene must finally part ways, I recommend you retire to the Maritim Hotel.

A mere three-minute U-Bahn journey from the Odeonsplatz to Munich Hauptbahnhof – and the same again walking – this cosy 4* complex is tucked away from the city streets, allowing for a smooth night's sleep. 

If you do not speak German, many of its staff are proficient in English and are only too happy to help. 

Breakfast is hearty and lavish, the rooftop pool offers generous views and a double room is smart and sophisticated – at 158€ per night (£140). 

But regardless of where or when you stay in magnificent Munich, it is sure to welcome you with its arms wide open. 

It's an enormous city, but it can be explored in a weekend. But I wouldn't blame anyone who decides to stay a little  longer.