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September 2008 Email this to a friend

Urban amenities and Alpine charm

By Staff reports

NY Club, Munich
At NY Club

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Munich article click DailyXtraTravel

Click on the link for a handy PDF version of our September 2008 Munich travel feature!

Urban amenities coupled with easy access to the region's Alpine charms make this city a favorite with both Germans and tourists alike

The capital of Bavaria, Munich is known for its many museums, nearby storybook castles surrounded by snow-capped Alps distinctive architecture, and of course, the beer. Munich's humanly-scaled urban environment has a tight-knit but visitor-friendly community of people who greet all with Grüss Gott and a smile. Germans are said to consider Munich to have the country's best quality of life, the city they'd chose to live in if they could. Most gay people here would agree.

The banks of the Isar River rank among Munich's greatest charms. Allowed to run naturally, its tributaries create little islands edged with sand or pebble beaches, big flat rocks, and meadows of grass and wild flowers. All kinds of people come out to the water on warm summer days -- families with children, goth teens, gay couples, and gatherings of friends of all ages and many ethnicities. Over barbecues and beer, they populate the riverside or bike the nearby trails, all together without offense or fuss. Nude sunbathers turn golden brown, kids and dogs frolic, and lovers -- straight or gay -- get wrapped up in their own private worlds.

The Isar's banks are easily reached by U-Bahn (Thalkirchen station), and the gay cruising trails aren't hard to spot, in amongst the trees of the larger island just beyond the footbridge downriver. Munich's famous zoo is nearby as well.

Englischer Garten Park, bigger than New York's Central Park, is another green space of woods and rolling lawns in the middle of the city. The scientist Benjamin Thompson, born in Woburn, Massachusetts, (a loyalist driven from his New Hampshire home during the war for American independence), established the park in 1789 under the rule of the Duke of Bavaria, Karl Theodor. Modern visitors flock to the Monopteros greek temple by Leo von Klenze (distinguished local architect), the Chinesischer Turm with adjacent beer garden, and a Japanisches Teehaus and garden on a small island. The Schönfeldwiese ("beautiful meadows") area is famous for its nude sunbathers, and of course this park can be quite cruisy too.

Getting around Munich is a breeze, great for walkers or bikers since most major streets have bike lanes. Bicycles can easily be rented too. The tram and subway systems run frequently, and trams offer late-night service. Inexpensive one- and three-day visitor passes are available at the stations and at many tram stops. Transit routes, schedules and maps are available at Muenchen.de, along with other visitor information, both general and specifically gay.

As for getting around the principal gay area, around Müllerstrasse and Hans-Sachs Strasse, you won't have to stray far from stops along the routes of tram numbers 17 and 18 and in the vicinity of Sendlinger Tor U-Bahn station. You'll find dozens of gay bars, dance clubs, restaurants, bathhouses, hotels, and stores. Most locals are somewhat or completely competent in English, but don't be shy to try some German, as they're happy to help you out.

Munich's single biggest party is the annual Oktoberfest, September 20 through October 5 this year, which ranks as one of the world's greatest festivals of beer. A subway ride to Theresienwiese or Goetheplatz U-Bahn stations will get you to the festival's giant tents with costume parades and carnival rides.

A huge gay gathering of thousands of queer beer-swillers will celebrate from midday until midnight on "Gay Sunday" September 21 in the Bräurosl beer tent. Come early, as the seats will fill up soon after the doors open, around 10 a.m. For Munich bears' Oktobearfest events September 18-21, see Oktobearfest, and for still more gay Oktoberfest information see Rosa Wiesn.

Munich's Christopher Street Day Munich events took place on July 12 and 13 with a parade circling through the gay neighborhoods and street festival at Marienplatz. The many events at this annual celebration draw people from all over the region filling the bars, and the Rathaus (City Hall) itself is the site of one of the biggest gay bashes, both inside and out. The gay community is represented in City Hall by members of Pink List who have a website at Rosaliste.de.

Saturday August 16 was the date for the Hans-Sachs Schwules Strassenfest, an annual community street festival specific to this very gay area.

The Verzaubert International Queer Film Festival does an annual tour of Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Berlin. See their website for details about next year's events, in March and April 2009.


Deserving first consideration for any gay visitors to Munich, Deutsche Eiche (Reichenbachstrasse 13; DeutscheEiche.de) is a hotel with 30 modern, well-designed, comfortable rooms. They also have a five-star suite available. The rates are reasonable, and there's a delicious breakfast every morning, too. Their restaurant has seating both indoors and out, and serves traditional Bavarian food all day. Hangout of gay film director Werner Fassbinder and other Munich glitterati, the Eiche ("Oak") is the creation of Dietmar and Joseph, a couple of many years with an interest in history and conservation who put heart and soul into the place. Eiche staff are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable too, with maps, guides, and local mags at hand. The location is perfect, just minutes from most anywhere in the gay district, and you're just a short walk to Marienplatz by way of the market stalls and beer gardens of the Viktualienmarkt. Deutsche Eiche's large sauna, open daily 2 p.m. to 7 a.m., ranks among the finest gay saunas in the world, with all amenities, beautifully designed, and always well-maintained.

Other nearby gay-friendly hotels include: Hotel Advokat (Baaderstrasse 1), a casually upscale business hotel near Isartor; the Hotel Olympic (Hans Sachs Strasse 4), located next to Cafe Nil; and the Carat (Lindwurmstrasse 13), close by Sendlinger Tor.

Other convenient local hotels are the two Seibels (Seibel-hotels-munich.de): the Hotel Seibel (Theresienhoehe 9), near the Oktoberfest site; and Pension Seibel (Reichenbachstrasse 8) near the Viktualienmarkt. The Hotel Viktualienmarkt (Utzschneiderstrasse 14) is a comfortable and inexpensive general-clientele hotel near the Deutsche Eiche and the Eagle.

To get locally oriented, try the GLBT center, Sub (Müllerstrasse 43; Subonline.org), open daily from 7 p.m. This all-volunteer operation has flyers, maps, free guidebooks, and friendly advice. Sub also has a bar and cafe and a large library (much of it in English). Two German gay magazines have free local editions all around town: Leo and Blu with maps, photos, listings, and upcoming events.

Going out

An excellent place to start an exploration of gay Munich, just off Müllerstrasse and full of Bavarian charm, Cafe Selig (Hans-Sachs Strasse 3) is the fun hotspot all day and late into the evening. They draw a throng of attractive, mostly gay men to their indoor tables and outdoor sidewalk seating nightly, but it's a comfortable afternoon cafe meeting place and relaxed urban oasis too. With full bar and kitchen, Selig serves a wide range of freshly-prepared foods, beverages, smoothies, and daily specials to keep things interesting. Austrian-born owner Gunter is justly proud of his scrumptious homemade Viennese cakes and strudels that are must-tries. Gunter seems to know all his customers as he pitches in with his entertaining staff to handle the huge weekend crowds for their Friday and Saturday evening "warm-up parties" that spill out into the street. The place is hopping until after midnight when folks start to head to the nearby NY Club to dance away the second part of their night. Selig is at the heart of the annual Hans-Sachs street festival.

A number of area bars are effectively men-only zones, including -- but not limited to -- those into leather, fetish, uniforms, and bears.

Bau (Müllerstrasse 41) is a place where the tap never runs dry and the staff will make you feel like family. Here you'll find parties, blockbuster movies, and two-for-one specials on Mondays. Events such as fetish parties and foam parties are not uncommon. Downstairs there's a bar and dark area for even more fun. You can lose track of time cavorting with the great mix of locals and visitors you'll find here.

Eagle Munich (Buttermelchstrasse 2a) does cater to a leather-oriented crowd, as its name implies, but any guy can feel at home, as the staff here welcomes all men. The dark room gets very busy, and if you feel like wearing only your cockring, go ahead; join the crowd and take it all off -- leave your clothes safely bagged behind the bar.

Pop As (Thalkirchner Strasse 12) is a pils (or "beer") bar hosted by Carlos, the charming owner. You'll encounter many of the Levi-leather fraternity at here, but men of all ages and leanings visit this hangout, a local institution since 1979.

Other popular men's bars include: CAMP (Reisingerstrasse 15); Edelheiss (Pestalozzistrasse 6); Ochsengarten (Muhlerstrasse 47); Spike (Holzstrasse 14); and Teddy Bar (Hans-Sachs-Strasse 1)

Munich's gay dance scene is dominated by NY Club (Sonnenstrasse 25; NYClub.de), between Sendlinger Tor and Karlsplatz, open from 10 p.m. on Thursdays, and from 11 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, and also on Sundays before holiday Mondays. Saturdays from 1 a.m. is the busiest time. Known for 19 years as New York Discotheque, this renowned gay dance club got a total makeover with new ownership, and now NY Club will celebrate its third birthday party this coming October with a big party promised for the event. Owner Ken lived in New York, and brings a bit of the Big Apple's multi-cultural mix to Munich. They're packed late into the night Saturdays, with a nicely mixed gay crowd of young energetic guys, with some women and older guys too. Also on the calendar are periodic men-only nights, with go-go dancers (and sometimes porn stars), plus the occasional night celebrating special events. Their website lists all the upcoming events. Thursdays and Fridays are special themed parties and have a less exclusively gay ambience. The dark room here is a popular place for people to get even more physical than they do on the dance floor.

Die Carmen's (Theklastrasse 1) is a small basement disco with an even younger, mostly male crowd, and fast-paced music that keeps 'em moving Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to open-ended hours.

Hendersen (Müllerstrasse 1) is a another small, long-time local dance option, and 2 Rooms (Neuhauser Strasse 47) at Karlsplatz has a young and gay gay weekend crowd.

Moro (Müllerstrasse 30) restaurant and bar has an eclectic menu ranging from local favorites such as schweinebraten, pastas, salads, Thai and other international fare, with daily specials and sidewalk tables.

Kr@ftAkt (Thalkirchner Strasse 4) is a casual, youth-favored, and centrally situated bar, restaurant and cafe with internet access for their customers.

Cafe Santos (Angertorstrasse 4) also has internet access. Open daily, they serve inexpensive pizza and pasta as well as goulash, veggie fare, and tasty deserts -- plus, there's a full bar and coffee selections.

Other gay-friendly cafes and restaurants include: Cafe Gluck (Palmstrasse 4), the beautiful restaurant and bar Morizz (Klenzestrasse 43), and Villanis (Kreuzstrasse 36), a bistro located on a quaint back alley off Sendlingerstrasse.

Prosecco (Theklastrasse 1), a cozy neighborhood bar, is home to local drag divas and lots of Schlager ("hit tunes") music, making it jam-packed on weekends. Cafe am Hochhaus (Blumenstrasse 29) is a trendy mixed club with nightly events, and Cafe Rendez-Vous (Müllerstrasse 24) is an unassuming sidewalk bar and cafe, but a great spot to watch everyone come and go at Müllerstrasse central.

And there are more: Bar Jeans (Blumenstrasse 15), Cook (Augsburger 21), and Mylord (Ickstattstrasse 2a) are among other bars you might like to pop into when in the neighborhood.

Café Nil, across from Selig, closed this month. Stay tuned for what the new owners here come up with.

Getting physical

The largest and busiest tubs in Munich, Deutsche Eiche (Reichenbachstrasse 13) has a giant sauna complex on three levels with a large and clean whirlpool, conducive to passionate exchanges. This beautiful and comfortable sauna has a maze-like layout that will get you pleasantly lost among the many cruisy areas. There are also steam and sauna rooms, cabins, TV and video screening lounges, and a cafe and bar. Expert therapeutic massages from the talented pros at Centro Delfino (Centro-delfino.de) can be enjoyed within the privacy of rooms connected to the Eiche at ground level.

M-54 Sauna Club (Müllerstrasse 54) is a smaller local sauna. A young clientele here brings energy and informality. M54 lacks for nothing in amenities: dry, steam and bio saunas; solarium; massage services; cabins; darkroom; and video lounges. M54 also has a cafe and bar for drinks and snacks and a free internet station. Check their website for info on their frequent special nights.

Shopping and more

At Spexter (Müllerstrasse 54) you'll find leather, rubber, uniforms, made-to-order, and fetish and bondage wear, plus clothing for skinheads, jewelry, magazines, and multi-region DVDs to entice you. For shopping anytime from anywhere, Spexter's online store is always open.

Diburnium (Thalkirchner Strasse 5) is also a fetish and SM emporium with leather, rubber, and army clothing for sale.

Buddy (Rumfordstrasse 11a), a gay sex-shop near the Viktualienmarkt, has two "kino" video arcades, and also sells leather and latex items, magazines, toys, and other gizmos.

Duplexx (Theresienstrasse 130), a cruising space with sex parties, private cabins and glory holes, also has a DVD video rental store and toys for sale.

The gay bookshop, Max & Milian (Ickstattstrasse 2) has a varied assortment of books, magazines, and postcards. They share an online bookstore site with Eisenberz of Berlin and Mannerschwarm of Hamburg at Gaybooks.de.

Bruno's (Thalkirchner Strasse 4) has erotic DVDs for sale or rent, art-photo mags and books, plus tools and toys for the sex-savvy. This is one of a national chain of excellent stores from the folks at Bruno Gmünder publishing.

Cut Glass Piercing (Müllerstrasse 54) has some of the best perforators in Bavaria, and their Halloween Gore Store has many novelties, tricks, and treats.

Out of town

One hour south of Munich, in the fabled Bavarian Alpine countryside, the secluded gay-owned country inn and restaurant Moosbeck Alm (Moos 38, Rottenbuch) is an oasis of gay-friendly affordable luxury with amenities such as an large, modern sauna and in-ground heated pool set amidst beautiful natural surroundings, plus hearty Bavarian meals and a delightfully friendly staff. With a car this is a great base to visit nearby towns such as Oberammergau and Garmisch. If you take the train, arrange for staff to pick you up at Peiting Ost rail station. Take bicycle tours, and have a peaceful and relaxing country time-out. With wi-fi in the day-room you can still keep in touch with the world.

A bit north of Munich, in Pleinfeld Bavaria, Riedel's (Nürmberger Strasse 3) is a short walk from the shores of Brambach Lake. Their shady beer garden with its small brook is perfect for taking a break in your travels to enjoy homemade ice cream (a specialty of host Ewald) or some small delicacy. On cool or wet days there's a warm and friendly atmosphere inside. With local swimming and bicycling in the summer and sledding in the winter, Riedel's Cafe is a year-round attraction.

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