Although Munich is a bustling international city, it is affectionately regarded by some of its citizens as the largest village in Germany. Surveys have shown that the capital of Bavaria (Bayern in German) is the best loved of all German cities and the one where many Germans would most like to live. Every year, Munich plays host to more than 3 million tourists from all over the world.
What is it that makes this city - incidentally, one of the most expensive in Germany - so fascinating?
One factor is certainly the excellent leisure opportunities that it offers: for example, sunbathing on the banks of the Isar followed by a relaxing visit to a beer garden, sailing or windsurfing on the Ammersee, and the broad spectrum its cultural life, including important museums, theatres and festivals. Also, it's just an hour's drive to the mountains, while Lake Garda and Venezia in northern Italy is only six hours away.
Munich is an important centre of higher education, banking, and the film and media industry. The venue of many international trade fairs and congresses, the city contains the headquarters of many multinational companies (Siemens, BMW, MAN, MTU). Of course, it is also the home of world-famous beers. And what about the city's inhabitants, the "Münchners"?
The increasing numbers of visitors to Munich has helped to dispel the old clichés of men sporting leather shorts and tufted hats grumbling into their beer mugs and accompanied by generously proportioned blond Fräuleins. Nonetheless, there are certain traits that could be called typically Bavarian: a certain "rough" warmth and friendliness, the relaxed atmosphere of the beer garden, the feeling of "live and let live": these are still things that help make the city so attractive and memorable for its visitors.
The Bavarian capital is located oh the Swabian-Bavarian plateau and is surrounded by the valleys of the Ammersee and Lake Starnberg. The city owes its existence primarily to its site on the river Isar, which traverses it from the south east to the north east.
The highest point of the city is the Warnberg (578 meters/1860 feet meters above sea level), while the fields leading down to the Isar in the north west of the city is the lowest point (478 meters/1540 feet above sea level). To the north of Munich are Dachau and Erdinger Moors located.
For those who like to know things exactly, the city centre - Cathedral Church of Our Lady - lies at a latitude of 48° 8' 23" north and a longitude of 11°34'28" east. The city and its suburbs comprise a total area of over 30,000 hectares.
With a population of about 1.3 million, Munich is the third-largest city in Germany. It is the capital of the Free State of Bavaria as well as of the region of Upper Bavaria. Munich is the seat of the government, parliament and Supreme Court of Bavaria. The government of the city is in the hands of the directly elected Lord Mayor and two deputy mayors chosen from the ranks of the city council and expert on administrative matters.
Munich lies on the border between the maritime west European and continental east European climate zones, and its weather is also influenced by the nearby Alpine chain. An unusual feature of the Munich climate is the so-called föhn, a dry, warm fall wind that originates in the Alps and can occur at any time of the year.
The föhn brings not only a strikingly clear view but is also often blamed (not always fairly) for headaches, bad moods and lack of concentration ("you see, it's the föhn's fault" is a favourite excuse).