Photo Credit: Julian Boyce
Despite these similarities, though, there are many distinguishing factors that make one beer garden superior to another. I definitely have favorite beer gardens. They are places I will go back to over and over, and are the first places that come to mind whenever a friend suggests meeting up or an out of town visitor wants an authentic Munich experience. Then, there are others that I probably wouldn't make a special effort to visit again. The subtle differences in beer gardens might not be obvious to visitors, so for this reason I have put together a list of Munich's best* beer gardens.
Depending on how you're counting, Munich has something like 100 different beer gardens (that is not an exaggeration). While I have not yet been to all of them, I have made it my mission to explore as many as possible. Here are my go-to spots:
Best "destination" beer garden: Kloster Andechs
Although technically not in Munich, Kloster Andechs nonetheless belongs on this list. It is a picturesque beer garden located south of Munich in an old monastery on a hill near Ammersee. Known for it's dark beer and schweinshax'n (roasted pork knuckle), it is easily reached by the Sbahn + a pleasant 30-45 minute walk through the woods. On beautiful summer days, this a great outing, and an ideal place to bring visitors.
Best after work meet-up spot: Augustiner Keller
The Augustiner Keller is a classic Munich spot, and due to it's location near the main train station, it is an ideal meet-up location. One of the largest beer gardens in Munich, it's a good place to gather with groups of friends and colleagues for an after-work picnic. Try the Steckerlfisch, fish grilled on a stick and served with a squeeze of lemon.
Best overall atmosphere: Waldwirtschaft
Waldwirtschaft is a Munich gem. Best reached by bicycle, it sits above the banks of the Isar River, and is particularly pleasant on summer evenings. Waldwirtschaft is Munich's "jazz beer garden" and usually has live jazz music and a festive atmosphere. The roast chicken is a stand-out here.
Best place to bring visitors: Chinese Tower
The Chinese Tower is a Munich landmark. It is the large beer garden in the middle of the city's English Garden, and is packed with locals and tourists in the summer. The Chinese Tower is the best place to experience Munich's kitschier side, as the beer garden comes complete with Oompah Band, Munich's iconic Hofbräu beer, and all the giant pretzels you could possibly eat.
Biggest Beer Garden: Hirschgarten
The Hirschgarten is reputedly the world's largest beer garden, with the ability to seat up to 8,000 people. Despite it's size, it is not overwhelming, and even has an intimate neighborhood feel to it. The beer garden overlooks one of Munich's largest city parks, and is a great place to visit if you fancy splitting time between drinking beer and playing frisbee or soccer with friends in the park. It is also very near to the Nymphenburg Palace, and is a good pit stop after several hours exploring the palace.
Best Neighborhood Beer Garden: Taxisgarten
Taxisgarten is tucked away behind Rotkreuzplatz, one of Munich's most attractive, yet somehow overlooked, neighborhoods. Many longtime Munich residents claim that this beer garden is their favorite. It is a large, attractive garden, and is entirely self-service. A quiet place, it is a good escape from some of the more touristy and hectic beer gardens.
Best Place to Watch the Game: Hofbräukeller am Wiener Platz
This beer garden is on the east side of the river, at Wiener Platz, one of Munich's most charming and old-worldly parts of town. Visitors often neglect to visit this part of town, sticking to the more obvious sites on the west side of the Isar, but it is fully worth a jaunt across the river to visit the Hofbräukeller. This is also my favorite beer garden for public viewing. They have a very large screen and, unlike some of the larger beer gardens, it's easy to have a good, unobstructed view of the screen.
Best Beer Garden for Vegetarians: Max Emanuel
Max Emanuel is a rare place that branches away from standard German fare, and also offers up Turkish food. There is a stand here, where you can buy falafel and big platters of middle eastern appetizers such as feta, couscous, tzatziki, and dolma. Located in the middle of the university quarter in Schwabing, this place attracts a rather young crowd. Because it is very popular, and not large, try to get there early for a table.
*entirely based upon my good taste and infallible opinion.