Bigger than Central Park in New York the English Garden Munich, or Englischer Garten, is one of the finest public parks in Europe.
Of all the Munich tourist attractions the park something that everyone should see but it isn’t just tourists that flock there, the Munich people love to gather there and enjoy all the different activities from surfing to nude sunbathing and just about everything in between!
The park was opened in 1793 and was the idea of an American called Benjamin Thompson. Thompson later became known as Count Rumford and it was he who, four years earlier, had ordered a large area of marsh to be drained and the public space created.
The park was inspired by the work of English landscapers such as Capability Brown which explains why it was called the Englischer Garten.
The garden was, and is, beautifully landscaped and the English influence can also be seem in the buildings with the Chinese Tower (Chinesischer Turm) which is a bandstand in the beer garden was based on the Cantonese Pagoda in London’s Kew Gardens that was designed by William Chambers, a contemporary of Brown.
One of the most iconic structures in the English Garden Munich is the Monopteros (Love Temple) Sat on a rise in the grounds the Monopteros gives a superb view of the park and the city.
The Monopteros, built in the 1830a, is still one of the most recognisable features of the Englischer Garten but one of the most idilic areas is the Kleinhesseloher See.
The Kleinhesseloher See is a lovely boating pond, though that description is woefully inadequate, which features cafes and a beer garden and is close to the River Isar. The Kleinhesseloher See is a favourite place to meet for locals as well as tourists and is a quite lovely spot.
In the southwest corner of the park is the Japanese Tea House which was donated to the city and people of Munich by Japan to commemorate the staging of the 1972 Olympics. A Japanese garden was also created at the same time and adds to the magnificent rolling landscape of the English garden Munich.
The park is about 3 miles long and is split in two by the city’s central ring road which was controversially routed through the park in the 1960s. The road cuts through the park near to the Kleinhesseloher See.
The division caused by the road has seen the north and south ends of the park develop differing characteristics. The southern end is more cultivated, heavily used for sport and is usually thronged with people.
In contrast the northern end of the park, known as the Hirschau, is more peaceful and rural.
But what about the nude sunbathing and surfing we mentioned at the beginning of this page? The 1960s saw the Englischer Garten gain worldwide notoriety when the Munich authorities elected to allow sunbathers to be nude in the Schonfeldwiese section of the park. Nude sunbathing is of course quite normal in Germany.
So, OK, nude sunbathing in the Englischer Garten isn’t totally unexpected but surfing!?! What is that all about?
There is an artificial stream that runs through the park and at the streams mouth is a pump that generates a standing wave for surfers to test their skills.
All in all the Englischer Garten has something for everyone and for anyone looking for things to do in Munich whilst on holiday spending a day in the park is highly recommended.