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Prost! Top six beer gardens in Munich and Upper Bavaria

Sup on a chilled lager like a movie star in Tom Cruise’s favorite drinking spot or literally drink in beer history at the world’s oldest brewery
Prost! Toast to Bavaria's beer gardens and breweries in the world famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich
Photo by Matthew Jenkin

As temperatures sore and Bavarians feel the heat, there’s only one place locals like to loosen their lederhosen and unbutton their dirndls at – the beer garden.

But despite the occasional debauched binge, drinking in the southern German state is a relaxed social affair rather than a competition to see who hits the floor first.

Enter the humble beer garden. The beer-drinking oases sprang up all over Bavaria after an edict in 1812 allowed brewers to sell beer and bread to punters for the first time, encouraging families and friends to bring their own food and picnic in the shade of a chestnut tree, which were traditionally planted next to breweries to cool the cellars beneath.

Boasting 53 beer gardens crammed in and around the city, Munich is understandably a Mecca for fans of the golden nectar, not least because it is the site of the annual Oktoberfest, which attracts thousands of thirsty tourists every year.

As part of the state’s bicentinnial celebrations, the Beer Garden Weekend on 21 and 22 July will see gardens across the city host music, dancing and, of course, drinking and eating.

To celebrate, here our top six beer gardens in Munich and Upper Bavaria:

1 Augustiner Bräu

Ask any local what the most famous brewery and beer garden in Munich is and you can bet your bottom Euro they’ll tell you it’s the Augustiner Bräu.

Established in 1328, it is the city’s oldest independent brewery and produces Munich's most popular brands of beer, which is now sold far beyond the city limits.

The Augustiner-Keller at Arnulfstraße 52 is also one of Munich’s biggest beer gardens and the sultry summer months are crammed with thirsty punters mopping their brows and cooling themselves from the inside out with a chilled liter glass of beer.

Regulars can even buy their own spot in the garden and if you have a chance to visit the place before the throngs arrive, you’ll notice many of the tables are engraved or decorated with the names of their owners.

The garden also happens to be the favorite watering hole of Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise.

His table was surprisingly plain and inconspicuous but shades on and beer in hand, I drunk in whatever whiff of fame and fortune he’d left hanging in the air.

If you want to follow in the thirsty footsteps of the Mission Impossible star as well, ask the owner to point you in the right direction.

2 Hofbräuhaus

Smack, bang in the heart of Munich’s medieval center, the world famous Hofbräuhaus ticks every Bavarian stereotype. From waitresses in dirndls, carrying a liter glass on each finger to a brass oom-pah-pah band, it’s the definitive drinking experience and one of Munich’s oldest beer halls.

During the summer months, a small but perfectly formed beer garden is open for those who fancy an al fresco beverage, but still within ear shot of the foot-stomping Bavarian music playing within.

Mozart used to live round the block and claimed to have written the opera Idomeneo after several visits here, so you’ll be drinking in good company.

However, for visitors with an interest in the beer hall’s darker past, it was also a favorite watering hole of Lenin and was one of the beer halls used by the Nazi Party and Hitler to declare policies and hold functions.

But fortunately, its popularity with former brutal dictators hasn’t made the beer taste any less refreshing and no matter what the season, goes perfectly with a plate of piping hot wurst and sauerkraut.

3 The Englischer Garten

German for ‘English Garden’, this leafy green park in the center of Munich is not just a perfect place to take a relaxing stroll or work on your tan on one of its large grassy lawns, but is also an oasis for beer lovers.

Head for the Chinesischer Turm, where hundreds of drinkers while away an afternoon and evening swigging beer in the glorious sunshine around the Chinese pagoda.

At 3.7km in area, it’s larger than New York's Central Park but smaller than London's Richmond Park and the name refers to the style of gardening rather than any historical link with the UK.

4 Weihenstephan

Some see him as a saint, others as the root of all evil in the world, but whatever you think of the Holy Seer, there's no doubting that Freising brews a damn good beer.

The town near Munich’s international airport is famous for being where Pope Benedict XVI studied and was ordained as an archbishop. But it’s also the home of the world’s oldest brewery.

Perched on a hill overlooking the picturesque town is the Weihenstephan Abbey, whose brewery can be traced back to the year 768AD.

However, it was only licensed by the City of Freising in 1040 and thus the modern brewery cites that as the day it officially sprung into existence.

Specialities are its range of pale lagers and wheat beers including Weihenstephaner Weissbier.

So whether you’re a Catholic or a staunch atheist, the monks at this former monastery deserve a hearty toast for their godly brews.

5 Schlossbräurei Maxlrain

Located 65km south of Munich, the tiny town of Maxlrain is in an idyllic spot to sample a Weissbier in foothills of the Upper Bavarian Alps.

It boasts no fewer than 15 varieties of beer, 10 of which qualified for the DGL gold medal award and the brewery gained the German National Honorary Award for the 4th time running, the highest award ever for a German brewery.

A quaint tree shaded beer garden with a view of the elegant castle and the lofty mountains is a tranquil place to quench your thirst after a saunter through the picture perfect town.

6 Airbräu

The best place to arrive and end your visit to Bavaria, the Airbrau is Munich airport’s very own brewery, wedged between terminals one and two.

It is not only a perfect place to numb the boredom of waiting for a flight, but an ideal spot to literally soak in one of Bavaria’s cultural highlights.

With your thirst quenched and a bowl of steaming hot white sausages – a quintessential Bavarian dish – filling your belly, you’ll be suitably ready for any journey, no matter what the destination.

German airline Lufthansa flies to Munich from destinations around the world. For rates and to book a flight, click here.

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It boasts no fewer than 15 varieties of beer, 10 of which qualified for the DGL gold medal award and the brewery gained the German National Honorary Award for the 4th time running, the highest award ever for a German brewery Galway Florist