It looks like something that has landed from outer space in the heart of Bavaria – the stunning Allianz Arena in Munich.
It is a fitting venue for a club that are true European giants, and it is without a doubt one of the most iconic arenas in world sport.
The Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich’s dazzling home since 2005, was built for the 2006 World Cup and hosted the opening game and five other matches.
The most eye-catching part of the stadium is the curved exterior. It is made up of air-filled foil cushions that are illuminated at night. The cushions change colour according to who is playing there – so they are red for Bayern, blue for fellow city side TSV 1860 Munich who share the stadium, or white for the national side.
When it opened the arena had room for 69,000 spectators, but due to huge demand for tickets that capacity has been increased to 75,000. It is the only stadium in Germany to have three tiers – and they are sold out for every game.
It is an impressive stadium however you look at it, and the view as you walk up from the nearest metro station on a matchday is one to remember.
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Bayern Munich are, by a long way, the biggest and most successful team in Germany. Their squad is now so strong they are referred to in Germany, with a mix of admiration and jealousy, as FC Hollywood. They are the stars of the country’s game.
Their trophy cabinet is buckling under the weight of honours.
Domestically they have won an incredible 26 Bundesliga titles, including the last four seasons in a row. They have also won nine of the last 17 DFB-Pokal Cups. Under their new manager Carlo Ancelotti they are surely favourites to win it again this season.
Bayern have reached 10 European Cup or Champions League finals, winning five of them. The final that hurts though was in 2012 when they lost to Chelsea in the final in the Allianz Arena.
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The city of Munich isn’t one of those places with stunning wide boulevards and, unlike somewhere like Barcelona, it doesn’t have one street that everything revolves around. However, all roads in Munich’s old town lead to Marienplatz, the main pedestrian plaza.
This is where you can relax in the street cafes, with a view of the square, the grand Neues Rathaus and watch the street entertainment, sometimes good, often not! The Frauenkirche, Munich’s cathedral and most striking landmark, is also close by. Most U-Bahns and S-Bahns stop at Marienplatz.
A beer hall will probably be on your agenda and there is probably no better place to down your first large jug of beer than the Hofbräuhaus close to Marienplatz. From the moment it opens at 9am until closing at around 11pm its scores of tables are packed (although it is busiest from 6pm onwards).
True, you are likely to find more tourists there than locals at the Hofbräuhaus. But you do get a feel for what beer halls are all about. If it looks packed as you enter, don’t worry, the hall goes back a long way and there’s a big courtyard too. There are plenty of beers to try and there’s an extensive menu to try out too.
For other beer halls, that may be a little more authentic and with beer gardens, head to Paulaner Bräuhaus, south of Goetheplatz U-bahn or to the Englischer Garten (Universität U-bahn).
Munich hosted the Olympic Games in 1972 and for more than 30 years Bayern Munich played in the futuristic Olympiastadion. The famous translucent roof bows over one side of this arena that clearly dates from the 1970s. It is one tier all round with steep banking with an unobstructed view of proceedings.
There’s a tour of the stadium lasting an hour costing €7.50, check the website www.olympiapark.de for availability. You can also wander around the stadium yourself for just €3.50. It is open from 9am daily, and from 11am from November to February.
For a high view over Munich head up the Olympic Tower, opened in 1968 in the heart of the Olympic Park. At the top there is a revolving restaurant, the world’s highest rock music museum and some fabulous observation decks affording views of the park and across Munich and into Bavaria. Entry for adults is €7, and it is open daily from 9am to midnight.
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, and this part of southern Germany has an attitude and atmosphere all of its own. Make sure you visit!