1 Surfing and nude sunbathing That Munich isn't a seaside city is no deterrent to its surfing community, who queue to catch a particular rapid of the Isar River. If you head to the Eisbach arm of the Isar at the English Garden - where the river flows out of a tunnel - you'll find wetsuit-clad surfers challenging each other at this fast-flowing spot. Only strong surfers should attempt it. The Isar River runs through the heart of Munich, flowing northwards from its source 60km away in the Bavarian Alps. The 370-hectare English Garden, one of the largest city parks in the world, stretches for 5km along the Isar. The garden was built in 1789 by the repressive Elector of Bavaria Karl Theodor and represented one of his few popular legacies: nude sunbathing has long been a favoured activity on the lawns. When it snows, the garden's cross-country trails are filled with skiers, while in summer the beer garden tucked away under the Chinese Tower is never empty. Running parallel to the English Garden, the once-Bohemian suburb of Schwabing now sports graceful Jugendstil art nouveau architecture and a hip restaurant and bar scene. 2 Oktoberfest Every autumn the area at the foot of the Statue of Bavaria turns into a raucous drinking ground with a Ferris wheel, sideshows, stalls selling candy floss, gingerbread hearts, roast almonds, balloons and stuffed animals, and - the real attraction - 14 Munich brewery beer halls. About 6.5 million visitors descend on the Bavarian capital for 16 days for the Oktoberfest, which originated in 1810 as a marriage celebration after the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (who became Ludwig I of Bavaria) and Therese von Saxe-Hildburghausen. The Munich Beer Regulations are the oldest written food laws in the world, stipulating that beer can be brewed using barley, hops and water only. Yeast is not mentioned, although unofficially accepted. Every second year, Brewers' Day is celebrated with a pageant, brass bands and horse-drawn brewery coaches. Book your Oktoberfest trip early or you might miss out (Munich Tourist Office, e-mail tourismus@ muenchen.de or go to www.muenchen-tourist.de ). 3 Hofbrauhaus If you can't make it to the Oktoberfest, make sure you visit the Hofbrauhaus. Buxom dirndl-clad frauleins glide through the huge festive hall from table to table, handing out one-litre beer steins while thigh-slapping music from a Bavarian brass band raises proceedings to fever pitch. It's almost akin to a cult experience, with 5,000 guests singing and swaying to the beat. It's a barrel of fun and there's no shortage of volunteers to conduct the band. The State of Bavaria has been brewing beer at this Staatliches Hofbrauhaus (State Court Brewery) in the heart of the Old Town since 1589 ( www.hofbrauhaus.de ). 4 St Johann Nepomuk Kirche (Asamkirche) Church This masterpiece of Bavarian rococo architecture is tucked away amid Sendlingerstrasse's stores. Outside the church you'll see the statue of St Nepomuk, a 14th-century monk who performed noble deeds for the poor. They didn't do him much good because he drowned in the Danube. The interior of this small 18th-century church is an elaborate baroque fantasy with high ceilings, marble columns, frescoes surrounded by rich red stucco and ornately gilded woodwork. Commonly referred to as the Asamkirche, after its builders, it was constructed by the Asam brothers, Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin. 5 Art Munich is a rich art city, with more than 40 galleries and museums. Its main artistic gems can be found in three Pinakothek Museums: the Old Pinakothek, with 14th- to 18th-century paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Leonardo da Vinci; the New Pinakothek, containing paintings and sculptures from the 18th and 19th centuries, spanning English landscapes, French Impressionism, Biedermeier and Art Nouveau; and the Pinakothek Moderne ( www.pinakothek.de ), which exhibits contemporary paintings, graphics, sculptures and architectural designs. You can also gaze at works from the Blue Rider Expressionist movement represented by Kandinsky, Klee, Marc, Macke and Munter at the Tuscan villa-style Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus building. The Glyptothek has ancient Greek and Roman art, while more experimental contemporary art can be found at Aktionsforum Praterinsel. 6 Palaces and treasure troves Although most well-known palaces are nestled in the Bavarian countryside, Munich has its fair share of royal digs, such as Nymphenburg, the summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs. Built in late Gothic style by the Wittelsbachs in 1467, the Blutenburg Palace was a hunting castle, now converted into the headquarters for the International Youth Library. There are several palaces at Schleissheim. Neues Schloss Schleissheim was built along the lines of Versailles, complete with vaulted frescoed ceilings and picnic-friendly grounds. Schloss Lustheim has a stunning Baroque interior and a huge collection of Meissen porcelain. In the Residenz Treasury you'll find ornaments of crystal, ivory, jade, gold and pearl, antique Persian rugs and jewellery with gems the size of golf balls. Even the empty treasure chests are a treasure. Legend has it that a tourist, while admiring the shimmering crown of Queen Therese von Bayern in the Residenz Treasury, came up with the phrase 'diamonds are a girl's best friend'. 7 Munich Philharmonic At weekends, Munich's concert halls are filled with well-dressed lovers of classical music who give the city's cafes and hotels a sophisticated after-concert atmosphere. Classical music is a serious affair in Munich, with many concert performances, open-air events, operas and symphonies. The city has three major orchestras, led by star conductors: Christian Thielemann conducts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Zubin Mehta the Bavarian State Orchestra. While in Munich, catch a performance of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at the Gasteig Cultural Centre ( www.muenchnerphil harmoniker.de). 8 Hotel Bayerischer Hof Soak in the atmosphere of Bavarian royal opulence at Hotel Bayerischer Hof. From the smart attire of the guests, it's easy to believe this is Munich's best hotel. The guest list boasts an impressive array of celebrities, from politicians to movie stars; Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, the Aga Khan and Jean Paul Gaultier have all laid their heads to rest in the plush rooms of this historic property. Opened in 1841 to provide accommodation for King Ludwig I's guests, the hotel rooms offer five styles of decor. The 1839 bar in the mirrored hall has been redesigned with steel and glass to provide a stunning contrast to the original interior (tel: 49 89 21200; www.bayerischerhof.de ). 9 Marienplatz glockenspiel At 11am, noon, 5pm and 9pm daily, tourists and locals gather to observe Munich's celebrated clockwork figures going through their paces to the tinkling of the glockenspiel's 43 bells. Set in the Marienplatz, in the heart of the city, the 19th-century glockenspiel is the main feature of the neo-Gothic Town Hall. For the best view of the city, take the lift to the top of the Town Hall tower. The centre of the square, once a vibrant farmers' market, is home to a statue of the Virgin Mary, after which the Marienplatz was named. There is also a toy museum and the Frauenkirche, Munich's 15th-century cathedral. Visit Marienplatz on a warm sunny day and join Munich residents relaxing in one of its many open-air cafes. Bicycle tours of Munich usually start from the Marienplatz and are an ideal way to explore the city. 10 Deutsches Museum You could lose yourself for days wandering around the six floors of the world's largest technical museum. Deutsches Museum's permanent exhibits include just about everything invented to make life easier. From steam engines to Helios space probes, musical instruments to rockets, something here will fascinate you. One of the highlights is a reconstruction of northern Spain's Altamira Cave, complete with replica 15,000-year-old cave paintings. Two separate exhibition spaces have been added for the museum's growing collection: the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum is a transport museum and the Flugwerft Schleissheim, once a palace, is now an aircraft museum ( www.deutsches-museum.de ).