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Set against the majestic backdrop of the Alps, Bavaria's colourful capital is a city for all seasons. At its heart lies the lively Marienplatz with the impressive Gothic New Town Hall dominating the skyline.

Cheap flights and accommodation for city breaks and holidays to Munich

Bustling streets lead to the famous Hofbrauhaus, whilst nearby lies the expanse of the English Garden with its beer gardens and bandstand. As evening falls, the convivial atmosphere of Munich continues in many bars, cafes and jazz clubs. Enriched by its ornate architecture, greenery, captivating hinterland and capacity for enjoyment, Munich is a delightfully inviting city and an excellent choice for a short break.

Munich is now Germany's second most popular destination after Berlin. The city is a haven for high culture, with a wide array of museums and vibrant arts scene. And of course the infamous Oktoberfest.

The heart of Munich is bisected by the Isar River, flowing northwards from its source 60km away in the Bavarian Alps. Most of the city's sights are clustered on the river's left bank. It's a 15-minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof to the Altstadt, the historic old centre - just head west through Karlsplatz (aka Stachus) and along the pedestrianised Kaufingerstrasse. It's difficult to get lost if you use the twin onion-domed towers of the Frauenkirche as a landmark.

Created under Ludwig I's auspices and anchored by the Doric-columned Propyläen gateway in the centre, this square is surrounded by Munich's major art museums. The square plays host to open-air cinema and the occasional rock concert.

This famous square is the heart and soul of the Altstadt (the old city centre). Its features include the glowing Mariensäule (Mary Column), erected in 1638 to celebrate the removal of Swedish forces; the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus or city hall; and the flamboyant nonsecular St Peterskirche.

Visit Marienplatz on a warm sunny day and you'll find the world and its dog enjoying this open expanse of cafés. The spikes and turrets of the 19th-century neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus grace the square's northern border, while the forlorn bombed remains of the original town hall, the Altes Rathaus squat at its eastern end. The obvious photo opportunity is the Glockenspiel in the centre of the Neues Rathaus; the marvellous figures spring into action at 11am, 12pm, 5pm, 9pm.

Pending Berlin's full recovery from its long period of division, Munich is the German city which most has the air of a capital about it. Even though it has never ruled over a territory any larger than the present-day Land, the grandiose palaces from Bavaria's era as an independent kingdom give it the appearance of a metropolis of great importance. When this is added to a remarkable post-war economic record (courtesy of such hi-tech giants as the car manufacturer BMW, the aerospace company MBB and the electronics group Siemens), and to its hard-won status as the national trendsetter in fashion matters, it's easy to see why Munich acts as a magnet to outsiders. Students flock here to study; the rich and jet-set like to live here, as do writers, painters, musicians and film-makers, while foreign nationals now make up more than a fifth of the population. Munich's other, more familiar face is of a homely city of provincially minded locals whose zest for drinking, seen at an extreme during the annual Oktoberfest, is kept up all year round in cavernous beer halls and spacious gardens.

Despite its cosmopolitanism, Munich is small enough to be digestible in one visit, and has the added bonus of a great setting, the snow-dusted mountains and Alpine lakes just an hour's drive away. The best time of year to come is from June to early October, when all the beer gardens, street cafés and bars are in full swing.