IN MUNICH, GERMANY - MUNICH offers a tale of two cities. There is old world charm and historic grandeur, embodied in the mediaeval buildings in its 12th-century city centre, the Marienplatz.
Once a bustling farmers' market, it is still the city's throbbing shopping-and-tourist hub.
But there is also new world glitz courtesy of avant garde steel-and-glass buildings woven seamlessly into the period tapestry of preserved buildings.
New waves of visitors are rediscovering the city's attractions now that Munich is hosting the World Cup. The Bavarian capital is one of the 12 German cities where the tournament is taking place and it will host six matches.
Munich has managed to ride on its growth to become one of the country's most modern cities without losing the feel and charm of an old German town.
You cannot get much more old school German town than the star tenant of Marienplatz - the Neues Rathaus or New Town Hall.
This favourite with tourists boasts a gothic-style facade and the famous Glockenspiel (carillon) bell tower. Three times a day - at 11am, noon and 5pm - crowds gather to watch when the clock chimes to awaken colourful mechanical dancers in the century-old clock tower.
After that grand show, there are plenty of other attractions in the square.
Marienplatz, named in 1638 when a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation, is filled with quaint two-storey buildings. Many were rebuilt after the destruction of World War II and now house posh boutiques carrying fashion labels ranging from Zara to Zegna.
A short walk along the square's pedestrian-only cobblestoned walkways will take you to Funf Hofe, or Five Courts.
The massive shopping mall, consisting of five linked courtyards that retain their 19th-century facades, houses designer shops and cafes.
The development is designed by the celebrated Swiss architectural duo of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, - the men behind the Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Tate Modern museum in London.
The intimate maze is a pleasure to stroll through. The aroma of freshly-baked bread fills the air of the
al fresco-style eateries. Hanging gardens and curving skylit passageways studded with tiny mirrors that twinkle with natural light add to the glitzy feel.
Venture beyond the city centre on the subway and you will be stunned by Munich's rich array of museums.
The Pinakothek der Moderne is a good one-stop location for art enthusiasts on a tight schedule. It boasts four museums - art, graphic art, architecture and design.
Those with more time to kill can browse through more than a dozen museums in the Barer Strasse area, showcasing over 2,000 years of Western culture.
But Bavaria's best art form is, beyond a doubt, brewing. For beer lovers, no trip to Munich is complete without a pint of its most famous export.
Boasting almost 5,000 kinds of beer, Germany considers itself the beer haven of the world. Munich is its foaming epicentre.
For beer fans, Munich is the closest thing one can get to paradise. After all, it is the home of the Oktoberfest, the world's original and most famous beer party.
Bavarians take their beer seriously. After all, the first breweries were set up by monks.
Weizenbier (wheat beer) is the region's speciality but the more popular choices at the dozens of beer halls in the city are Helles and Pils - light and refreshing. Munich Dark Beer, which gets its dark colour from burnt malt, is also a good choice.
For those who prefer something stronger, there is Starkbier. With an alcohol content of between 6 and 9 per cent, it is dark amber and has a heavy malty taste - think Guinness Stout, only richer and stronger.
Visit the Hofbrauhaus, a brewery-cum-restaurant first built in 1589, near Marienplatz for ambience and heavenly quality.
Beer, art and football. What more could a tourist ask for?
Home of the Oktoberfest
Weisswurst, a white veal sausage usually eaten with a pretzel or bread and some sweet mustard. This is a typical Bavarian meal.
The more adventurous can try the Ratskeller (Marianplatz 8) for hearty, meat-based meals. A three-course meal costs an average of 50 euros (S$100.60).
Starkbier. Home of Oktoberfest, no visit to Munich is complete without sampling some of its beer.
With an alcohol content of between 6 and 9 per cent, it is unlike anything most Singaporeans are used to. Dark-amber in colour, the heavy malty taste is rich but refreshing.
The souvenir mug of Oktoberfest. You can select designs dating back to 20 years. But the 2005 one-litre design, made of ceramic, boasts the ability to keep your beer cooler than a glass mug can.
For football fans, there is an abundance of Bayern Munich merchandise. Bayern is one of the world's most popular teams.
MUST STAY AT...
Anna Hotel (Schutzenstrasse 1). A designer hotel at reasonable rates. You can spend the night in this chic boutique hotel, which is slick and modern in design, for 165 euro per night or get the tower suite - where you can live like a celebrity - at 600 euros a night.
Located in the heart of the city, the hotel's lobby bar is also a hangout for Munich's hip and happening crowd.
The Neuschwanstein castle in Fussen. A two-hour journey from Munich, it was built by King Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig II (1845 - 1886). It is considered the most beautiful castle in the world, set amidst serene lakes and the German Alps.
Disney fans might find it familar. Cinderella's castle at Disneyland was modelled after it.
English Gardens. With an area covering 3.7 sq km, the Englischer Garten, or English Gardens, is one of the world's largest urban public parks.
It is bigger than New York's Central Park but smaller than Phoenix Park in Dublin and Sutton Park in England.
The park got its name from the way its landscape is designed, after an English style popular in the United Kingdom from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century.
The most popular structure there is the Chinese Pagoda, which features a beer garden.
For those feeling a little adventurous, visit the Schonfeldwiese or Beautiful Meadows. Nude sunbathing has been permitted there since the 1960s.
Munich and the World Cup
It is the host for six matches at the ongoing World Cup. It has already hosted three first round matches - Germany's 4-2 defeat of Costa Rica), the 2-2 draw between Tunisia and Saudi Arabia and Brazil's 2-0 win over Australia - and has one more on its roster: Ivory Coast vs Serbia and Montenegro tomorrow night. It will also host a Round of 16 match on June 24 and the second semi-final on July 5.
The matches are being played at Allianz Arena, which has been renamed Fifa Arena for the tournament. Built specially for the tournament, it can be illuminated in three colours - red, blue and white.
Lufthansa flies to Munich via Frankfurt. The German carrier flies to Frankfurt from Singapore seven times a week.
It is also offering a GloBall Airpass for travel between June 1 and July 16.
Purchased in conjunction with a Lufthansa or Star Alliance ticket from Singapore, passengers can select from three to 10 coupons for flights within Germany, costing either 60 euros or 110 euros per sector, depending on the class booked.