Munich Celebrates 850th Birthday

This is the summer to visit Munich, as the dynamic metropolis celebrates its 850th birthday with two citywide parties. On July 19 and 20 and Aug. 1 to 3, roads and bridges will be closed and illuminated, with events—including concerts, plays, art exhibitions, extreme-sports competitions and historical re-enactments—set up on outdoor stages and other venues across town.

Now is the time to take in the city's culture. The Alte Pinakothek features a world-class collection of such masters as Raphael, Rembrandt and Rubens, while the Pinakothek der Monderne is showing drawings by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, who designed the Munich Residenz Palace, to coincide with the city's birthday. No one should miss the Lenbachhaus Gallery, with its unique showcase of Munich-based expressionist Blue Rider painters like Kandinsky, as well as contemporary work (www.lenbachhaus.de/cms). The Bavarian State Opera offers spectacular performances in two theaters where Mozart and Wagner premiered their works. July is festival month, with nightly performances.

Those hungry for sausage and beer should skip the touristy halls and head to the English Garden, Europe's largest urban park. For an upscale dining experience, check out the theatrical G Munich (g-munich.de). At night, 19th-century traditionalists should check into the stately Hotel Bayerischer Hof (bayerischerhof.de). They'll need to rest up for the big birthday bash.