The Isar: the lifeblood of München

In celebration of Pentecost (Pfingsten) over last week’s long weekend, Germany was blessed with blistering sunshine and temperatures over 34 degrees. The summer feeling has definitely arrived, which only means one thing: I am in my element.

I particularly love this weather – the hot breeze, light cotton dresses, sticky skin and jugs of iced, lemon water to cool down. Knowing that it probably won’t last long, I pull out my favourite summer pieces, courtesy of my Australian wardrobe, and embrace the heat.

Given that Germans are basically always partaking in some sort of outdoor activity regardless of the weather, it was without surprise that the flip-flops were out over the weekend. Returning back to München in the afternoon after a short getaway to the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg, the first thing we did was head down to the Isar for some waterside bliss. Naturally, we weren’t the only ones with this idea.

The Isar can be described as the lifeblood of München – running approximately 14km through München, it plays a central role in the lives of Müncheners – each person undoubtedly holding a unique relationship with this alpine river.

Briefly – the Isar begins in Austria, located in the valley of the Tirolean Karwendel – Austria’s northerly limestone alps. It crosses the Bavarian border in Scharnitz (near Innsbruck) and Mittenwald (Garmisch Partenkirchen) and flows through various Bavarian cities – making its way through München – and further north-east, where it flows into the Donau river in the Bavarian town of Deggendorf.

The further south you move along the Isar, the more you become surrounded by a deep, forest green – with dirt tracks and hidden pathways. At times it is easy to forget you could be only 8 or 10 km from the centre of the city – making the accessibility of the Isar’s wild nature that much more enjoyable.

The beauty of the Isar not only lies in its aesthetics – which, with its walls of forest-like greenery, limestone banks and alpine back-drop is undeniably charming, but also its appeal to many interests.

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Isar + transport

With its well-maintained path ways the Isar serves as a safe and efficient means of transport throughout München – either by foot or by bike. Separated from road traffic and riding under the over-hanging tree branches is definitely not a bad way to get around.

Where one prefers bike riding as a form of recreation, the Isar offers the option to travel to nearby cities. With either children or a case of beer in tow, the path from München to Wolfratshausen and Bad Tölz is a popular route for München’s many bike riders.


Isar + fitness

At most times of the day, you’ll be overtaken by the city’s many committed runners, walkers and nordic-walkers  – choosing either the gravel paths or rugged trail of the Isar. While the path is relatively flat for the most part throughout the city, there are some steep hills in the southern areas of the city that lead out of the Isar valley back into the suburbs and serve as good climbs for the ambitious. In the early hours of the morning you can be lucky enough to have the pathways to yourself – enabling one to indulge in the Isar’s beauty as it rears itself for another day.

I’ve recently spotted a few boot camp groups and was most impressed with the yogies I spotted last week, embracing the Isar spirit while doing the downward facing dog.

Isar + animal life

Various wildlife have established their home along the Isar, its canal, surrounding lakes and the river beds. Here you will find an array of birds, ducks and swans. Some areas are restricted in spring and summer to ensure that the wildlife can breed without being disturbed.

While I think it is fantastic that so many people enjoy the endless possibilities of the Isar and its river banks, it saddens me when I see it polluted with waste, knowing that it serves as a home for wildlife.


Isar + gastronomy

In the warmer months, the banks of the Isar become one large grill-fest. On a good weekend it is hard to find a free spot amongst the crowds grilling würstchen (among other things) on their portable BBQs, making a day out of good weather and good company. 

While I’m lucky enough to have space to BBQ on my terrace, I head to the Isar to enjoy a patch of green. There are many quiet spots along the Isar canal where one can lay a rug under a shady tree, enjoy a picnic and simply escape.

It wouldn’t be right if there weren’t a Biergarten near the vicinity of the Isar throughout München. There is no doubt that the city has this covered. Without exaggerating, you will find a Biergarten along the Isar, approximately every 3-4 km. These are located either along the Isar canal, on the closest street running parallel to the Isar, but easily within short walking distance of the river. Not only convenient for the ravenous, to me it reaffirms the gemütlich and hospitable nature of the Bavarians.


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Isar + recreation

The wild, temperamental soul of the Isar is witnessed through its alpine waters that form the river – enticing the wonder and curiosity of its visitors. On warm, summer days the waterways of the Isar see a parade of canoes and inflatable boats – the eager paddles starting their journey near Wolfratshausen and invest a solid 6 – 7 hours to reach the city (with a case of beer floating in tow of course).

Also beginning in Wolfratshausen are the Flossfahrt tours. The wooden rafts, holding up to 40 people and complete with a BBQ, a brass band and an endless howl of ‘Prosits‘ – the adventure is not short of bavarian cheer. These book out more than

True to human nature, crowds gather at the main water sources of a city – and thus for the Müncheners, the Isar plays the protagonist as the city’s ‘beach side’. It doesn’t do such a bad job at it either – with some of the white-pebbled sections almost passing up as the real deal. Regardless, warm days are often spent by locals lying on brightly coloured mats, some dressed in bathers, others not (yes, the Frei  Körper Kultur spirit beats strong).

For more information on recreational options on the Isar – the Mü portal is a great source.

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Isar + camping

Whats a great river without a camping space? With such a myriad of recreational options and the close vicinity to the city, it is no wonder that hoards of camper vans set up shelter in the camping grounds just by the Zoo near Thalkirchen. I couldn’t think of a better spot!

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For me the Isar is both a place of beauty, an awesome place to break a sweat and a place to unwind. I am amazed out how it changes throughout the year and even throughout the week. It may not sit on the list of the world’s longest or widest rivers, but it sure knows how to find a place in the heart of many Müncheners.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on München’s alpine waters!



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