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Schnapp it up

by Sarah Shuckburgh

Sarah Shuckburgh finds plenty of bargains when her daughter whisks her around Munich's fabulous shopping district.

The last time I went to Munich, I came home with a cuckoo clock and a doll in a dirndl. Today I am here with my fashionista daughter Hannah, who tells me that the city is one of the best - and cheapest - places in Europe to shop. Retail therapy doesn't usually work for me, and I start to complain about trawling a high street when I could be visiting museums - but Hannah reassures me.

"It'll be nothing like Oxford Street, Mum. You'll love it."

We emerge from the perfectly situated Hotel Torbräu after a hearty breakfast of meat and cheese, and step into the crisp wintry morning. Heaps of swept snow line freshly gritted streets and pavements. Grey clouds hide nearby Alpine peaks, but the city glows with warm yellow stucco. On the Isar Tower, the clock hands move anti-clockwise, Bavarian style - and sure enough, time does seem to go backwards as we shop. We turn down Westenriederstrasse, past antique shops displaying an enchanting jumble of curios, and arrive at the Viktualienmarkt. Here, every weekday since 1807, stallholders have sold fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, salamis and sausages, beers and wines, cheese and flowers. We buy some sweet mustard and a spicy sausage, while under canvas awnings, shoppers are already swigging tots of Schnaps and mugs of beer. At a craft stall, my eye is caught by some spookily realistic kittens, and puppies snoozing on cushions. Are they made from stuffed corpses, we wonder, as we stroke their fur? Hannah opts for a comfortingly fake robin, made of twigs and straw. In a corner of the market square, we find Holz-Leute, which since 1873 has sold objects made of wood - toys, spoons, chess boards and pieces, billiard cues, and beautiful wooden-handled brushes of every conceivable size and shape.

We peep into St Peter's church - the oldest in Munich - and emerge into Marienplatz just as the Glockenspiel marionettes are performing their daily dance high on the town hall façade. With a quick, heady inhalation in perfumer Brückner Bublitz (established 1903), we walk up Dienerstrasse, past Johanna Daimer's tiny shop which sells nothing but felt, and cross the road to the Fortnum and Mason of Munich - Alois Dallmayr. In quietly luxurious alcoves, soothing aromas waft from a cornucopia of cakes, bread, teas and coffees - and crayfish lurk beneath a tinkling fountain.

In stately Maximilianstrasse, we join fur coated ladies admiring the glamorous haute couture of international designers, the chocolate confections of Elly Seidl, and the exquisite pens and stationery of Prantl (established in 1797). Back on Residenzstrasse, a byegone age of quality and taste is preserved in Germany's oldest shoe store (established 1596). Eduard Meier's beautiful shop offers monogrammed slippers, handmade riding boots, fur stoles, shooting sticks, gun cases and tweedy coats. Stags' heads hang from panelled walls, and a blue-aproned salesman is polishing a pair of brogues for a customer whose hound is lunching on the shop's special dog biscuits by the door.

We skip the Nymphenburger porcelain shop, and instead retreat to the smoky warmth of the Tambosi café (220 years old) with stencilled walls, glass chandeliers, marble tables and gilt sofas. We share hot apfelstrudel and cream, and watch admiringly as locals scoff slices cut from cartwheel-sized cheesecakes.

Fortified by the strudel, we stroll through the snowy Hofgarten, a formal park next to the Residenz palace. Church bells draw us into the Italianate Theatinerkirche for another welcome eyeful of ecclesiastical architecture before we hit the shops again.

A recent flurry of urban renewal has created several upmarket shopping courtyards and arcades, and now we explore the Theatiner-boulevard, Fünf Höfe and surrounding streets. Hannah is excited by the German-designed fashion - stylish cold-weather clothes in cashmere and leather, urban chic with a nod towards traditional costume, including felt slippers, embroidered skirts, tight bodices and suede breeches. With astonishing speed, she snaps up a stripy Gabrielle Strehle cashmere jumper, a purple silk dress from Uli Knecht, and some Miu Miu shoes from a stylish boutique called Theresa - all bargains compared to British prices. Helmut Lang's shop is terrifyingly stark, in black and white, but his clothes, too, are cheaper here than at home. Loden-Frey, a five-storey department store (established 1868) stocks more conservative apparel, including the famous Loden coats invented by the founder's son.

Passing the Roeckl family glove shop (established 1839), we reach the 15th century Frauenkirche - Munich's best known church, whose twin onion domes dominate the city skyline. Inside, pale, straight-edged pillars soar peacefully towards the distant roof.

Just outside this huge, airy basilica is Munich's answer to Oxford Street. Kaufingerstrasse is a jostling pedestrian strip fringed with familiar neon logos - C&A, H&M, Zara and Bodyshop. It's Germany's busiest retail area, but luckily it's time for lunch, so we escape down a side street to Hundskugel (established 1440), a tiny beamed restaurant with refreshingly few concessions to tourism or modernity. The staff are elderly and surly, the fruit bowl contains two mouldy satsumas and a dimpled apple on a doilly, and several slavering dogs lick at our feet, farting pungently. But the food is delicious. We both choose Leberknödelsuppe - lumps of liver paté floating in beef broth.

A few steps from the restaurant lies Sendlingerstrasse - with an attractive mix of laden old and new. We explore Kare, a lively four-floor emporium of household goods, including appliquéd felt cushions, and kitsch plastic cuckoo clocks. ReSales, in the basement at number 21, is a brilliant place to buy secondhand fur coats and hats. At Asam Pharmacy, sleek as an art gallery with its dark oak counter and bubbling water feature, Hannah buys some bargain Dr Hauschka moisturiser. A tiny shop selling wallets, belts, gloves and bags emits an intoxicating smell of leather. Once again, we rest our aching legs in the local church, but Asamkirche is neither pale nor peaceful - it's a mesmerising, headache-inducing riot of baroque gold, glittering with swags and gilded cherubs. I love it. Outside, we guzzle hot chestnuts from a stall. Optik Paradies Suchy offers witty spectacles in the shape of scissors, bicycles and swans, and next door, mystic music plays in the spicily fragrant Tea House, stacked from floor to ceiling with tempting infusions.

At 5 o'clock, we sip warming Glühwein in the atmospheric Hackerhaus restaurant (established 1417), served by gloomy wenches in dirndls. For us it feels like teatime, but locals are already quaffing beer from giant tankards, and tucking into vast hunks of meat, mountains of potato and sauerkraut, enormous radishes, and soft knotted brezen rolls, dotted with lumps of salt.

On our way back to the hotel, Hannah insists on one more detour, to explore the narrow streets north of Tal. Here we find another cluster of tiny, quirky shops, and to my surprise, I suddenly buy a woollen jacket, in Bavarian shades of green. In Orlandostrasse, we decide against cuckoo clocks this time, and buy hand-painted wooden Christmas figures. Yards from our hotel, we stop at Lederhosen Wagner (established 1825) - a narrow corner shop, stuffed to its low beamed ceiling with leather breeches, felt jackets, silver belts, string ties, and hats with tufts of chamois hair. A wood stove warms our legs as we ponder how our menfolk would look in lederhosen, and whether we should buy adorable miniature versions for friends' babies.

Across the road is Wies'n Tracht & Mehr, a rambling treasure trove stuffed with secondhand Bavarian costumes. We rummage through hundreds of brightly coloured dirndls, green and red woolly cardigans, white blouses with puff sleeves, laced bodices, aprons, felt jackets, white bobbly socks, feathered hats, clumpy shoes, lederhosen long and short, and every other Bavarian accessory. Hannah is tempted by a complete dirndl outfit, but finally settles for a gingham blouse.

That evening, our legs will hardly carry us the few hundred yards from our hotel to the Haxnbauer restaurant in Sparkassenstrasse. On a spit in the window, shiny orange shanks of pork drip fat on to the beech-wood flames. Inside the high-ceilinged 15th century eating hall, the air is thick with the smell of pork. The menu is long and complicated, and the waiters are grumpy as usual, but finally we opt for Schweinshaxe from the spit - glistening chunks of pork knuckle, with creamy mashed potato and cabbage. The diners at the next table order a whole knuckle each - vast joints as big as footballs. Afterwards they tuck into thick apple fritters, and we do too. As we stroll back to our hotel (established 1490), the clock on the tower is still ticking backwards, and I agree that in Munich ancient and modern, shopping is fun.

First published by the Telegraph

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