With an abundance of cultural attractions and a wealthy populace, Munich stands as one of Germany’s most sophisticated and refined cities. The atmosphere changes somehow each autumn, when an immense influx of visitors test their endurance and the city’s exceptional beers at the annual Oktoberfest. We, unfortunately, didn’t get chance to visit this festival, but at least we were able to see the magnificient city itself with out own point of view.
Munich, the capital of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany, lies on the River Isar on the fringes of the Bavarian Alps. The focal point of Munich’s historic inner city is the large open square, the Marienplatz, where you’ll find Old and New Town Halls. One of Germany’s most popular cities to visit, Munich is also famous for its many fine churches, including Peterskirche, the oldest inner city church built during the Romanesque period, the Frauenkirche, the city’s most famous building, and Michaelskirche, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. Munich is also noted for its numerous parks, in particular the lovely English Garden (Englischer Garten), the world’s largest urban public park.
Although Oktoberfest and biergartens are a big part of Munich life, they aren’t the only things going for this cosmopolitan city. You’ll also find several interesting museums, the Residenz Royal Palace, the Bavarian State Opera and even BMW World among its varied attractions. And nightlife – plus the sleek stores to dress you for the partying – should also not be missed.
Marienplatz has been Munich’s central square since the city’s foundation, and until 1807, was where markets were held, along with the occasional medieval jousting tournament. In addition to the massive New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), it’s here where you’ll find the majestic Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) with its reconstructed tower. Other notable landmarks include the Virgin’s Column (Mariensäule), and the Fish Fountain (Fischbrunnen), a newer addition that includes bronze figures rescued from an earlier 19th century fountain. Marienplatz is also a popular shopping destination and boasts a number of shopping centres and restaurants, and has for decades been the focus of much of the festive life of the Bavarian capital. Always crowded with tourists, it’s also a great place for free entertainment, including buskers and mime artists. Also celebrations like Fasching carnival or Christmas markets take place there.
New Town Hall
Completed in 1892, the impressive New Town Hall dominates Marienplatz, vying with the twin towers of the Frauenkirche behind. The main façade overlooking the Marienplatz is decorated with a profusion of figures and ornaments, including Bavarian dukes, electors, and kings, as well as fabulous creatures, saints, and well-known local characters. The world famous carillon, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, is the fourth largest in Europe. Every day at 11am, 12pm, and 5pm it plays old folk tunes, while its mechanical figures reenact historic events. Extensive views over the old city can be enjoyed from the middle gallery of the building’s 85-meter high tower (accessible by an elevator). Great Tourist Information Center is also here.
Old Town Hall
Munich’s Old Town Hall has graced the Marienplatz for more than five hundred years. It is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings from the Gothic era. The building that has been known as the Old Town Hall since the nineteenth century was built between 1470 and 1480. Designed by Jörg von Halsbach – better known as the master builder of the Frauenkirche – this original city hall was created in a Gothic design, which was the popular style of the era. However, numerous changes were made to the building in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Nearly three hundred years later, in the 1860s, it was reconverted back to its Gothic splendor. Later, in 1877 and again in 1934 two gateways were created to allow traffic to pass through the building. Since then it looks the same.
Affectionately known as Alte Peter (Old Peter), St. Peter’s Church is the oldest in the city of Munich. Built in 1180, the church has had a turbulent and interesting past but is still a favorite tourist attraction and is fondly admired by locals as well.
Built on the same site where eighth-century monks had established a monastery, Peterskirche was designed in the Romanesque style. The monks had called this area Peterbergl, or Peter’s Hill, so a similar name was given to the church. The same monks also gave the city its current name, as München is derived from Mönch, the German word for monk.
The mostly wooden church stood for only 150 years before a fire totally destroyed the structure. During the next forty years (1328-1368), the church was reconstructed, with many Gothic motifs added.
The church stood in its Romanesque/Gothic splendor for the next three centuries, only to have a Renaissance steeple added during the seventeenth century. Shortly after that, a Baroque choir was added at Peterskirche. Just a century or so later, it was completely renovated – this time in an elaborate Rococo style.
Near the end of World War II, the church was almost completely destroyed. Its reconstruction began shortly after the end of the war, and was finally completed in the year 2000.
Over the years, Peterskirche accumulated a number of great works of art and many have been saved. You may find sculptures by fifteenth century artist Erasmus Grasser and paintings by Johann Baptist Zimmerman inside the ornate interior.
Munich’s huge Frauenkirche – the Cathedral Church of Our Lady – has been the main metropolitan church of the South Bavarian ecclesiastical provinces since the establishment of the archbishopric of Munich and Freising in 1821. Completed in 1488, this brick-built Late Gothic church owes its impact to its great size – 109 meters long by 40 meters wide – and its high walls, along with its sturdy twin 100-meter-tall towers with their characteristic Renaissance domes. One of the most famous of its interior features is the strange footprint found in the floor in its picturesque porch, said to have been left by the Devil after he came to inspect the church. So delighted was he that the windows seemed to have been forgotten, he stamped his foot, leaving the footprint that can still be seen today. A three-minute walk from the Frauenkirche, the long green space known as Promenadeplatz was once Munich’s salt market. Today, it’s embellished with statues of the Prince Elector Max Emanuel, the composers Christoph Willibald Gluck and Orlando di Lasso, and the Bavarian historian Lorenz von Westenrieder.
Munich’s magnificent Michaelskirche is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. It took fourteen years to complete the construction of the church, which was built by Duke Wilhelm V as a center for the Counter Reformation, in response to Luther’s call to the Catholic church for reform.
St. Michael’s Church was built in two stages. The first encompassed the years 1583-1588. Though the architect of the original church is unknown, the church was designed to be one of the largest and finest Jesuit churches in the world. This first phase involved a large barrel-vaulted roof which was second only to the one at St. Peter’s in Rome. The vaulting was so massive that locals feared it would collapse.
The vaulting never caused a problem but, in 1590, the tower collapsed, destroying the choir, which had just been completed. In response to the disaster, the duke decided that bad omens dictated a need for an even larger church so he added to his original plans. Shortly thereafter, construction began on the second phase of this colossal church, lasting until its completion in 1597. During this time, a new and grander choir was built as well as a transept, which was an addition to the original drawings. A number of bronze statues grace the beautiful facade of the church, including a large statue of Michael the Archangel situated between the two main doors. Michaelskirche was heavily damaged by bombing during World War II but was restored and refurbished shortly after the war. Additional cosmetic work was completed in the 1980s.
The English Garden (Englische Garten) is one of the largest urban parks in the world. The layout has undergone constant change throughout the centuries as new buildings and green spaces were added time and again.
It all started in 1789 when Elector Carl Theodor ordered that a public park be established along the Isar River. He put the project in the hands of the Briton Benjamin Thompson, who worked at the time for the Bavarian Army. The park was given the name Englische Garten because it was laid out in the style of an English country park.
Today the Englische Garten offers numerous leisure time activities. Cyclists and joggers train on the 78 kilometer long network of paths, and amateur soccer players meet on the fields for recreational games. A beautiful vista of the city if offered by the Monopteros, which was added to the park landscape along with the hill in 1836. The Japanese teahouse first opened in 1972 on the southern end of the park on an artificial island in the Schwabinger Bach (stream). Japanese tea ceremonies are performed here regularly.
Restaurant Seehaus right in the heart of the English Garden – “Island of the Blessed” with pavilion, Bavarian Stüberl and heavenly beer garden. Whether it’s breakfast, cakes and tarts in the afternoon, dinner, banquets or festivals – the restaurant Seehaus is an idyllic venue for many occasions featuring a modern and cozy atmosphere.
With 7,000 spots, the beer garden in the Englische Garten, right by the Chinese Tower, is Munich’s second largest. This distinctive pagoda is 25 meters high and is based on a design from 1789. The tower has burned down several times over the years, but each time it has been rebuilt true to the design of the original.
Another beer garden is located on Kleinhesseloher Lake. From the first ray of sunshine, all benches are quickly taken. The associated Restaurant Seehaus is open year-round and offers sophisticated local fare. Behind the Seehaus is the start of the northern part of the park, which is beyond the “Middle Ring”. The area is much quieter than the lively southern section. The Englische Garten also borders directly on the Isar River here, which can be easily crossed via the weir at Oberföhring. On the northern end of the park is Restaurant Aumeister, which also hosts a beer garden.
Residenz Royal Palace
The Residenz (palace) in Munich’s city center was once the city castle of the Bavarian dukes, princes, and emperors. In terms of style, the complex of buildings constructed through the centuries is a mix of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Classicism.
With the Residence, Munich owns one of Europe’s most significant interior decoration museums. For five hundred years the facility in the middle of the old city was the residence and center of power of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings, but also the expression of art intellect and passion for building. The rooms of Duke Maximilian I – Kaisersaal, Steinzimmer and Reiche Kapelle – show the palace construction art of the 17th century. The ancestral portrait gallery and the Reiche Zimmer represent courtly rococo according to drafts by François Cuvilliés. The classical apartments in the King’s Building go back to drafts by Leo von Klenzes.
The castle structure includes ten courtyards, making the Munich Residenz the largest city center castle in Germany. The most well-known Residenz buildings include the Königsbau next to the National Theater on Max-Joseph-Platz where the Treasury is housed, and the Festsaalbau at the Hofgarten where the well-known Herkulessaal (Hercules Hall) concert hall is located.
The larger inner courtyards of the Residenz buildings, the Kaiserhof, and the Brunnenhof, are used for cultural events like open-air concerts and a medieval Christmas village. Other buildings of the Munich Residenz include the Allerheiligen-Hofkirche (“All Saints Court Church”), the Maximilian Residenz, and the Cuvilliés Theater.
The highlight of the guided tour is the Antiquarium: the largest and most beautiful Renaissance hall north of the Alps was built around 1570 for the antique collection of Duke Albrecht V and later used as a festival hall.
The 130 rooms of the Residence Munich have been filled with furniture and oil paintings, tapestries and porcelain from the best artists of their time. In addition to the resplendent showrooms, numerous special collections such as silver, porcelain or relic rooms can also be viewed.
Treasury of the Residence offers unique gold work from the Middle Ages right through to the classicism period. But the eminent collection also comprises precious works made of mountain crystal and ivory, gems, jewelry, tableware, right up to Ottoman daggers. Among the highlights of the collection are the Bavarian crown insignia and the precious statuette of St George the Knight. World famous exhibits are the Arnulfziborium, the cross relic of Emperor Heinrich II or the Gisela cross.
National Theater and Bavarian State Opera
Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading opera houses and home to the Bavarian State Opera, the National Theater (Nationaltheater München) was commissioned by King Maximilian I Joseph and built in Neoclassical style in 1818. Although destroyed during WWI, the structure was painstakingly rebuilt and reopened in 1963. Exterior highlights include the portico with its Corinthian columns, and its two triangular pediments reminiscent of a Greek temple. In the pediment of the portico itself are Apollo and the Muses, while in the pediment of the tall main structure is a colored glass mosaic depicting Pegasus. Inside, the delightful auditorium with its five tiers of seating is decorated in red, ivory, dove-blue, and gold. It was here that Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1865), Die Meistersinger (1868), Rheingold (1869), and Die Walküre (1870) were performed, while today, it serves as home to the Munich Opera Festival, held here each summer.
When the Olymiapark was planned for the XXth Olympic Games in 1972, the designers had the long-term needs in mind. In contrary to many olympic sites in other cities around the world, the different centers built for the olympics are still used and the Olympiapark has become one of Munich’s major tourist attractions.
The site contains an ice rink, an indoor pool, a residential district and student residences and of course the Olympic Stadium, which was the home of the main local soccer team, FC Bayern München until they moved to the futuristic Allianz arena in 2006. The Olympic stadium can seat 80,000 people.
The adventurous can take part in a roof-climb, which consists of a tour on top of the roof covering the Olympic Stadium.
The Olympic site was built by Günther Behmisch, Frei Otto & Partners and became world-known mainly because of the futuristic tent-like roof construction. It covers the Olympic stadium, Olympiahall and the swimming pool. The roof covering the main stadium consists of a PVC-coated polyester fabric.
Two of the most popular tourist attractions in Germany are located in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Park: BMW Welt and the BMW Museum.
BMW Welt impresses with its unmistakeable, futuristic architecture as well as a wide range of exhibitions and events. The latest BMW products, ranging from cars to motorbikes, are on display, and customers can also pick up their new car from the site. Guided tours and an exclusive area for children – the Junior Campus – complete the offerings.
Just a few metres away, the BMW Museum presents the history of the BMW company, brand and products in an innovative and fascinating way. 125 of the most valuable and attractive original exhibits from nine decades of history can be seen on the 5,000 square meters of exhibition space.
In addition, regular exhibitions and events of all kinds take place in BMW Welt and the BMW Museum: events about products and the brand, as well as concerts and various live acts. You can also hire event space via the BMW Eventforum, and attractive experiences can be integrated into the event concept.
Olympia park and BMW Welt:
Adoration of the magnificient city centre after getting there by underground:
If you came this far…have a nice day! 🙂