Things to Do in Munich
With its snow-white limestone facade and fanciful turrets peeking out from the forested mountain tops of the Hohenschwangau valley, Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein) could easily have been lifted from the pages of a fairy tale. In a way, it has—the German castle famously inspired Disney'sSleeping Beauty castle.
A public plaza in the center of Munich, Marienplatz is full of history—it’s been the city’s main square and central heart of Munich’s Old Town (Altstadt) since 1158. Marienplatz is a popular gathering spot and possibly the busiest location in all of Munich, with crowds of locals and tourists visiting its landmarks, shops, and restaurants on foot from early morning until late at night.
Munich's historic Victuals Market is the city’s main destination for gourmet Bavarian goods. Its stalls—many family-run for generations—overflow with exotic fruits, fresh vegetables, truffles, flowers, spices, sausages and hams, artisanal cheeses, honey, and much more. Snack as you go or gather items for a picnic at the nearby park.
Inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France, Bavaria’s 19th-century Linderhof Castle is one of the country’s most magnificent structures. The smallest in a trio of elaborate royal palaces built by King Ludwig II (also known as the “Mad King”), Linderhof was the only one the king saw completed.
Hemmed in by Italianesque palaces, grand concert halls, and Baroque churches—Odeonsplatz is a testament to Munich’s storied past and the site of some of the city’s key historic events. At the northern end of Munich Old Town (Altstadt), the busy public square is the gateway to the Hofgarten gardens and the Munich Residenz.
The former royal palace of the Bavarian monarch, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors to see its spectacularly adorned rooms and royal collections. The complex of buildings in the Munich Residenz contains 10 courtyards and the museum displays 130 rooms. The three main parts of the Residenz are the Königsbau, the Alte Residenz, and the Festsaalbau, which is also home to the Cuvillies Theatre.
Get a feel for palace life in the Residenz museum which features the collections of porcelain, silver, paintings, and classical antiquities amassed by the Wittelsbach monarchs. The Antiquarium's Renaissance collections is especially breath-taking. Step outside the elaborately decorated rooms to the beautiful Court Garden or check out the Treasury (Schatzkammer) for a display of the royal jewels, gold objects, and ivory.
King's Square (Königsplatz) was initially built to serve the urban notions
of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.
Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square. It was even featured in a Nazi propaganda film, The March to the Führer. Two temples were built on Königsplatz to honor the 16 Nazis killed in the failed coup attempt by Adolf Hitler to seize power in 1923 – they were later on destroyed (except for their platforms, which are still visible today) as part of Munich’s denazification by the US Army in 1947.
However, not all Nazi constructions were systematically demolished; the Führerbau, for example, where the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938, still exists to this day and houses a music school.
Today, Königsplatz has returned to its pre‐war appearance and remains one of Munich’s most significant attractions. It is now regarded as the center of Munich’s museum quarter, the Kunstareal.
One of the largest urban parks in the world, the English Garden (Englischer Garten) is Munich’s most popular green space, boasting over 48 miles (78 kilometers) of walking and cycling trails. It offers plenty to explore, including a Japanese teahouse, a boating lake, and traditional beer gardens.
A Munich landmark, the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady (Frauenkirche) features two 325-foot (99-meter) towers topped by spherical domes. According to local ordinance, no other building in the city may be taller than this, preserving the cathedral’s central position on the skyline of Bavaria’s capital.
The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of its kind opened in Germany by Adolf Hitler's Nazi government in 1933, and it served as a model for later concentration camps. Today, the camp is a memorial to the more than 32,000 people who died and the more than 200,000 who were imprisoned during the Nazi regime. The memorial was established as a site of memory and education in 1965, 20 years after Dachau was liberated by American troops.
More Things to Do in Munich
The oldest church in Munich, St. Peter's Church, or Peterskirche, is a Roman Catholic establishment built in the 12th century in the Bavarian Romanesque style. The interior of the church features the magnificent Mariahilf-Altar, Gothic paintings & sculptures, and a ceiling fresco. But even these beautiful works of art can't top the bizarre gem-studded skeleton of St. Mundita, who stares at visitors with false eyes and jeweled teeth.
From the spire of "Old Peter", as the church is known to the locals, are spectacular views of the oldest part of Munich. Remember to check the colored rings at the bottom, a white ring means the Alps are visible, making the hike to the top even more worthwhile. Although the spire was almost completely destroyed duringWorld War II, it was fully restored with the traditional architechture.
A formal court garden built by Elector Maximilian I in the 17th century, the Hofgarten is one of Munich’s favorite parks. At its center lies an octagonal pavilion, known as the Diana Temple; covered arcades skirt the edges; and the landscaped grounds host games of boules and even tango dancing during summer.
When thinking of places to go surfing, Germany's landlocked city of Munich is probably not the first to come to mind. But interestingly enough, surfers have been riding the waves in the city's Isar River since the 1970s.
A man-made arm of the Isar, the Eisbach (German for 'ice brook') flows for 1.25 miles (2 km) through a large city park known as the English Garden (Englischer Garten). Just past the bridge near the House of the Arts (Haus der Kunst) art museum, the Eisbach forms a standing wave of over three feet (1 meter). Surfers have rigged the wave by building a system of ropes and planks to channel it into something so surfable, it's home to an annual surfing competition and has hosted world-class surf legends such as Kelly Slater and Jack Johnson. Travelers visiting in summer can see surfers queued up waiting patiently for their turn to shred.
Billed as the world’s largest technology museum, the Deutsches Museum is so vast that it takes over an entire island in the center of Munich. Six floors of exhibitions are devoted to topics like aviation, energy, and natural science, with hands-on displays and activities that make it fun and educational for all ages.
Housed in the oldest town house in Munich, the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum features permanent exhibitions on topics ranging from the history of beer to the Bavarian monks’ purity laws and the unique quality of Munich’s beer. As for the story of Oktoberfest, on the upper floor of the museum you’ll learn about its beginnings as a national festival for the 1810 wedding of King Luis to Princess Teresa, right through to today’s celebration — it’s the largest beer festival in the world attended by some 6 million people every year.
You’ll see photos and illustrations, exhibits of brewery and beer-related memorabilia, including original beer mugs from the early years of Oktoberfest. A 12-minute documentary on the evolution of Bavarian beer-making also plays in the small cinema. And as you make your way round the exhibits, check out the building’s original wooden beam and restored murals — they date all the way back to 1340. The kitchen with its open fire is a nice touch, too, and there’s also an onsite pub on the ground floor, which serves plenty of wurst to go with the Augustiner beer.
Enclosing Munich's central square Marienplatz, the Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus in German, serves as the center for city council activity for the historic city. The Old Town Hall is also known for its architechture style change from Baroque to Gothic after the structure was bombed during World War II.
The interior is a masterpiece of medieval design with golden stairs, decorated beams, and a frieze of Munich's multiple coats of arms. The Grand Hall is decorated with the figures of Erasmus Grasser's Marisco Dancers. The tower of the Old Town Hall is now home to the Toy museum, a childhood collection by Ivan Steiger.
Built in 1664, Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg) was once the summer residence of Bavarian kings. One of the largest royal palaces in Europe and located on the outskirts of Munich, this magnificent complex boasts a dramatic baroque facade, lavishly decorated interiors, and an expanse of stunning gardens and lakes.
Home turf of Munich’s FC Bayern and TSV 1860 football (American soccer) teams, Allianz Arena is one of Germany’s largest sports stadiums. Built in 2005, it’s renowned both for its award-winning architecture—by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron—and sports legacy as host to major events, such as a World Cup and UEFA Champions League Final.
Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshals' Hall, is a monument in Munich that was built between 1841 and 1844. It was built in an Italian style and modeled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. It is located on Odeonsplatz at the former site of one of the city's main gates, Schwabinger Tor. The monument was built as a tribute to the Bavarian army that fought in the Franco-Prussian War and features bronze statues of some of the most important generals of Bavaria. In addition there are two lions on the steps. One is growling towards the Residenz Palace, the other is keeping its mouth shut towards the church.
In 1923, Hitler supporters began an illegal march down Ludwigstrasse towards Feldherrnhalle to start a people's revolution against the Bavarian state. Police ordered them to stop, and when they did not, the police opened fire killing 16 marchers as well as four police officers. Hitler was arrested and served a short term in prison.
The Bavarian State Opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses, with over 400 performances and 600,000 visitors yearly. Its history spans over three centuries and helped shape Munich as we know it today, a culture-savvy metropolis with unparalleled elegance and flair. Thanks to a controversial yet deep friendship with King Ludwig II, Richard Wagner himself premiered many of his music dramas (including The Valkyrie, The Master-Singers of Nuremberg, The Fairies, The Rhinegold, and Tristan and Isolde) at the Bavarian State Opera, which at the time – and arguably still is to this day – was considered the limelight of music in Europe. Nowadays, over 30 different operas, recitals, ballets, and concerts are staged every season in the splendid original Rococo Cuvilliés-Theater, the largest of its kind in Germany and perhaps the most spectacular in all of Europe. This is also where the Munich Opera Festival, the most important and acclaimed opera festival in the world, takes places.
The House of the Arts, or Haus der Kunst in German, is an art museum in Munich that was originally founded by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1937. It originally housed Hitler's vision of what great German art was, and the exhibits were folk art displaying Nazi ideals. The museum's purpose has changed several times since the end of World War II, but since 2003 the museum has been dedicated almost exclusively to contemporary art. The Archive Gallery, the museum's permanent exhibition, displays art, photography, and other items that explore the museum's turbulent history.
Other exhibitions in the museum come from contemporary artists whose works include painting, drawing, photography, video, installations and more. Aside from the exhibitions, the museum also focuses on education and research. The House of the Arts holds special events, kids' and youth programs, and tours.
An art museum in the Kunstareal district, the Old Pinakothek, or Alte Pinakothek, is one of the oldest galleries in the world. It houses famous collections of the old master paintings from the 14th through 18th centuries. More then 800 works from the premier European painters, German, Italian, and Dutch alike, are all on display in the galleries. One gallery was specifically designed to showcase Rubens's masterpiece, Last Judgment - one of the largest canvases ever painted.
Explore the development of painting from the Middle Ages to the Rococo era, compare artistic styles, or simply admire the masterpieces at the Alte Pinakothek. This museum boasts quite an impressive list of artists under its roof, from Dürer to Raphael, Botticelli to Titian, and Rembrandt to Velasquez, the Alte Pinakothek could have an art history book devoted entirely to its vast collection.
The New Pinakothek (Neue Pinakothek) forms part of an extraordinary concentration of art museums just outside Munich’s old town. Its exterior – a gloomy postmodern mish-mash which has aged poorly – is the least impressive of the three museums bearing the “Pinakothek” tag, but once inside all is forgiven.
The collection is largely 19th century art, with a bit of scope creep into the adjoining centuries, and it was first established by King Ludwig I whose philhellenism made Munich a showcase of neo-classicism. There is an impressive showing of English works – Gainsborough, Turner, Constable – as well as masterpieces of German and French Romanticism. Look out for Carl Spitzweg’s The Poor Poet, an affectionate dig at the Romantic cult of the impoverished, garret-dwelling writer. Many visitors will be delighted by the Impressionist collection, which boasts works by almost all of the movement’s leading lights as well as those who came immediately before or after: Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Gauguin, to name a few.
Home to the Summer Olympic Games in 1972, Munich's vast Olympiapark is now an international events center, sports venue, and recreational park. In addition to the facilities used for the games, Olympiapark was updated in 2003 to included the Olympic Walk of Stars, modeled after the Hollywood version. A popular concert venue, the park also hosts the Super-Cross Cup, Holiday on Ice, and other seasonal events and festivals.
Outdoor adventurists will love climbing the roof of the Olympic stadium, abseiling on a zipline from the tent roof of the stadium to the lawn 40 meters (130 feet) below, and the newest adrenaline rush: the Flying Fox. The Olympic Tower is also the highest rock museum in the world, with tmons of meorabilia. The Sea Life aquarium gives visitors an educational and entertaining experience about water cycle and sea creatures.
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