Monaco di Baviera

Munich:  The Bavarian Capitol

By Shannon Berg.


Munich is the capitol of the German State of Bavaria, and with 1.3 million people living in the city and 2.7 million living in the metropolitan area it is ranked the 3rd largest city in Germany.  It has one of the strongest economies in Germany and is by far the economic center of Southern Germany.  It is the headquarters for BMW and Siemens, and in addition the city enjoys a varied economy with interests in biotechnology, publishing, software and the film industry, not to mention tourism.  It has been the home to dukes, kings and emperors, and its rich history is reflected in the old city which seems to have come out of a storybook.  It is also home to the famous Oktoberfest which draws about 6 million tourists every fall to the annual festival which began in 1810.  Munich is easy to reach with its international airport, train stations that link it to cities throughout Europe, and its Autobahn connection.  Once within the city, it is easy to get around on the public transportation system which includes the underground, city trains, trams and buses.  Otherwise, there are bike paths throughout the city.   The city sits on the River Isar, and is not far from other smaller Bavarian towns, like Augsburg, or the famous fairytale castle, Neuschwanstein, that was commissioned by King Ludwig II in 1868.  Munich combines modern Germany with a rich past, and both are truly enjoyable.


The name Munich means monk and refers to the Benedictine Monastery that was in the area as early as the 8th century, long before the official founding of the city by Henry the Lion, the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, in 1158.  Even today the symbol of the city remains a monk.  It was not until 1175, however, that Munich was granted official status as a city.  In 1180 Otto I Wittelsbach became the new Duke of Bavaria, the first in a dynasty that was to rule the area as dukes, kings and even emperors until 1918.  In 1314 Munich became the official ducal residence of the family, leading to the construction of many palaces and the cathedral.  In 1328 Louis IV, then the Bavarian duke, became the Holy Roman Emperor, and favored his home by granting it a salt monopoly which led to enormous wealth.  The city hosted such great names as Michael of Cesena and William of Ockham who both lived at the imperial court.  By the 16th century, Munich was at the center of the German Counter Reformation and a center for Renaissance art.   Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, wife of Ferdinand Maria, brought the Baroque style to the city, along with many Italian artists and architects.  Munich was declared the capitol of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1806 which it remained until it became a part of the Weimar Republic in 1918, finally ending the rule of the Wittelsbach dynasty.   During the First World War much of the city was destroyed by bombings which led to a general unrest between the wars.  The Nazi party under Adolph Hitler was particularly active in Munich during this time, beginning with the Beer Hall Putch of 1923.  In 1938 the Munich Agreement was signed here, granting part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in hopes of appeasing him and avoiding another international conflict.  It was also in Munich that the White Rose, an anti-Nazi student resistance group, was most active during the war.  After World War II, Munich was occupied by the Americans, and although much of the city had been destroyed by bombs, rebuilding began immediately.


Now, Munich is a modern city which honors its past and its culture.  In Munich today one can enjoy rafting down the Isar River, visit the city’s many museums and palaces, relax in its lush parks and drink its famous beer.  Evidence of Munich’s rich and often romantic past is everywhere, and yet the city has also managed excel in the present and become both modern and hospitable.



Main Attractions


Nymphenburg Palace and Park

This Baroque palace was the summer residence for the Bavarian Monarchs.  It was commissioned by Ferdinand Maria in 1675 as a gift to his wife at the birth of their son Maximilian Emanuel.  While on the tour within, note the frescoed ceilings by Johann Baptiste Zimmermann and the bedroom of the famous King Ludwig II.  The Porcelain Museum, the Marstall Museum, and the Museum Mensch und Natur are all also housed within the palace.  Be sure to walk the grounds and see the famous Botanical Gardens and the huge landscaped palace park filled with trees, waterways and pleasure pavilions.  Here one finds Badenburg, with one of the first heated indoor pools ever built, constructed from 1719-21 by Josef Effner.  Also by Effner is the Pagodenburg, a sort of Chinese-rococo pavilion commissioned by Maximilian Emanuel from 1716-1719.  Within it are hexagonal drawing rooms, filled with red and black lacquer, painted silk and tapestries. The octagonal ground floor is covered with over 2,000 Dutch Delft tiles.  The Magdalenenklause was one of the first artificial ruins to be built in Europe and is dedicated to Mary Magdalene.  Paintings and statues of her decorate this supposed hermitage.  Karl Albrecht commissioned Cuvilliés to build the Amalienburg in the park from 1734-1739.  This rococo pleasure palace was a gift to his wife Amelia and features a circular hall of mirrors.


Neues Schloss Schleißheim

This was commissioned by Maximilian Emanuel and begun by architect Enrico Zuccalli in 1701, to be later completed by Josef Effner in 1721.  Built in the French style, it has a lavish interior.  Of interest within are the Great Hall, Victorian Hall, and the Great Gallery.  This enormous palace also houses the State Gallery of European Baroque Painting which opened in 1978.


Alte Schloss Schleißheim

Referred to as the Old Palace, this late Renaissance country residence was built from 1616-1623 and used by the Bavarian Dukes.  It once included farm buildings, but the whole structure was damaged during the wars, to be faithfully rebuilt in 1972.  It now houses the Bavarian National Museum and Gertrud Weinhold’s collection of popular religious art. 


Schloss Lustheim

This hunting lodge was built for Maximilian Emanuel in 1685 to celebrate his marriage to the emperor’s daughter, Maria Antonia.  It features frescoed ceilings, a novelty at the time.  The structure now houses a vast collection of Meissen porcelain, with over 2,000 plates, centerpieces and animal figures.



Built in 1385, this large palace was the home and governmental center of the Bavarian Dukes for 500 years.  It includes an ancestral gallery, with paintings of the rulers, and the Antiquarium, the Renaissance Hall built in 1570 for Duke Albrecht V to house his antiques collection in.  The hall was later used as a festival hall.  The 130 room palace is filled with oil paintings, tapestries, porcelain and period furniture.  One of the most interesting rooms is the Treasury, which houses gold work from the Middle Ages on, along with precious carved ivory, gems, tableware, and Ottoman daggers.  Within are also the Bavarian crown insignia and the famous statuette of St. George the Knight.



Munich’s Catholic cathedral dedicated to Our Lady was built from1468-1488 in the Gothic style.  It is filled with art work that spans five centuries, but is better known for its two brick towers with their copper onion domes which were added in the 16th century.  The cathedral is one of the best known landmarks in Munich, and in fact, a city ordinance forbids that any building be built taller that the 99 meter high towers.  This is one of the few buildings that survived both World Wars intact.


Alte Peter Kirche

This is the oldest church in the center of Munich and dates back to when the area was only a monastic settlement before 1158.  It is built in the Romanesque style and has 6 centuries of art within by many old masters.  The tower, if you are up to climbing the 306 steps to the top, offers a wonderful view of the city.


Neue Ratshaus

This New Town Hall was built in the Flanders gothic Style from 1867-1909.  It is one of the city’s most known landmarks with its mechanical carillon on its 260 foot tower.  The carillon is symbolic of Munich’s history, with the joust on top in memory of the wedding of Wilhelm V to Renata of Lothringen and the bottom showing the Schäfflertanz, the local folk dance first danced to celebrate the end of the plague  which killed one third of the city from 1515-1517.  The dance is still a large part of local culture, and is danced regularly every seven years.  The Town Hall sits on the Marienplatz, Munich’s main city square dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as seen by the sculpture on the column here.  Today many festivals are held in this square, including the Christmas Market.  Nearby is also the Altes Ratshaus, or Old Town Hall, which was built in the gothic style and includes a Council Hall, ballroom, and tower, all of which had to be rebuilt after the war.


English Garden

This 900 acre park is located right in the city and is filled with trees, paths, swans and four beer gardens.  Built on the site of the old fortress, locals and tourists alike can enjoy the outdoors here.  There is also the Olympic Park in Munich, built for the 1972 Olympics.  Here one finds a landscaped park, lakes and bike paths.  The park is also known for its sports facilities, including a football stadium, restaurants and many concerts.


Alte Pinakothek

This is one of the oldest art museums in the world.  It houses over 800 European masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the Rococo period.  It includes Venetian and Dutch exhibits, with one of the largest collections of paintings by Ruebens in the world.  The Old German Art Gallery features works by Altdorfer and Dürer, including his painting The Four Apostles.


Neue Pinakothek

This art museum features European art from the 18th-20th century, with a large collection of 19th century German art that came from King Ludwig I’s private collection.  The galleries include the Romantic Sentimentalist works by Caspar Davis Friedrich and works by one of Germany’s most famous artists, Haus von Marées.  There are paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Francisco Goya and Jacques Louis David, and a large exhibit of Impressionist paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Degas.  The Modern Gallery features painters such as Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin.


Pinakothek der Moderne

This brand new museum will complete the complex, featuring works from the 20th century to the present.  Its 15,000 square meter facility will house all sorts of art in its four galleries.  The first, the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst will include sculpture, photography and film.  Die Neue Sammlung will feature handicrafts and design.  The Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität will exhibit illustrations, photographs and models of architecture, while the Staaliche Graphische Sammslung will feature printed graphics and master illustrations.


Deutsches Museum

Opened about 100 years now, this is one of the oldest scientific and technological museums in the world.  The over 50,000 square meter complex offers hands on exhibits that look at the laws of nature, technological methods and scientific instruments. The Verkehrszentrum, or Vehicle Museum, is also located here, and it looks specifically at movement, as it features all sorts of vehicles from carriages to race cars, steam locomotives to in-line skates with many experiential exhibits.



Munich is the capitol of beer, so be sure to visit this famous beer hall that has been opened since 1644.  It is the place to go for beer, food and polka music.  Remember that signs marked stammtisch are reserved for local regulars.  If you enjoy this, be sure to visit the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum which features the history of beer, looking at how migration, monasteries, and purity laws have affected the beverage.  Of course they also look at the unique quality of Munich’s beer, and the history of the Oktoberfest, which has taken place every year since it was first held as part of the wedding of King Ludwig to Princess Theresa of Sachsen Hildburghausen on the 12th of October, 1810.



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