The capital of Bavaria, Munich (München) is sometimes called “Germany’s secret capital”. Lying right at the heart of Europe, the city rapidly overshadowed once-powerful neighbors, such as Ingolstadt, Augsburg, and Nuremberg, to become southern Germany’s main metropolis. With its vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere, fine buildings, museums, and shops, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The origins of Munich’s grand Residenz – the former residence of Bavarian kings – go back to the 14th century, when a castle was built here for the Wittelsbach dynasty. In the following centuries, the fortress was replaced by a palace complex, which in turn was gradually modified and extended. Major work in the 17th century included the construction of two chapels, the Reiche Kapelle and the Hofkapelle. The Königsbau, containing the superb Nibelungensäle, was added by Leo von Klenze in the first half of the 19th century. Since 1920, the palace has been open to the public as a museum, displaying a wealth of magnificent treasures. In addition to the collections of the Residenzmuseum and the Schatzkammer (Treasury), there is an interesting museum of Egyptian art, the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst.
The site of the Frauenkirche was originally occupied by a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built in the 13th century. Some 200 years later, a new, much larger church was built here by the architects Jörg von Halspach and Lukas Rottaler. The new Frauenkirche (or Dom) was completed in 1488, although the distinctive copper onion domes were not added to its towers until 1525. The church is one of southern Germany’s largest Gothic structures. Over 330 ft long and 130 ft wide, it can accommodate a congregation of about 2,000 people. The vast triple-naved hall has no transept. There are long rows of side chapels and a gallery surrounding the choir. For a good view of central Munich, you can take an elevator to the top of one of the towers. Partly demolished in 1944–5, the church was rebuilt after World War II. Church treasures that escaped destruction include a painting of the Virgin by Jan Polack (c.1500), the altar of St. Andrew in the Chapel of St. Sebastian, and the huge monumental tomb of Ludwig IV the Bavarian, the first member of the house of Wittelsbach to be elected Holy Roman Emperor (c.1283–1347). The monument was the work of Hans Krumpper (1619–22).
In medieval times, Marienplatz was Munich’s salt- and cornmarket. In the center stands a column with a statue of the Virgin Mary dating from 1623. The square is dominated by the Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), built in 1867– 1909. Its walls are adorned with statues of Bavarian rulers, mythological figures, saints, and monstrous gargoyles. At 11 am and 5 pm, the center of attention is the clock tower. The bells ring out a carillon, while figures of knights fight a tournament and a crowd dances. The dance is the “Coopers’ Dance,” first performed in 1517 to raise citizens’ morale during a plague epidemic. At the eastern end of the square stands the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). Originally built in the late 15th century, it has been rebuilt many times since. The high tower, above the old city gate beside the town hall, was rebuilt in 1975 to a design based on pictures dating from 1493. Since 1983, the tower has been the home of the city’s Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum).
The collection of the city museum has been housed since 1880 in this former arsenal. Exhibits illustrate daily life in Munich throughout the ages. One of the greatest treasures is the “Dancing Moors” by Erasmus Grasser (1480). Originally, there were 18 highly expressive limewood carvings of dancing figures surrounding the figure of a woman, but only ten survive. The Waffenhalle has a fine collection of arms and armor. There are also displays of furniture, paintings, prints, photographs, dolls, and musical instruments. The vast doll collection includes paper dolls from India and China, as well as automata and puppets. Also located in the square is the Judisches Zentrum Jakobsplatz (the Jewish Center), housed in a cube-shaped, freestanding building. Three floors of exhibitions, a library, and a learning center offer extensive information on Jewish culture and history and highlight important aspects of contemporary Jewish life.
This extraordinary Rococo church is dedicated to St. John Nepomuk, but is known as the Asamkirche after the brothers Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin Asam, who built it as a private family church. Completed in 1746, the tiny church is a riot of decoration with a dynamically shaped single nave, where no surface is left unembellished. The eye is drawn to the altar, and its sculptural group of the Holy Trinity. The house next door to the church was the residence of Egid Quirin Asam, who was a stuccoist and sculptor. From one of the windows of his house, he could see the altar.
On the northern side of Königsplatz stands the Glyptothek, a collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, notable statues from the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aegina. The museum’s imposing facade, with the portico of an Ionic temple at the center, is part of a kind of Neoclassical forum created in the first half of the 19th century to house the archaeological finds acquired by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. On the opposite side of the square, the Staatliche Antikensammlung houses smaller treasures, in particular a vast array of Greek vases.
This magnificent gallery is filled with masterpieces of European art from the Middle Ages to the mid-18th century. Many of the Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria were great collectors, the first being Wilhelm IV the Steadfast, who ruled from 1508 to 1550. The Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) was built for Ludwig I by Leo von Klenze in 1826–36 in the form of a Florentine Renaissance palazzo. The ground floor is devoted to the works of German and Flemish Old Masters from the 16th and 17th centuries. On the first floor are works by Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish artists. There are also interesting works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Raphael, Titian, and Tintoretto.
Bavaria’s collection of late 18thand 19th-century European painting and sculpture occupies a purpose-built gallery completed in 1981. German painting of every artistic movement of the 19th century, including Romanticism, the “Nazarenes,” German and Austrian Biedermeier, and Impressionism is well represented. There are also works by French Realists, Impressionists, and Symbolists purchased when the gallery’s director was the art historian Hugo von Tschudi. The open space between the Neue and Alte Pinakothek has been turned into a sculpture park.
PINAKOTHEK DER MODERNE
Designed by the German architect Stephan Braunfels, this sleek contemporary museum brings together the worlds of art, design, graphics, and architecture under one roof. The collections of four previously separate museums, including the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, the design collection of Die Neue Sammlung, and the models, drawings, and objects of the Architekturmuseum, are now housed here. As well as the individual permanent displays, there are also temporary and mixed exhibitions.
Reputed to be the largest science and technology museum in the world, the Deutsches Museum is also the most popular museum in Germany. Founded in 1904, the vast collection features more than 28,000 exhibits across a wide range of subject areas, from agriculture to telecommunications. In the basement and on the ground floor are some of the museum’s largest exhibits. The aeronautics section holds an airplane that belonged to the Wright brothers and a 1936 Messerschmitt ME 109. A hall charting the history of seafaring houses a 14th-century cog, a trading ship used by the Hanseatic League, and a 19th-century fishing vessel. The museum’s superb collection of automobiles and other exhibits related to land travel is now largely on display in the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum at Am Bavariapark 5, in the west of the city. Temporary exhibitions are regularly held at the museum, which also has an excellent library archive and a range of multimedia facilities.
Founded in 1855 by King Maximilian II, the Bavarian National Museum holds a superb collection of fine and applied arts and historical artifacts. Since 1900, the museum has occupied an impressive building on Prinzregentenstrasse, designed by Gabriel von Seidl. The ground floor contains works from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical periods. Star exhibits are German sculptor Conrat Meit’s Judith (1515) and a beautiful sculpture of the Madonna by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460–1531). The first-floor collections include German porcelain, clocks, glassware, ivory carvings, textiles, and items of gold. In the basement rooms, the Christmas nativity scenes by Bavarian and Italian artists are especially worth seeing.
ENGLISCHER GARTEN GREATER MUNICH
The idea of creating a park in the heart of the city open to all Munich’s citizens came from the American-born Count von Rumford, who lived in Bavaria from 1784. In 1789, taking advantage of his position as Bavaria’s Minister of War, he persuaded Elector Karl Theodor to put his plans into action. Opened in 1808, the Karl- Theodor-Park is today simply known as the Englischer Garten (English Garden). The park covers an area of 3.7 sq km (914 acres), and has become a popular place for walking, jogging, or simply relaxing. Several interesting buildings dotted about the gardens include the Monopteros, a Neoclassical temple (1837) by Leo von Klenze, and the Chinese Tower (1789–90), similar to the pagoda in London’s Kew Gardens (see p). In the delightful Japanese Teahouse, demonstrations on the art of tea brewing are held. Within the Englischer Garten are three beer gardens, where locals and tourists alike come to drink and listen to live music. Visitors can also take out rowing boats on the park’s lake, the Kleinhesseloher See.
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the Olympiapark is visible from almost anywhere in Munich, identifiable by the 290 m (950 ft) high television tower, the Olympiaturm. The site has three main facilities: the Olympic stadium, which seats over 60,000 spectators, the Olympic Hall, and the Swimming Hall. All three are covered by a vast transparent canopy, stretched between several tall masts to form an irregular-shaped pavilion. Also within the complex are an indoor skating rink, a cycle racing track, and tennis courts. As well as sporting occasions, the Olympiapark hosts many popular cultural events, such as fireworks displays and open-air rock and pop concerts during the summer months.
Located northwest of the city center, the stunning Schloss Nymphenburg grew up around an Italianate villa, built in 1663– 4 for Electress Henrietta- Adelaide. The Electress dedicated the palace, which became the summer residence of the Wittelsbachs, to the pastoral pleasures of the goddess Flora and her nymphs, hence the name. Several additions were made in the following century, including the construction of four pavilions, connected to the original villa by arcaded passageways. The palace’s interior boasts some magnificent examples of the Rococo style. One of the most impressive rooms is the Festsaal – a sumptuous ballroom, designed by father and son, Johann Baptiste and Franz Zimmermann. Equally impressive is the Schönheitengalerie (Gallery of Beauties). Hanging here are 38 portraits of beautiful women – favorites of King Ludwig I. The palace also houses a small natural history and science museum. The old stables are now home to the Marstallmuseum, a collection of wonderfully ornate carriages that once belonged to Bavarian rulers. The approach to the palace is dominated by a broad canal, bordered by immaculately presented gardens. On the edge of the gardens is the Porcelain Factory, established in 1741, and one of the oldest factories of its type in Europe. The Porzellanmuseum offers a record of the famous Nymphenburg porcelain. Behind the palace stretches the Schlosspark, an English style country park dotted with lakes and royal lodges. The most notable of these is François de Cuvilliés’ Amalienburg, a hunting lodge with a lavish Rococo interior. Its highlight is the splendid Spiegelsaal (Hall of Mirrors). Joseph Effner, the principal architect of the palace’s extensions, was also responsible for designing the Pagodenburg, used for entertaining, and the Baroque bathing house, the Badenburg. Also in the park is the Magdalenenklause, built as a hermitage for Maximilian Emmanuel. North of the palace, the Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden) holds many rare and exotic species.