Munich, the Bavarian capital and third largest city in Germany, is located on the Isar on the edge of the Bavarian Alps. It started as a monastery and developed into a settlement when the Duke of Bavaria allowed the monks to build a market at the intersection of the Salzburg and river routes.
You can still follow the lines of the medieval Munich walls in a ring of curved streets and see three of the impressive old city gates. At the heart of Munich’s historic city center is the large, open Marienplatz square, where visitors and locals take a break two to three times a day to see how the animated clock plays its legend.
1. Munich Residenz
The Munich Residence has been the seat of the dukes, electors and kings of Bavaria for centuries and one of the most spectacular palaces in Europe. The extensive residence complex is laid out around seven large courtyards and consists of three main sections: the royal building with a view of Max-Joseph-Platz; the Alte Residenz with a view of Residenzstrasse; and the ballroom building with a view of the courtyard garden. The earliest part of this huge complex was the magnificent antiquarium, which was built in 1579 and is now part of the outstanding Residence Museum. The Old Residence, a masterpiece of the late Renaissance and testimony to the growing power of Bavaria, soon followed, and the final components – the neoclassical royal building, the ballroom building and the court church – were completed in 1848. Today, the residence houses are a number of monuments and museums, including the residence museum, the treasury, the All Saints’ Court Church and the Cuvilliés Theater. You can also explore the palace grounds with its many beautiful old courtyards – including the beautiful courtyard garden – as well as numerous fountains, ponds and gardens.
2. Marienplatz and the Neues Rathaus
Marienplatz has been Munich’s central square since the city was founded. the place of medieval tournaments; and until 1807, when markets were held. Next to the massive New Town Hall, which fills an entire side of the square, there is the Old Town Hall at the other end, which forms a gate. In the large open square there is the Mariensäule, a high pillar of the Virgin Mary, which was built in 1638, and the Fischbrunnen, a more recent fountain with bronze figures that were saved from a 19th century fountain. Marienplatz is popular with buyers for its shops, boutiques and restaurants and is the focus of festivals and locations of a large Christmas market, one of several in the city. During the carnival carnival, the fool Lindwurm dances across the square.
The huge brick Frauenkirche made of brick – the cathedral of Our Lady – was completed in 1488, a late Gothic church that owes its impact to its size. Massive 100 meter high twin towers with their characteristic Renaissance domes tower over a tall building with a length of 109 meters and a width of 40 meters. Highlights inside the cathedral include the tomb of the Bavarian Emperor Ludwig from 1622 in black marble with bronze figures, an altarpiece of the Assumption by Peter Candid from 1620 and the baroque script in red marble in the Baptistery with his mourning Christ from the early 14th Century.
The beautiful Rococo Asam church, dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, was completed in 1746 by the brothers Cosmas and Egid Asam and is richly decorated with stucco figures, frescoes and oil paintings. While the exterior is impressive enough, especially the large door flanked by massive columns and crowned by a figure of St. John kneeling in prayer, the interior is the most memorable. The highlights include a wrought-iron grille from 1776 that separates the stucco figures of the saints from the long nave with its galleries. On the protruding cornice under the ceiling there is a magnificent fresco that represents the life of St. John. However, the most notable feature of the interior is the high altar, which is surrounded by four twisted columns and on which there is a glass shrine in which there is a wax figure of the patron saint of the church.
5. Englischer Garten (English Garden)
The Munich English Garden is not only the largest city park in Germany – it covers an area of 910 hectares – it is also one of the most beautiful. Naturally arranged groups of trees and plants offer constantly changing views, and nine kilometers of winding streams and an artificial lake round off the impression of a natural landscape. The English Garden, designed as a military garden in 1785, attracts hikers, joggers and cyclists to its 78 kilometers of paths and bridle paths. It is also a pleasant place for sunbathing and picnicking. In the Chinese Tower, a 25 meter high pagoda, you can enjoy a snack or a drink.
6. Nymphenburg Palace
The large baroque palace of Nymphenburg on the northwestern outskirts of the city was originally the summer residence of the electors of Wittelsbach in the 17th century. This huge palace stretches over 600 meters from wing to wing and is surrounded on either side by the Nymphenburg Canal, which divides as it circles the main buildings before reuniting in a fountain-adorned pool in front of the main facade.
7. Deutsches Museum
The Deutsches Museum is the world’s largest technology museum. The 17,000 artifacts illustrate exhibits ranging from polished wood and brass to early astronomical instruments and the latest scientific findings on global warming. The museum is a constant journey through time between early tech and high tech, while you follow the development of every scientific and technical discipline from its beginnings to the present. The extensive transport collections, which include trains, planes, shipping, cars and even bicycles, are astonishing. You can see a replica of the Red Baron’s double-decker from World War I, take a close-up look at a Venetian gondola, and look into a 19th-century wooden fishing boat. There’s always something going on, from dramatic demonstrations of electricity to concerts that show how musical instruments work.
8. BMW Museum
In addition to the towering headquarters and BMW factories in the Olympiapark, there is a round, modern building with a metal shell in which the BMW Museum is located. Here, car fans will find examples of almost all models the company has produced, including sports cars, racing models and motorcycles. You can see current models, learn about the technology of modern automotive engineering, and gain insight into future drive technologies and designs that the company is researching. Those who believe that cars are only meant to get from point A to point B may want to skip it, but for fans of automobiles it is a must.
9. Tierpark Hellabrunn (Hellabrunn Zoo)
The Hellabrunn Zoo extends over 89 hectares and is consistently one of the best zoos in Europe. It was founded in 1911 and was the first zoo in the world to group animals according to their origin. Today, more than 19,000 animals from 757 species are kept in open enclosures to restore wildlife conditions and to keep animals that normally share habitats together wherever possible. Popular facilities include the Elephant House (now a listed building), the huge 5,000 square meter free flight aviary, the Polarium and monkey houses. The zoo is located next to the Isar in a designated nature reserve and has many charming footpaths, playgrounds and picnic areas.
10. The Olympic Park
The spectacular Munich Olympic Park, venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics, covers an area of around 2.7 million square meters on the Oberwiesenfeld, a former training ground for the Bavarian royal army. This huge facility is now an important leisure center and hosts a variety of important concerts and events, including the Summer Tollwood Festival (the Winter Tollwood takes place at Theresienhöhe, where the Oktoberfest takes place). A number of family activities have been added since the Olympics, including climbing on the stadium roof, zip lines, and behind-the-scenes tours that demonstrate the great architecture and design of the facility. The Olympic Tower, a 290-meter-high television tower from 1968 that was renamed in honor of the Games, has observation decks in the observation basket that offer a breathtaking view of the city.