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  Munich - Sightseeing

Founded near a Benedictine abbey—the German name Munchen means monks—Munich eventually became a center for German Catholicism and the capital of the Free State of Bavaria. Consequently, cathedrals and palaces are among the city’s most important landmarks. Many of the buildings in central Munich underwent extensive repair or were completely rebuilt after World War II. The New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) was one of the few buildings in the heart of the city that was virtually untouched by the war.

Marienplatz. Since the founding of the city in 1138, this square has been the center and living heart of Munich. Jousting tournaments were held here in the Middle Ages, but today street performers and musicians draw the crowds’ attention. The Mariensaule (Mary Column) at the center of the square was erected in 1638 in gratitude for the preservation of Munich and Landshut during Swedish occupation. The dominant feature of the square, however, is the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) and its 300-ft-/100-m-long facade, which houses the ever-popular glockenspiel. This carillon’s bells play folk tunes (year round at 11 am and May-October also at noon, 5 pm and 9 pm). The almost life-size figures perform scenes from Munich’s history, including the 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine, complete with a jousting match, which the Bavarian knight wins, and the Schafflertanz, a coppers’ guild dance, which has been performed once every seven years since 1517 in thanks for the end of the Black Death plague.

The Fussgangerzone is the Old Town pedestrian area that runs between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz. It also includes Frauenplatz by the cathedral and the exclusive Theatinerstrasse (north of Marienplatz), the address for many of the city’s designer-clothing boutiques. The pedestrian area is one of the most heavily visited shopping areas in the city, with department stores, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, bakeries, banks and shops in abundance. It’s also the most popular venue for street performers and musicians, and the occasional sidewalk salesman hawking the latest slicer-dicer or miracle carpet shampoo.

St. Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church), just a minute’s walk southeast of Marienplatz, was Munich’s first parish church. A Romanesque basilica was originally built at the site in the 11th century but was later destroyed in a fire. The current structure is the result of various remodelings and alterations, including the addition of the 30-ft-/91-m-high tower in the 1600s. This tower, known as “Alter Peter,” or “Old Peter,” is a distinctive feature of the city skyline.

Near St. Peter’s you’ll find a virtual smorgasbord at the stalls and shops of Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s open-air food market. Open year round (Monday-Friday 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 7 am-noon), it’s the place to shop—and be seen shopping—for all sorts of produce and groceries, including a wide variety of German, French and Italian wines. There’s a butcher shop that specializes in game, and another one, the Pferdemetzgerei, peddles sausages and fresh cuts of meat from horses. In warmer months, the market’s beer garden draws a nice blend of locals and tourists alike. If you’re lucky enough to be in Munich on Shrove Tuesday, go there early for the carnival craziness and fun.

Just off the pedestrian zone, on Frauenplatz, is the 15th-century cathedral Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Its twin onion-domed towers are recognized as a symbol of the city, and the church itself is one of the largest churches in Europe from the late-Gothic period. Not to be missed is the “Devil’s Footprint” (complete with a spur at the heel) cast in the stone floor in the entrance hall beneath the chorus. Legend has it that the devil stood in this spot, looked toward the altar and stomped his foot down in glee, thinking that the newly built church had no windows. It turned out to be an optical illusion—the church does have windows, but you can’t see them from that particular spot.

Farther along the pedestrian zone, about halfway between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz, is the beautiful 16th-century Michaelskirche (St. Michael’s Church), one of the most important Renaissance churches north of the Alps. It was almost completely destroyed in the war, as is graphically illustrated by photographs on display in the back of the church. Many members of the royal Wittelsbach family, including King Ludwig II, are buried in the church crypt.

Maximilianstrasse. This street just north of Marienplatz is characterized by architectural grandeur, upscale boutiques, a number of prominent museums and the opulent Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. The red granite Maximilianeum, seen in the distance to the east, is the seat of the Bavarian Parliament.

The Residenz was the royal palace of the Wittelsbachs, who ruled Bavaria from the 1200s through 1918. Rebuilt and expanded, it presents a spectrum of architectural styles as it evolved from a ducal palace in 1550 to its current size. There you’ll find the Residenzmuseum, which contains the largest Renaissance room outside Italy, the ornate Antiquarium, and the impressive Emperor’s Hall. The separate Schatzkammer museum showcases royal treasures. Both are open Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-4:30 pm. Adults 6 DM, no charge for children under age 15 accompanied by an adult. Entrance is at Max Joseph Platz 3, phone 290-671. Also at the Residenz is the Cuvillies Theater (entrance at Residenzstrasse 1, phone 290-671), considered one of the grandest rococo theaters in the world and a venue for opera and theater events.

Odeonsplatz and the Feldherrnhalle. The plaza Odeonsplatz just opposite the Residenz is where Hitler’s infamous beer-hall putsch in 1923 came to an end. The Feldherrnhalle, a war memorial completed in 1844, faces northward, dominating the plaza. After Hitler came to power in 1933, a bronze plaque was placed on the east side of the memorial and dedicated to those who died in the putsch; it has since been removed. The ornate Theatinerkirche, in the Italian baroque style, is also at Odeonsplatz.

Northwest of the city center is Nymphenburg Palace, former summer residence of the Wittelsbachs. The palace sits in the pleasant surroundings of Nymphenburg Park, which was patterned after Versailles. Nymphenburg Palace is one of Germany’s largest baroque palaces, and it was constructed over five generations of Wittelsbach rulers. Open October-March Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-12:30 pm and 1:30-4 pm; April-September Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-12:30 pm and 1:30-5 pm. The palace grounds house several museums, chief among them being the Porcelain Museum, which displays significant pieces created by the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, and the Marstall Museum, which has an impressive collection of royal ceremonial carriages, sleighs and coaches. Admission to the palace itself is 4 DM for adults. A combination ticket for the palace and other buildings is 6 DM for adults.

Just north of Odeonsplatz lies the popular city district of Schwabing. Ludwig Maximilian University is located there, giving the area the reputation as a student quarter. In streets such as Adalbertstrasse, Schellingstrasse and Turkenstrasse, you can find bookstores and record shops, antiques shops and an assortment of trendy cafes and pubs. A little farther north, between the Giselastrasse and Munchner Freiheit U-Bahn stops, is Schwabing’s main strip, Leopoldstrasse. Along both sides of the boulevard and on side streets you’ll find a variety of outdoor cafes, boutiques, bars and nightclubs. It’s a great place to stroll on warm summer nights.

The Turkish quarter of Haidhausen is another of Munich’s trendy districts. It lies inside the general boundaries of Max Weber Platz and Prinzregentenplatz (to the north), the Isar River (to the west), and the Ostbahnhof (to the east). At the heart of the district is Rosenheimer Platz, a square that’s close to both the Deutsches Museum and the Gasteig cultural center. In this area you’ll find a wonderful selection of restaurants and cafes, and bars featuring live entertainment.

Another city district, Bogenhausen, lies immediately north of Haidhausen, from Prinzregentenplatz to Arabella Park, the district’s commercial and industrial quarter. This area is home to a number of buildings from Munich’s Jugendstil movement, as well as the architecturally unique and modern Hypo Haus. There you can also find galleries, luxury shops and notable restaurants.


Most of Munich’s museums are closed on Mondays. Some are free on Sundays and holidays. Unlike other major European cities, Munich currently has no visitor’s discount or all-inclusive museum passes. The following are some of Munich’s top offerings:

Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum). Sculpture, painting, costumes and handicrafts from the 1400s to the 1800s. It has two sections: the Kunstgeschichtliche Sammlung (art-history collection), containing clocks, porcelain, sculpture and other treasures from the Middle Ages, and the Volkskundliche Sammlung (folk art), which includes Bavarian decorative art, artifacts and costumes. The basement houses a mesmerizing exhibit of more than 200 nativity scenes with figurines wearing elaborate costumes (some Bavarian) and placed in settings of various architectural styles. Tuesday-Sunday 9:30 am-5 pm. Adults 3 DM. Prinzregentenstrasse 3, phone 211-241.

The Deutsches Museum is one of Germany’s largest, and with its distinctive “hands on” exhibits, one of the most popular science and technology museums in the world. There is no way to see the entire museum in one day, so it’s best to choose the areas that are of particular interest to you. Highlights include a walk-through coal mine, an exhibit of the first German submarine and a re-creation of the Altamira cave drawings in Spain. Some visitors may be disappointed to learn that explanations for most of the exhibits are in German only. Adjoining the museum in the Forum der Technik is a planetarium and an IMAX theater. Daily 9 am-5 pm. Adults 10 DM. Museuminsel 1, phone 21791.

The Munchner Stadtmuseum (Munich City Museum) provides a great insight into Munich’s history and culture. A real child pleaser is the amazing collection of—and performances by—a wide array of puppets and marionettes.

There’s also a fashion museum, exhibits on the history of beer brewing, a photo museum, a scale model of late-16th-century Munich and several 15th-century wooden dancers carved by Erasmus Grasser for the ballroom of the Old Town Hall. Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm, Wednesday 10 am-8:30 pm. Adults 5 DM. Near Viktualienmarkt at St. Jakobs Platz 1, phone 2332-2370.

The Judisches Museum (Jewish Museum) documents Jewish culture, history and traditions. Tuesday, Wednesday 2-6 pm, Thursday 2-8 pm. Special openings for groups by arrangement. Free. Maximilianstrasse 36, phone 297-453.

Haus der Kunst, a prime example of Nazi period architecture, was originally built as the “House of German Art.” It was the 1937 venue of Hitler’s “Depraved Art” exhibit, aimed at mocking contemporary avant-garde artists. Today, the building celebrates their works. Adults 12 DM. The east wing and central section are used for special exhibitions, while the west wing houses the Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst (State Gallery of Modern Art). The gallery is devoted to significant artists of the 20th century. Tuesday-Friday 10 am-10 pm, Saturday-Monday 10 am-6 pm. Adults 6 DM. Prinzregentenstrasse 1, phone 211-270.

The Neue Pinakothek, or New Picture Gallery, houses a collection of sculptures and paintings ranging from rococo to art nouveau. Don’t miss the impressive collection of 19th-century works by Manet, Monet, Degas and Cezanne. Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm, Tuesday, Thursday 10 am-8 pm. Adults 7 DM. Barer Strasse 29, phone 2380-5195.

Directly opposite the Neue Pinakothek is the Alte Pinakothek, or Old Picture Gallery. Modeled after Renaissance palaces in Venice, it was the largest gallery when built in the 1800s. It houses a collection of works by Old German and Flemish Masters. The museum is closed for renovations and is scheduled to open again in August 1998. Until then, many of the museum’s most important works are on display at the Neue Pinakothek. Barer Strasse 27, phone 238-050.

Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (City Gallery in the Lenbach House) is significant for its huge collection of expressionist and abstract works by Kandinsky, Klee and other contributors to the Blue Rider movement, which was centered in Munich. The museum itself was once a magnificent villa. In 1994, exhibition space was increased with the addition of the Kunstbau Lenbachhaus, which hosts changing exhibits. Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-6 pm. Adults 8 DM. Luisenstrasse 33 (Konigsplatz U-Bahn station), phone 2333-32000.

One of the greatest sculpture collections in Europe can be found at the Glyptothek (Sculpture Gallery). Assembled mainly in the early 1800s, the collection includes numerous pieces of Greek and Roman sculpture. Be sure to see the beautiful figures from the pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina, dating back to approximately 500 BC. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-8 pm. Adults 6 DM. Konigsplatz 3 (Konigsplatz U-Bahn stop), phone 286-100.

At the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) the fun begins with your entry into the tower of the Old Town Hall and your ascent up its narrow winding staircase. This amazing collection of antique toys from Europe and the U.S. is an absolute delight for the young and young at heart. Daily 10 am-5:30 pm. Adults 5 DM, children 1 DM, family ticket 10 DM. Altes Rathaus tower at Marienplatz, phone 294-001.

If hunting and fishing are of interest, try the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum (German Hunting and Fishing Museum). Stuffed wild animals, fossils of primitive fish, weapons, Stone Age fishing equipment and even the mythical “Wolpertinger” (a cross between a rabbit and a goat). The museum is popular with kids. Daily 9:30 am-5 pm, Monday and Thursday till 9 pm. Adults 5 DM. In the pedestrian zone at Neuhauserstrasse 2, phone 220-522.

Parks, Gardens And The Zoo

Englischer Garten (English Garden), with 925 acres/375 hectares and a length of 4 mi/6 km, is the largest city park in Germany. Laid out along the Isar River in 1789, it remains today a very popular public gathering place in the spring and summer. The park’s main focal points are the large beer gardens at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) and the Seehaus (Lake House) on the man-made Kleinhesseloher Lake. You’ll find dogs, children, hippies, businessmen and nude sunbathers enjoying the park. It’s also a good place to walk, jog, Rollerblade or cycle. Northeast of the city center near Odeonsplatz or the Universitat, Giselastrasse and Munchner Freiheit U-Bahn stops.

The Hofgarten (Court Garden), with its symmetrically arranged flower beds and trees, was laid out in 1613 just north of the Residenz at Odeonsplatz. The outdoor cafe in the western part of the garden is a pleasant spot to enjoy lunch and a glass of wine, or afternoon coffee and cake.

In the northern part of Nymphenburg Park you’ll find the Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden) with its amazing variety of plants from around the world. There’s an arboretum, an Alpine garden and a rhododendron grove, as well as greenhouses and sections with herbs and medicinal plants. Daily 9 am-4:30 pm. Greenhouses are open daily 9-11:45 am and 1-4 pm. 4 DM adults, 2 DM children. In the western part of the city at Nymphenburg Palace, Menzingerstrasse 65, phone 1786-1310.

Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich’s zoo, is billed as the first “Geo-Zoo” in the world, meaning that animals are grouped according to the region of their natural habitat. Visit the resident bats of “Villa Dracula,” the elephant house and the high-tech jungle tent. Or watch the daily penguin parade during the winter. There’s also a petting zoo. Open April-September 8 am-6 pm, October-March 9 am-5 pm. 10 DM adults, 5 DM children ages 4-14, children under age 4 free. South of the city center at Thalkirchen U-Bahn stop. Tierparkstrasse 30, phone 625-080.

Built for the 1972 Summer Olympic games, the Olympiapark (Olympic Park) covers an area of 667 acres/270 hectares—most of which lies on top of a hill formed by rubble from World War II. The park is a popular spot for sports and relaxation, complete with foot and bike paths, a swimming pool, a skating rink and a hockey stadium. The oval Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium), which resembles a giant tent with steel posts and netting, hosts professional sporting events and concerts. North of the city center at the Olympiapark U-Bahn stop.

Other Attractions

The internationally renowned Circus Krone has been permanently based in Munich since 1919. The winter season runs December-March at the big-top building of the same name. Top-rate entertainment for young and old alike, with seating for 2,500 people. The building is used for pop concerts and sporting events April-October, when the circus is on the road. Marsstrasse 43 (Hackerbrucke S-Bahn stop), phone 558-166.

The Bavaria Film Studios tour in Geiselgasteig offers visitors the opportunity to experience some Munich movie-making. Enter sets from the sci-fi epic Enemy Mine and the enchanting world of The Neverending Story. You’ll also see the submarine used in Das Boot and visit working sets for German television programs. There are also daredevil shows. Daily March and April 9 am-4 pm, May-Oct 8:30 am-5 pm and November-February 10 am-3 pm. 15 DM adults, 10 DM children. Bavariafilmplatz 7 (Silberhornstrasse U-Bahn stop or Tram 25 to the Bavariafilmplatz stop), phone 6499-2304.

No Name City—Western Town, a Wild West theme park from a European perspective, is just a short S-Bahn ride northeast of the city center. Includes a saloon and western railway—although somewhere along the line the Indians learned to speak German. Great family fun. Open April-October. Gruber Strasse 60a (Poing S-Bahn stop), phone 08121-79666.

Views And Vantage Points

The following afford good views of Munich and its surroundings. If it’s a clear day (and you’re lucky), you might even see the snow-covered Alps.

The south tower of Frauenkirche (305 ft/98 m high) is open April-October 10 am-5 pm. 4 DM adults, 2 DM children ages 7 and older.

The tower at Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church) is open year round and in all weather conditions. There are no elevators, so you have to walk up 306 steps (300 ft/92 m). Open May-September Monday-Saturday 9 am-7 pm, Sunday and holidays 10 am-7 pm; October-April the tower closes daily at 6 pm. 2.50 DM adults, 0.50 DM children.

To get to the viewing area in the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), you’ll take two elevator rides to a height of 260 ft/85 m. Opens at 9 am Monday-Friday, 10 am on weekends. 3 DM adults, 1.50 DM children.

Climb up into the head of the bronze Bavaria Statue at Theresienwiese for another view of the city. Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-noon and 2-5:30 pm. 3 DM adults, free for children under age 15 with accompanying adults.

The rapid elevator ride to the top of the 890-ft-/290-m-high Olympiaturm (Olympic Tower) is a real thrill, with a spectacular view. Daily 9 am-midnight. Last trip up is at 11:30 pm. 5 DM adults, 2.50 DM children ages 6-15. For groups of 30 or more, 4 DM each.

Self-Guided Walking Tours

It’s simple to plan your own walking tour of the city center, where most of the historical sites are concentrated. Free maps are available at the Munich Tourist Office and at most hotel desks. Several good city tour books are also available at local bookstores, such as Hugendubel.

Local Tours

The following tours are among the many offered in Munich. Some, however, go on hiatus or have shortened schedules during the winter months. For the most up-to-date information on availability, times and tour options, visit any of the Munich Tourist Office locations. All of the tours listed below are in German and English.

Panorama Tours offers several city sightseeing (Stadtrundfahrten) bus tours of Munich. In addition to a basic tour, you may also choose to visit the Olympic area, Nymphenburg Palace or the Bavaria Film Studios. Panorama also runs day trips to popular spots like Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, the Dachau memorial site and the royal castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof. For information and tickets, contact Panorama, Arnulfstrasse 8, phone 591-504, or any hotel concierge.

Radius Touristik operates group tram, bicycle and walking tours of the city. Rofanstrasse 48, phone 4366-0383. This is also the place to rent bicycles if you decide to explore Munich on your own. They have 100 white-and-blue bicycles for rent at the Hauptbahnhof near Tracks 30-36. Daily May-October 10 am-6 pm. Phone 596-113.

Spurwechsel offers a variety of theme-oriented bicycle tours, including city sightseeing, a tour of political sites and a beer tour. Tours by foot and tram are also available. Tours are given in German, English, French and Spanish. Must be booked in advance. Phone 692-4699.

Mike’s Bike Tours is run by a U.S. citizen who has lived in Munich since 1993. He guarantees you’ll be glad you joined him for the roughly three-hour tour. Daily tours leave from the east end of Marienplatz beneath the Old City Hall’s tower. For more information and up-to-date tour times, call 651-4275.

Munich Walks offers walking tours in English. The “Discover Munich” tour explores city sites, and the “Third Reich” tour looks at Munich’s links to Hitler. Meeting point is outside the main entrance to the Hauptbahnhof, near the Munich Tourist Office. For the latest information and tour times, call 0177-227-5901, or pick up a leaflet at the Munich Tourist Office.

For something different, Lohnkutscherei Holzmann offers horse-drawn carriage rides through Englischer Garten and Munich’s Old Town. Call 180-608 for more information.