After the destruction suffered in World War II, Germany’s cities were faced with the decision of whether to revive their historic treasures or go for a completely clean canvas and thoroughly modernize. Munich chose the former, and exquisitely captured the essence of historic Munich. The current adaptation of the Neo-Gothic “New Town Hall” in Marienplatz (shown above) was only completely finished in the 1990s, though compared to other structures much of the original remained intact after World War II. It was restored and improved over the course of many years.
Luckily, Munich’s oldest church, also located at Marienplatz: St. Peter’s, is in magnificent condition. Here, bold, brilliant colors envelop you in a masterpiece of baroque wonder. Sheltered from the bustling activity outside, the silence of the church encourages you to expend all of your energies into one sense, your eyes, so that the magnificent splendor surrounding you does not overwhelm.
Viktualienmarkt, just steps away from Marienplatz, is a down-to-earth place to observe Germans carrying out everyday activities – shopping at the farmers’ market, checking in with the butcher and bread-baker, and indulging in a notoriously German favorite activity – socializing at the Biergarten. If you want to see Munich from a local point-of-view, Viktualienmarkt is a great place to visit!
Prefer a more touristy perspective on the traditional Biergarten? Hofbrauhaus is a rambunctiously exaggerated version forged with the tourist in mind. Here you’ll find large crowds of tourists in a boisterous atmosphere, and, if you come at the right time, a band of merry Germans in lederhosen enthusiastically playing an assortment of raucous instruments! Not entirely authentic, perhaps, but undoubtedly loads of fun!
Olympic Tower offers a great observatory from which you can view not only Olympic Village and the sporting venues, but the city skyline and the Bavaria beyond. It’s satisfyingly comprehensive to be able to get a birds-eye overview of a place to complement seeing it up-close and personal, so I always do so when possible.
Munich has many attractive squares worth a visit once you’ve experienced Marienplatz. Odeonsplatz, shown above, is one such place. With Italian style renaissance influences, artwork-adorned colonnade, and neighboring rose-dotted English Garden, Odeonsplatz is a great location for a leisurely stroll.
Arguably, the most extraordinary sights in Munich are the illustrious palaces of the House of Wittelsbach: Nymphenburg – the summer residence, and Residenz – the Wittelsbach family’s city home. In an ongoing effort to “keep up with the Habsburgs” of Austria, no expense – or imagination – was spared in devising the grandest, most elaborate and ornate baroque utopias possible. Dripping in gold leaf and endowed throughout with masterfully painted scenes exploding with vibrant color, the interiors of these palaces provided some of the most spectacular and breathtaking eye-candy I have ever seen.
Not far from city center (and easily accessible by double-decker bus), Nymphenburg Palace can induce a dream-like state of euphoria with its spectacular beauty. I was mesmerized by opulence of my surroundings.
Back in the city, the exterior architecture of the Residenz- very simple and unembellished, is extremely deceiving – perhaps an attempt at creating an even greater sense of shock and awe in the visitor once they “unwrap” the nondescript package to find an experience of wondrous bliss hidden within.
Here in this imagination-defying paradise, there’s no trace of the everyday life of modern Munich right outside its doors. It’s hard not to soak in the atmosphere and imagine what it would be like if you lived in this sanctuary, crown adorning your head, unicorn in the stables… Ok, not that last one… but I think you get what I’m trying to say… The modern everyday German of the Viktualienmarkt seems a million miles away from here.
After being spoiled silly by the scenery of Munich itself, you can indulge yourself even further with outstanding day-trip options from your Munich home base. I did so by visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, the most famous in all of Germany, and Rothenburg-am-Tauber, Germany’s most well-preserved medieval town. Join me next week to embark on this adventure! I filmed a vlog of my exploration in Munich you can view here!: