München (Munich) simply reminds me of marvelous Melbourne but just more Bavarian. This vibrant metropolis with 1.4 million residents is Germans' most favourite city to live in. The mix of a buoyant economy, harmonious blend of traditional and modern, unique cultural offerings, venerable department stores, state-of-the-art sports facilities, top-notch leisure activities, world-class events and friendly people that makes München a livable city also provides a tourism smorgasbord for visitors. Its growing popularity resulted in some 96 million day visitors in addition to 3.4 million domestic and 2.7 million international arrivals in 2012 from China, India, Brazil, US, UK and Europe.
There is never any shortage of sights to see or activities to engage in every time I visit. This commune of monks 900 years ago, captured my imagination and my heart. I believe you'll love visiting München too. Why, because "München mag Dich" (Munich Loves You). To help you make the most of your vacation in this fabulous city, check out these top 10 must-visit attractions for starters. For more information, visit the official website for the City of München.
The Marienplatz is the most famous venue in München, housing the old and the new townhall, Glockenspiel, Mariensäule and Fischbrunnen. Once the market place and site for tournaments and festivities in the Middle Ages, the square continues to be the central urban heart of München. It received its name Marienplatz (St. Mary's Square) when the townfolks asked Virgin Mary to protect their town from a cholera epidemic.
The Flemish Gothic style Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) dominates the square. Built between 1867 and 1909 by Georg Joseph Hauberrisser, this home to the city goverment and Munich Tourism Office is elaborately decorated with hundreds of statues, turrets and arches. The less ostentatious cousin, Altes Rathaus or original Old Town Hall is also dressed in the 15th century Gothic style.
What actually draws the masses to the Marienplatz each day is the Glockenspiel, a 100-year old carillon located in the Neues Rathaus. Every day at 11am and 12pm from November to February, hundreds of people gather in front of the tower to hear the Glockenspiel chime and watch the 32 life-sized figures reenact a historical Bavarian tournament with the locally celebrated coopers' dance. In March to October, an additional 5pm chime draws more crowds.
The largest of its kind in Germany with 43 bells and a range of three and a half octaves, the Glockenspiel took 4 years of complete including research of chimes in other European countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Mariensäule (Column of St. Mary), topped by a gilded statue of Virgin Mary sculpted in 1590 by Hubert Gerhard, is the large column in the square's centre. A statue of a putti at each corner of the column's pedestal symbolized the city's overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy. It was erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swedish invasion. Another attraction is a small fountain originally designed by sculptor Konrad Knoll in 1864, called the Fischbrunnen (Fish Fountain), that sits near the Neues Rathaus.
The Munich Residenz was the home and seat of government of the Bavarian rulers from 1508 to 1918. What started as a small moated castle in 1385 was transformed into a magnificent palace over the centuries as each Wittelsbach monarch added to the design including ballrooms, galleries, chapels, apartments, fountain courts and gardens. The combined result of the additions also created a palace that resembles Italian Renaissance from one side and Palladian from another.
Ahnengalerie (Ancestral Gallery) / Photo by turbobumble of Flickr
Opened to the public since 1920, visitors have been experiencing the wealth, power and lifestyle of the Wittelsbachs through the architecture, interiors and treasures collected from the early Baroque and Rococo periods to the neoclassical era. The rulers had amassed rare collections of porcelain, sculptures, silver, paintings, miniatures, furniture, clocks, tapestries, candelabra and chandeliers of classical antiquity and the 16th to 19th century.
Maintained by the Bavarian Administration of State-owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes or Palace Department, the entire complex is one of the largest museums in Bavaria today including the Residenz museum, the Treasury, the Cuvilliés-Theater and the Allerheiligen-Hofkirch. It also ranks among the finest palace museums in Europe.
Antiquarium (Hall of Antiquities) / Photo by Mark B. Schlemmer of Flickr
With so much to admire, a visit to the Munich Residenz can easily become a full day affair. The Residenz Museum alone houses some 120 rooms of art, furnishings and other treasures. The Antiquarium or "Hall of Antiquities" contain dozens of 16th and 17th century frescoes. The original 18th century interior can still be enjoyed in the Rococo-style Cuvilliés Theater. If you still have time to spare, buy a separate ticket to the Schatzkammer or "Treasury" which houses statues fashioned from precious gems and metals. Check out the Munich Residenz website for more information on opening times and admissions.
The Dom zu unserer lieben Frau or Frauenkirche is one of largest Gothic buildings in southern Germany and the largest in München with a capacity of 20,000 people. It serves as the cathedral of the Archdiocese of München and Freising. Commissioned by Duke Sigismund and completed by Jörg von Halsbach in 1488, the cathedral replaced a Marian chapel build on the site in the 12th century. The distinctive copper onion domes topping the towers, inspired by the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, were only added in 1525.
This symbolic landmark of München is also well known for its "dark" interior seemingly illuminated only by a tall chancel window. Enormous pillars have hidden all the windows and according to legend, the devil was so delighted with the "darkness" that he left his footlike mark in the middle of the church.
Also known as the Church of Our Lady, it contains treasures from the 15th and 16th century including 'The Protecting Cloak', a 1510 painting by Jan Polack, showing the Virgin holding out her majestic robes to shelter everyone from the pope to peasants; the altar of St. Andrew in St. Sebastian's chapel; and the monumental black marble sarcophagus of Emperor Ludwig IV of Bavaria built between 1619 and 1622. Paintings and photos in the cathedral also illustrate over 500 years of construction and art history.
Tomb of Emperor Ludwig IV / Photo by Prof. Mortel of Flickr
The Frauenkirche is open between 7am to 7pm from Saturday to Thursday and closes at 6pm on Friday. Entry is free, of course. For more information about the iconic cathedral (but in Deutsche), visit the official website.
Like Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, München's Viktualienmarkt is a fresh produce market located in the city. Both are well loved by residents and shared a similar near-death experience with threats of demolition. Fortunately, the municipal authorities received considerable financial support to revitalise Viktualienmarkt.
It's origin was the direct result of King Maximilian I's decree on 2 May 1807 to provide a larger market for cereals and other agricultural products in the city. Unfortunately it was burned down in 1932 and only reopened in 2005. Over the years, the central market was significantly enlarged to include a butchers' hall, a tripe hall, stalls for poultry and venison, flower stands, pavilions for bakeries and fruit vendors, and a fish hall.
Today this popular market covering 22,000 square metres contains 140 stalls and shops offering fruits and vegetables, eggs, butter, honey, fish, meat, sausages, venison and fowl, herbs, spices, delicatessens, wine, tea, flowers and plants, and exotic ingredients that are not available anywhere else. The stalls and shops are generally open between 10am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and 10am to 3pm on Saturday.
More than just a market, the Viktualienmarkt has also evolved into a social and cultural hub for the citizens of München. It hosts a number of traditional and folkloric events such as the opening of the asparagus season, summer festival, brewers' day, gardeners' day and dance of the market women on Shrove Tuesday. A Maypole in the centre of the market carries figurettes displaying the trades and crafts of this part of München. It is also home to memorial fountains for the folk singers and comedians Karl Valentin, Weiß Ferdl, Liesl Karlstadt, Ida Schumacher, Elise Aulinger and Roider. For more information, visit the Viktualienmarkt website.
Schloß Nymphenburg or "Nymphenburg Palace" owed its origin to the birth of Max Emanuel, the son and heir to Elector Ferdinand Maria and his consort Henriette Adelaide of Savoy. What began as a summer residence marked by a cube-shaped Italian villa in 1664 was enlarged by 5 succeeding Wittelsbach rulers.
Bedroom in the Electress apartment / Photo by vladislav.bezrukov of Flickr
Max Emanuel made the first additions in 1700 by extending the sides of the Palace with galleries and pavilions. Emperor Charles VII erected the Schlossrondell, a circle of ornate Baroque mansions, and the Steinerner Saal or Grand Hall with ornate Rococo elements were added during the reign of Elector Maximilian III Joseph. A popular feature of the palace is King Ludwig I's "Gallery of Beauties" with portraits of 36 beautiful women.
Amalienburg (Hall of Mirrors) / Photo by Nigel's Europe of Flickr
Even the small Italianesque garden of the Nymphenburg Palace was enlarged. In the 18th century, it was laid out in French style using Versailles as a model. In the 19th century the garden was remodeled in the more natural style of the English park. For more information about the opening times and tours, check out the Nymphenburg Palace website.
Aptly termed the German Museum of Masterpieces of Technology and Science, the Deutsches Museum, opened in 1925 is not just a place for science enthusiasts. It is one of München's top attractions with 1.3 million visitors each year.
Compressed air distributor / Photo by mag3737 of Flickr
Covering an area of 50,000 square metres, the Deutsches Museum is the largest scientific-technological museum of its kind in the world with some 18,000 incredible artifacts and exhibits that mark important milestones in electricity, computers, telecommunication, aerospace, marine navigation, railways, chemistry, astronomy, agriculture, mining and music. It provides a comprehensive understanding of science and technology over 100 years.
Visitors are often enthralled by the Verkehrszentrum which features all kinds of vehicles, from the very first automobile ever produced, an 1886 Benz to formula 1 cars to bicycles and the Flugwerft which focuses on airplanes. There are woodcuts and copper engravings that date back to Gutenberg and his early printing press. Musical instruments of all varieties, from ancient brass instruments to modern synthesizers are exhibited. Originally housed in the laboratory of Hahn and Strassman, the bench that saw the first splitting of an atom in 1938 can also be found in the Deutsches Museum. Exhibits also include sailing ships, windmills, space probes, diesel locomotives, industrial robots, organs and lifeboats and the first Siemens dynamo engine.
A 1792 model of Schuster's calculation machine / Photo by Nachiket Kapre of Flickr
Soccer or football fans will love the Allianz Arena Stadium for several reasons. Firstly it hosted the fficial opening ceremony and opening match for the 2006 FIFA World Cup on 9 June 2006. Secondly it is regarded as one of the world's best football stadiums and an icon of modern sports arena architecture and technology. The 3 rings of tiers containing 66,000 seats close to the playing field, allow the audience to experience the soccer or football games at close quarters. Thirdly the roof of the Allianz Arena is the world's largest made of foil. The parking facilities under the Esplanade are Europe's biggest underground car park with 9,800 car lots.
One of the most interesting features of this futuristic construction is the lighting. It is the first international stadium able to change its exterior colour. The façade lights up in a white and blue or red and white pattern, depending on which of the two Munich teams are playing.
Thanks to Allianz's global association with world class sports sponsorships including sports stadiums and the contribution of the city's two soccer clubs, TSV 1860 München and FC Bayern München, the Allianz Arena was officially inaugurated in May 2005. Fans can check out additional information like technical details, visiting times and tours at the Stadium website.
Pinakothek Art Galleries
München is home to the Pinakothek Museums, a unique ensemble of three art galleries with each highlighting a different period in art. Together they offer a unique art-history-culture experience that combines the past and present like no other.
Alte Pinakotheken / Photo by Richard Cassan of Flickr
One of the oldest and most important galleries in the world, the Alte Pinakotheken displays more than 800 European masterpieces from Tizian and Giotto to Rubens and Rembrandt. Old German art including Dürer's "Four Apostles" can be admired in the Alte Pinakothek.
Neue Pinakothek / Photo by Allie_Caulfield of Flickr
In the next building is the Neue Pinakothek which houses 400 paintings and sculptures from neo-classical to modern art. The attraction is its collection of European art from the late 18th to the early 20th century that includes works by Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin and also King Ludwig I's private collection of German art of the 19th century.
Pinakothek der Moderne / Photo by JasonParis of Flickr
The 3rd art gallery and the largest museum for modern art in Germany is the Pinakothek der Moderne. It features collections of contemporary art from various genres and provides a comprehensive overview of 20th and 21st-century fine and applied art including works from Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Francis Bacon and Warhol. For more information on the opening hours and entry fees to any or all of the art galleries, visit the official website.
Drivers and fans of BMW will be thrilled by a visit to BMW Welt or "BMW World" just next to the company's headquarters. Apart from producing one of the safest cars, the Bavarian auto manufacturer offers an interactive museum, exhibitions, events and new car centre in a spectacular biomorphic complex that resembles a massive cloud. All brands of the groups including the MINI, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, BMW i, BMW M and the BMW Group itself are presented in the BMW Welt.
The neighbouring BMW Museum covers all facets of the company's history, stretching back more than 90 years when pioneers Gustav Otto and Karl Rapp founded their companies. The merging of their companies in 1917 created a brand and the ultimate driving machine that have fascinated the world till today. To plan your visit to BMW Welt and Museum, check out their website.
Bavarian beer, like München itself, is generally enjoyed by residents and visitors from all over the world, especially when accompanied by a portion of Schweinshaxe or roasted pork knuckle or even a simple pretzel. The best place to enjoy these are at one of the city's bier halles (beer halls).
There are scores of quality bier halles in München to choose from that are popular with residents and tourists. One of the most popular is Hofbräuhaus which has existed since 1644. It is very popular with visitors who enjoy the revelry of beer, food, oom-pah music and Lederhosen every night. Regulars can lock away their personal beer steins with the establishment.
Ratskeller, a traditional cellar restaurant with many evocative themed corners, located in the basement of the Neues Rathaus is another popular venue. For a taste of the oldest and local favourite, check out Augustiner Großgaststätten.