Things to See
For exploration of
Munich, a good strategy is to get an early start and spend your first day discovering its treasure trove of museums, and grazing for culinary treats throughout the day. There are, of course, organized tours by foot and bicycle as well as by bus.
Begin with a morning stroll, perhaps through oh-so-overly-chic Schwabing, window shopping at the many antiques, clothing and book-shops. Heading south you'll stroll through the Hofgarten, and finally arrive at Odeonsplatz, the southern end of grand Ludwigstrasse.
In this square you'll often see musicians or street performers busking in front of the Feldherrnhalle, while locals passing by stop to rub the shields of the two lion statues for good luck. The lions guard the side entrance to the
Residenz, family seat of the Wittlesbach family.
The Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria for over 500 years - most of which, it would seem, spent building what must be one of the top five collections of exquisite jewelry in the world. The
Residenz museum itself could fill a day, but a peek into the mind-bending collection within the
Schatzkammer, the jewel section, is a great way to spend an hour.
Around the corner is posh Maximillianstrasse, perhaps Munich's most imposing boulevard, lined with shops catering to the
upper crust of Europe and carrying fantastically unusual, and to some,
overpriced, goods (€2500 dog-shawls and such).
Walking south from the Residenz, towards Marienplatz, at the pedestrianized heart of the old city, brings you along Residenzstrasse, a relatively more proletarian shopping street that's also good for window shopping and people watching. One block east, if you're in the need of a jolt of coffee or a pick me up, is Alois Dallmayr, Munich's finest delicatessen - in the true sense of the word. Famous for their coffee and cakes, Dallmayr sells a wide range of stupendously good taste treats and it's always packed with shoppers.
Munich began life centered around Marienplatz, and it is still the traditional heart of the city. Rebuilt after extensive Allied bombing damage in WWII, the central attraction here is the Flanders Gothic Neues Rathaus (New City Hall), or rather the magnificent Carillon which crowns its highest tower (260ft). Make sure to get to Marienplatz by 11 am for the prerequisite viewing of the playing of the carillon, when its characters perform their version of the Schäffler Tanz, which has been performed in public by coopers every year since 1517 to ward off further outbreaks of the Plague. It seems to be working.
If you skipped coffee or want to save your neck (the sight of thousands of tourists craning their necks up twice a day is one of perpetual delight to passing-by locals) the view is best from the Metropolitan Cafe, a 3rd floor cafe with picture windows facing the glockenspiel.
Other attractions in Marienplatz are the Altes Rathaus which holds a somewhat interesting toy museum; the Mariensäule or Mary Column which holds center stage in the middle of the square, and the Fischbrunnen, a fountain at the northeast end of the square which is a popular meeting point.
Afterwards, stroll through the
Viktualienmarkt, a bustling market teeming with fresh flowers, delicious produce, wines and cheeses, and make your way down Sendlinger Strasse - the most reasonable of the shopping streets - towards Sendlinger Tor. Do stop in to the wildly baroque
Asamkirche (St-Johann-Nepomuk-Kirche, Sendlinger Strasse 62), designed by the brothers Asam and containing fantastic frescoes and details.
A favorite destination is the Lenbach Haus, a Florentine-style mansion containing rotating exhibitions of modern European art and the best collection of works from the Blaue Reiter movement, with expressionist works by Klee, Kandinsky and Macke.
Right near the Lenbach Haus you'll see you're in the heart of a veritable museum ghetto:
within five minutes walk are several of Munich's finest, including the
Alte Pinakothek and the Neue Pinakothek, the Pinakothek
Moderne, the Geologische Staatssammlung, (geological exhibits), the
Museum Reich der Kristalle (crystal and minerals), Antikensammlungen (applied arts from around the world), and the
Glypothek with Greek and Roman sculpture.
The two castles open as museums within the city limits are Schloss Nymphenburg and the Wittelsbach family
Other city museums include the City Modern Art Gallery, the Bavarian National Museum,
Munich City Museum and the Egyptian Museum, all of which feature the very exhibitions their names suggest and all of which are worth a (brief) visit.
If you're in Munich in December, head for the best (and most authentic)
Christmas Markets in Germany: the best handicrafts are at the market in Münchener Freiheit (U3 or U6), but the one at Rotkreuzplatz (U1 or U7) is no slouch either - and both sell mouth-watering German treats, hot sausage and pork shoulder, roasted and honey roasted nuts and chestnuts. This is living!
The big deal, however, is in the area around Marienplatz right in
the city center. There are hundreds of stalls selling every possible item
that has anything to do with Christmas (and is made of wood!). Be sure to
try the reiberdatschi, or Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes to you and
me - with applesauce or garlic sauce! Amazing!