Ted and I often comment that, after our taste of the city in 2016, we could happily return and spend a full month exploring Munich.
On our first trip there, we stayed almost exclusively in the Altstadt (old town), which is the centre of the city near the city hall, cathedrals, palaces, museums, market, shops and restaurants. We packed a lot into four days, as evidenced by the 440 photos Ted saved (the nice thing about digital photography is that you don’t have to keep the ones that don’t turn out the way you wanted) from which I’ve tried to choose the highlights.
I had done a lot of research online into our hotel options, since we’d be moving from Munich to Salzburg, and ultimately Vienna, in the span of just 2 weeks. We wanted to be right downtown in each city, with most attractions in walking distance and quick access to public transportation for any that weren’t. The question was whether we would prefer modern hotels with more North American style amenities, or older European style hotels. I will ALWAYS lean toward whatever best represents the place in which we find ourselves, and Ted had no strong feelings either way, so I eliminated the chain hotels from our search.
We ended up staying at the Hotel Schlicker zum Goldenen Löwen (the “Schlicker Hotel at the sign of the gold lion”), a city centre boutique hotel that has been family run since 1544. The hotel is a short cobble-stoned walk from the Marienplatz (city centre) subway stop. Its narrow arched hotel entranceway, beside a traditional Bavarian pub and incongruously wedged between the Munich McDonalds and Burger King, bears a heraldic-looking sign that hints at the elegance within: a narrow richly decorated lobby where the concierge manages room keys, luggage, and special requests; a winding staircase leading to gorgeously appointed rooms and apartments; a sun-filled breakfast room, and a cobbled interior courtyard with colourful potted plants and cozy café tables and chairs. There is no air conditioning needed inside the thick stone walls; open windows allow the sound of morning church and city hall bells to gently wake you for the decadent breakfast that awaits (cappuccinos or hot chocolate made fresh, smoked salmon with dill, lemon, and capers; cold meats and cheeses, hearty breads, eggs cooked to order, or a selection of fresh pastries and fruits). Back in 2016 we were not taking our phones to breakfast to take pictures – instead we chatted to fellow guests and with our wonderful waiter, originally from Turkey, who had been at the hotel for almost 20 years, and who made sure our cappuccinos (only mine topped with cinnamon) arrived like magic within minutes of our arrival each morning.
We arrived early Saturday afternoon and spent the balance of our first day wandering the area right around our hotel:
A portion of Bustling Marienplatz square with its Saturday crowd, looks like the pedestrian plaza of any big city that just happens to have buildings dating back 500 years.
The spire of the beautiful white and red “old” city hall (now a toy museum)
The impressive new city hall with its fabulous glockenspiel (more on that later)
The Augustinian Church. After being damaged in WWII it was deconsecrated and reconstructed to house the German Fisheries and Hunting Museum.
Looking up at the tower of St. Peter’s
We also meandered through the city’s impressive Viktualienmarkt, with its fresh produce stalls, meat and cheese vendors, bakery stalls, and outdoor eateries. The market runs 6 days per week and is always busy, since most people living in the city shop for fresh food daily. Even here in the centre of the city, the market and its iconic maypole are surrounded by trees.
Because it MUST be done when in Munich (people have been eating there since the 1500’s) we ate dinner at the Hofbrauhaus, where that night’s band included a harp (!).
After dinner we walked back to our hotel past the romantic old town hall now under the night sky.
On Sundays, stores in Germany are closed. It’s the perfect day for families to attend church, spend the day in the park, or wander through gardens and museums. We started our day with the glockenspiel at city hall.
Munich’s glockenspiel dates from 1908; over 15 minutes it re-enacts two 16th century stories using 43 bells and using 32 gorgeously painted life-size figures of people and horses that move on two separate levels. The top half tells the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renate of Lorraine, complete with a dance by the court jesters and a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (blue and white) and Lothringen (red and white). The bottom half depicts the Schäfflertanz (the coopers’ dance). According to myth, during Munich’s 1517 plague the coopers danced through the streets to cheer up the population. (I wonder if dancing coopers would help during this pandemic?) at the end of the show, a small golden rooster at the top of the glockenspiel chirps 3 times. Of course, the hours also chime!
After the show, we walked to the Munich Residenz, the historic seat of government for Bavarian dukes, electors, and kings (the titles changed over the centuries, but each were the “ruler”) from 1508 until 1918. The complex includes the palace, Antiquarium, royal banquet halls, and Representative buildings, surrounding 3 courtyards and a grotto (dating from 1583 AD). The Munich Residenz was the most recent (it’s all relative, right?) home to the Wittelsbach Dynasty, who ruled Bavaria uninterrupted from the year 1180 AD onward.
A few items from the Wittelsbach Schatzkammer (treasury). The size of the gems in the jewelry and religious icons were astounding, as was the detail in the royal tablewares.
Looking down the length of Duke Albrecht V’s Antiquarium. Flash photography is strictly verboten, and the security guard challenged Ted over the tiny red autofocus indicator light on his camera – they are THAT strict about preserving the artifacts. At one end is a dais on which the royal table was set, so that on special occasions guests of the Duke could watch him eat!
The rooms of the palace portion of the compound have gilded ceilings, frescoes, ornately carved and inlaid woodwork, incredible furnishings, marble…. walking from room to room elicited a new “aah” each time.
The Emperor’s Hall was particularly magnificent.
That evening, we took the bus to Schloss Nymphenburg (seen fully from the front in the top photo, just the central rear entrance facing the garden in the bottom photo) for a cello concert held in one of its interior halls. Completed in 1675, this summer home of the Wittelsbach Dynasty is even wider than the palace at Versailles. It was a gorgeous setting for an evening concert – standing on one of the terraces pre-show, sipping our Aperol spritzes, we felt incredibly European.
By the time the concert was over, the palace and its reflecting pool were bathed in twilight.
Returning to our hotel, we passed the city hall lit in gold.
July 18th was occupied with one of our favourite activities: exploring historic churches and museums.
To that end, we started at the Heilig Geist Kirche (Holy Spirit church) just a few doors down from our hotel, where we took in a pipe organ concert.
Next we strolled to the Museuminsel (museum island) just across the Isar River, to the Deutsches Museum, which focusses on science and technology. From the 6th floor rooftop of the museum, we could look back over Munich’s city centre.
On the 19th we explored the area around the “Old” Botanical Garden (1813AD)
…as well as several more churches. Churches are wonderful repositories of history.
The Bürgersaalkirche (Citizen’s church) built in 1709 AD and consecrated in 1778 is a unique red colour.
In St. Michael’s we discovered the Fürstengruft Crypt, where several members of the Wittelsbach dynasty are entombed.
We ended our last evening in Munich with dinner at the magnificent Rathskeller, our appetites for food sated, but our appetite for further visits to Munich definitely whetted.