Sightseeing Munich

“The village with a million inhabitants”

Located on the river Isar and founded in 1158, Munich is the third-largest city in Germany with 1.4 million inhabitants. It is beautiful all year round, even in the colder months, since a large number of its historical and cultural attractions can be enjoyed indoors.

Before Germany’s capital was moved back from Bonn to Berlin, Munich was dubbed the unofficial capital of the country. It is still known as “the village with a million inhabitants”, since its metropolitan bustle, prosperity and high-tech industries exist alongside a rural, traditional atmosphere. The city owes its extensive green areas to its abundance of parks, forests and, above all, its landscaped “English Garden”, also known as Munich’s “green lungs”. With a surface of almost 400 hectares, this is one of the largest recreational parks in Europe.

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Munich city centre map

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Art and culture

Munich has an international reputation as a metropolis of art and culture, with many historic monuments, art galleries, theatres, concert halls (three world-class orchestras) and a large number of outstanding museums (around 50).

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Chief among these is the largest interactive museum of science and technology in the world, the Deutsches Museum. Plan in one to two days for this experience and you will still only have seen a small part of it.

Your cultural programme should also include art galleries (around 70 in total) such as the Old, New and ModernPinakotheken, each dedicated to specific stylistic movements in the history of art. The paintings on display range from old German, Dutch and Italian masters through French impressionists and expressionists to an outstanding modern art collection.

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Classical architecture

The architecture in Munich encompasses a wide range of buildings and churches in the Gothic style from the fifteenth century. The centrepiece here is the Frauenkirche or “Cathedral of Our Dear Lady”, whose twin towers are the city’s best-known landmark. These can be seen from a substantial distance owing to an old law which prohibits the construction of buildings exceeding their height of 100 metres.

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A large array of monuments, grand avenues, buildings and squares may be ascribed to another predominant style, classicism, dating from the early nineteenth century when Bavaria was ruled by King Ludwig I. Unlike his grandson, King Ludwig II, who gave the city the cold shoulder, Ludwig I concentrated on turning Munich into a city of art – an “Athens on the Isar”. We owe to him much of the wonderful architecture in Munich, as well as the Oktoberfest. Additionally, it was during his era that the beer gardens so typical of the Bavarian exuberance or joie de vivre emerged. By his decree, a rule that allowed all visitors to bring their own food to the beer gardens was passed and is still in place today.

His passion for beautiful women was expressed by having 36 of them portrayed in his “Gallery of Beauties”, to be found within Nymphenburg Palace, the magnificent baroque summer palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty. It is here that King Ludwig II was born and the famous Nymphenburg porcelain is manufactured. Take a stroll through its extensive park and visit the small garden pavilions.

These kings  were members of the Wittelsbach dynasty, which ruled in Bavaria for more than 700 years, until 1918. Their former main seat, the Residenz, is located in the city centre at Max-Joseph-Platz, next to Munich’s most popular opera house, the Nationaltheater. The Residenz is one of the largest palaces in Europe and is now a museum, a visit to which might easily last a full day.

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Modern architecture

A variety of more modern projects came about in the 1960s, as Munich prepared to host the Summer Olympic Games in 1972. The Olympic Tower, approximately 280 metres in height, offers the visitor a revolving restaurant and, on clear days, an outstanding view over the whole city with the impression that the Alps are just a few kilometres away.

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The rest of this Olympic Park includes the Olympic stadium, the former stadium for Munich’s two football teams – FC Bayern, otherwise known as “Bayern Munich”, one of the best teams in the world, and “1860”. It also houses various other buildings for sports and music events, all covered by another landmark – the Olympic roof, made of acrylic glass. An artificial lake and hills made from the rubble from World War II buildings add to the panorama.

Nearby, you will find another distinctive building in the shape of four cylinders – the administration centre for BMW (one of Munich’s main employers alongside Siemens) – as well as the BMW museum and car production site. BMW World, a brand experience, delivery centre and event forum, was inaugurated in October 2007. Built for EUR 500 million, the venue is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture that offers a unique atmosphere.

The new Allianz Arena football stadium is named after the main sponsor, Allianz – one of the largest insurance companies in Germany. It was inaugurated in 2006 on the occasion of the FIFA World Cup and now hosts numerous football games. As Europe’s most modern arena and Germany’s only three-tiered stadium, it can hold up to 65,000 spectators. The exterior façade is made of inflated foil panels with an integrated lighting system, generally illuminated in the colours of the teams currently playing there.

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Other

A special district known for its vibrant night life, Schwabing lures students from the main university of Munich which is close by. Leopoldstrasse, also dubbed the “Champs-Elysees of Munich” with its abundance of cafés, restaurants and bars, is an enticing street for both visitors and locals to take a stroll.

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Families and especially children will get their money’s worth at the Hellabrunn Zoo, one of the most beautiful zoos in the world with around 4,800 animals representing 480 species. The zoo specialises in breeding animals that are under threat of extinction.

Also worth a visit are the Bavaria Film Studios, located in the outskirts of Munich, where many international directors and film stars have worked and quite a few blockbusters such as Oscar-winning movie “Das Boot” have been filmed. There are daily tours available here, as well as stunt shows.

Around 45 minutes from Munich, the former Dachau concentration camp reminds us of a dark chapter in German history. It was built during the Third Reich in 1933 as a labour camp for political opponents, resistance fighters and all other kinds of “troublemakers”. It also served as a model for subsequent camps.

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