With spectacular architecture, leafy parks, and wide Italianate avenues, Munich is the perfect overture to all that is idiosyncratic about the mighty Kingdom of Bavaria.
Positioned on the bank of the Isar River, north of the Bavarian Alps, Munich was first founded by the Benedictine monks. Its name is derived from the Old German term Munichen, meaning “by the monk”. That’s why a monk can be seen on the city’s coat of arms.
Perfect overture to the Kingdom of Bavaria.
In the 12th century, Munich was handed to the House of Wittelsbach, which governed the city and the whole of Bavaria until the German Revolution in 1918. During this period, dukes, electors, and later, Bavarian kings spent a large fortune to refurbish their capital, making it one of Germany’s most sophisticated and refined cities.
Most of the royal heritage sites cluster around the Altstadt, Munich’s historic center, with the exception of the Nymphenburg Palace located in the city’s western part and the symbolic Neuschwanstein Castle, 120 kilometers southwest of Munich.
1. Munich Old Town
Enclosed by an old city wall, Munich’s walkable historic core look as though it has been there for centuries. Here, neo-Renaissance townhouses lined cobblestone streets, and Gothic-inspired steeples soared to the sky. But actually, this place is an extensive reconstruction of a medieval city that was bombed to dust during WWII. At the center of the Old Town is Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) – Munich’s beating heart and the city’s main square since the 12th century.
No matter the time of year, there is always something happening on this site, whether it is the Christmas market, cultural festivals, or major celebrations. Overlooking the square is the New City Hall. It is impressively adorned with gargoyles, statues, and an 83-meters clock tower. Each day, massive crowds congregate in front of the building to enjoy the spectacular carillon (housed in the clock tower), consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. For many visitors, this place is an ideal starting point for sightseeing around the city.
2. Munich Residence
A stone’s throw away from the Marienplatz is the Munich Residence – the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria. Constructed in the 14th century and enlarged in the following centuries, the building is one of Germany’s largest and most magnificent palaces. It contains ten courtyards, 130 exquisitely decorated rooms, as well as numerous collections of arts and jewelry. There are the Baroque Ancestral Gallery, the Green Gallery, and the Cuvilliés Theatre in Rococo style, to name a few.
However, the Residence’s pièce de résistanceis the Antiquarium, a barrel vault covered in frescoes. It was built to house the enormous antique collection of Duke Albrecht V. With a length of over 60 meters, it is the largest and most lavish Rennaisance interior north of the Alps. In the following decades, the expansive hall was transformed into a venue for festivities and banquets by Albrecht V’s successors, Duke Wilhelm V, and his son Maximillian I.
3. Nymphenburg Palace
Around five kilometers northwest of the Altstadt, you will find yourself at the beautiful palace of Nymphenburg i.e. “Castle of the Nymph”. It was first designed as a villa for the long-awaited heir to the throne, Max Emanuel, son of the Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria. Over the next century, the Baroque palace became the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers. One of Germany’s most popular monarchs was also born here, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who is referred to as the Märchenkönig (The Fairytale King).
Yet the most impressive thing about Nymphenburg Palace is its expansive park. Measuring 229 hectares, Nymphenburg Palace Park combines both French and English-style gardens. Its central area is based on the Versailles Garden, featuring enormous fountains, canals, promenades, and magnificent flowerbeds. They are laid out in a strict symmetric order, just below the grand staircase. The rest of the park, however, follows English landscape design, with small streams, bridges, branched paths, as well as artificial lakes. There are also some smaller yet refined palaces in this area, such as the pink-hued Amalie burg which is famous for its remarkable mirror hall.
4. Neuschwanstein Castle
Rising from the thickly forested Alpine foothills, Neuschwanstein looks like a mirage. The castle was the vision of King Ludwig II who wanted to build a place of retreat. Inspired by the operatic works of Richard Wagner, the king envisaged the castle as a giant theatrical stage where he could escape into a dream world of Teutonic mythology and medieval grandeur.
Nevertheless, the castle, like many of King Ludwig’s grand schemes, was never finished as a result of overspending. Completed sections include the king’s bedrooms, the Hall of the Singers, and the Byzantine-style throne room with a magnificent mosaic floor. The king himself only stayed here for a few months until his mysterious death in 1886.
A giant stage in the Alpine foothilss
With more than 1.3 million people visiting annually, Neuschwanstein today is undoubtedly Germany’s best-known attraction and the most photographed castle in the country. It’s also said that the castle was the source of inspiration for Walt’s castle at Disney World.
Tips for visiting Neuschwanstein
- The most convenient and affordable way to travel to Schloss Neuschwanstein is using the Bayern Ticket. This ticket grants you unlimited usage of public buses and trains within Bavaria in one day. It costs 25€ and can add up to 4 people (6€ per extra passenger).
- The journey from Munich Hbf to Schloss Neuschwanstein takes approximately 3 hours, including a train trip from Munich to Füssen and a bus trip from Füssen to Hohenschwangau.
- IMPORTANT: Before going to the castle, you have to get your ticket to the office in Hohenschwangau. You still need to go there, even though you already had the online ticket.
- From Hohenschwangau, you can either hike to the castle or take the mini-van (around 3€ one way). The van will bring you to the famous Marienbrücke where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the castle and the forest beneath.
- There is a limited number of tickets issued per day. So it’s necessary to buy the ticket online in advance. The ticket is time-slotted, and thus you have to be at the castle on time.
- Please note that the “No Photograph” rule is strictly enforced inside the castle.
31 thoughts on “Munich and Bavarian Kings’ Heritage”
While all of those photos are stunning, the Antiquarium in the Residenz is something else.
It is indeed one-of-a-kind! I have been in many palaces but I have never seen anything like that. It would be fantastic to throw a party here 🙂
Ahahaha throw a party there. I like the way your thoughts roll! I would definitely want to be invited, pretty please.
For sure, if I can afford to rent this hall 😉 The place is perfect for party, don’t you think? It’s large, underground and there are two stages on both sides of the room.
Linderhof, that one we missed because it was under restorations!
So did I! When I was there, the road between Neuschwanstein and Linderhof was under renovation. And it would take hours to take another route 🙁
This brings back some fond memories of my trip to Europe more than ten years ago. Of all the places I went to, I stayed in Bavaria the longest since my cousin lived (and still does) in Nuremberg. I remember going on a day trip to Munich, which certainly was not enough time to properly explore the city. He parked his car near the Olympiastadion and we took the U-Bahn to Marienplatz. The view upon exiting the underground station is unforgettable!
That view is indeed impressive! How about Nuremberg? I have heard that the town is quite beautiful, right? 🙂
Gorgeous, as always! That lake..!
So beautiful, isn’t it! 🙂 It’s just a few step from the castle, but the lake is not crowded at all.
Definitely a destination to set aside for a perfect moment in my future travels 🙂
The Munich residence seems really cool and its ornate decorations remind me of some of the galleries in Vatican City. I can’t believe you went everywhere by public transport, it would have taken you ages! Neuswanstein would have been worth every trek though, I totally enjoyed it. 🙂
Yeah it is a bit inconvenient 🙂 But it is doable, just need to do some research before travelling. Sometimes it is faster than by cars, especially for someone who has no sense of orientation like me 🙂
You’re quite a storyteller Len:) I loved the intro part so much. I have been to Munchen a good 5 years ago, but I did not know that it was first a settlement built by the monks. Regarding Neuschweinstein, this is a place that I really have to see again. When we visited, half of it was in renovations, outside and inside :(.
What a shame! Some small parts were still under renovation when I visited. But it didn’t disturb me very much. At least the castle still looks great from afar, especially from the Marienbruecke 🙂
This is a wonderful tour you gave us. The Antiquarium in Munich Residence is AWESOME!
Many thanks, Aixa! 😀
I loved the Residence and Neuschwanstein. It still comes back to me vividly every time I hear the song “Hide Your Love Away” by the Beatles. This song played as we descended the hill in our shuttle from glorious Neuschwanstein.
A special moment 🙂 I think little things like that always make our trips memorable, right?
Your photo of the Neues Rathaus is simply stunning. Munich is a marvellous city and in addition to its impressive sites, I also enjoyed just wandering in its extensive pedestrian zone. Although I have been to this part of Germany several times, I’ve never made it inside Schloss Neuschwanstein.
I guess you are not the only one 🙂 Many of my German friends said they’ve never been there. They probably think that the castle is in their backyard so there’s no rush to go there.
Wow, wow, wow Len. I actually said it out loud which has never happened before. Spectacular images
Many thanks, Tina 😀
Your photographs capture the opulence and grandeur perfectly well! Wishing you a Happy 2020 and many more wonderful travels around the globe.
Same to you! Happy New Year! 😀
Well this is just a reminder that I need to check more out of this area! It all looks incredible.
You definitely should! Thanks for visiting 🙂
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I can´t be proud to live in this region. Bavaria has everything, alpine crystal lakes, Alps, waterfalls, Gorges,gorgeous natural landscapes, lovely little towns, fairytale castles and architecture!!, I am living now here for almost 6 years and I haven´t even seen a quarter of what it all offers.
Reading your posts about Bayern really makes me smile.
When you have the chance to visit Munich or Nuremberg , tell me, I am just an hour drive away!
For sure! After seeing your post about Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I certainly want to go there. Koenigsee is also on my list 😛 Have you been there?
Yes! you should definitely go there in Berchtesgaden. It´s one of our favourite place. Königsee is so beautiful! the lake, the scenery there & the Watzmann mountains is definitely worth the trip.