Explore Munich, Germany
Explore Munich the capital city of Bavaria. Within the city limits, Munich has a population of more than 1.5 million, making it the third-most populous city in Germany. Greater Munich including its suburbs has a population of 2.7 million. The Munich metropolitan region which extends to cities like Augsburg or Ingolstadt had a population of more than 6.0 million.
Munich, located at the river Isar in the south of Bavaria, is famous for its beautiful architecture, fine culture, and the annual Oktoberfest beer celebration. Munich’s cultural scene is second to none in Germany, with the museums even considered by some to outrank Berlin in quality. Many travelers to Munich are absolutely stunned by the quality of the architecture. Although it was heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II, many of its historic buildings have been rebuilt and the city center appears mostly as it did in the late 1800s including its largest church, the Frauenkirche, and the famous city hall (Neues Rathaus).
Munich is a major international center of business, engineering, research and medicine exemplified by the presence of two research universities, a multitude of smaller colleges, headquarters of several multinational companies and world-class technology and science museums like the Deutsches Museum and BMW Museum. It is Germany’s most prosperous city and makes it repeatedly into the top 10 of global quality-of-life rankings. Munich’s ability to stay at the forefront of technological developments and maintain its cultural heritage is often summarized in the characterization as a city of “laptop and lederhosen”.
The year 1158 is the earliest date the city is mentioned in a document signed in Augsburg. By that time Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, had built a bridge over the river Isar next to a settlement of Benedictine monks. Almost two decades later in 1175 Munich was officially granted city status and received fortification. In 1180, with the trial of Henry the Lion, Otto I Wittelsbach became Duke of Bavaria and Munich was handed over to the Bishop of Freising. The Wittelsbach dynasty would rule Bavaria until 1918. In 1255, when the Duchy of Bavaria was split in two, Munich became the ducal residence of Upper Bavaria. In the late 15th century Munich underwent a revival of gothic arts: the Old Town Hall was enlarged, and Munich’s largest gothic church, the Frauenkirche cathedral, was constructed in only twenty years, starting in 1468.
When Bavaria was reunited in 1506, Munich became its capital. The arts and politics became increasingly influenced by the court and Munich was a center of the German counter reformation as well as of renaissance arts. The Catholic League was founded in Munich in 1609. During the Thirty Years’ War Munich became electoral residence, but in 1632 the city was occupied by King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden. When the bubonic plague broke out in 1634 and 1635 about one third of the population died.
Munich has the strongest economy of any German city and with the lowest unemployment rate of major German cities it is very prosperous. Seven out of the thirty companies listed in the German blue chip stock market index DAX are headquartered in Munich. This includes luxury car maker BMW, electrical engineering giant Siemens, chip producer Infineon, truck manufacturer MAN, industrial gas specialist Linde, the world’s largest insurance company Allianz and the world’s largest re-insurer Munich Re.
The Munich region is also a center for aerospace, biotechnology, software and service industries. It is home to the aircraft engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines, the aerospace and defense giant EADS (headquartered in both Munich and Paris), the injection molding machine manufacturer Krauss-Maffei, the camera and lighting manufacturer Arri, lighting giant Osram, as well as the German and/or European headquarters of many foreign companies like McDonald’s, Microsoft and Intel.
As the largest publishing city in Europe, Munich is home to Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest daily newspapers. Germany’s largest public broadcasting network, ARD, its second largest commercial network, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, and the Burda publishing group are also located in and around Munich.
Munich is a leading center for science and research with a long list of Nobel Prize laureates from Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1901 to Theodor Hänsch in 2005. It hosts two world-class research universities (Ludwig Maximilian Universität and the Technische Universität München), several colleges and the headquarters as well as research facilities of both the Max-Planck-Society and the Fraunhofer-Society. Both the European navigation system Galileo’s control center and the European Space Agency’s Columbus Control Center, which is used to control the Columbus research laboratory of the International Space Station, is located at a large research facility of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) 20 km (12 mi) outside of Munich in Oberpfaffenhofen.
The people of Munich do not like their city to be associated only as a city of beer and the Oktoberfest. And indeed, the Bavarian kings transformed Munich into a city of arts and science in the 19th century. Its outstanding position among other German cities may have faded a bit, due to Berlin becoming the German capital again in the 1990s, but Munich still remains Germany’s number-one place for art, science and culture.
Munich is internationally known for its collection of ancient, classic and modern art, which can be found in numerous museums throughout the city. Munich’s most renowned museums are located in the Kunstareal in Maxvorstadt including the Alte Pinakothek (European paintings from the 13th to 18th century), the Neue Pinakothek (European paintings from classicism to art nouveau), the Pinakothek der Moderne (modern art), Museum Brandhorst (modern art) and Glyptothek (ancient Greek and Roman sculptures).
From the Gothic to the Baroque era, the fine arts were represented in Munich by artists like Erasmus Grasser, Jan Polack, Johann Baptist Straub, Ignaz Günther, Hans Krumpper, Ludwig von Schwanthaler, Cosmas Damian Asam, Egid Quirin Asam, Johann Baptist Zimmermann, Johann Michael Fischer and François de Cuvilliés. Munich had already become an important place for painters like Carl Rottmann, Lovis Corinth, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, Carl Spitzweg, Franz von Lenbach, Franz von Stuck and Wilhelm Leibl when Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a group of expressionist artists, was established in Munich in 1911. The city was home to the Blue Rider’s painters Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc, August Macke and Alfred Kubin.
Munich was also home or host to many famous composers and musicians including Orlando di Lasso, W.A. Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Max Reger and Carl Orff. With the Munich Biennale founded by Hans Werner Henze, and the A*DEvantgarde festival, the city still contributes to modern music theatre. The Nationaltheater, where several of Richard Wagner’s operas had their premieres under the patronage of King Ludwig II, is the home of the world famous Bavarian State Opera and the Bavarian State Orchestra. Next door the modern Residenz Theatre was erected in the building that had housed the Cuvilliés Theatre before World War II. Many operas were staged there, including the premiere of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” in 1781. The Gärtnerplatz Theatre is a ballet and musical state theatre while another opera house, the Prinzregententheater, has become the home of the Bavarian Theatre Academy. The modern Gasteig center houses the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The third orchestra in Munich with international importance is the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, which was named the 6th best orchestra in the world by The Gramophone magazine in 2008. Its primary concert venue is the Herkulessaal in the former city royal residence, the Residenz.
Many prominent literates worked in Munich such as Paul Heyse, Max Halbe, Rainer Maria Rilke and Frank Wedekind. The period immediately before World War I saw economic and cultural prominence for the city. Munich, and especially the districts of Maxvorstadt and Schwabing, became the domicile of many artists and writers. Nobel laureate Thomas Mann, who also lived there, wrote ironically in his novella Gladius Dei about this period, “Munich shone”. It remained a center of cultural life during the Weimar era with figures such as Lion Feuchtwanger, Bertolt Brecht and Oskar Maria Graf.
Quality of life
Munich can be consistently found in the top tier of quality-of-life-rankings of world cities. Monocle magazine even named it the world’s most livable city in 2010. When Germans are polled about where they would like to live, Munich finds its way consistently at the top of the list. Within proximity of the Alps and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, it is not surprising that everyone wants to live here. Add to its benefits the beautiful architecture, especially Baroque and Rococo, green countryside which starts a mere half hour away on the S-Bahn, a beautiful park called Englischer Garten, the two best universities in Germany, a booming economy with global headquarters of many world-class companies, modern infrastructure, extremely low crime and the greatest beer culture on the planet – could there be anything wrong with Munich? Well, there is a price to pay for living in a city where everyone else wants to be: Munich is the most expensive city in Germany with real estate prices and rents far above those in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne or Frankfurt.
Munich has a continental climate, strongly modified by the proximity of the Alps. The city’s altitude and proximity to the northern edge of the Alps mean that precipitation is high. Rainstorms can come violently and unexpectedly.
What to see. Best top attractions in Munich, Germany.
Munich offers visitors many sights and attractions. There is something for everyone, no matter if you are seeking arts and culture, shopping, fine dining, nightlife, sport events or Bavarian beer hall atmosphere.
Munich is a very clean city, in which Munich residents take pride. Hence, littering is highly frowned upon. So if you need to dispose of something look out for a trash can rather than just dropping things to the ground.
When using escalators, people in Munich usually reserve the right side for standing and the left side for people walking up the stairs. Also, when waiting for a bus or train, first let people get off, then enter.
Drinking alcohol in public transportation has been banned, though this new rule has been hardly enforced so far.
Cellular phone coverage is ubiquitous in the city, including subway tunnels and suburban train tunnels.
Free wireless internet hotspots are available in many cafés, restaurants, public institutions and the universities. Just ask the proprietor for the current access code and you are good to go.
Munich administration has deployed official “M-WLAN” free wireless (Wi-Fi) service. It is available on places in the inner city (interesting for tourists). See this listing: http://www.muenchen.de/leben/wlan-hotspot.html
Day trips from Munich
The suburban trains (S-Bahn) S1 and S8 both go to the airport from Munich Central Station and Marienplatz S-Bahn station, but be careful because the S1 line splits into two separate trains at Neufahrn just before the airport, so be sure that you are riding in the section that is actually going to the airport (always the last part of the train). If you find yourself in the wrong car, just wait until Neufahrn and change into the last part of the train.
Andechs Monastery — If you miss the Oktoberfest, it is worth travelling to the holy mountain of Andechs. It’s a monastery up a hill from the Ammersee. Take the S5 from Munich to Herrsching and then either hike up the hill or take the bus. When you are there have a look at the old monastery church and the gardens before focusing on the excellent beer and Schweinshaxen in the beer garden or in the large beer hall. Makes a great day trip which can also be combined with some swimming the Ammersee. The hiking trail is unlit, and a good 30-45min. After dark, a flashlight is mandatory.
Chiemsee – Bavaria’s largest lake, with beautiful views southwards towards the Alps has two islands. Herreninsel houses a beautiful but unfinished Palace fashioned after Versailles by Lüdwig II called Herrenchiemsee. Fraueninsel houses a monastery. This beautiful lake is only one hour away from Munich.
Dachau offers a day trip of a different kind. Prepare to be shocked of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Third Reich era displayed at the Dachau concentration camp memorial site. Additionally you can visit the Old Town of Dachau, where you can find especially a former Wittelsbach palace with bloomy gardens and a great view towards Munich and the Alps and besides a couple of galleries as it has been a famous artists’ colony.
Schloss Neuschwanstein located two hours south of Munich.
Füssen is nestled in the Alps of southern Bavaria. A train from Munich Central Station will take about two hours with one transfer at Buchloe (purchase the Bayern-Ticket option mentioned above which is valid for all trains and bus journey to the castle). The town is famous for King Ludwig II’s “fairy-tale castle” Neuschwanstein. It also houses the castle where Ludwig II grew up (Hohenschwangau). If you go there, buy a combined ticket for both castles. Neuschwanstein is a must-see, but Hohenschwangau is historically more interesting, and the tour is so much better.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. About 1.5hr by regional train (from Munich Central Station) or by car on autobahn A 95. The rack railway train to the top of the Zugspitze leaves regularly from the Garmisch-Partenkirchen railway station.
Königssee This emerald-green lake is surrounded by steep walls of rock, with the 1800-metre east wall of the Watzmann towering above its western shore. Take one of the ships to St Bartholomew’s Church and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of this jewel of the Bavarian Alps.
Schloss Linderhof Linderhof palace is another palace of Ludwig II and the only one which was fully completed. The small palace was build in honor of King Louis XIV of France and features spectacular interiors and a great garden. One of the highlights is a surreal artificial grotto in which Ludwig went to retreat from reality.
Nuremberg (German: Nürnberg) — Nuremberg is Bavaria’s second largest city with a population of about half a million. In the middle ages, the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation had one of their residences in the Nuremberg castle, which today is open to visitors. Nuremberg’s vast medieval city center including parts of the former city fortifications are well maintained and worth a visit. It was also in Nuremberg where some of the leaders of the Nazi regime faced justice.
Regensburg – A beautiful medieval city and university town at the shores of the Danube. It’s historical city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the gateway to the Bavarian Forest, a wooded low-mountain region, parts of which form the Bavarian Forest National Park.
Salzburg (Austria) – The birth place of Mozart is an easy day trip from Munich. Trains run from Munich Central Station just about every hour, and take about 1.5hr. The Bayern Ticket is valid all the way to Salzburg.
Lake Starnberg makes an easy day trip and can be easily reached by S-Bahn. Lake Starnberg is a fantastic place where you can swim, hike, cycle or simply enjoy a drink in a Bavarian beer garden. Empress Elisabeth, better known as Sissi, grew up in Possenhofen at the shores of this lake. Lake Starnberg was also the location of the mysterious death of King Ludwig II and his psychiatrist. The area around Lake Starnberg is the wealthiest community around Munich and one of the richest in Germany.
Tegernsee is the centre of a popular recreation area 50 kilometres south-east of Munich. Resorts on the lake include the eponymous Tegernsee, as well as Bad Wiessee, Kreuth, Gmund, and Rottach-Egern.