MUNICH…Visiting the Marienplatz and places nearby

We had decided we would spend a little over five weeks in 2022 visiting Norway and Germany. After finishing our Scandy tour in Oslo, we would then hire a car and drive down though parts of Sweden and Denmark and begin our German trip in Hamburg. This whole trip began after we had flown into Munich to spend a night before flying on to Bergen. The image to the left is of the large covered area at Munich airport that stretches between the Terminal and the train station. We survived our flight and made our way by train into the centre of Munich and emerged into the most amazing city centre of any of the places we visited over the next month or more. We had arrived at Marienplatz station and although we had been here some years before, the sight of the huge New Rathaus before us as we exited the station was as exciting as we expected..

We were only staying one night before flying onto Bergen so our first job was to find our hotel, Hotel am Markt. While we knew where the Viktualenmarkt was, we of course took the wrong turn and it took us 20 minutes to eventually drag our bags into this lovely hotel next to the main city market place. Of course we spent some time on this first afternoon wandering around the centre of town after we had settled into the hotel, but we knew we would be back here in another month with a few days at our disposal to properly get to know the fascinating sights of this city.

All visitors to Munich can’t help starting in the town centre, the Marienplatz. It is a huge plaza dominated on the north side by the New Rathaus, a misleading name given that it was built here starting in 1874. It is called the Neues Rathaus simply because it was built to replace the old town hall which had simply run out of room for the demands of modern city administration. Even the New Town Hall had to be extended twenty years after its original completion. 

This suggested tour of the centre of Munich is set out on the map below based on using our Hotel AM Markt as the start and ending point. It is suggested as a slow walk for a couple of hours and stops for coffee and cake are almost compulsory.

From Hotel Am Market, we walked down the narrow street Heiliggeistrasse and then turned left with the back of the beautiful Old Town Hall standing in front of us. It was our gateway to enter Marienplatz. This building first appeared on Munich’s map in 1310 but for the last 700 years or so, has gone through many re-designs until it was replaced by the New Town Hall. It was severely damaged during World War 2 and reconstructed in the 1970s. Like so many places in Munich, there is always an association between this building and the rise of Nazism. Joseph Goebbels on November 9, 1938 gave a speech here that was the opening curtain to the destructive night suffered by Munich, particularly for its Jewish population. It is usually referred to as Kristallnacht.

The image to the left below is taken from further down in the Marienplatz, with the Mariensaule Column in front. The photo on the right below is taken from the other side of the Altes Rathaus showing the two short tunnels driven through the ground floor of the building in 1877. Before the visitor passes through the tunnel on the right, there stands a statue of Shakespeare’s Juliet. It was a gift from the Italian City of Verona and the original stands under a balcony in Verona where passer byes are encouraged to rub her left breast! In less liberated Munich, apparently visitors are asked just to leave flowers. On the day we passed, someone had given her a bunch of flowers but the breast-rubbing seems to be more popular with those folk using this tunnel to get through to the town centre.

Approaching the platz from the Altes Rathaus, the first site we stop to investigate is the fountain that sits not far from the main entrance to the New Town Hall. It is called Fischbrunnen and in one form or another goes back to the Middle Ages. However, after various upgrades over the centuries, it survived until 1944 when it was almost completely destroyed by bombing. It was recreated in 1954 and today is a common meeting point for locals catching up with friends in the inner city. It was a busy spot the afternoon we wandered past because there was a classical band playing grest music next to the fountain and we had to stop for some time to take in the music and the atmosphere. While we listened to the music, our eyes were able to wander over the façade of the Rathaus, taking in all the endless intricacies of its architecture.

From the music and the fountain, we wandered over to the Mariensaule, the Marien Column that was erected here in 1638 to celebrate the departure of Swedish troops who had occupied Munich during the 30 Years War (1618-48). These Marien Columns are very common in cities all over Central Europe, the most famous being in the centre of Vienna. They were just as often erected as thanksgiving after plague ravaged a city and are sometimes referred to as Plague Columns. The golden Madonna on top of the Munich column was originally created to stand in the Frauenkirche (our next stop) but was moved here, presumably by order of the Grand Duke Elector, Maximilian I of Bavaria. On the pedestal of the Mariensaule are small bronze figures (Putti) of well-armed children fighting beasts that represent the traditional adversities of medieval cities; War, Pestilence, Famine and Heresy. The serpent below right represents ‘Heresy’, an adversity that I wouldn’t have thought was as dangerous to the health of the Munich locals as the other three.

Almost directly in front of the Marien Column is the tower of the Nieues Rathaus and at 11am and 12 noon every day, it is a crowded area when tourists gather to view the Glockenspiel show appearing above them in the tower. We saw one of these shows in Rothenburg but the one on display in Munich is quite the extravaganza. There are 32 figures that tell various stories from Munich’s past. The top floor (see left) tells the story of a marriage of a local Duke (Wilhelm V) to Renata of Lorraine. Below them is a joust by life-size knights. On the second level is the Cooper’s Dance, a story connected to the Plague Year (1517) when  the Coopers danced in the streets to cheer up the locals.

The show lasts between 12-15 minutes and keeps the crowd below highly entertained for that time, before they move on to enjoy the other sights of the Marienplatz.

Over the road to the left of the Rathaus is the Thomas Ecke building on the edge of the Marienplatz; it was once the main police station of Munich. Turning right here and walking down three streets, you will find Albertgasse which will take you to the back of Munich’s Cathedral, the Frauenkirche. I enjoy going this way for two reasons. If its in the evening, I have the choice of visiting Ned Kelly’s Australian bar or next door is the Kilian’s Irish Pub. The real reason of course is the walk along the other side of this ancient church, built in the 12th century but as the second church in town after St Peter’s. It was originally a smaller Romanesque Church but was replaced by a late Gothic cathedral in the 15th century. Along this wall are many carvings and inscriptions from the passing centuries. The doorway in the image on the right below is on this less visited side.

In front of the main entrance there is a large area devoted to Frauen Platz, the main feature of which is a pond that looks like a flooded amphitheatre full of Lily pads or lily-pad shaped stools for tired visitors to sit on if the pond is empty. Next to the pond is a copper model of Fraunkirche. Like so many buildings in Munich, the church roof and much of the interior of this church was destroyed during the war. One of the curiosities of this church is the Devil’s Footprint near the main entrance that wasn’t affected by the bombing. The local legend suggests that the devil stood here to ridicule the windowless church that Munich had built.

I remember when I first visited this church in 2018 that I was astonished by the elaborate tomb that sits at the back of the cathedral. It was covered and surrounded by figures of knights, priests and protective ‘Putti’ and its opulence spoke of a significant local identity. I was surprised that it had survived the destruction of allied bombing that had ruined so many of the other treasures of this building. It is the tomb of Louis IV, King of Bavaria from 1314 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1328. He was a controversial and war-like monarch who even at one point tried to depose the Pope, John XXII who had excommunicated him. His memory is preserved in this busy huge tomb at the back of Frauenkirche.

Frauenkirche was the furtherest point in Munich that we were visiting before we turned around and started to head back towards our hotel. Checking the map of our walk at the start of this article, you will note that we headed down towards Kaufinger Strasse that ran parallel to Frauenkirche to check out a remnant of the old fortifications that at one time surrounded the city of Munich. On the right below is a map of Munich from around 1800 when its walls were complete and quite extensive around the city. However, over the centuries leading up to this time, walls were built as the city expanded. I presumed that the tower we encountered on this section of our walk, called Lowenturm by the plaque on its wall (the Lion Tower), must have been a part of the old walls of Munich. This was the local presumption until archaeologists found the remnants of the old wall 15 metres away from this tower so it was determined it was a stand alone structure, perhaps a water tower. Whatever its original function, it was a far more interesting building than the glass high rises around it.

A little further on we came to a platz that had a very impressive fountain on one side under the trees, Rindermarktbrunnen. This area, the Rindermarkt, was the Cattle market that existed here until the 19th century and three large, sculptured bulls mark the spot.

The photo on the left below is a view of St Peters Church from the Rindermarkt area. Where this church is today, a much earlier church existed on the site and it is suggested that this spot is the originating point for the whole city. Monks lived here from the 8th century and eventually a new church was built here at the end of the twelfth century, only for it to burn down in 1327. It was rebuilt and in the 17th century, its tall steeple was built that is today a site where tourists can climb and take their pictures from high above the centre of Munich. Like so much of the inner city, this church was heavily damaged during WWII, perhaps because the pilots recognised the landmark!

The photo on the left was taken after walking down the side of St Peter’s Church and looking back towards it, including in the image our favourite morning café for coffee and breakfast. It sits over the road from the Viktualienmarkt as well as another church (there are a lot of churches in Munich!), the Heilig-Geist Kirche. (See left below). It was originally built sometime in the 14th century and belonged to the Hospice of the Holy Ghost, thus the Holy Ghost Church of today. It was remodelled in 1991.

The Heiliggeiststrasse runs along the edge of the Viktualienmarkt. The main symbol of this market is its blue and white maypole (Maibaum). Maypoles are common in village squares across Bavaria; we came across a similar one in the centre of Wurzburg earlier in our tour. It is suggested that the maypoles indicate the goods and services available in the market place.

Apart from stalls of all kinds, there were a number of statues scattered around the Viktualienmarkt that generally stood above water bubblers. Below are three examples.

After completing this circuit around the centre of town, we were not only pretty tired but also ready to press outward from Marienplatz and check out the many other fabulous sights of Munich.

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Munich…time-travelling the 1930s

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