To the left is a map of a long walk around Munich that takes the visitor to some very interesting sites, ending up in the Museum Quarter of town, the Kunstareal. I have basically used the Munich Cathedral, Frauenkirche, as an arbitrary starting point but the position of your hotel might force you to adjust where you begin this walk. From the Frauenkirche my suggestion is that you stroll down Kaufingerstrasse and have a look at the next church on the ‘list’, St Michael’s Church. From here the route continues down to one of the main surviving gates of the old city, Karltor. Once through the gate you are in Karlsplatz, one of the largest public gathering areas in the city where there is a huge fountain, just over the road from the city’s main court-house or justice Palace. There is plenty to see around here.
If church size matters to you, St Michael’s is the place for you. It is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. It was built as part of the conflict over the direction of religious beliefs in Southern Germany in the late 16th century. The local Duke invited the Jesuits to build this church in Munich and it was finally consecrated in 1597. On the right is a photo of the façade of the church; the standing statues are of members of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty and in between the two entrances is a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael killing a demon.
Our last stop before arriving back in Munich was a visit to the castles outside Fussen where we visited the famous castle of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria between 1868-1886. He is frequently referenced by names such as the Fairy-Tale or Swan King and debate over his sudden death the day after his impeachment is still carried on today. He is buried in the crypt of this church along with his brother who succeeded him, King Otto of Bavria (1886-1913.) It is a very interesting church to have a wander around.
Nearby to St Michaels Church are a couple of impressive statues in Neuhauser Stasse; one, a large boar, is a regular feature in cities south of the border in Italy. Not too far away is also a large bronze salmon so if hunting and fishing is your interest, you would be able to avoid the church visit by ducking into the nearby Museum of Hunting and Fishing, full of displays of potential victims in the region.
Before arriving at the platz in front of the Karlstor Gate, there is an interesting spot to visit just down the street from St Michaels which can be found by taking a quick right hand turn down Herzog-Max Strasse (Check map above). At the end of this strasse there is a memorial stone to the old Central Synagogue that was one of the first ‘victims’ during Krystallnacht in 1938, the night of murder and destruction of Jewish people, their homes and shops as well as the central synagogue. We were in Munich in 2018 when there was a memorial event for the 80th anniversary of this event, set off by Joseph Goebbels in the Old Town Hall.
There are three remaining gates from Munich’s medieval walls and one of these is Karlstor. The original medieval wall was built between 1285-1347 and this gate was originally called Neuhauser Tor; at that time it had three towers but one was destroyed in 1857 when the gunpower stored there exploded. It was renamed Karlstor in 1797 after the local ruler of the time.
The above photos illustrate both sides of the Karlstor Gate; the one on the left is the approach from the St Michaels Church side and the one on the right is of the large square outside the gate called Karlsplatz. Apparently the locals don’t regularly use this name but refer to this area as Stachus. We were here in Summer so the square is dominated by the huge fountain during this season as can be seen in in the image below. During winter-time, it becomes the local ice-rink.
In the background of the fountain above is the old Justizpalast (Place of Justice) that was constructed here between 1890-97. One of the famous show-trials held here was of the ‘White Rose’ group, a non-violent Resistance group led by five students and a professor at the University of Munich. Their activities began in Jan 1942 until they were arrested by the gestapo in Feb 1943. The two main student leaders were executed as well as many of their supporters. We also encountered this story of these young people resisting the Nazis in the Hofgarten, where the memorial to the right can be found.
We were in Karlsplatz between the fountain and the main road opposite the Justice Palace in September 2022 and just happened to time our visit with the Famous Munich Beer Fest. One of the major features of this event was the day of the big parade where Munich citizens either joined in with their local community group and or their local Beer Hall group and walked along the main streets of Munich to the Oktoberfest, held in the city’s fairground, the Theresienwiese. It is a 16-18 day folk festival that has been held in Munich since 1810. It attracts up to 6 million visitors a year.
However a beer festival parade will not occur when most people come to visit Munich so a normal visit to Karlsplatz will not involve beer festival attractions. Checking out Karlsplatz is the first thing to do and then my suggestion is to follow the arrows on the map to the right that lead to Koningsplatz Station.
At this point I would recommend that the best route is take a path through the Alter Botanischer Garten. It is a beautiful garden and if you keep an eye out, you will come across the Neptunbrunnen, a 1937 fountain sculpted for the National Socialist government. I am sure the portrayal of a muscular Neptune was part of a subtle message about the quality of Nazi men
On the way to Koningsplatz station, a short stop at St Boniface’s Abbey is well worth the time. It is an 1835 monastery founded by King Ludwig I of Bavaria whose large statue we encountered outside the ‘Residenz’ closer to Marienplatz. The tomb of Ludwig I and his wife are found here. This building was largely destroyed during WWII and only partly restored.
To suggest a visit to a railway or tram station (apart from the purpose of catching public transport) as part of a sightseeing tour is surprising. However, if you are like me on an early morning walk in 2018, you will be stunned when you see what’s on the platforms and walls of this station, without even the need to buy a ticket. I suppose that because this station is an arrival point for those visitors checking out the museums of the district, perhaps the planners of this station (opened in 1980) decided that a foretaste of the Greek Art available above ground here was a good idea. The examples from this station shown below are of course facsimiles but I suspect these display cases are a better alternative to the tedious adverts that generally line railway station walls!!
From this U-Bahn station it is a short walk down Luisenstrasse to Konigsplatz (The King’s Square), one of the most interesting places to visit in Munich. It has everything; sweeping views, wonderful architecture and is a place that still holds the history of some of the most complex events of Munich’s past. The first stunning building encountered on arrival at the King’s Square is the Propylaea, originally designed as a formal city-gate for Munich. It was the plan of Ludwig I (1825-48) who was a big fan of Greek architecture and history. This association was encouraged by the fact that his second son Otto was chosen as the first King of Greece when that confused country became a monarchy in 1832. This was at a time when newly independent countries in Europe felt the need for an hereditary monarch and so they had to look abroad for individuals with the correct ‘royal’ bloodline. Otto actually served 30 years before he was deposed. The Propylaea was considered by his father to be a recognition of the wonders of ancient Greece as well as his son’s status as King of this famous nation. Ludwig I’s grave is in St Boniface’s Abbey which is directly behind the first building on the right as you walk down the paths away from the Propylaea.
In 2018 when I visited this area, the two institutions housed not far from the Propylaea were decorated with hundreds of red tulips on their front lawns. The building referred to above (with the abbey behind it) is called Staatliche Antikensammlungen (State Collections of Antiquities). Over the road from it is the Glyptothek which is a very famous museum throughout Europe of Greek and Roman sculpture. It was a museum I wanted to visit on that trip but alas, it was closed for renovations so I had to miss out and visit the antiquities museum on the other side of the King’s Square.
From Konigsplatz, our route crosses over Max-Mannheimer Platz and we are now in an area of Munich dominated by the events of the 1930s and 40s. On the left here are two buildings that house the NS-Dokumentationszentrum, Munich’s in-depth approach to confronting its NAZI past. It was here that between 1931-45 that the so-called ‘Brown House’ stood, the first headquarters of the National German Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP). It was here that Hitler’s office existed until he had to move to Berlin in 1933. From that time until the end of the war, the building ran the administrative functions of the party. This building was a target for bombing during the war and it was in ruins by 1945; what was left was pulled down in 1947. At the start of the New Millennium, it appears that the locals were able to discuss their past and a Documentation Centre at the location of the ‘Braunes Haus’ was proposed and completed by 2011.
Below are two photos that illustrate the use of Konigsplatz both before and during the war. The image on the left below shows how the NAZIs used the Konigsplatz as a marching zone to celebrate their political victories. King Ludwig I must have spun in his grave with the use they made of his hallowed Propylaea. Ludwig’s Greek-style gate still stands but the two other buildings that the NAZIs added to this area can only be traced by the remnants of their foundations. These two buildings, the Honour Temples (Ehrentempel), can be seen in the photo on the right below and were built in 1935 to house the coffins of the 16 NAZIs who were killed in the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. The photo illustrates the pageantry involved in NAZI memories of the Putsch which impacted on so many locals during the war. The Italian Dictator Mussolini (image on right) must have felt very honoured (or very confused) when he joined Adolf Hitler at a parade honouring the ‘Blood Witnesses’ of the 1923 Putsch.
These curious NAZI temples only survived for 10 years. The American army in 1945 courteously removed the bodies from the Honour Temples and their families were given the opportunity to rebury them elsewhere. The upperparts of the structures were blown up and the materials recycled, only the foundations still remain, incorporated into the area’s landscape. Down Brienner Strasse from the NS Documentation Centre buildings can be seen a large roundabout that covers the next intersection. It is called Karolinenplatz and was commissioned by the King of Bavaria, Maximilian I Joseph (1805-25) to honour his wife, Princess Karoline von Baden. In the centre is a large obelisk, designed by the same architect who laid out the Englischer Garten. This memorial was built at the request of Maximilian’s son, Ludwig I (1825-48) in memory of the 30,000 Bavarian soldiers who were killed during Napoleon’s 1812 campaign against Russia.