If you are a first-time visitor to Munich, chances are you will spend most of your time in the western part of the old city, between the train station and the town, along with the shopping and eating districts in between. Geographically, this chapter covers the most territory of any in this travelogue, but let's face it -- this is where the crowds are, so if you're going to follow the crowds this is the travelogue for you!
The pictures here are arranged pretty much in sequence from the train station to the Marienplatz. When you come out of the front of the train station and go straight along Neuhauser Strasse, your first major landmark is about two hundred yards away -- the Karlstor, shown in the first photograph. The Karlstor looks almost out of the place, because it marks the old city wall which has been long consumed by urban sprawl. But it marks the beginning of the old city and its massive shopping district.
The Karlstor sits at one end of a large circular plaza called the Karlsplatz (Stachus), shown partly in the second photograph. The Karlsplatz is a major junction for public transportation (intersecting the streetcars and subways), and a home for various markets and festivals. During two visits (the Christmas Market in 2001 and our trip together in January 2004), the Karlsplatz was home to outdoor winter markets complete with skating rink and glühwein huts. The large building in the background was the Palace of Justice.
Going beyond the Karlsplatz, we entered Neuhauser Strasse, which as the third picture shows can often be a zoo. Much of the modern downtown shopping is done here, with all the modern European department store chains representing and a whole host of 'Bavarian souvenir' shops (although many of them sells Black Forest cuckoo clocks which are anything but Bavarian).
Even on a Sunday, this part of the downtown will be very crowded because of the numerous cafés and churches around. And boy does western Munich have churches. Many of them are built into the street architecture like storefronts, so sometimes you don't realize it's a church until you come up to it. The Michaelskirche was one example, it's gray house-style facade makes it looks like just another shop. The Bürgersaalkirche was also easily missed despite its bright red sandstone face -- sandwiches between two other shops.
Of course, when you talk about churches, the one to visit is the Frauenkirche, shown in the fourth photograph. The Frauenkirche is Munich's most distinctive, famous for its two rounded towers. Getting a clear photo of the Frauenkirche is next to impossible at street level because of the urban build-up around it, but a good view of it can be seen from the top of yet another church, St. Peter's, further down the street. Better yet, you can get a really good view from a ferris wheel from the Oktoberfest, which is how we got this shot.
The three times that Tom has toured downtown Munich, something has always gone on in the Frauenkirche, usually concerts. The Christmas concert in 2001 was particularly impressive, with the interior of the church set up with a special soundstage for a TV broadcast.
As we headed past the Frauenkirche, Neuhauser Strasse became Kaufinger Strasse (don't ask why), and we detoured toward the south along one of the major side streets known as Sendlinger Strasse. Far less traveled but still pretty busy, this street had a large number of market galerias plus a couple attractions worth exploring. One was the Stadtmuseum -- which is lavishly decorated in teals and yellows with white marble carvings. The other is the Assamkirche which is incredibly beautiful from the outside, and a golden treasure on the inside. We followed the street all the way to the Sendlinger Tor and its plaza with St. Matthias' Church, though we admittedly did not find that part so interesting.
Finally, we reached the Marienplatz with the fabulous new town hall (Neues Rathaus), shown in the fifth photo. This fabulous building is famous for its carousel of Bavarian figurines that turns during certain hours of the day. The carousel is found in the greenish center of the main tower. The cellar has a really fabulous restaurant (the Ratskeller) which for the price is one of the best meals in town, and it's huge so getting a seat is not too difficult.
Around the Marienplatz are several other prominent structures. The old town hall, or Altes Rathaus, is fabulous with its distinctive and colorful tower. The Holy Ghost and St. Peter's Churches round out the other sides.
During the Christmas Market, the Marienplatz was the center of activity. It was absolutely wall to wall people crammed across all the booths, consuming food and drink and shopping. The fact that it was an unusually sunny day for a December probably encouraged more than the usual throngs to congregate downtown.
Believe it or not, another place worth checking out is the massive train station itself, especially for eating on the go. The train station has a huge variety of fast food stops available, ranging from European to American to Asian. It also has some decent souvenir shopping, and obviously it has plenty of information booths available. The shopping extended to a wide underground network as well underneath the plaza in front and extending almost all the way to the Karlstor.
With all this activity, it's no wonder that the west part of the old city is the most traveled. The rest is certainly worth exploring, but for sure if you like to be among people, you'll assuredly be drawn back here.
Several trips taken between 2001-2004 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2004 Tom Galvin