Munichers may see their city as the world's largest 'town', but like most great cities it has many different characters. The first chapter in this travelogue covered the mostly cosmopolitan West, while the second focused on the seat of the Bavarian government and the residential areas of the East. This chapter covers the grand royal and cultural centers of the Northern downtown, as embodied by the Residenz and its environs along Ludwigstrasse and Residenzstrasse. It housed Munich's best museums, theaters, and landmarks -- and also its most sophisticated shopping.
Tom's first visit to Munich, by bus back in February of 1990, went to this part of town. At the time, the Berlin Wall had just fallen and whispers of German reunification were just beginning to be heard. Buses going through the Residenz district were disrupted by groups of demonstrators, or perhaps symphatizers (we were not sure) who were out in public celebrating or chanting around the government buildings along Maximilian Strasse. It was not anything organized from what Tom remembered, but it was a sign of changes to come.
Returning back several times over the early 21st century, Munich seemed to have grown tremendously since reunification, and much of the attractions in this part of the city have undergone quite some renovation in anticipation of increased tourism. This was where the museums and centers of culture are, and under a fresh coat of paint they were as beautiful and vibrant as ever.
The first photograph showed the Residenzstrasse, one of the two main north-south running from the east side of the Neues Rathaus on Marienplatz to Maximilianstrasse. While the Marienplatz chapter covered the more everyday shopping districts, Residenzstrasse crossed over into high fashion. The tall rows of buildings you saw may not be elaborately decorated, but they were very colorful and impressive. The Theateriner Strasse was a very similar road that ran from the west side of the Neues Rathaus.
Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse converged at Munich's grandest plaza, the Odeonsplatz. This plaza marked the center of the Residenz district, with the fabulous Feldherrnhalle (second photograph) at one end. The inspiration for this type of monument (whose origins were undiscovered by us), appeared to be Florence with its archways and columns framing the figurines of prominent Bavarians.
Adjacent to the Feldherrnhalle was the Theatinerkirche, which also smacked of Italian architecture. It was one of the most colorful buildings in Munich, certainly royal in its appearance -- which made sense since it faced the side door of the Residenz.
The Residenz was a very large palace that curiously faces northward, away from the city, with its main entrance hidden. Getting to the entrance meant going through the Hofgarten, Tom's favorite part. The Hofgarten was bounded on one side by a galerie wall that was painted with murals depicting Bavarian history. The third photograph showed an example of such a mural (showing the surrender of some military opponent to the King of Bavaria -- wearing the signature white and blue diamonds). I was unsure whether or not the murals were preserved or restored in any way as they were very faded and some of them damaged. Some also seemed missing, as there were large gaps in time unaccounted for among the murals (the details of the events are given in the mural if one knows German and can read the very artistic Gothic script).
The Hofgarten's western and northern wall were filled with more specialty shops, cafés, and monuments. The garden's interior has a huge gazebo, shown in the fourth photograph, where presumably outdoor summer concerts could be held. It also had the smallish Prinz-Karl Palais in the northeast corner which we did not visit.
The Residenz building itself was Baroque with several inner courtyards. This courtyard led to the entrance for the Residenz's two museums, only one of which we had time to visit -- the Schatzkammer, or Royal Treasury. Among the various Schatzkammers we had visited in Germany, this was one of the most interesting. The crown jewels were themselves awesome, but the ecclesiastic artifacts (ivory crosses and the like) were equally impressive. An entire wing of the museum was devoted to rare porcelain, jewelry, and other items of luxury during various periods of history. We recommend reserving a couple good hours to visit both the Schatzkammer and the Residenz museum. Trying to rush it wasn't a good idea. :-)
Coming back along Residenzstrasse, we came across the Max-Josef Platz and the final attraction in this chapter, the National Theater, shown in the fifth photograph. This photograph was taken on a beautifully sunny day during the 2001 Christmas Market season, when the Theater's gilded facade shown under the bright sunlight.
There were parts of the Residenz district that we did not visit, which especially included the Englischer Garten about a block further to the north. But, the Garten was not a place to visit in cold weather, and Tom kept scheduling his Munich trips during the wintertime. Some day, we'll get that rectified. Meanwhile, the rest of the Residenz district was good all year long.
Several trips taken between 2001-2004 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001,2004 Tom Galvin