The Art and Culture of Munich

A fabulous series of galleries and museums makes Munich one of the world's top art and culture cities. Here we explore some options.

The Art and Culture of Munich

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

Munich is more about art and culture than about anything else. The city has become recognized internationally for its fine galleries, great orchestras and cultured atmosphere. It was Munich's name as an art town, a sort of Athens on the Isar, that drew the young Adolph Hitler there in 1913. Over twenty years later, in 1935, he drafted a vision of Munich as a modern "city of the Hellenes" - the "capital of German art" and the future "capital of the [Nazi] movement."

Germany’s art and culture have been shaped by regional, European and international influences. Regardless of whether it is the medieval painter Albrecht Dürer or German Romanticism artists such as Carl Spitzweg – both were leading figures of great artistic tradition. In the early 20th century, the expressionist works of Franz Marc as well as urban images by Max Beckmann formed the basis for the high esteem in which German expressionism is held around the world.

When you look at the history of Munich, you will see that the conservation of art and culture has always been given a high degree of priority here. 700 years of rule by the Wittelsbach family gave the trading and residential city its present-day importance as a centre of European culture and this tradition continues now.

Munich’s music and theatre scene, including three major world-class orchestras, guarantee unbridled listening pleasure. The Bavarian State Opera is undoubtedly the world's most prolific opera house with 350 performances a year! Some 58 theatres offer a varied program. The world's greatest opera and ballet stars appear in the Bavarian State Opera in the National Theatre. During the summer, the famous Opera Festival performances attract thousands of visitors. Renowned theatres are also the Gärtnerplatztheater and Prinzregententheater, which stages operetta, ballet and performances of the theatre academy. The Deutsches Theater puts on topical shows and musicals. The Münchner Kammerspiele, an Art Nouveau style building, is one of the theaters in Germany with the highest reputation.

But the culture extends further than this. It is worth visiting Muller’s Baths to see the opulence which exists in unexpected places. Also take in the Viktualien Market for a sample of German life mixing fine food and drink with that relaxed sophisticated attitude that, as a tourist, will leave you wanting more.${QuickSuggestions} Munich's museums and galleries are some of the most important in the world. The entire palette of European culture can be admired in some 46 museums and collections and numerous galleries. The Old Pinakothek, presents European paintings from the 14th - 18th century. The collection has acquired an international reputation on account of great masters such as Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Close by, the New Pinakothek shows European paintings and sculpture of the 18th and 19th century. The Pinakothek der Moderne, exhibits contemporary art, architecture, and design. The ancient art of the Greeks and Roman can be seen in the Glyptothek as well as in the State Antique Collection.

The museums are relatively inexpensive compared to some places but if you visit on a Sunday, many have €1 admission. If you visit several during the day, it makes for a great saving and most have restaurants where you can catch up on food and drinks.${BestWay} The four major art museums, the market and the baths are all within walking distance of downtown Munich. Fortunately, the art galleries and museums are all grouped together so you can visit all, or a selection, in the one day. Odeonsplatz is the best underground railway station for this area.

Muller's Baths

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

I had heard of Muller’s Baths before arriving in Munich but then stumbled across them purely by accident. I really pleased that I did. The Müllersches Volksbad, still rightly considered the most splendid swimming pools in Germany, is remarkable for the magnificence of its architecture and the lavishness of its decor. Designed by Karl Hocheder and constructed between 1897 and 1901, the building has something of a Moorish quality, at the same time echoing a Roman thermes.

The baths were built through the generosity of Karl Müller, a Munich engineer, who bequeathed to the city five houses with a value of 1.8 million gold marks on condition that the money be used to construct an attractive swimming pool for the citizens of Munich. For this Müller was later ennobled by the Prince Regent Luitpold. In its day this was the most modern baths in Europe, and they have been brought up to date when Müller's was completely renovated a few years ago.

This is no dull swimming pool but a real celebration of grandeur and style. When the baths opened, they were hailed as the most modern baths in all of Europe, surpassing anything in luxury but those at the Gellert in Budapest. The system of bathing and the attitude to women swimmers has changed over the years. The baths today have a "gentlemen's pool" with barrel vaulting and a "ladies' pool" with a domed vaulting roof. There are also sweat baths and individual baths for those who like to let it all hang out - but in private. Alas, the famous Zamperlbad, or doggie bath, in the basement, is no more.

Admission for swimming is around €5 and other facilities are extra, but regulars can get a ticket for less. I’m told (but the source is not necessarily completely reliable) that you can get free admission on your birthday. If you happen to be in Munich on that day, check it out.

There is a complicated set of opening hours but if you arrive between 9am and 6pm most days, you will find it open.
Müllersches Volksbad (Public Baths)
Rosenheimer Straße 1 Haidhausen
Munich, Germany, 81667
49 89 23613434

Viktualien Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

This is right at the heart of the city and is a ‘must-see’ for all visitors. This open-air market is a feast for the eyes and palette, and just full of local color.

This huge square has been the city’s main marketplace for over two hundred years. There are stalls selling fruit and vegetables brought in daily from suburban orchards and gardens, food stalls and a large beer garden. You can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meat, fowl, ham, salami, sausages, wine, tea, honey, herbs and spices, fresh flowers, dried flowers, and more. It offers exotic ingredients that are not available anywhere else in the area.

Although it was originally all open-air, over the years a number of market halls were added: Schrannenhalle, the precursor to today's "Großmarkthalle" or Great Market Hall, which burnt down in 1932, a butchers' hall, fish hall, pavilions for bakeries and fruit vendors, stands for fowl and venison and flower shops were added.

The visitor sees pyramids of giant white radishes, sturdy orange-red carrots, waxy white and green leeks, globes of red, green, and white cabbage, turnips from small, violet tinged globes to giant rutabagas and potatoes in all shapes and sizes. Even more typical are the ropes and garlands of the famed Bavarian wursts - the typical big German sausage like the snowy veal Weisswurste which is steamed, coarser pork bratwurst that is fried, as its name implies, red and spicy, long thin Polnischers, and the pungent, rough-textured Regensburger.

Some of the wares are sold outdoors under umbrellas and canopies, many sporting the Bavarian state colours of blue and white. In winter, transparent plastic panels protect those stalls from the elements. The owners of the stalls present their food in a very decorative way, so that you involuntarily stop right in front of each one and just look at the food. Many of the sales assistants let you sample what you would like to try as long as you don't overdo it. Nowhere else in Munich can you find a greater variety of fresh food and delicacies. And after shopping, stop off at the beer hall and sit under the trees.

The market is open Monday to Friday from 9am till 6pm, Saturday from 8am till 4pm.

The market also hosts a number of traditional and folkloric events such as weighing celebrities, brewers’ day, gardeners’ day, opening of the asparagus season, summer festival, dance of the market women on Shrove Tuesday, etc. This helps to make the Viktualienmarkt, which has been a pedestrian zone since November 6, 1975 a meeting point and a place to chill.

An impressive view over the market and nearby Marienplatz can be enjoyed from the tower of St. Peter’s Church, which stands beside the square.
Center of Munich
Munich, Germany, 80331

Glyptothek (The sculpture museum)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

I have been interested in sculpture since visiting the Kroller-Muller Museum and Sculpture Gardens in the Netherlands many years ago and being blown away by some wonderful works, including those by Henry Moore, sitting in the middle of a national park. Having since seen some of the best works by Michelangelo and other geniuses, I marvel at how these masterpieces can be created.

It was thus with some anticipation that I visited the Glyptothek. This is one of Munich's foremost museums, housing a large collection of sculptures. The landmark building is part of the oldest museum in the city and is fashioned after a Greek temple.

This wonderful building was the work of Leo von Klenze who built this complex in 1816-34 to house Ludwig 1’s collection of Roman and Greek sculptures. Klenze designed not only the building but also the arrangement of the exhibits within. Its severe, imposing Ionic portico projects from a wall containing six large sculptures in niches.

The Glyptothek contains sculptures dating from the archaic age (ca. 650 BC) to the Roman era. Among the most famous sculptures here are the "Barberini Faun" and the temple figures from Aegina. The Sleeping Satyr or Barberini Faun, is a marble copy of a bronze original, ca. 200 B.C. It is larger than life with a height of just over 7 ft.(2.15 m.) This statue was looted by the Romans during their conquests in Greece. It was found in the 17th century in the Mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian in Rome and was bought by the Barberini family and placed in their palace. The Barberinis probably sold the marble to Ludwig I of Bavaria during the 1700's when they sold much of their collection.

The Archaic period pediment sculptures depicting warriors in battle at the First and Second Battles of Troy were retrieved from the ruined Temple of Aphaia at Aegina and brought to Munich in 1811. The impressive bodies of the soldiers stir passions even today. They should not be missed.

I really enjoyed this museum and would have stayed longer but for the fact that there were two other museums on our list that day. Realistically, you could spend a few hours here very easily. Opening times are from 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is €3 but only €1 on Sunday.

Tel: 2892 7503 for more information.

Königsplatz 3
Munich, Germany, 80333
+49 89 286100

Alte Pinakothek

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

This is one of the world’s most famous art galleries. It was designed by Leo von Klenze and was built in 1826-36 in the Italian-Renaissance style. This gallery, and its adjacent sisters, makes Munich one of the greatest cultural cities in Europe.

In the sixteenth century, Bavaria's rulers began acquiring works of art for their personal enjoyment. These were placed in several palaces and galleries throughout Bavaria. In 1836, many of the works were moved to the Alte Pinakothek and opened to the public.

The museum houses an expanded collection of several thousand European paintings from the 13th to 18th century. Its collection of Early Italian, Old German, Old Dutch and Flemish paintings is possibly the most important in the world. More than 800 paintings are exhibited.

The early German works are outstanding, particularly Durer’s self-portrait (1500) and his The Four Apostles (1526), and Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve and his Venus. There is also the best collection of Rubens you are likely to see. I was particularly impressed by the enormous Great Last Judgement (1607). The Hippopotamus Hunt is a triumph. There are also some exceptional Italian and French works.

There are only two floors with exhibits, but the museum is immense. The landscape painter par excellence of the Danube school, Albrecht Altdorfer, is represented by six monumental works. Several galleries are given over to works by Dutch and Flemish masters. The St. Columba Altarpiece (1460-62), by Roger van der Weyden, is the most important of these, in size as well as significance. Measuring nearly 3m (10 ft.) across, it is a triumph of van der Weyden's subtle linear style and one of his last works (he died in 1464). You'll also see a Madonna by Da Vinci.

The numerous works by Rembrandt and van Dyck include a series of religious panels painted by Rembrandt for Prince Frederick Hendrick of the Netherlands. Make sure you don't miss the tiny Rembrandt self-portrait as a young man (1629). A variety of French, Spanish, and Italian artists are found in both the larger galleries and the small rooms lining the outer wall. The Italian masters are well represented by Fra Filippo Lippi, Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael (Holy Family), and Titian.

The first floor is larger and generally more interesting than the ground floor. The museum’s catalogue reads like a who’s who of European art and covers all major periods and artists. The museum is well laid out, allowing for easy navigation and full appreciation of the works without having to back track constantly. They have a nice gift shop and a small cafe where you can take a rest and some nourishment before continuing across the street at the Neue Pinakothek, or a little further to the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Tel: 2380 5216 for more details.
Alte Pinakothek
Barer Straße 27
Munich, Germany, 80333
+49 89 23805159

Pinakothek der Moderne

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

This striking glass and concrete complex only opened in 2002 but it has already established its place on the cultural landscape. The rectilinear facade, dominated by white and grey concrete, is interrupted by large windows and high rising columns, the latter supporting the extensive canopied roof. The museum holds four outstanding art and architectural collections, including modern art, industrial and graphic design, graphic art, and the Technical University’s architectural museum.

This is Germany’s largest display of fine and applied arts as, for the first time, four major collections came together under one roof. This is Munich's version of the Tate Gallery in London or the Pompidou in Paris.

The architectural galleries hold the largest specialist collection of its kind in Germany, comprising some 350,000 drawings, 100,000 photographs, and 500 models. The applied arts section features more than 50,000 items. You go from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution up to today's computer culture, with exhibitions of Art Nouveau and Bauhaus along the way.

Key works of classical Modernism stemming from the hand of Beckmann, Kandinsky, Klee, Magritte and Picasso form a focal point of the art collection. Major groups of works by the subsequent generation of artists, represented among others by Bacon, Baselitz, Beuys, Judd, Twombly and Warhol, stake out the different positions in 20th century art. Contemporary art is of course likewise at home here – for example in the form of video installations by Pipilotti Rist and illuminated photographs by Jeff Wall. Visitors can familiarize themselves with the broad field of prints, as the Museum contains 400,000 drawings and prints, from Leonardo through to contemporary artists.

Besides the four main areas, it is worth visiting the building's basement, which hosts temporary exhibitions, thematically grouped exhibitions and interdisciplinary shows. There is also a varied event programme throughout the year featuring performing arts, music, literature, dance, and film.

You can stroll through the museum's many rooms alone or take advantage of one of the guided tours that are available in many languages. I enjoyed wandering but must admit that I probably missed some of the more interesting exhibits because I didn’t really know what I was passing. I checked out the museum's café which serves a range of snacks and drinks but the choice was limited because they had run out of several things. There are many books on offer in the bookshop.

Admission is €9, or a combined day ticket with Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne is €11. On Sunday admission to this gallery is only €1. The gallery opens Tuesday, Wednesday, and weekends from 10am to 5pm, and Thursday and Friday from 10am to 8pm.

Tel: 2380 5118 for more information.
Pinakothek der Moderne
Museum Brandhorst
Munich, Germany, 80799
+49 89 23805 253

National Theatre

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by LenR on November 3, 2006

This is home to the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian State Opera Company. It is one of the most used theatres in the city and in impressive classic style.

The first theatre, commissioned by King Maximilian 1st of Bavaria and designed by Karl von Fischer, which opened in 1818 with "Die Weihe" by Ferdinand Fränzl, was destroyed by fire in 1823. This second theatre, designed by Leo von Klenze, was reconstructed and re-opened in 1825, incorporating neo-Greek features as seen in its portico and triangular pediment.

During the mid-19th century, it was to see the premieres of a significant number of operas, including many by German composers. These included Wagner’s "Tristan und Isolde" (1865); "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" (1968); "Das Rheingold" (1869); and "Die Walküre" (1870).

During the latter part of the Century, it was Richard Strauss who would make his mark on the theatre in the city in which he was born in 1864. After accepting the position of conductor for a short time, Strauss returned to the theatre to become chief conductor from 1894 to 1898. In the pre-War period, his "Friedenstag" (1938) and "Capriccio" were premiered in Munich. Richard Strauss was the son of a horn player with the Bavarian Court Opera. A fountain was built in 1962 on the Neuhauser to pay tribute to him.

Although somewhat modified in 1930 to create an enlarged stage area with updated equipment, the second theatre survived until Second World War bombing destroyed it. Based on the original plans by Karl von Fischer, the architect Gerhard Moritz Graubner recreated the original neo-classical 2100 seat theatre. Albeit somewhat enlarged and only the foyer and main staircase retaining their original look, the theatre opened in 1963 with a performance of Richard Wagner’s "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg".

Tel: 2185 1920 for further information
Nationaltheater München-National Theater Munich
Max-Joseph-Platz 2
Munich, Germany
089 2185-01

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