A series of art museums to the north of Munich’s Hauptbahnhof combine to form one of the largest art collections in the world. Works range from antiquities to the present, and in genre, from sculptures to painting, drawings, and photographs. The three most famous art museums here are the three Pinakotheken, which house mainly European paintings: the Alte Pinakothek (14th to 18th centuries), the Neue Pinakothek (late 18th to early 20th centuries), and the Pinakothek der Moderne, which has four museums of modern paintings, sculpture, and photography.
The Alte Pinakothek is considered to be amongst the five most important art museums in the world. It is housed in a two-floor Neo Renaissance buildings erected around 1830 (and restored after major damage during the Second World War) to house the art collection of the Wittelsbachs. The Wittelsbach family ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918, and in addition to their often strange habits, generally had excellent taste when it came to art. Parts of their collection are housed in various palaces and museums throughout Munich and Bavaria, but the best pieces are here.
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 Spanish collection, however, is rather small.) It has numerous works of Old German masters such as Lucas Cranach and Hans Holbein. Albrecht Dürer, the artist who brought the Renaissance to Germany, is represented by several triptychs and paintings, including one of his most famous works – Self-portrait in a Fur Coat (1500), often also known as Albrecht Dürer looking like Jesus. The Flemish and Dutch collections are also comprehensive, with works by all the masters, including Van Dyck, Jordaens, Rembrandt, Hals, and one of the largest Rubens collections in the world. Italian and French artists are not neglected. Several galleries have works by Botticelli, Raphael, Da Vinci, Titian, Tiepolo, Lorrain, and Poussin.
The ground floor houses mostly early German masters. This collection may be of lesser interest to the average foreigner, but art connoisseurs will rave over the Cologne Masters (including several works by Stefan Lochner) and the large section dedicated to the artistic Brueghel family.
The museum is well laid out, allowing for easy navigation and full appreciation of the works without having to back track constantly. It is a large museum, making it sensible to concentrate on the major works only, especially if some of the other nearby museums are also on the same day’s itinerary.
Admission is free on Sunday, making it the best/worst day of the week to visit. On this visit, we had only that Sunday available for sightseeing, but unseasonably sunny weather kept crowds down to reasonable limits.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, closing at 8 pm on Tuesday. Admission is €5, free on Sunday. A combination day ticket for all three Pinakotheken is €12.