Munich Introduction Walking Tour, Munich

Munich Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Munich

Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, Bavaria’s capital Munich is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous attractions.

The city was first mentioned in 1158. Its name is usually interpreted as the Old/Middle High German term Munichen, which means "by the monks", deriving from the monks of the Benedictine order, who ran a monastery at the place that was later to become the Old Town of Munich. A monk is also depicted on the city's coat of arms.

Once Bavaria was established as a sovereign kingdom in 1806, Munich became a major European center of arts, architecture, culture and science. After World War I, it was at the center of substantial political unrest. In the 1920s, Munich became home to several political factions, among them the NSDAP. After the Nazis' rise to power, Munich was declared their "Capital of the Movement". The city was heavily bombed during World War II, but restored most of its traditional cityscape. After the end of postwar American occupation in 1949, there was a great increase in population and economic power during the years of Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle"). The city hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics and was one of the host cities of the 1974 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.

As a global center of art, science, technology, finance, culture and tourism, Munich enjoys a very high standard and quality of living. It is particularly popular for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and beer halls, including the famed Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589. In the Altstadt (Old Town), central Marienplatz square contains landmarks, such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular Glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century.

To experience first-hand the delights of Munich, take this self-guided orientation walk and explore!
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Munich Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Munich Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Munich (See other walking tours in Munich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: alexei
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Marienplatz (Mary's Square)
  • Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)
  • Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church)
  • Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market)
  • Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
  • Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall
  • Maximilianstrasse
  • Residenz Royal Palace
  • Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s Hall)
  • Theatine Church
  • Hofgarten and War Memorial
  • English Garden
Marienplatz (Mary's Square)

1) Marienplatz (Mary's Square) (must see)

Mary's Square is the central square in the heart of Munich, and has been the city's main square since 12th century. Its origins can be traced back to 1158 when it was established by Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria, as a market place for the city. Known for its stunning architectural monuments and vibrant atmosphere, Mary's Square is both a historical site and a lively urban hub that reflects the spirit of Munich.

The square is named after the Marian column erected in its center in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years' War. Atop the column is a golden statue of the Virgin Mary, which has become one of the defining symbols of the city.

Mary's Square is surrounded by significant architectural landmarks. On the east side, the New Town Hall stands as a striking example of neo-Gothic architecture. With its intricate facade and the iconic Glockenspiel, a beautiful carillon that chimes and reenacts two stories from the 16th century daily, the New Town Hall is a focal point of the square.

On the opposite side of the square, you'll find the Old Town Hall in a striking contrast of styles, showcasing late Gothic architecture. This building now hosts a toy museum, adding to the cultural richness of the area.

Mary's Square is not just a place for admiring historical architecture. It also hosts various markets and events throughout the year. The most notable of these is the Munich's traditional Christmas market, which transforms the square into a festive wonderland.

In addition to taking in history and admiring architecture, Mary's Square is also an excellent place for enjoying a pleasant stroll or a meal at one of the many nearby restaurants and cafes. Mary's Square offers a uniquely Bavarian experience that any visitor to the city should not miss.
Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)

2) Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) (must see)

The New Town Hall in Munich was constructed during the 19th century when the city was experiencing significant growth and prosperity. The existing Old Town Hall was too small to accommodate the needs of the local government, necessitating the construction of a new hall.

The chosen location for the New Town Hall was nearby, but it required the demolition of twelve buildings to clear the space. The construction of the hall took place between 1867 and 1908 and was designed by a young architect named Georg Hauberrisser, who was only 24 years old at the time.

The building showcases a Gothic Revival architectural style and boasts an impressive 400 rooms, covering an area of more than 9,000 square meters. Positioned overlooking Marienplatz, it also features a small garden at the rear, known as the Marienhof. In the basement, there's the Ratskeller restaurant. The first-floor balcony often opens for visitors to watch events in Marienplatz. The 85-meter-tall main tower has elevators for access.

One of the main attractions of the New Town Hall is the mechanical Glockenspiel, a two-level carillon consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, dating back to 1908. It performs a chiming and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century daily at 11am, 12pm, and 5pm during the summer months. The first story tells of Duke Wilhelm V marrying Renata of Lorraine, with a joust between life-sized knights on horseback, one representing Bavaria (white and blue) and the other Lothringen (red and white), with the Bavarian knight winning.

The second story, known as the Schäfflertanz (the coopers' dance), is set in 1517 during a plague outbreak in Munich. Legend has it that coopers, loyal to the duke, danced through the streets to inspire courage during tough times. This dance now represents resilience. It's performed in Munich every seven years during Fasching (German Carnival). Surprisingly, the official dance moves were defined in 1871, despite being described as an ancient tradition since 1700.

The entire Glockenspiel performance lasts between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on the selected tune for the day. As a concluding touch, a small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel quietly chirps three times, marking the end of this captivating spectacle.
Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church)

3) Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church) (must see)

The church known as Peterskirche, affectionately referred to as "Old Pete" by Munich residents, is a historic site believed to be central to the city's development. It traces back to the 12th century and stands on the grounds of a former 8th-century monastery and an even older church from before the Merovingian era.

The name "Munich" is derived from the monks who inhabited the original monastery, with "Munchen" echoing the German term for monk, "Monch." The location, once named "Petersberg" or Peter's Hill, saw its first Bavarian Romanesque church in 1180, which was destroyed by fire in 1327. The current structure of the church dates to 1368, with a steeple and Baroque choir installed in the 1600s. It underwent significant repairs after WWII to revive its pre-damage state.

Inside, Peterskirche houses a 15th-century sculpture by Erasmus Grasser and artwork by Johann Baptist Zimmerman. It's also home to the ornate remains of Saint Mundita, embellished with jewels. The church's steeple offers an observation deck, accessible by climbing 306 steps, which provides expansive views of Munich and the distant Alps on clear days. The visibility from the steeple is indicated by color-coded circles on the lower platform, with a white circle suggesting good conditions for viewing the Alps.

It's worth to pay a few euros to climb to the tower's top for a 360° view of Munich. The climb is not easy and definitely not for those with fear of heights – only for the adventurous lot!
If you come before noon, you can get a brilliant view of the Glockenspiel clock in action at Marienplatz without having to jostle with tourists down there.
The are two viewing binoculars allowing to soak up the atmosphere (colored rooftops, etc.).
Note: it might get windy and cold up there.
Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market)

4) Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market) (must see)

Farmer's Market is a bustling open-air marketplace in the heart of Munich. A beloved institution for both locals and tourists, this vibrant market offers a colorful array of fresh food, traditional Bavarian specialties, and artisanal products.

Established in 1807 by King Maximilian I, it began as a simple farmers' market in Mary's Square, the city's main square. As Munich grew, so too did the market, eventually requiring more space and relocating to its current location.

Spread across an area of 22,000 square meters, the market is home to more than 140 stalls and shops. Visitors can find a vast selection of items ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, baked goods, and spices to exotic ingredients, gourmet foods, and homemade crafts. Traditional Bavarian delicacies, such as pretzels, sausages, and local cheeses, are also readily available, providing an authentic taste of regional cuisine.

Beyond its food offerings, Farmer's Market is also known for its beer garden, one of Munich's most popular. Amidst the market's hustle and bustle, the beer garden provides a delightful spot for people to unwind and enjoy local beers under the shade of chestnut trees.

Farmer's Market isn't just a marketplace; it's a vital part of Munich's cultural fabric. It hosts a variety of traditional events, including dance and music performances, seasonal festivals, and a colorful Mardi Gras celebration.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

5) Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

Before the construction of the Neues Rathaus in 1874, the Altes Rathaus, also known as the Old Town Hall, used to serve as the seat of the Munich Municipality. It's situated on the eastern side of Marienplatz and has a unique history. Unlike many other buildings that were demolished to make way for the Neues Rathaus, the Old Town Hall was left untouched.

The construction of the Old Town Hall took place between 1470 and 1480, and its design was created by Jörg von Halsbach, a renowned architect responsible for the Frauenkirche in Munich as well. Initially, the building exhibited Late Gothic architectural features, but it underwent several remodeling phases, ultimately adopting a Neo-Gothic style between 1861 and 1864. To accommodate traffic flow, two tunnels were constructed through the building from 1877 to 1934.

During World War II, the Rathaus endured significant damage from bombings, but extensive restoration work was carried out, aiming to restore its 15th-century design.

Today, the Old Town Hall serves as the location for city council offices, certain administrative departments, and even houses a Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum) situated in four rooms within its tower. Additionally, visitors can explore a souvenir and gift shop on the first floor, where they can find unique items such as replicas of The Morris Dancers, which are wooden sculptures created by Munich's Erasmus Grasser.

***Third Reich Walk***
This stately complex in the heart of Munich played a key role in the Nazi’s seizure of power. It is here that Joseph Goebbels gave his infamous speech that inspired Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass,” on November 9, 1938, a nationwide pogrom that led to the destruction of numerous Jewish businesses and arrest of thousands of Jewish citizens. Kristallnacht is generally considered to be the start of the “Ultimate Solution of the Jewish Question”, i.e. the Holocaust.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the finest historical buildings to see in Marienplatz. Just as the neighboring New Town Hall, it is open to climb upstairs to the top. Inside, the ground floor is just as gorgeous, exactly as one would expect a typical German building to look like.

In addition to the Toy Museum, the Altes Rathaus offers yet another bit of fun in the form of the Juliet Capulet Statue, located on the side of the building, a gift from the city of Verona to Munich in the 1970s.
Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall

6) Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall (must see)

The Hofbräuhaus is probably the best-known “watering hole” in Munich. Dating all the way back to 1589, this beer hall was founded by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, and originally, surprisingly enough, was not open to the public. Luckily for today's tourists and locals, though, in 1828 it finally opened up to the masses. Today, this hospitable spot, thick with traditional atmosphere and friendly vibes, is where you can come to enjoy typical Bavarian food to your heart's content, listen to the Oompah band play loudly on stage, and gulp down the rich Hofbräuhaus beer in large, one-liter steins, which the Germans call a Mass.

The Bavarian Beer Purity Law, passed in 1516, states that only natural ingredients can be used for beer brewing. To this day, this law is still duly adhered to and the beers of Munich, including Hofbräuhaus, are held to that high, delicious standard of beer making.

In case you want to take home one of the authentic huge Hofbräuhaus beer steins, you can find them at the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl gift shop at the cost of 10 to 15 Euros apiece. Just don’t tell any of your German friends that you might be willing to fill it up with something other than the pure, golden Hofbräuhaus beer. Never!!!

7) Maximilianstrasse

Maximilianstraße, situated in Munich, is one of the city's four prominent avenues, which also include Brienner Straße, Ludwigstraße, and Prinzregentenstraße. It commences at Max-Joseph-Platz, where you'll find the Residenz and the National Theatre, and stretches from east to west.

This street was conceived and initiated in 1850 under the patronage of King Maximilian II of Bavaria, after whom it was named. A statue of King Maximilian II, known as the Maxmonument, sculpted by Kaspar von Zumbusch in 1875, is located in the eastern part of the avenue. Another noteworthy feature associated with Maximilianstraße is the Maximiliansbridge, adorned with the statue of Pallas Athene, constructed between 1857 and 1863 as an extension of Maximilianstraße leading to the Maximilianeum.

King Maximilian II aimed to create a novel architectural style that would blend elements from historical architectural models with contemporary construction techniques through this project. The avenue is flanked by predominantly Neo-Gothic buildings that draw inspiration from the English Perpendicular style.

In alignment with this concept, the north facade of the Old Mint Yard, facing the National Theatre, was redesigned to incorporate Neo-Gothic elements. Notable landmarks along the street encompass the Schauspielhaus (1901), the Upper Bavaria district administration building (1856–1864), the Museum Fünf Kontinente (Museum of Ethnology, 1858–1865), and the Wilhelmsgymnasium (1875–1877).

The western segment of Maximilianstraße is dedicated to upscale shopping and lavish living, featuring an abundance of art galleries, designer boutiques, luxury stores, jewelry shops, and the renowned five-star Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten (Kempinski), constructed by Rudolf Gottgetreu between 1856 and 1858. Prominent brands like Gucci, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Versace, and others have replaced traditional shops, art galleries, and restaurants on Maximilianstraße, now commanding the highest retail rents in Germany.
Residenz Royal Palace

8) Residenz Royal Palace (must see)

The Munich Residenz, once the official home of Bavaria's ruling Wittelsbach family and the government's base, is now a public museum renowned for its elaborate interior design. It was established as a modest castle in Munich's corner by Maximilian I in the early 1600s and later expanded to its present scale by King Ludwig I with architect Leo von Klenze. The palace suffered extensive damage in World War II and underwent restoration in the 1980s.

Now, the Residenz hosts a museum, a concert venue, the Residenz Treasury, and the Cuvilliés Theater. The palace's Antiquarium, a grand Renaissance hall adorned with classical statues, is noted for being the largest in Europe. With 10 courtyards and 130 decorated rooms, the complex holds significant historical artifacts, including the Wittelsbach's jeweled possessions and Albert V's vast coin collection, showcasing 300,000 coins from ancient to modern times. The surrounding French garden, complete with a fountain and a temple crowned with a Bavaria statue replica, adds to the palace's grandeur.

Why You Should Visit:
Versailles-like in its gilded opulence and glory, including the amazing courtyards.
The complex is huge, even more so now that several rooms and corridors have been renovated and opened to the public after many years.
There are an 'old' and a 'new' area to explore and a very good audio guide included with the ticket price.

You can buy combined tickets to the Theatre and the Treasury for a complete experience.
The audio guide offers wealth of information about the artwork/rooms/historical events, so you can skip forward to the parts of the tour suiting your interest.
A full tour takes several hours, so you may want to split it into sections with a break for coffee & snacks.
Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s Hall)

9) Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s Hall)

The Feldherrnhalle, also known as Field Marshal's Hall, is a substantial loggia constructed as a tribute to Bavarian military leaders and soldiers who lost their lives in the Franco-Prussian War. This memorial project was initiated by King Ludwig I of Bavaria and designed by Friedrich von Gartner. Its construction took place from 1841 to 1844 on the location of the former city gate, Schwabinger Tor, situated at the southern terminus of Ludwigstrasse, near the Palais Preysing. The architectural inspiration for this structure was drawn from the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.

At the front of the building, there are sizable bronze statues honoring two esteemed Bavarian military figures: Johann Tilly and Karl Philipp von Wrede. These sculptures were crafted by the sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler. In 1882, another sculpture commemorating the Bavarian army's achievements in the Franco-Prussian War was added, designed by Ferdinand von Miller Jr. and placed in the center of the memorial. As you ascend the steps leading to the monument, you'll notice two lion sculptures, created by Wilhelm Ruemann in 1906. One of these lions, with an open mouth, gazes towards the Residenz Royal Palace, while the other, with a closed mouth, faces the nearby church.

However, the place is perhaps best known for an incident that occurred in 1923, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, when there was a clash between the Bavarian Police and followers of Adolf Hitler. This event led to the arrest of Hitler and his supporters, who would later play significant roles in history.
Theatine Church

10) Theatine Church

The Theatine Church of Saint Cajetan is a Rococo structure that was the first Baroque-style religious building in Munich. It was originally constructed for the Italian order of Theatines.

The Theatine church was commissioned in 1662 by the elector Ferdinand and his consort, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, in gratitude for the birth of their long-awaited son and heir, Max Emanuel. It was designed by the Italian architect Agostino Barelli on the lines of the Sant'Andrea della Valle Church in Rome. The church is clad in yellow-orange, giving it a bright, airy Mediterranean look.

The design of the Theatine Church later influenced the architecture of many churches in Southern Germany. The original architect, Agostino Barelli, was succeeded by another Italian, Enrico Zucalli, who created a 71-meter high dome and two 70-meter high towers. The Rococo façade was designed by François de Cuvilliers and his son in 1738.

The interior stucco decorations were made by the Italian sculptor, Nicolo Petri, and the statues by Germany’s Wolfgang Leutner. The great black altar was designed by Andreas Faistenberger. The crypt of the Theatine Church holds the graves of Max Emanuel and his parents, and a small chapel within the church holds the graves of King Maximilian II and his consort.

Why You Should Visit:
Amid the multitude of churches with fascinating interiors in Munich, this one truly stands out for its white appearance.
The white marble with beautiful ornate work is very beautiful in natural light, while the exterior is famous for its yellow color and Rococo style.
Free to enter and nicely air-conditioned – a great spot for a break on a hot summer day.

Convenient to visit before or after spending time at the nearby Residenz.
Hofgarten and War Memorial

11) Hofgarten and War Memorial

The Hofgarten is a serene green space nestled in the heart of Munich, situated between the Residenz Royal Palace and the English Garden.

This garden was commissioned by Elector Maximilian I and designed in the Italian Renaissance style between 1613 and 1617. It is organized around two central pathways that converge at a structure known as the Temple of Diana, which was designed by architect Heinrich Schön the elder in 1615. Originally, a 1623 sculpture of Bavaria by Hubert Gerhard stood on the rooftop, but now only a replica is on the Temple, while the original is in the Residenz. The Hofgarten was damaged in World War II but was later restored to its original design.

Maintaining its 17th-century charm, the garden features meticulously arranged lawns and flower beds. The original water features and fountains have been restored and are in working order. In the northeast corner of the garden stands a square black granite monument dedicated to the White Rose group, a gathering of philosophy students who were executed following an unjust trial for their non-violent resistance against the Nazi regime. T.S. Eliot references the Hofgarten in his poem, "The Waste Land," symbolizing the decline of European royal families and the hollowness of aristocratic life.

Towards the eastern end of the Hofgarten, in front of the Bayerische Staatskanzlei, you'll find the Kriegerdenkmal, a memorial to commemorate the Munich citizens who lost their lives in World War I. Inside a rectangular enclosure, an open crypt holds a statue of a fallen soldier. Inaugurated by Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, in 1924, it was completed in 1928 and now enjoys cultural heritage status.
English Garden

12) English Garden (must see)

Munich's English Garden stands as Europe's largest publicly-owned park, nestled in the heart of the city, spanning a vast 900 acres, surpassing even the expanse of New York's Central Park.

Originally conceived by Archduke and Elector Carl Theodore, this green oasis was masterminded by the American-born British physicist Benjamin Thompson, who later assumed the title of Count Rumford. The chosen location had once served as the hunting grounds for the Wittelsbach Royal family and was opened to the public in 1792 as a sprawling three-mile-long park along the picturesque Isar River. Its nomenclature derives from its informal garden design, reminiscent of those popular in the United Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The English Garden enjoys popularity among locals, offering a serene haven for relaxation and soccer enthusiasts. It also permits nude sunbathing for those inclined. Noteworthy attractions within the park encompass a monument dedicated to Count Rumford, a Japanese Garden crafted for the Munich Olympics, the Monopteros Apollo Temple, and a northward-located amphitheater. Furthermore, it houses four renowned beer gardens—the Chinese Tower, the Seehaus, Osterwald Garten, and the Hirschau.

Why You Should Visit:
A large and sociable area with various routes to choose from and nice scenery, many places to eat, listen to music and swim, or just dip your feet into the river water.
In it, among other things, you will find the popular 'Eisbach surfer' operating artificial waves outside all time of the year.
In the summer, it is also possible to visit the beer gardens at the Chinese Tower, where you can listen to traditional old-fashioned Bavarian music while sipping on a draft beer.

Go there on a Sunday if you dare... there's not much else to do on Sunday in Munich, so all the locals put on their walking shoes, and off they go.
If you enjoy swimming or would like to make use of the artificial wave system, be sure to bring a swim kit.
Many people ride bikes through the park, so keep your eyes open for speeding cyclists!

Walking Tours in Munich, Germany

Create Your Own Walk in Munich

Create Your Own Walk in Munich

Creating your own self-guided walk in Munich is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Old Town Walking Tour

Old Town Walking Tour

The Old Town of Munich, sprawling on the west bank of the River Isar, is a treasure trove of architectural splendor and cultural heritage. Also known in German as Altstadt, this medieval area forms the historic core and cultural heart of the Bavarian capital. The entire Old Town is listed as a historical monument and is a living museum – “where the past harmonizes with the present in a grand...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Third Reich Munich Walking Tour

Third Reich Munich Walking Tour

In the first quarter of the 20th century, the capital of Bavaria, Munich, was ill-fated to become the birthplace of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (aka NSDAP or Nazi Party) and the site of its early activities. The city played a significant role in the rise and consolidation of power of the Nazi Party and, ultimately, the establishment of the Third Reich.

The Third Reich went...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Old Town Souvenir Shops

Old Town Souvenir Shops

"Collect moments, not things," wise men say. In reference to travel, this may be interpreted as the prevalence of experiences and memories over material gains. Still, when it comes to travel mementos, albeit material they are, memories and experiences are primarily what these little (or not so little) tokens are all about.

And it would be a pity to leave Munich without bringing home...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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