Old Town Walking Tour, Munich

Old Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Munich

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 composition.”

The Old Town is centered around Marienplatz (Mary's Square), which has been the city's main square since the 12th century. Among the surrounding buildings, the most prominent, perhaps, is the Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) with its iconic Glockenspiel (carillon). The square is usually abuzz with crowds anxious to see the Glockenspiel's performance, which occurs several times a day, featuring life-size figurines reenacting scenes from Munich's history.

Just south of Marienplatz lies Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market), a bustling open-air food market with a beer garden. There you can find a delightful array of fresh produce, regional specialties, and international delicacies – a good place to explore and enjoy a variety of culinary delights.

The Frauenkirche, or the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady, is another notable landmark in Old Town Munich. With its distinctive twin towers, this is one of the city's most recognizable symbols.

Old Town Munich is also home to numerous other churches like St Peter's Church (Peterskirche), the oldest church in the city, and a small Baroque-style gem – the Asam Church (Asamkirche) – renowned for its richly decorated interior.

Wandering amid the Altstadt's charming narrow alleys and grand squares is like taking a stroll through a tapestry of time, woven with threads of tradition, beauty, and Bavarian charm. To capture the allure of Munich's Old Town and the unique atmosphere it exudes, take this self-guided walk.
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Old Town Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Munich (See other walking tours in Munich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Marienplatz (Mary's Square)
  • Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)
  • Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum)
  • Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
  • Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church)
  • Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market)
  • Munchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum of Munich)
  • Asam Church
  • Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
  • Kaufingerstrasse/Neuhauserstrasse
  • Karlsplatz
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 was built in the 19th century, at a time when the city of Munich enjoyed great prosperity. The Old Town Hall was too small to accommodate the local government, so a new Hall had to be constructed.

The site for it was chosen right there nearby, and to clear space, twelve buildings had to be demolished. The Hall was erected between 1867 and 1908, designed by young architect, Georg Hauberrisser, who was only 24 at the time.

The building features Gothic Revival style, has 400 rooms and covers area of more than 9,000 square meters. Overlooking Marienplatz, it also has a small garden at the back, called the Marienhof. In the basement there is the Ratskeller restaurant, and the first floor balcony is often open to visitors to observe sporting events and concerts that are taking place in Marienplatz from time to time. The 85-meter main tower of the Hall is served by elevators.

Another key attraction here is the mechanical, two-level Glockenspiel (Carillon) consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures, dating from 1908. Each day at 11am and 12pm, as well as at 5pm during summer, it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. The first one is of marriage of local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. In honor of the couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (in red and white). The Bavarian knight always wins, naturally.

The second story is called Schäfflertanz (the coopers' dance). Set in 1517, the year of plague in Munich, according to myth, the coopers, loyal to the duke, danced through the streets to "bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions." Their dance came to symbolize perseverance in difficult times. By tradition, the dance is performed in Munich every seven years during Fasching (German Carnival). Described in 1700 as "an age-old custom", the current dance moves were defined only in 1871, though.

The entire show lasts between 12 and 15 minutes, depending on the tune played that day. At the end, a small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps quietly three times, marking the conclusion of the spectacle.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum)

3) Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum)

The Toy Museum of Munich, occupying the Old Town Hall tower, is unique in a sense that it showcases dolls and toys practically from all over the globe. In essence, this museum houses the collection of the Czech writer, cartoonist and film maker, Ivan Steiger, and his wife Eva who opened it to the public in 1983.

Mechanical toys are displayed here in such a manner that the visitors can see the intricate mechanism that went into their creation. A spiral stone staircase leads through the exhibition arranged in accordance to the dolls types, spread across four floors.

Among the exhibits here are the earliest teddy bears made by renowned doll maker, Margaret Steiff, and the pretty china doll creations of yet another well-known doll maker, Käthe Kruse. Most of the dolls are second-hand and were once precious belongings of a child at some point in the past. With the help of X rays, visitors can view of the inside of the dolls, too, to understand how this or that particular item was put together.

Part of the display is devoted to mechanical cars, trains and merry go rounds. A notable sample among these is the antique French laufpuppe, dating back to 1855. One can view the complex mechanism that enables it to move the arms and legs, and even talk. The Toy Museum also boasts an impressive collection of each and every outfit ever made to clothe Barbies, starting from day one of this iconic doll.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

4) Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)

Once the seat of the Munich Municipality, prior to the construction of Neues Rathaus in 1874, Altes Rathaus (the Old Town Hall) stands on the eastern side of Marienplatz. It was left untouched, unlike many other buildings that were demolished to make way for the building.

The Old Town Hall was constructed between 1470 and 1480, based on the design by Jörg von Halsbach, the renowned architect who also created the Frauenkirche in Munich. At the time of its construction, the building appeared Late Gothic in style, but was remodeled several times and ultimately altered to Neo-Gothic, between 1861 and 1864. To allow passage of traffic, throughout 1877-1934, two tunnels were built through the building. The Rathaus suffered greatly from the World War II bombings and was extensively restored, based on its 15th-century design.

Today, the building hosts offices of the city council, some administrative departments and a Toy Museum (Spielzugmuseum) set in four rooms within the tower. There is a souvenir & gift shop on the first floor that sells unique items such as, in particular, replicas of The Morris Dancers, wooden sculptures 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.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church)

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

Affectionately called “Alter Peter” (Old Pete) by the locals, Peterskirche is said to be the site around which the city of Munich has evolved. Originated in the 12th century, it occupies the place of an older, 8th-century monastery and pre-Merovingian church.

The monks who lived in the monastery called the hill “Petersberg” (Peter’s Hill). The city is subsequently named after these monks, as “Munchen” derives from the German word “Monch” which means monk. A Bavarian Romanesque temple was first built on this spot in 1180; it burned down in 1327. The present church dates back to 1368. Its spire-topped steeple and Baroque choir were added in the 17th century. Severely damaged during World War II, the building was carefully restored to its original appearance later on.

Inside Peterskirche, you will find 15th-century Erasmus Grasser’s sculpture and paintings by Johann Baptist Zimmerman. Another key attraction is the gilded skeleton of St. Mundita, adorned with precious stones. Visitors can climb 306 steps to the upper platform of the steeple for a breathtaking view across Munich and further afield, towards the Alps, on a clear day. Color-coded circles at the lower platform indicate visibility conditions. A white circle means the climb is worthwhile and the Alps are visible from the up there.

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.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5:30pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Viktualienmarkt (Farmer's Market)

6) 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.

Operating Hours
Monday-Saturday: 9am - 10pm (summer) and 9am - 6pm (winter); Sunday: closed
Munchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum of Munich)

7) Munchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum of Munich)

The City Museum of Munich ("Münchner Stadtmuseum") was founded in 1888 by Ernst von Destouches. It occupies a spacious – 2400 m² – complex incorporating the former municipal arsenal, built in 1500, and the adjoining stables, rebuilt after the Second World War, and originally dating to the late Gothic period. The museum provides a detailed overview of Munich's history and its citizens' lifestyle, starting from the early beginnings as the Schwabing Bohème to the 1972 Summer Olympics and the present day.

One of the permanent exhibitions, called “Typically Munich!”, features some 400 objects dedicated to popular arts and traditions of the region, successfully answering three questions: What is typically Munich, Since when, and, above all, Why?

Within the Culture History section, amid the multitude of artworks, you will find the famous Gothic Morris dancers, created by Erasmus Grasser for the festival hall of the Old Town Hall, and the original puttos of the Mary's Column. A wooden model of Munich city, as it was back in 1572, is one of the highlights here.

The so-called Fotomuseum, founded in 1963, showcases the collection of contemporary photographs (more than 500,000) by various artists, including Katharina Gaenssler and Franz Wanner; the Music collection boasts an extensive array of more than 2,000 musical instruments gathered from Africa, America, Asia and Europe.

There is also a Puppet theatre collection and the one on the National Socialism in Munich recounting the history of the city as the former Capital of the Nazi Movement ("Hauptstadt der Bewegung").

The on-site Museum of Film, with its large archive, shows weekly screenings and is well known for restoration of old movies, created by the likes of Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, Georg Wilhelm Pabst and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.

Operation Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Asam Church

8) Asam Church (must see)

The official name of this building, popularly known as the Asam Church, is the St. Johann Nepomuk Church. Albeit small, this temple is renowned for having the most opulent interiors of all the religious sites in Munich.

The сhurch was built between 1733 and 1746 by brothers Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin Asam, hence the name, and was dedicated to the Bohemian monk, named Johann Nepomuk, who was revered as a martyr for having been drowned in the Danube on the orders of King Wenceslaus after refusing to divulge the confessions of the Queen. The Asam brothers intended this church to be their family’s private, but eventually were forced to make it public.

The Asam Church is one of the finest examples of the late German Baroque architecture. It has 12 rows of pews for a small family congregation. The interiors are covered in frescoes painted by Cosmas Damian Asam. A lavish fresco on the ceiling portrays the drowning of Saint Nepomuk. The high altar has four twisted columns with a glass shrine containing a wax figure of the saint. There is a beautiful sculpture depicting God the Father bending over the crucified Christ in the cornice. The interior ornamentation today is the result of careful restoration done between 1975 and 1982.

Why You Should Visit:
Gaudy and Baroque in a very unique way you don't get to see very often. What it lacks in size, it surely makes up for in decoration: fresco, marble, stucco and acres of gilding compete for attention. Such heavy decoration may be not to everyone's taste, but is hard not to marvel at.

As with everything, try going early in the morning to avoid crowds blocking your photos (avoid mass times).
It's best to try to visit on a sunny day, so that the gold and other bling have more of a chance to shine.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)

9) Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) (must see)

The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is the seat of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Its two towers are the landmarks of the city and command spectacular views over Munich and the neighboring Alps.

The church sits on the site of a former 12th-century Marian Chapel. In 1468, Prince Sigismund of Bavaria ordered that it be replaced with a larger temple, dedicated to the Holy Virgin. The simple, red brick Gothic structure was designed by Jörg von Halspach and Lukas Rottaler, and was completed and consecrated in 1494. Its two towers with onion domes were added in 1525. The building suffered great damage from the World War II bombings: the roof collapsed and the north tower was heavily destroyed. Carefully restored after the war, the Frauenkirche once again became a popular place of worship in the city.

The striking Gothic structure is simple and dignified with little ornamentation. The vaulting over the nave and chancel are supported by two simple octagonal pillars. Windows are masterly hidden behind columns, making it look as if the church has only one window above the chancel. Among the treasures that have survived WWII bombings are the painting, called The Protecting Cloak, by Jan Polack, and the cenotaph of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV, created by Hans Krumpper.

As this is the city's mother church, no photos are encouraged in consideration of those who come to pray here regularly.
In the nave of the church, there's the Devil's Footprint or Teufelstritt. If you step in it, you're likely to be engulfed in flames that will hollow your skull and cause your head to shrink, a la Herman Dietrich in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
Visiting the church is kostenlos (free), but be prepared to pay a small fee if you want to take the lift up the south tower, instead of hoofing it.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-8:30pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

10) Kaufingerstrasse/Neuhauserstrasse (must see)

Bordering Marienplatz on the west is one of the oldest streets in Munich, the Kaufingerstraße. Its name is also considered to be the oldest street name in the city, and was probably taken after the patrician Chunradius Choufringer who owned a stately house in the area which was historically mentioned for the first time in a document dated 28 May 1239.

Kaufingerstraße is part of the large west-east axis of Munich's Old Town. At some point, it transforms into Neuhauser Straße, thus forming one huge thoroughfare. The latter is the first and the largest pedestrian zone in the historic part of Munich, and was established in 1972. It also is the top-selling shopping street in entire Germany.

The Neuhauser Straße itself has been in existence since at least 1293 (first documentary mention) and, from 1815 to 1828, was known as Karlstraße, and then renamed Neuhausergasse. The street was rebuilt in 1972 from a main traffic connection with two tram-rails into a pedestrian zone; the reason for that was the 1972 Summer Olympic Games expected to bring a huge influx of additional traffic. The name “Neuhauser” derives from the former village and today's Neuhausen district, where the road leads out of town.

During the Second World War, the fabric of Kaufingerstraße was largely destroyed. During the 1990s and the following years, all the 1950s' and 1960s' constructions were replaced with postmodern architecture.

Today, the Kaufingerstraße/Neuhauser Straße is home to many shops and restaurants. Top international retailers, such as Zara, H&M, C&A, Mango, Karstadt, Kaufhof, Zero and others, have set up their presence here to keep company for the numerous streetside vendors who sell flowers, fruits, vegetables, roasted nuts, and souvenirs. Also adding to the area's appeal are the multiple outdoor cafes offering comfortable respite from a shopping spree with a chance to sit, drink or have a bite, or just to watch people or admire the surrounding architectural splendor.

If you're in the city center but want to shop away from the mainstream stores, consider Sendlinger Straße as a good alternative.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

11) Karlsplatz

Karlsplatz, situated near the 14th century Karlstor gate, is the second largest square in Munich, after Marienplatz, and is popularly known as Stachus.

The square was laid upon the instructions from the Elector Karl Theodor in 1791. Reportedly, its popular nick “Stachus” derives from a pub, called Beim Stachus, owned by Mathias Eustachius Föderl, that used to be here before the square was built. Another theory suggests that its name is a corruption of the word “Stachel” which means the arrows of marksmen who practiced their skills in the area. As for the Karlstor, this Gothic-style gate was once part of a large fortification. The Rondell buildings on both sides of the gate were designed by renowned architect, Gabriel von Seidl.

The main pedestrian shopping area of Munich lies between Karlplatz and Marienplatz. Among other things adorning Stachus today is a modern fountain, built in the 1970s, with seats for shoppers and visitors to rest their feet in the summer. In the winter, the area surrounding the fountain becomes an ice skating rink. Kaufhof, the very first department store established after WWII, is found on the west side of the square. Underground there is another large shopping center and Stachus Square itself serves as the major hub for Munich’s tramway system.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Munich, Germany

Create Your Own Walk in Munich

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Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
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Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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