Old Town Walking Tour, Munich

Old Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Munich

The Altstadt, Munich’s medieval Old Town, is the core of the Bavarian capital and is a listed historical monument in its own right. The area is known for its pedestrian streets lined with global flagship stores and boutiques, a prominent square, called Marienplatz, abuzz with crowds anxious to see the life-size figurines on the Neo-Gothic New Town Hall’s bell tower, the Viktualienmarkt with its food stalls and beer garden, and plenty of other attractions. On this self-guided walk, you have a chance to explore all of these and more at your own pace.
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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
  • Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)
  • Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum)
  • Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
  • Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church)
  • Viktualienmarkt
  • Munchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum of Munich)
  • Asam Church
  • Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
  • Kaufingerstrasse/Neuhauserstrasse
  • Karlsplatz

1) Marienplatz (must see)

Marienplatz is a square in the heart of Munich that has been the main square of the city since 1158. As such, it was the main venue where public events, tournaments and executions traditionally took place.

First known as Schrannen, the square got to be named Marienplatz after the citizens prayed to the Holy Mother for deliverance from a cholera epidemic. The large column with the gilded figure of Mother Mary on top was erected in 1638 as part of the celebrations marking the end of the Swedish occupation of the city.

The dominant site of Marienplatz, the New City Hall, is a Flemish Gothic style building constructed between 1867 and 1909 by architect Georg Joseph Hauberrisser. The internationally famous Carillon in its tower has the figures depicting history of the city. Those in the lower section, performing Schäfflertanz (“the cooper’s dance”), were installed in 1517 as part of the celebrations of the end of the plague epidemic that swept through the city. The dance shows run daily at 11am, noon and 5pm. Alongside the New City Hall, on the eastern side of Marienplatz, stands the Old City Hall was not demolished and is still in place.

Why You Should Visit:
Ideal location for the very first encounter with Munich. Historic, architecturally attractive and vibrant, filled with people – locals and tourists alike – throughout the day, it never lacks excitement. Also, just like the rest of Munich, it's spotlessly clean.

Many walking tours start here in the mornings and afternoons. Join one and learn more about Munich's history and legends.
A tip for eating out is to walk a block or two away, as the prices drop dramatically. The local food market is right outside the gate with many restaurants serving food from all over the world.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
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.

6) Viktualienmarkt (must see)

Lying just a few meters away from Marienplatz, Viktualienmarkt is an open-air daily farmers' market.

The very first centralized marketplace in Munich was Marienplatz. As the city grew richer and expanded, the square proved too small for the growing shopping demand. In the early 19th century, King Maximilian of Bavaria decided to demolish the nearby Heiliggeist charitable hospital to clear space for the market. At that time the square was called Marktplatz. The name was later changed to Viktualienmarkt, with “Viktuel” being the Latin word for food. With this came new halls and separate pavilions for fish, fowl, meat and bakery items.

The World War II bombings almost completely destroyed the market. Rebuilt after the war, it had the fountains and decorative elements added to make it more attractive. Presently, Viktualienmarkt comprises over 140 shops selling gourmet food, exotic fruit, cheeses, pastries, sausages and venison. Folk events, like dances, music performances, Brewer’s Day, Gardener’s Day celebrations, a special event marking the opening of the asparagus season, a summer festival, and the Shrove Tuesday dance of the Market women, take place here throughout the year. As of 1975, it has been a pedestrian zone and a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors.

The Beer Garden in the center of the market is a nice place for a break under the shade of chestnut trees. The place can sit up to a 1,000 people at a time and offers sumptuous Bavarian specialties, like the potato salad, pork roast and homemade cheese in abundance, in addition to good Bavarian beer, of course. The place is open from 9am to 10pm in the summer, and from 9am to 6pm in the winter, staying closed on Sundays and holidays.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
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

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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Munich Introduction Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
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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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