Join us for a short, instructive and entertaining tour through the history of Munich.

Earliest printed view of Munich from the first edition of the Nuremberg chronicle, 1493
Earliest printed view of Munich from the first edition of the Nuremberg chronicle, 1493

Munich was founded 1158 by ,Heinrich der Löwe', a cousin of the emperor ,Friedrich Barbarossa'. Centre of the city was the ,Schrannenplatz', the corn- and salt-market, renamed 1854 ,Marienplatz', today the first centre of the city and also the starting point for our Munich tour.

Already at about 1175 the first city wall had been built. It had an outline in the shape of a spade. The spade rapidly grew and about 1330 a second city wall was built. Its horseshoe-shaped form characterizes the outline of the centre of Munich till today. From the old town gates the ,Neuhauser Tor' (built about 1300, nowadays called 'Karlstor'), the 'Sendlinger Tor' (built about 1310) and the 'Isartor' (built about end of the 13. century) are still preserved.

At that time already the ,Wittelsbacher' had been the rulers of the city. They decided the good fortune of Bavaria for more than 700 years (from 1180 to 1918) as Dukes (1180 - 1623), Electors (1623 - 1805), and Kings (1806 - 1918). They decisively influenced the so lovely and charming urban features of Munich with buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicistic periods.

1255 Munich became a royal seat. The first residence of the 'Wittelsbacher' was the 'Alter Hof', just a few steps north of the 'Marienplatz'. Today the 'Alter Hof' is an remarkable, nearly completely preserved medieval building complex.

The New Residence was built not far to the north from the old one from 1385 onward. The first building was the so called 'Neuveste', which is not preserved today. There had been five great stages of construction for more than 5 centuries and the appearance of the New Residence permanently changed due to great extensions and rebuilding. In 1920 the 'Neue Residenz' was opened for the public and after being reconstructed between 1946 to 1980 it is an excellent museum.

Gustav Kraus: View of Munich from about 1830
Gustav Kraus: View of Munich from about 1830

Now we go back to the 'Marienplatz', Walking through the 'Alter Hof' and along the 'Burgstraße' we reach the former Old Town Hall ('Altes Rathaus'). Its tower was already built with the first city wall between 1180 and 1200. Its modern appearance corresponds to that of 1462, after that it was reconstructed 1971/72.

On a little hill, south of the Old Town Hall, we see St. Peter, the first - and for a long time only - church of the city, which was founded even before the city itself.

From St. Peter - crossing the 'Marienplatz' westerly - we go to the 'Frauenkirche', the second church in Munich, which was consecrated 1494. The very characteristic, onion-shaped covers of its towers had been built 20 to 30 years later. At the first printed view of Munich, published in the Nuremberg Chronicle in 1493, we see the towers in its former state.

Gustav Kraus: Munich Marienplatz
Gustav Kraus: Munich Marienplatz

Not far from the ,Frauenkirche', at the ,Neuhauser Straße', there is St. Michael, built from 1583-97, the most important Renaissance church in Germany.

In 1623 Munich became an electoral royal seat. During the Thirty Year's War a fortification was built around the city. Nevertheless, looting and destruction of the city by Gustav Adolf from Sweden could only be averted by paying an amount of 300.000 thaler.

To express his gratitude Elector Maximilian I. donated the 'Mariensäule' at the 'Schrannenplatz' (today called 'Marienplatz').

M. Merian: Gustav Adolf from Sweden and his troops are besieging Munich
M. Merian: Gustav Adolf from Sweden and his troops are besieging Munich

After 1648 the city grew inside - protected by its fortification. Many important churches of the Baroque and Rococo period had been built, for example the 'Theatinerkirche' (1663-75) or the 'Asamkirche' (1733-46).

Under the electorate of Karl Theodor (1777-99) the fortification had been demolished again. This opened the way for a rapid development of the city outwardly. An English Garden was planned and planted outside the town, today a central recreation area for all inhabitants and their guests.

January 1, 1806 Bavaria became a kingdom under Max I., and Munich a 'Royal Seat and Capital'. On the occasion of the wedding of crown prince Ludwig with princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen the first 'Oktoberfest' was hold. Today a worldwide well known and famous event. A huge public (beer-) festival organized by the city of Munich every year end of September / beginning of October at the 'Theresienwiese'.

Max I. raised Munich to become the classical metropolis. He ordered to build the National Theatre (1811-18), and started planning many buildings, later on realized by his son.

Ludwig I. succeeded his father to the throne in 1825. During his reign Munich developed to a centre of art and culture.

Even before ascending the throne he started to plan and built a new street from the residence to the north. Starting with the 'Odeonsplatz' (1816-21), at the northern wing of the New Residence, the 'Ludwigstraße' was elaborated with many famous buildings like the National Library (1832-42), the University (1835-40) - which he transferred from Landshut to Munich 1826 - with the University's church ('Ludwigskirche', 1829-44). The 'Ludwigstraße' finishes with the 'Feldherrnhalle' (1841-44) in the south and with the 'Siegestor' (1843-1850) in the north.

Munich at the time of King Ludwig I.
Munich at the time of King Ludwig I.

Ludwig I. built the ,Königsplatz' with the ,Glyptothek' (1816-30), the 'Antikensammlung' (1838-48), and the 'Propyläen' (1846-62). As the greatest gallery building of that time the 'Alte Pinakothek' was built from 1826 to 36 and about 20 years later the 'Neue Pinakothek' (1846-53) as a museum for works of the 19th century. The original building of the 'Neue Pinakothek' was heavily damaged 1944, completely dismantled 1949, and replaced by a new building 1975-81.

As a memorial for 'outstanding citizens of Bavaria' Ludwig I. built a hall of fame ('Ruhmeshalle', 1843-53) with a statue called 'Bavaria'. The 'Bavaria' (unveiled 1850) with its size of 18,5 m (27,4 m with the pedestal) was the first colossal statue of the European history of art since antiquity, followed by the Statue of Liberty in New York (unveiled 1886).

Ludwig I. had to abdicate 1848 and he was succeeded by his son Max II.Max II. also planned his building projects - like his father - as a crown prince. He built the 'Maximilianstraße', which starts at the 'Max-Joseph-Platz' in front of the National Theatre, leading directly to the east, and finishes with the 'Maximilianeum', a huge building at the eastern higher terrace of the Isar river. Today the 'Maximilianeum' is the seat of the Bavarian State Parliament.

Ludwig II. - the famous 'Märchenkönig' followed his father 1864 (till 1886) as King of Bavaria. All his plans for Munich never got realized, but instead he became very famous for his unique castles in Southern Bavaria: 'Linderhof', 'Neuschwanstein', 'Herrenchiemsee'.

From 1867 onward the 'Marienplatz' got a new face at his northern side, a new town hall ('Neues Rathaus') was built. Related to the Flemish Gothic style it was erected in three steps of construction from 1867 to 1909. Together with the towers of the 'Frauenkirche' it is a symbol of Munich.

An uncle of Ludwig II. took over regency in Bavaria as 'Prinzregent Luitpold' from 1886 to 1912. With him Munich saw the last glamour of the royal era. Secession and Art Deco had an important centre in Munich. During his regency the 'Deutsches Museum' was built (1906-25). It is the first, biggest, and most famous museum for science and techniques in the world.

1900 Munich had half a million and 1957 one million inhabitants. 1958 the city celebrated its 800-years anniversary. 1972 the XX. Olympic games took place in Munich. The Olympic park, a spacious sport- and recreation area in the northern part of the city, is a favourite destination for all inhabitants of Munich and their guests.

More old views of Munich you find under 'Old Views > Bavaria'