Munich (München)

Munich is located on the Isar River in the state of Bavaria in south-east Germany. The city is best known for its Beer Festival when thousands of party-goers descend on the City for Oktoberfest and its bier halls and bier tents, but there is a lot more to see in Munich, one of the great cities of Germany and Europe.

The Oktoberfest Festival started on October 12th, 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig the 1st) to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildurghausen and I was on that day that the Crown Prince organised a Horserace and invited all of Munich residents to celebrate his marriage.

While today the horserace is almost forgotten, the celebration drinks have not been, and today those Steins continue to be filled with Munich’s finest beer in celebration of Ludwig’s wedding to Princess Therese. Zum Wohl! (To your Health!) Prost! (Cheers!).

Oktoberfest officially in 2017 is from September 16th to October 3rd’; in 2018 from September 22nd to October 7th and in 2019 from September 21st to October 6th. People come from all over the world to enjoy this celebration but there is no doubt the Beer will however continue to flow in Munich at all times of the year, with the city making claim to be “the Beer Capital of the World”.

Oktoberfest is the busiest time in Munich, so if you intend to head here, make sure that you book accommodation as early as you can. The beer drinking is just one part of the party and there are lots of activities such as a fairground with a 1920’s merry-go-round, wobbly wheel bike races, Ferris wheel and of course great Bavarian food to eat – from Sauerkraut, to Pretzels, and other great German food.

Of course there are people who also drink to excess or get carried away with the party atmosphere, so if you are looking for a quieter time, head to Munich when Octoberfest is not happening. There’s a lot to see with beautiful architecture, art galleries, the BMW Museum and German (Deutsches) Museum (one of the biggest in Germany) all here in a vibrant and stylish city.

There are so many museums, palaces, art galleries, parks and gardens in Munich it is hard to choose which one or ones to see, but many are located relatively close to each other in the Altstadt (Old City) and there is a special bus that runs from the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) to the east Station (Ostbahnhof) that stops next to the main museums and galleries.

These are just some of the main sights–

  • Dresden Castle -  This Castle overlooking the Elbe River was first constructed around 1200 as the Home for the ‘Electors’, passing down through the generations over centuries with more rooms and wings added as time went by, including by Augustus II in the early 1700’s in order to house some of his collection of Silver, Jewels, Ivory, Porcelain, Paintings and Bronzes.

    On February 13th, 1945, Dresden Castle, along with most of the old part of the City was bombed and destroyed by British and American forces, but while the Castle was left as a virtual shell ruin, luckily the Collections of Augustus was saved, having been moved earlier in the war to the Königstein Fortress  for safety.
    Between 1960 and 2013 the Castle and its towers were re-built and today Dresden Castle holds the Collection of Augustus and a number of other collections in five museums within the Castle Vault Rooms and Treasure Chambers. It is a vast collection with collections of prints, paintings, weapons, Meissen Ceramics, Coins, medals, books and much more.
  • Zwinger Palace and Park – this Rococco style Palace and its grand garden forecourt was built between 1710 and 1728 and today houses a number of Gallery Museums – with the Dresden Porcelain Collection, Old Masters Paintings and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Scientific Instruments.  They are all displayed within grand richly decorated rooms with Vaulted Barrel painted ceilings and gold filigree, beautiful floors and other features, making a visit here quite awe inspiring.
    The Garden Forecourt or Square is equally majestic with its fountains and water features bordered by the Zwinger Palace, Semper Opera House and other buildings.

    The Palace and gardens were also bombed in 1945 but the Palace has now been restored to its former glory. Two nights of bombing to destroy the Palace took until 1963 to restore.
  • Semperoper – Opera House – This beautiful Opera House was initially constructed in 1841, but then burned down in 1869, rebuilt by 1878 and completely destroyed by the bombs in February 1945. It took until 1985 for re-construction and restoration to be completed and is said to have some of the finest acoustics for Opera in the world.
  • Frauenkirke (Church) This is the church with the massive dome on top, that dominates the skyline of Dresden. The Church dates back to 1726 -1743 when it was first constructed, but was also destroyed by bombs in the bombing raids on the 13th of February 1945, the dome shattered to the ground just two days after the bombing. The Church was only re-constructed in 2005 using original plans from the 1700’s. At night the church and dome are lit up, making for a great photo. There are tours of the Church and a Visitor Centre here too.
  • Meissen and Dresden Porcelain - One of Augustus II the Strong’s passions was for fine porcelain or china – the word ‘china’ originating in China where china eating bowls and other china had been produced for centuries using processes yet to be found by the Europeans.

    Augustus II the Strong in 1701 found a young alchemist, Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719), who had fled from the court of the King of Prussia, Frederick I, having proclaimed that he had the secret to making Gold. Augustus imprisoned Böttger, but instead of changing other metals into Gold, Böttger fired pottery in kilns using local clay and Kaolin at a much higher temperature, creating a new level of sophisticated Porcelain. This would be the start of a new industry and the name ‘Dresden’ and ‘Meissen’ are still world renowned for their porcelain.  The town of ‘Meissen’ is located about 25 kilometres from Dresden, next to the Elbe River. It is possible to visit the Meissen workshops in Meissen. Also in Meissen is the Meissen Cathedral next to Albrechtsburg Castle.
  • Albrechtsburg Castle – is the massive castle that overlooks the Elbe River in Meissen. It was built between 1471 and 1524 and is now a museum. It is set high up on the ridge, so a bit of a climb to get to it, but there is also an elevator too, with Tours during the summer months. It is the oldest castle in Germany to be used as a residence. Castles up to this point had been built as fortifications, not as residencies.
  • Pillnitz Castle – This castle is also located in Dresden on the Elbe River and it is made up of three long buildings – the Riverside Palace in the middle (built 1720-21) and the Upper Palace (built 1723-24) and New Palace (built 1826) to each side. The setting, location and buildings are all beautiful as is the garden, pavilions, fountain and interiors, now housing a Palace Museum (Schlossmuseum). There is even a replica of the Royal Gondola used by Frederick Augustus I to carry him from his home in Dresden to his Pillnitz Summer Castle.
  • Moritzburg Castle – is another stunning castle located on its own artificial island just 13 kilometres north-west from Dresden. It was initially built as a hunting lodge between 1542 and 1546 but was greatly expanded by Augustus II the Strong in 1723-1733 (1733 being the year that he died), and following his death, subsequent Electors added their own touches too.

    The Castle itself has 4 massive towers with dome roofs on its four corners creating an imposing sight both day and night and in the grounds there is another Little Pheasant Castle too with a massive ‘Well of Venus’ fountain and ponds, as well as a building constructed to look like an ancient ruins – for the sheer pleasure of the Elector.

    If you have ever thought of becoming a King – maybe some of Augustus II the Strong’s little indulgences here in the castle might also appeal to you – for example Gold-gilded leather wall linings; a four poster bed cover woven from the feathers of peacocks, pheasants, ducks and guinea fowls; a line of Royal Carriages located in your entrance hall; specially commissioned porcelain pieces based on a hunting theme; chairs made in Silver, or perhaps a miniature harbour complete with lighthouse and battleships to play with and a lodge for your pheasants ready for a day’s hunting. This castle is a stunner!
  • Weesenstein Castle is another Castle to the south of Dresden is where 12 generations of the Family Bünau Family lived with parts of the castle dating back to the 12th century. It is also open during the summer months and has many furnished rooms to see.
  • Militărhistorisches Museum - This is a museum which looks at the many aspects and results of war over the centuries. The Museum looks at the effects of wars on people, animals, the environment, industry, children and many other ways, making this a very involving and interesting museum to visit. The wisdom and necessity of bombing such a beautiful and historic city as Dresden continues to be debated, but there is no doubt that the City lives on and it is once again a beautiful city to visit.

Munich is a beautiful city to see and no doubt seeing some of the places above will delight you when you spend time in the City.

Like a number of German cities, Munich was also bombed in World War Two and it was also the site of the Dauchau KZ Gedenkstätte  Concentration Camp, established by Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler in 1933, initially to house Political prisoners, and then over the years until its liberation by American forces in 1945 many thousands of other internees. Of the 200,000 or so prisoners who were interned in Dauchau, some 41,500 Jewish, Roma, Homosexuals, captured prisoners of war and others brought here would be gassed, shot or die from hunger, despair, typhoid or other causes. There are no smiles or laughter to be found here.

To get to Dauchau, take a tour,  or from the Munich Haupbahnhof, catch an S2 Train (Direction Saubachsiedlung) to Dauchau Station and from there take Bus 726 to the Camp.

Munich has an excellent transport system with the U Bahn (underground) and S Bahn (Surburban Network) as well as trams and buses, and also trains that head to places all over Europe. To see Munich you can purchase a single or Group (Gruppen) 1 or 3 Day Pass (Tageskarte) that will allow you to travel on the S Bahn and U Bahn, buses and trams in the Inner Zone (Innenraum), BUT if you want to go to Dauchau and outer zone areas your Ticket/Pass needs to be a XXL Pass (extra cost).

The Gruppen Pass (Group) means that you have the 1 Ticket Pass for you and family – check details where you buy your Pass/ Ticket. It is also possible to buy a City Tour card too – which has discounts to various attractions. Note: On Sundays, most Museums and Art Galleries have a 1 Euro special cost, but this cheaper price means more people visiting.

As a complete contrast to Dauchau and just 30 minutes to an hour south-west from the centre of Munich there is Lake Starnberg.

You can also get here by the S Bahn heading to Starnberg (the most popular destination), or Berg, Possenhofen or Leoni – the small town/villages that are located beside the lake. The lake is around 20 kilometres long and five kilometres wide and is closer to the alpine mountain ranges of Benediktenwand and Wetterstein, with Hop on-Hop off Ferries taking people around the lake cruising past the places of interest and stopping at each of the main wharves. In Berg there is a small cross in the water marking the spot where King Ludwig II drowned and a chapel nearby and in the lake there is Rose Island and in Possenhofen there is the Castle – Schloss Possenhofen. The Ferry takes around 3 hours to travel fully around the lake stopping at each of the villages, so if you plan to come here, it is worth getting here early morning to make the most of your day on the lake.

Munich is a city of around 1.5 million people and as you can see from the places listed above that there is a lot to see and do here. There are lots of hotels and places to stay, probably the most convenient hotels being in the Old Town area (Altstadt) and you can see a range of hotels and places to stay on the booking part of this website.

Of course there are many restaurants, bars and shops to visit, and Munich is well set up to cater for tourists with many people speaking English too – making it easy to get around and see the places that are of interest to you.

I hope you have a great time here in Munich.

Happy travels

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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