Free Sights in Munich – a how-to!

Once, a friend of mine asked what sights you can see in the old city part of Munich without paying entrance. Still it should be a diverse collection of sights – places, museums, churches, gardens.

As good as I know the outer skirts of Munich, the little I know about the inner city, which is obviously the one tourists check out first. So I decided I need a sightseeing-route through this part of Munich anyway for future friends to visit. If you’d also like to check out this part of Munich without paying, here is my suggestion:

The whole trip is about 6 kilometers and everything can be walked by foot. You should consider approximately half a day for the tour. There are always possibilities to extend the tour at certain points for fees, if you like to. In the following tour description, I will link to corresponding Wikipedia pages if you’d like to know more about a certain space. So, this is the trip route with all sights for your orientation:

I suggest starting at the station „Isartor“ (but „Marienplatz“ will do it as well, if this suits you more). Form there, it’s a good idea to check out Viktualienmarkt (A) first – a daily food market and a square.

From there, you will already see the big church of St. Peter (B) – the oldest church around, and the only one on our tour. Inside, you’ll find five Gothic paintings by Jan Polack, several altars by Ignaz Günther and a fresco by Johann Baptist Zimmermann. For the scary part: You can see the corpse of Saint Munditia. She died around the year 300 and the relics were found in the catacombs of Cyriaca. The entrance to the old clocktower is not free (currently 1,50 €) but still highly recommended. Besides a great view over the route and Munich, this clocktower is also said to be the origin of the whole city.

Of course, the Mary’s Square (C) may not be missed and as it’s right around the corner of the church, make a visit. You’ll find yourself directly in front of the New Town Hall, a large Gothic Revival architecture.

Head north, right of the town hall into the „Dienerstraße“. On the left side, you’ll reach „Marienhof“, the garden of the town hall. On the right side, spot an unremarkable entry with the sign „Alter Hof“ (Old Court) (D). This is the residence of the Ludwig IV the Bavarian, the Holy Roman Emperor during the 14th century. Today, it hosts Google Germany. Ah, irony!

Nevertheless, it’s barely visited but if you continue walking inside the second yard, you’ll find an entry that is called „Münchner Kaiserburg“ or „Infopoint“. The entrance is free of charge and in the basement of this building, there is a permanent exhibition about Ludwig IV. This one surprised me as it offers a surprisingly well made multimedia presentation every half an hour or so. It includes audiovisuals, holographics and illumination. No one was even near this place, when I checked it out – and it was tourism time!

Head back to Dienerstraße and north to the Max-Jospehs-Platz (E) – a large square with the Munich „Residenz“, theaters, opera and the royal avenue Maximilianstraße (to the east). There you’ll find galleries, designer shops, luxury boutiques and jewellery stores of pretty much all brands for corresponding prices. On the end of the street, you can see the Maximilianeum – the building that houses the state parliament. But we don’t go there – instead still heading north along the Munich „Residenz“ building.

Just a short walk later, we’ll reach Odeonsplatz (F). Besides the Theatine Church you’ll also see the „Feldherrnhalle“, a legendary place when in 1923, an illegally organized march by the followers of Adolf Hitler was countered by the Bavarian State police. Four policemen and sixteen marchers were killed.

On the east side, you’ll now find the end of the Munich „Residenz“ (G). This building is the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs. It contains a lot of different rooms, a treasury or a coin collection – all available for a fee. Most of the ten outer courtyards, however, are free of charge. Head back a little from where you came and turn left into the „Kaiserhof“ courtyard. From there, you can reach the „Brunnenhof“ (a fountain courtyard) to the right as well. Cross the whole Residenz to the other side.

From there, head north again into the royal Court Garden (H). A popular spot, as it’s right in the middle of the city and still offering a lot of sunshine and green spaces.

We’re still heading north, cross a street and find another garden – a small tail of the „English Garden“ – a place you should consider visiting later on. For now, we just cross it to the „Von-der-Tann-Straße“ and turn left (west). Now, a little walk lays before us. When you cross the „Ludwigstraße“, you’ll recognize Odeonsplatz on the left and can glimpse a look at the Siegestor on the right. But for now, we just cross the street until we reach „Türkenstraße“ and then turn right.

Now, we are in the Art District of Munich. This area contains a lot of different museums, each one worth a day visit and if you find something of interest, you might want to consider to check out one just now. If not, there are even some, that are for free – but don’t tell anyone!

First, when you walk the „Türkenstraße“ to the north, you’ll find a small building, the Türkentor (I) – the only surviving part of the some barracks, built in 1826 for the Royal Bavarian Infantry Lifeguards Regiment. Now, you wanna see a red sphere? You can enter the Türkentor on a side door free of charge and see… well, a red sphere. Or, to be more precise, a large sculpture by artist Walter De Maria.

Now, you can just continue walking over areas of green to the west, leaving the „Museum Brandhorst“ to your right. You’ll cross the areas of the three Pinakotheks (state collections of old, new and modern art). (In front of the old Pinakothek, you’ll likely find some sculptures in their garden for a free look, too). At the end of the green area turn left until you reach the back of the Glyptothek (Greek and Roman art) and then right again through the garden.

At the end and on the other side of the street, you’ll find another museum – free of charge: a  Geological Museum (J), part of the University of Munich and exhibiting different kind of stones and materials.

Not interested in dead material? What about even „deader“ ones like dinosaurs? Right next to this museum, there is the Palaeontological Museum Munich (K) – containing a collection of fossils of animals and plants such as Mesozoic reptiles, early elephants and saber-tooth tigers on four stories of an old, charming building. And, yes, the entrance is free of charge, too. When you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch a guided tour and ask questions. One more hint: Both museums, geological and paleontological – are connected via a door on the ground floor. So it’s easy to switch from one to the other!

From the exit of the Paleontological Museum, head towards the Königsplatz (L) – a very peaceful place where you can take a look at the „Propyläen“ and the „Glyptothek“ from the front.

Continue walking and turn South into the „Katharina-von-Bora-Straße“. There you’ll find -a little hidden- another unknown museum – the „Museum für Abgüsse klassischer Bildwerke“ (M). Don’t let the long name distract you – it’s actually a cast collection of world’s most famous ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. As with all museums on this trip, entrance is free, of course.

We’ll slowly reach the end of our tour by continuing heading straight to the south until we reach the „old botanic garden“ (N). As the name suggests, this is not the real botanic garden (which is located at the Nymphenburg Castle in the west of the city instead). But this place used to be one and is still nice for a short walk. It was established in 1809 to designs by Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell.

We’ve reached the end of our „free sights“ tour in the inner city of Munich and now just continue walking southeast until we reach the Stachus (O). The real name of this place is „Karlsplatz“, named after Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. But the Munich people didn’t like him, so that’s why the original name is hardly used. Even on trams and trains, the place is called by it’s substitute „Stachus“ (a pub that used to be there, before the place was built in 1797). From here, you’ll also have a look on the Karlstor – one of four main gates of the medieval city wall. It defines the west end of the old city of Munich.

From here on, you have great subway connections to discover some of the outer sights of Munich, that are not as easily reachable by foot. For example:

a) If you want to see typical Bavarian beer garden and the castle, head towards station „Hirschgarten„. The beer garden hosts up to 8000 guests and is probably the largest in the world. From Hirschgarten, it’s another 1 Kilometer by foot to Nymphenburg Palace – a Baroque palace that was the main summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria. It’s connected to the „real“ botanical garden in the North, too (if you’re there in winter – entrance to the „real“ botanical garden is normaly free during that time!).

b) If you’d like to check out more gardens, consider the English Garden for a walk. Get out at „Lehel“ and walk north. The garden starts in 500 meters and offers a lot of spots and possibilities for eating as well. The garden is one of the largest in the world – you can easily walk up to 6 more kilometers to the north, right to the end of Munich. You’ll find bus stations on the west and east side and in the middle of the garden.

c) If you like to check out the zoo and the river instead, head to „Thalkirchen“ and follow the signs to the zoo. On half-way, you’ll cross the river Isar with trails to the north and the souths. Feel free to choose one of them and walk besides the river bed. Beware of bicycles and nudists that love this spot! If you’re hungry, you’ll find some restaurants within the green, Flaucher being the most famous one. And of course, there’s is the Hellabrunn Zoo, also directly next to the river.

d) More for a shopping tour? Head right through the Karlstor on Stachus and you’ll find yourself in the pedestrian area with all kinds of shops!

Have fun!

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