Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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June 2003

Noble Prize

Munich’s royal showpiece

Once upon a time the Residenz was, as the name suggests, the official residence of the rulers of Bavaria. It began as a small moated castle built under Duke Stephan III and his brothers in 1385 to provide protection against enemies as well as citizens. Since then the building has been added to and rebuilt by almost every one of its subsequent inhabitants. A number of major architects have taken part in the gradual expansion of the Residenz, which today encompasses seven courtyards and some 120 rooms. The complex embodies 400 years of architectural history. Just a quick stroll around the perimeter affords a view of a Palladian-style palace in the north (Festival Hall tract), a replica of a Florentine Renaissance palace (Ring’s Tract) in the south and a German Renaissance hall in the west (Maximilian’s Residence).

The Residenz has been a museum since the end of World War I. The structure was largely destroyed during World War II, and the Bavarian government has devoted 40 years to piecing it back together. To see the entire Residenz, you’ll have to take two tours (one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each of which takes a different path through the palace). Unfortunately, tours are offered only in German . You may also visit the rooms on your own. However, you won’t find a word of English inside. So it may be advisable to pick up one of the official state-published English guidebooks.

At your first stop meet the royal family in the Ahnengalerie (Ancestral Gallery), which features 121 portraits of members of the Wittelsbach family. A little further along you can look down into the late Renaissance/early Baroque chapel commissioned by Maximilian I in 1601. This is where King Ludwig I was married and his grandson, “mad” Ludwig II, was laid to rest after his death in 1886. One of the oldest and most impressive rooms in the Residenz is the Antiquarium (Hall of Antiquities). Constructed by Jacopo Strada and Wilhelm Egkl from 1568 to 1571 as a hall for the royal collection of antique sculptures, the space was converted into a banquet hall a short time later by Friedrich Sustris. It is one of the largest and most important secular Renaissance interiors north of the Alps. You can get an idea of what daily life was like for the most important family in Bavaria by walking through the 18th-century Rococo Reiche Zimmer (Ornate Rooms) begun under elector Carl Albrecht and the 19th-century Neoclassical royal apartments of Ludwig I and Queen Therese. The powerful geometrical forms of the latter are characteristic of its designer, the leading court architect of the 19th century, Leo von Klenze.

From the Brunnenhof (Fountain Court) you can visit the private theater of the Wittelsbach court, the Altes Residenztheater (Old Residence Theater), known today as the Cuvilliés Theater. Built from 1751 to 1755 at the behest of the Elector Maximilian III, it was designed by the Belgian architect François Cuvilliés the Elder—also the mastermind of the Ahnengalerie, the Reiche Zimmer and the Grüne Galerie (Green Gallery). Cuvilliés began his career as a Royal Dwarf, but after having been sent to study art in Paris, he returned to Munich as an architect with a distinct predilection for Rococo. Though this magnificent building was blown to smithereens during World War II, the interior had been dismantled and stored shortly before bombing began, so everything you see here is original.

The entrance to the Schatzkammer (Treasury) lies opposite where the Residenz tour begins. This stunning collection of some 1,250 secular and ecclesiastical objects was established in 1565 by Duke Albrecht V and added to by later Wittelsbachs. More concession has been made to English-speakers here, who can borrow a free audio guide that provides a total of five hours of interesting descriptions of more than 300 objects. Both are open daily from 9 am to 6 pm until October 15.

The Treasury adjoins both the State Collection of Egyptian Art and the State Coin Collection. The former, housed in the Residenz since 1970, is accessible from the Hofgartenstrasse and is open daily except Monday, with free entrance on Sundays. Through the Kapellenhof (Chapel Court) you may enter the coin museum, which boasts some 300,000 coins. Make sure you don’t forget to visit the oft-overlooked Bavarian Academy of Sciences, facing Marstallplatz. Founded in 1759 by Elector Maximilian III Joseph for the promotion of scholarship and research, the academy has been located in the Festsaalbau (Festival Hall Tract) of the Residenz since 1959. In addition to hosting educational lectures, the Academy frequently organizes public exhibitions and lectures on topics ranging from space travel to Schopenhauer. Check out their calendar of events at
Opening hours: daily April to October 15,
9 am–6 pm; October 16 to March, 10 am
to 4 pm.

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