My first morning in Munich I woke up with two thoughts: it was way too cold, and way too early. Adjusting to a different time zone is rough…I woke up at like 6 in the morning without the help of an alarm clock, which believe me, absolutely never happens at home. Normally I would just stay in bed anyways, but not today. I was in Munich!! And super excited to take on the city. So with my trusty map in hand, and a general idea of what I wanted to see, I set out.
More or less, my plan was to get to Marienplatz, the heart of old Munich and where the majority of the top, must-see sights are located.
I got distracted pretty quickly though. There is gorgeous architecture everywhere you look in Old Town Munich, and I wandered off of my path to check out this building. No idea what it is, but it was beautiful!
And then around the corner from the pretty building was this pretty park.
I had only been exploring for a few minutes, and I was already in love with the city. I loved the sound my boots made when they hit the stone sidewalks. I loved feeling the cold air on my face. I loved the way classic architecture was mixed in with modern establishments (yeah, I stopped at Starbucks. You can take the girl out of LA, but you can’t take the LA out of the girl).
Things like that might be commonplace for a lot of people, but for a girl from southern CA where basically everything was built post-1900 (except for the missions and a handful of places built in the 1800s), it felt incredible to be surrounded by so much history.
If this park was in Los Angeles there would be homeless people on every bench and the whole place would smell like pee.
Eventually I did get back on my originally journey. I passed through Karlsplatz, which was a wide open square with some shops around the perimeter, and went through the gate to enter Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße.
Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße is a pedestrian zone connecting Karlsplatz and Marienplatz and is the busiest shopping area of Munich. Here you can find mostly mid-range shops, like those you would find in a mall. They even had a Forever 21 and an H&M! I was there too early to shop, but I knew I must return…
Strolling along Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße
But I made it to Marienplatz! The predominant architectural feature of the square is the Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall. Built between 1867 and 1909 in the neo-Gothic style, the Neues Rathaus stands 255 feet tall, and the 300 foot long richly-decorated facade features almost the entire line of the house of Wittelsbach in Bavaria. It is still a functioning government building today, as the Neues Rathaus is the seat of the mayor’s office, the city council, and the headquarters of the city administration.
It was easily the most incredible building I have ever seen. The attention to detail, the carved statues, the flying buttresses, the stained glass windows…just amazing.
Inside the courtyard of the Neues Rathaus
When visiting the Neues Rathaus, make sure to be there in time to see the world famous Glockenspiel. Since 1908, statues dance and twirl in the tower, telling stories of Munich’s history featuring Coopers dancers (a dance originally performed in Marienplatz in 1517 to commemorate the end of the plague), the angel of peace, and the Münchner Kindl (symbol of the city’s coat of arms). The 12-minute long spectacle occurs at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. daily, and also at 5 p.m. during the months of March-October.
The Neues Rathaus Glockenspiel
In the center of the square you will see the Column of St. Mary, erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swiss invasion. At the corners of the base of the statue are four puttis, symbolizing the city’s overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy.
The gilded statue at the top of the column is the Virgin Mary, and was sculpted several years prior to the rest of the column in 1590.
And this wonderful man was playing traditional German music at the base of the statue. Yep, I was definitely in Germany!
My journey soon took me out of Marienplatz and along Orlandostraße near the Hofbräuhaus. Orlandostraße is the best place to shop if you are looking for touristy souvenir shops. I couldn’t help picking up a ceramic beerstein. The Hofbräuhaus itself is one of the most famous beerhalls in Munich, but I actually did not visit it. Drinking alone in a beerhall at 11 a.m. seemed a little sad haha. Maybe on my next trip to Munich!
At this point my journey took a turn for the I-don’t-know. I didn’t know where I was going, I don’t know what I saw along the way. I just wanted to explore. So together with my map, I spent the majority of the afternoon just walking, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of Munich.
It felt so amazing to be out in the world with no plan and no one else to worry about. I could do whatever I wanted, and take however long doing it as I wanted. My time was my own. I have never felt so completely free as I did that day exploring Munich.
The Maximilianeum…the mosaics on this building are incredible.
If you visit Munich, take a day to just walk around and surround yourself with all the art and beauty the city has to offer. It doesn’t cost a dime, and the things you will see are incredible.
I did, however, want to return to Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße to do some shopping! Could I shop at all these same stores at home? Of course! But there is just something so delightful about seeing some of your favorite places from home while abroad. I bought some awesome plaid pants at H&M. I consider them to be a souvenir. Hehe. Oh, and the roasted nuts sold by street vendors are delicious! They are warm and toasty, and make a wonderful shopping snack on a cold afternoon.
They were street performers all over Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße, as well as in Marienplatz. Which was awesome! I particularly loved these guys. I wish I would have bought their CD. They were really talented, and so much fun to watch. I stood there and listened for a really long time.
I ended up only seeing a tiny portion of the sights I had originally hoped to see on my first day, but that was ok with me. I had instead spent the day just being in Munich and enjoying the world around me. And that was even better.