4 Days in Munich: A Whirlwind Tour of Opulence

June 19, 2014
Shirley M. Mueller, M.D.

Within the city of Munich are a number of opulent palaces housing art collections. Some of these rival Versailles and will take the better part of a day to explore.

Within the city of Munich are a number of opulent palaces—some of which rival Versailles. During our visit to Munich, we spent 4 days touring these buildings and perusing the art collections housed within each.

Day 1: Munich Residenz

A palace that screams out “wealth and good taste,” the Munich Residenz is the former home of the ruling electors from 1623 and then the kings of Bavaria from 1806 to 1918. Not only is the massive structure opulent (it was enlarged many times), but so were the rulers’ art collections, jewels, and other treasures reside here.

Included in the self-guided tour is the famous Cuvillies Theatre, which Elector Maximilian Joseph III built in 1751-1755 as his "new opera house.” There is also the Treasury, Antiquarium, Court Church, Grotto, Imperial Hall, Stone Rooms plus even more unique areas as well as many ornate rooms. There is also a Chinese export porcelain collection.

This hallway in the Residenz is suggestive of its endless corridors. (Right) A bejeweled statue of Saint George in the treasury of the Residenz made in Munich 1638-1642.

A free audioguide with admission is available in English. A careful look at the entire Residenz could easily take more than 4 hours. This means that a day planned with lunch between 2 divided sessions might be easiest for the visitor if her or his time allows.

Day 2: Schleissheim and Lustheim Palace

The Bavarian rulers originally intended Schleissheim (construction started in 1701) to rival Versailles. Certainly, it does on a small scale. The palace’s park is unique in that it is the only Baroque garden in Germany that has survived as it was originally intended.

An interior room at Schleissheim. Notice the elaborate molding decoration and the Chinese porcelain. (Right) Decorating modestly was not considered a virtue at Schleissheim.

Not to be missed while at Schleissheim is Schloss Lustheim, a love nest for Maximillian Emmanuel and his first wife. Now, it houses Meissen porcelain of the highest quality.

The view of Schleissheim from Lustheim, and the exterior of Lustheim (bottom).

Day 3: Nymphenburg Palace

The Nymphenburg Palace is so much more than a grand mansion. The grounds also include the Nymphenburg factory plus a massive garden encompassing a multitude of small houses, such as the Amalienburg. The incredibly opulent hunting lodge was built 1734-1739 for Electress Maria Amalia of Bavaria.

The hunting lodge was meant for lavish entertaining.

Also on the grounds is the Badenburg, which contains an indoor bathing pool for the then king. It is surrounded by a viewing gallery so his majesty can be observed bathing by select populace, a special event for those less wealthy than royalty.

The king's bath in Badenburg with the viewing gallery behind the upper rails.

Badenburg is also known for its Chinoiserie style, which is best displayed in its wallpaper. The small bathhouse is believed to possess some of the oldest Chinese export wallpaper in existence. In the dressing room, there are large sheets of Chinese woodblock prints applied side by side on the wall. As a group, they look like wallpaper.

Individual colored Chinese woodblock prints from around 1750 placed together to make wallpaper. (Right) In the bedroom, a later painted wall covering from 1806.

The Nymphenburg Porcelain Factory, if accessible, is worth seeing. If this is not possible, there is the factory shop with a porcelain garden in back. In viewing these pieces, it is clear that the Nymphenburg porcelain manufactory is highly skilled today just as it was earlier.

Inhabitants of the porcelain garden behind the Nymphenburg Factory shop.

Nymphenburg clearly takes a day. The grounds absorb 4 hours alone as the distance between the buildings is substantial and takes about 15 to 20 minutes. There is a pleasant Orangery in which to eat between the grounds and the Palace. The palace itself will take about 2 hours. Lastly, the Nymphenburg factory shop and porcelain garden will take an hour. And, that is your day!

Day 4: The Bavarian National Museum and Lenbachhaus

The Bavarian is in a distinguished old building that dates from the latter half of the 19th century. Its 3 levels, including the basement, display everything from Romanesque to Art Nouveau. Among the highlights was a porcelain table with figures by Franz Anton Bustelli, a well-known and accomplished Rococo modeler.

The restaurant was excellent. The only sad part of this museum was that there were so few people visiting it.

The Porcelain Table by Bustelli in the Bavarian National Museum. (Right) Modern art in the lobby of Lenbachhaus.

We saw Lenbachhaus later in the day. It is much more than the Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904) home. It is also a gallery with special exhibits plus a permanent exhibit of German artists including Kandinsky, Jawlenski, Klee, and Bueys. There is also a lovely small garden plus a restaurant.

The garden of the von Lenbach Home. (Bottom) One of the well-appointed rooms in the von Lenbach home.

The house itself is exquisite. Franz von Lenbach said in 1885, “I intend to build a palace for myself that will eclipse everything the world has seen; it will link the power centers of European high art to the world of the present.” It seems he did just that.