Established in 1158, Marienplatz is the historic central square in Munich, Germany. It has evolved over the centuries with new buildings and how the square is used but it has always been a place to gather. Today it is filled with restaurants, shops, and must-see architecture.
Heading towards Marienplatz, I am filled with anticipation. I realize it probably sounds a little silly, but these moments remind me of the feeling I had as a child on Christmas morning. The sights awaiting me are like gifts, and I can’t wait to see them.
Arriving on the west side of Old Town and west Marienplatz, I see the Karlstor. Karlstor is one of three remaining town gates from medieval Munich’s city wall. The city wall was a defensive fortification for Munich. It is thought to have been built around 1300 when Munich’s city wall fortifications were expanded.
Once inside the gate, I am in “Old Town” Munich. It seems that Old Town and Marienplatz are sometimes used interchangeably but Marienplatz is actually the name of the main city square inside Old Town. As I walk along Neuhauserstraße – a pedestrian walkway that has existed since 1293 -towards Marienplatz, the view is breathtaking.
In the image below, the white building is St. Michael’s Church completed in 1597. The building to left, known as the Old Academy, was designed originally as a college and completed in 1590. The building to the right is what was once the Augustinian Church originally built in the 1200’s and added to over the centuries. Today, it houses a German fishing and hunting museum, shops, and a few government offices.
After a short walk (that I was in no hurry to complete), the road changes into Kaufingerstraße and the towers of Frauenkirche begin to really capture my attention.
The Frauenkirche is a Gothic cathedral completed in 1488. It dominates the Munich skyline and no new buildings in Munich are allowed to exceed the height of the Frauenkirche towers.
Continuing down the road towards Marienplatz, I couldn’t imagine seeing anything more incredible than I had already seen and then…the New Town Hall. Wow! The building is a massive Gothic style structure that still serves as a government building today for the Munich Mayor and other city council and government officials. Construction began on the New Town Hall in 1887 and was completed in 1905. How is that for a building called the “New” Town Hall?
This building also houses the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Consisting of 43 bells and large figures, it chimes every day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. (and 5 pm in the summer) to begin the reenactment of two 16th century stories important in Munich’s history. The performance lasts about 15 minutes.
Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule (the Marian column) erected in the city center in 1638. These columns are common throughout Europe and usually depict the Virgin Mary or other Christian symbol on top of the column. They were typically erected in cities to celebrate the end of the plague or other significant events in a city’s history. In Munich, the Marian column was erected to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation after the Thirty Years War.
So, we have the New Town Hall but became of the old Town Hall? I didn’t really get a great shot of it but did the best I could to salvage the photo below.
Old Town Hall has some interesting history associated with it. The tower (right of center) was built on one of Munich’s original gates (the Talburgtor) in the late 1100’s and is now part of the Old Town Hall tower. The building to the left of the tower is Old Town Hall and was built around 1300. The facade has been remodeled several times over the centuries to reflect evolving architectural tastes. The building serves as a toy museum today.
Next on my list was to find the spot where people take the photo overlooking Marienplatz. It took some looking but I eventually found the high tower. There is a small entrance fee along with a steeeep stairwell but worth every step for the view.
While there is still much to explore in Marienplatz, there are also is a lot to see beyond Marienplatz within walking distance. I spent the rest of the day exploring beyond Marienplatz but ended the day right where I started. Time to enjoy a refreshing drink in the same square people have gathered for over 800 years.
More from Munich – Englischer Garten