Things to Do in Munich Germany: the Marienplatz, St. Peter's Church, The Cathedral, the Glockenspiel and the Viktualienmarkt
The Marienplatz is the sparkling clean heart and soul of any visit to Munich, Germany. In medieval times, the natural gathering point was a marketplace, a place for tournaments and the center for executions. Today, it is still a bustling gathering point, with a wonderful farmer’s market and much to do – most of which has the added bonus of costing nothing. The Marienplatz, or St. Mary’s Plaza, is a must see for any trip to Bavaria.
Viktualienmarkt: Nestled off to the side of the square center is a popular outdoor farmer’s and food market. The food is gourmet – our favorite was a bratwurst stall along the far north end…between two beer places…the bratwurst was amazingly flavorful, juicy and not greasy at all. It is the one with the long line of locals winding out of it. Sitting on a picnic table by a fountain and watching the locals and other tourists, mostly Italian when we were there, was a trip in and of itself. The giant Bavarian pretzels, crispy on the outside and succulently soft and steamy on the inside were the best in the world and should not be missed.
Wandering through the five and a half acres of fresh flowers and cheeses and deli meats and fruits and vegetables and colorful scarves and other wares took hours. My favorite booths, however, were the ones featuring handmade chocolates and those offering baked goods. If you go to Bavaria do not pass up the baked goods as they are like none other in the world and there seems to be a bakery on every corner.
Glockenspiel: In the center of the Marienplatz is a golden statue of St. Mary sitting high upon a pedestal. The statue was erected to protect Munich from cholera – today she is a shining example of the beating heart of Munich. Behind St. Mary is the Glockenspiel, or new town hall. It is a wonder. The building is truly a working government building, but you can wander through it so don't miss out…the architecture is intricate and the carvings and design are spectacular. This building, and much of the surrounding area, seems out of a fairy tale.
A highlight of the Glockenspiel is the clock that sits high in a bell tower overlooking Munich. Everyday, at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., the clock comes alive and wooden characters emerge in a pair of dance and story extravaganzas that should not be missed. The forty-three bells and thirty-two lifelike figures, joust, party and perform the cooper’s dance and are high enough up that there is no bad place to view them.
If you have children, however, get a snack at the Viktualiemmarkt and go sit at the base of St. Mary’s statue looking at the building, about a half hour before chime-time as the plaza gets crowded and it is nice to have a seat. Better yet, go during the off-season of late March to early June when the weather is fabulous and the crowds are thin.
After you watch the Glockenspiel cooper’s dance, turn right and explore the Old Town Hall that houses the clock. This gothic structure was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 1400s and then again during World War II. It is a lovely, historical building reminiscent of old Bavaria. Note, the “fish fountain” near the Glockenspiel is said to be the oldest in Munich, dating to the early 1300s.
The Munich Cathedral: Don’t miss The Munich Cathedral (Frauenkirche), the twin spires adjacent to the Marianplatz. The church was built in 1468 and has stained glass dating back that far. There are many treasures that survived the 1945 bombings.
St. Peter’s Church and Tower: Peterkirche (St. Peter’s Church) is directly across from the Glockenspiel and worth a look. Gothic and amazing…you can also climb the 300 or so steps to the top of St. Peter’s for an expansive 360 degree look at all of Munich and the Bavarian Alps in the distance. A sunny spring day, with a strong breeze is the best time to go. The sky is a deep blue and crystal clear in the spring and, again, Bavaria looks just like a fairy tale. Climbing to the tower requires a long walk up narrow wooden stairs. When you get to the penny stamping souvenir machines – you are about 1/3 of the way there…we saw many turn back at this point…but the continued hike up is well worth the walk.
To the east of the Marienplatz is a shopping district and some of the best and most popular restaurants and pubs in Bavaria. Plan to wear good walking shoes and allow yourself plenty of time to visit the Marienplatz! It is well worth the adventure and absolutely budget friendly.