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Schloss Nymphenburg and the Generations of Stories

Schloss Nymphenburg, a family vacation home with stories to tell • German Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Seeing the tiny, child-size chair and kid's table in the Queen’s room made the palace feel like a home rather than an ongoing museum. That chair and table was once King Ludwig II’s when he was a child. Generation after generation, ultimately this palace, Schloss Nymphenburg, is a family vacation home with many stories to tell.

It was a Sunday morning during Oktoberfest, and we chose to visit Schloss Nymphenburg out of a dizzying array of choices because it felt like it had a little bit of everything; art, history, architecture, and gardens. We had the entire morning to visit the palace and gardens, but to see everything including the pavilion interiors and not be rushed, allow for a full day.

The Great Hall
We entered the Palace through the Great Hall, and the sight of the vaulted ceiling and accompanying gold-gilded stucco work simply took my breath away. When I see such historic, beautiful architecture still existing in person, my eyes tend to water with joy. Yep. I’m that girl, getting all misty-eyed looking at art.

The ceiling was huge, technically two stories since on one side there was a staircase that went up a level to also overlook the hall. I looked at Sebastian, and he knew what was about to happen. I needed to stare at this ceiling, agog in wonder, for a healthy 10 minutes, and take fifty photos or so of various angles before moving on. The stunning ceiling fresco was the work of Johann Baptist Zimmermann, his son Franz Michael, and Martin Heigl between 1755-1757 under Max III Joseph’s rule. The Great Hall has remarkably remained unchanged and preserved as an authentic Rococo room since 1758.

Great Hall, preserved rococo room, Nymphenburg Palace, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Ten Minutes Later...
We start our way through the wings of the castle, and its immediately ‘choose your own adventure’ as rooms broke off into other rooms and we weren’t sure if we’d end up missing something by accident or going around in circles.

One thing that stood out to me was how often paintings of the palace itself showed up in frames on the wall. It was as if the palace was a family pet that had numerous photos of its antics over the years. The truth is, they needed to constantly paint the palace in order to remember what it looked like. Every generation left their mark on the palace and its design. Many of the furnishings were original or of the time of the palace, often filled with portraits of previous homeowners looking back at you while you’re looking at their belongings and collections.

Nymphenburg Palace Paintings, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Nymphenburg Palace Bedrooms, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

King Ludwig I Gallery of Beauties
When I asked Sebastian what stood out in his memory of the palace, he immediately said the Gallery of Beauties. In the dining room of the Queen’s apartment, the Gallery of Beauties is displayed, a collection of 35 paintings by Joseph Stielier as a commission of King Ludwig I. They were all beautiful ladies, but from all different walks of life, and not necessarily German. The ladies’ wit, personality, and virtue must also be ideal to be included.

King Ludwig I's Gallery of Beauties, Nymphenburg Palace, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

King Ludwig was wholly involved in the project, and out of fourteen ladies nominated by the artist, the King would choose one. His step-mother nominated Elise List, and his wife Therese nominated and convinced Miss Erskine to be a part of the collection. The king would be present during the portrait sittings with Stielier and even direct the outfits. He hand selected and purchased the traditional Bavarian costume for the master shoemaker’s daughter Helene Sedelmayer. Ultimately his friendship with one of his ‘beauties’ would result in his abdication from the throne. If this is interesting for you, I have the perfect book recommendation: King Ludwig I's Gallery of beauties (affiliate link)

It took us several hours to visit all of the accessible rooms in the palace. After concluding our palace visit, we took a leisurely stroll through the park.

Nymphenburg Palace Flowers and Outdoor Lamps, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Park Pavilions
Schloss Nymphenburg was the ‘I want to get away from it all’ recluse for the ruler of Bavaria. It was a 2-hour carriage ride from the Munich residence. When you want to escape, reflect, or relax, you’ll need gardens, baths, and sports to unwind with. Over time, the palace grounds provided all of that through numerous pavilions; Amalienburg hunting lodge, the Badenburg bath house, Magdalenenklause for spiritual solace, and Pagodenburg for resting between outdoor games. You’ll need a combination ticket to get inside the pavilions, but to see the outside of them it's part of the public park. We knew we wouldn’t have time to visit inside, but we still wanted to visit the grounds and get an idea how big the park was.

Well, it turns out it's pretty big, and we got lost! Ha! We were trying to hunt down the Monopteros by the lake, and our direct path in our minds turned out to be very roundabout way. We found the Little Village with ‘Green Pump House’ way before we found the picturesque Monopteros. Wear something you can walk comfortably on gravel paths. To explore all of the pavilions you’ll have to walk! To rest up, we had a light lunch Café im Palmenhaus alongside the park before hitting the gift shop for art books on our way out.

Nymphenburg Park and Monopteros, Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Souvenir Recommendations
I chose and whole-heartedly recommend these two:

1. Nymphenburg Palace, Park and Pavilions - Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung. Small but swarthy overview of the building history and room by room descriptions of the objects in each room, including the paintings.

2.King Ludwig I's Gallery of beauties (affiliate link) by Gerhard Hojer which reproduced all 36, including the 1 lost portrait painting, with several essays as well as biographies of each of the ladies. I knew it would have all the details I needed and didn’t have time to read in the exhibit. This book may be best served buying in advance of your trip and reading before you go. The biographies on the ladies’ alone are fascinating.

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Architecture Style Guide to the Neues Rathaus in Munich

Neues Rathaus in Munich • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

After a full day exploring Oktoberfest, we walked into the old part of Munich. Sensory overloaded from the beautiful costumes and wonderful food of the day, I waddled with my belly full of pretzels, chicken, and beer up this very pointy, church-looking building. The red flowers were shocking amongst the shadowy arcade of windows behind them. When I noticed all of the different flags on the side of the building, I realized it wasn’t a church.

It was the new town hall, Neues Rathaus, where the mayor and city council hold office, and the general headquarters of the Munich city administration. Briefly the memory of our own, gymnasium, institutional-looking city council building back home in Florida shimmers in my mind before dissolving into the beauty before me. It could have been all of the pretzels, but I was confused. Why was this the new town hall, and why did it look so old? And why did it look like a church?

Well, it's complicated, but I’m going to make it super simple..

First, a SUPER basic overview of European architecture (in chronological order) Romanesque to Gothic, to Renaissance, to Gothic Revival.

Romanesque, think sturdy and basic.
Easy way to remember it is the buildings look like sturdy, basic, buildings that could be recreated with preschool wooden building blocks. They got the job done, and didn’t get fancy. [6th century, thereabouts, to late 10th century]

Gothic architects looked at Romanesque buildings and thought, ‘meh, I can do better. Buildings don’t have to be boring.’

Gothic, think skeletal and busy.
Easy way to remember it is the builders wanted to go as high as possible, and let as much light in as possible.

Its easy to go taller if its pointy right? So Gothic has mostly pointy edges.

Want more light? Add more windows. LOTS of windows.

To make the building withstand all the weight now that it's so tall and has tons of windows, it needs more support, but no one wants to LOOK at enormous supporting columns. So they put them outside the building. That’s where the flying buttresses come swooping in to the rescue. Then they didn’t have facebook or instagram to distract them, so they decorated every inch of it. The buildings look visually busy. [12th century in France to 16th century]

Renaissance architects looked at Gothic buildings and thought, ‘Oh my goodness! My eyes are bleeding it’s so busy! Why recreate the wheel, the Greeks and Romans already figured out this stuff, we should just recreate that.’

Renaissance, think columns and geometric.
Easy way to remember it is renaissance sounds like reminisce, as in reminiscing about those old roman/greek glory days.

So here comes the primary school wooden building blocks again. I’ll give them this though, it is a bit more elegant, with a focus on symmetry, decorative columns, and oh-so-pleasing geometric shapes. They cheated a little and used gothic architecture engineering then covered up their tracks with thick, plain walls again. -15th century to 17th century-

Gothic Revival architects looked at Renaissance buildings, then Gothic buildings, then Renaissance buildings again...and thought 'We’re GERMAN. Not Romans, or Greeks! We’re German! We should have German buildings!' I have to mention that Gothic Architecture didn’t actually originate in Germany, it originated in France. Gothic wasn’t POPULAR in France any more! So the Germans thought this was solely their style.

Gothic or Gothic Revival?
The biggest difference between Gothic and Gothic Revival is time, 12th-15th century Gothic, 18th-20th century Gothic Revival. Beyond that, if the stone work looks more uneven, and there are obvious, huge, flying butresses, its likely Gothic. With new building techniques in the 18th-20th century the stones were much smoother and buttresses were not always necessary to support the building's weight.

You just learned how to identify four forms of architecture with a few minutes of reading! Hi-Five! For all my visual learners out there, I took some of my photos of the Munich Neues Rathaus and labeled it with visual clues that its gothic.

Clues that you're looking at a gothic or gothic revival building • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

Back to the Neues Rathaus in Munich-

Why did the Neues Rathaus in Munich look so old?
Well, although it was built by Georg von Hauberrisser between 1867-1874, which isn’t all that long ago, the popular sentiment at the time believed life was better during medieval times, which had the gothic architecture. This building is part of the Gothic Revival period. They wanted to revive the self-governing glory days of the medieval times and Hanseatic League. It was a close call though. The Munich new town hall was almost Renaissance style. Click here for more about that, and I promise its brief too.

Why did the Neues Rathaus in Munich look like a church?
You know how when there’s a sequel to a movie, usually it's not as memorable as the first one? The first image that pops in my mind when you say Gothic is actually the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, as well as many other churches. During the 12th and 16th century, when Gothic was born, they only had the time, energy, and motivation to go all out designing churches, and that’s what’s memorable. However, with gothic revival, just like the Neues Rathaus, they started applying that style of design to any type of building, civic buildings included.

Munich simply outgrew their Old Town Hall, which is still standing just around the corner. They even added additional annexes between 1899-1903. For the finishing touch, in 1908 they added a charming glockenspiel to the front facade.

Here are two glockenspiel videos from the Neues Rathaus in Munich, one is for day time, and the other is for night.

Other features worthy of note, there’s over 400 hundred rooms, you can go up to the 255-ft tall observation deck for a fantastic aerial view, and there’s a restaurant dating from 1867 in the basement.

Munich Neues Rathaus New Town Hall Tower and Glockenspiel • Germany Travel Blog Tourist is a Dirty Word

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Bonus Resource: This book, The Gothic Revival by Michael J. Lewis was incredibly helpful in my research on this post about the Neues Rathaus. It's still available for sale on amazon (affiliate link). Chapter 3 was especially insightful on understanding Germany's perspective on the Gothic Revival.

Lewis, Michael J. The Gothic Revival. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002. Print. Thames & Hudson World of Art.


Things You Might Not Know About the Hofbrauhaus in Munich

Things you may not know about the Hofbräuhaus, Munich • Tourist is a Dirty Word Germany Travel Blog

This place is packed, we are never going to find an open table.

Scanning the room for a place to sit, or a hostess, we wandered through half of the Hofbräuhaus, stressed waitresses passing us with plates of food and glasses full of beer. We knew we wanted a taste of everything on those trays. At a loss, I stopped one of the waitresses near the tables, and I politely asked her how to find a table.

I knew the answer, you simply had to ask someone already sitting at the table, or wait for someone to leave, but I was not in the mood for either. The waitress smiled at me, then shouted towards the patrons on a nearby table to huddle together and make space for our group of four. This was going to be comfy! And it was.

Hofbräuhaus History and Folk Tales

The Hofbräuhaus is the oldest beer hall in Munich, and self-proclaimed 'The most famous tavern in the world”. On September 27, 1589, the Duke of Bavaria founded a brewery on the site of the Munich royal residence of that time, which lasted until 1808. The Duke preferred a dark, malty beer, while his son Maximilian favored Weissbier, which means 'white beer' in German. In the United States the white beer brew is usually found under the name Hefeweizen.

The brewery of the Duke kept brewing only the dark beer variant, which resulted in Maximilian building his own brewery in 1607. In the beginning the beer hall was filled with brewing equipment, which was later moved and more than 1000 guests can find a seat in the beer hall of the Hofbräuhaus today. About half of the visitors are regulars, the other half tourists. And legend has it, that one of the 1000 guests is actually an angel – based on the folk tale “Ein Münchner im Himmel”.

It tells the story of Alois Hingerl, a porter on Munich’s central station, who dies and goes to heaven. But Alois does not like heaven with all the singing and worshiping all day long, irritating other angels around him that he wants to go back to Munich. After fussing for a while, God decides to send him on a mission back to earth, delivering an important message to the Bavarian government. Alois Hingerl takes off and ends up in the Hofbräuhaus instead of delivering the message. He orders a beer, and another one, and based on the folklore story, still sits there at one of the tables to this day while the Bavarian government is patiently waiting for heavenly advice to come their way. The TV Channel Bayrischer Rundfunk made a comic based on the story, you can see the video here, starting with Alois flying back to Munich with a letter in his hand:

Hofbräuhaus Beer Stein Lockers

With Alois Hingerl always being around in spirit and many Munich regulars visiting, the Hofbräuhaus caters to them by providing over 400 tankard lockers. That way you do not have to take your beer glass home every time. However, the limited amount of lockers translates into a long wait list - just in case you were toying with the idea of getting yourself a personal locker there. List wait times can be several years, many lockers are handed down from generation to generation.

Getting a Table at Hofbräuhaus, Munich

Besides the local crowd you will find a lot of tourists there, too. The central location, good food, overall typical Bavarian atmosphere complete with live band and waitresses wearing dirndls, is a magnet for many. You will find most tables full of people. You can either ask a waitress if she knows where open spaces are or look around yourself and ask those sitting at half-empty tables, “Ist hier frei?”, which means “is this spot taken?” Don’t be shy! If you cannot find a place inside, check the beer garden area outside with another 400 seats - weather permitting of course.

Sing-a-long Time

You did not walk into the set of a musical. Public singing is perfectly normal at the Hofbräuhaus. Chime in with the live band that plays several times per hour. They usually play...

“In München Steht ein Hofbräuhaus”

OR “Ein Prosit”....

so you can practice before you go.

If you have been to the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, let us know how your visit went. And if you plan on going there and have a question, let us know, too. Just leave us a comment below this post.

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!


Hofbräuhaus, Munich • Be prepared to sing along with everyone in the restaurant! • Tourist is a Dirty Word Germany Travel Blog


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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler