When one of the Bavarian royals said that he was going to the castle, he could have meant any number of places, especially if he was Ludwig II. But if he said that he was going home, he could only be referring to the Residenz. This enormous palace, with a history almost as long as that of the Wittelsbach family, was the official residence of the rulers of Bavaria from 1385 to 1918. Added to and rebuilt over the centuries, the complex is a conglomerate of various styles. Depending on how you approach the Residenz, you might first see a German Renaissance hall (the western facade), a Palladian palace (on the north), or a Florentine Renaissance palace (on the south facing Max-Joseph-Platz).
The Residenz was restored after its almost total destruction in World War II and now houses the Residenz Museum, a concert hall, the Cuvilliés Theater, and the Residenz Treasury. The Residenz Museum (tel. 089/29-06-71), the southwestern section of the palace, has some 120 rooms of art and furnishings collected by centuries of Wittelsbachs. To see the entire collection, you'll have to take two tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. You may also visit the rooms on your own.
The Ancestral Gallery is designed like a hall of mirrors, except that instead of mirrors, there are portraits of the Wittelsbach family, set into gilded, carved paneling. The largest room in the museum section is the Antiquarium, possibly the finest example of interior Renaissance secular styling in Germany. Frescoes, painted by dozens of 16th- and 17th-century artists, adorn nearly every inch of space on the walls and ceilings. The room is broken into sections by pilasters and niches, each with its own bust of a Roman emperor or a Greek hero. The central attraction is the two-story chimney piece of red stucco and marble, completed in 1600. It's adorned with Tuscan pillars and the coat of arms of the dukes of Bavaria.
On the second floor of the palace, directly over the Antiquarium, is an enormous collection of Far Eastern porcelain. Note also the fine assemblage of Oriental rugs in the long, narrow Porcelain Gallery.
If you have time to view only one item in the Schatzkammer (Treasury), make it the 16th-century Renaissance statue of St. George Slaying the Dragon. This equestrian statue is made of gold, but you can barely see the precious metal for the thousands of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and semiprecious stones embedded in it. Both the Residenz Museum and the Schatzkammer are entered from Max-Joseph-Platz on the south side of the palace.
From the Brunnenhof, you can visit the Altes Residenztheater, better known as the Cuvilliés Theater, whose rococo tiers of boxes are supported by seven bacchants. Directly over the huge center box, where the royal family sat, is a crest in white and gold topped by a jewel-bedecked crown of Bavaria held in place by cherubs in flight. In summer, this theater is the scene of frequent concert and opera performances. Mozart's Idomeneo was first performed here in 1781.
The Italianate Hofgarten, or Court Garden, is one of the special "green lungs" of Munich. To the north of the Residenz, it's enclosed on two sides by arcades; the garden dates from the time of Duke Maximilian I and was laid out between 1613 and 1617. In the center is the Hofgarten temple, a 12-sided pavilion dating from 1615. The Staatliche Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art) is located in the Residenz.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010