Text and Photos by Nina Sarmiento
I always wanted to go to Munich if only because I long wanted to see the castles built by Ludwig II, former King of Bavaria and more known as Mad King Ludwig. His fairy-tale castles are the stuff that little girls' dreams are made of. And for this solo female traveler, going to Munich is like being a princess for a while – beautiful and happy while living once upon a time in a kingdom far far away.
So if you fancy a fairy-tale weekend, you might want to consider spending a couple of days in this Bavarian city. Below are some places that you can visit while on this fab weekend:
This is perhaps considered the heart of Germany's third largest city. Munich's main square, also known as St. Mary's Square, was the city's marketplace and where tournaments were held back in the middle ages.
The focal point of Marienplatz is the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). The neo-Gothic architectural masterpiece took 40 years to build and is home to the throne of the Münchner Kindl (the Munich child) – symbol of the city, the image of which can be found in the city's coat of arms. The Münchner Kindl is a child garbed in a monk's tunic, a nod to Munich's history when it used to be a site of a Benedictine monastery (Bei den Moenchen).
It is also here in the New Town Hall, where you can see what is perhaps Munich's most popular attraction – the Glockenspiel. This carillon, located in front of the tower, features a 15-minute performance by mechanical figures dancing to a folksy tune played by the chimes. You can catch the free show on 11 a.m., noon time and 5 p.m., every day.
Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady)
The Gothic-style church, was built in the 15th century and is one of the largest churches in southern Germany – with the capacity to hold 20,000 worshipers. The cathedral is home to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising and the seat of its Archbishop.
The church's most popular feature is its twin towers topped by distinctive copper onion domes. When you venture inside the Frauenkirche , you'll find the “devil's footprint” aka Der Teufelstritt. According to local legend, the German architect Jorg von Halsbach wanted to build the cathedral. So he made a pact with the devil, who promised him funds in exchange building the cathedral which is supposed to represent a “celebration of darkness.” This meant he had to build a window-less church to block out sun light. When the devil came inside to survey the building, it appeared the builder had kept his end of the deal. But, as he passed the columns that were blocking his view of the windows, the devil saw that windows did exist. The devil stomped his foot on the floor in anger, leaving his footprint in the floor that still exists today.
Step outside the Frauenkirche and go to the Fischbrunnen (Fish Fountain) where you can “wash” your wallet. Every Ash Wednesday, the Mayor of Munich “washes” his money by dunking his wallet in its Fish Fountain. Others also wash their purses and wallets. This ritual ensures that they won't have any financial worries for the rest of the year.
Perhaps one of Europe’s most beautiful palaces, the Munich Residenz was the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. Now it is a Palace Museum, and you can get lost – and awestruck- while visiting its rooms filled with jewelry and art works and elegant courtyards.
If you only have time to visit one spot in this sprawling compound, do go to the Antiquarium – the huge Renaissance hall where the royalty once dined and where Duke Albrecht V stored his collection of antique sculptures.
Or you can go to the Ahnengalerie – “the ancestral gallery” It features a magnificent room, with beautiful wall carvings, and unique stucco on its walls. The gallery's carved gold panelings showcases over 100 portraits of the members of the royal Wittelsbach family.
Hofbrauhaus – The Royal Brewery
No one goes to Munich without paying tribute to its most famous indulgece – beer. And whether you are a beer drinker or not, you'll not be disappointed going to
Hofbrauhaus. Duke Wilhem V ordered the construction of the Hofbrauhaus, one of Munich's oldest breweries, in the 16th century. This is because the Duke didn't like paying the high costs of buying imported beer. Once the construction was complete, it became the Royal Brewery. Today, it's a major tourist attraction where you can always find the song “Country Home” playing inside. It's a popular place where diverse groups of tourists can enjoy a brew and a little fun.
Englischer Garten – The Largest City Park in Europe
Englischer Garten, or the English Garden, is reportedly larger than New York's Central Park and is the perfect place to take an afternoon stroll. It features a Greek-style temple, a Japanese tea house, a Chinese Pagoda, two beer gardens and the Kleinhesseloher Lake.
Schloss Nymphenburg– The Nymph's Castle
The Nymphenburg was constructed in 1664 to celebrate the birth of Maximilian Emanuel, the son of Elector Ferdinand Maria Adelaide of Savoy and future ruler of Bavaria. It functioned as the summer home of the Bavarian royalty.
The castle features among other things a massive Rococo ballroom with huge chandeliers and elaborate frescoes decorate its high ceiling. But the castle's top attraction is it so-called Gallery of Beauties. This was built during the reign of King Ludwig I and featured paintings of beautiful ladies chosen by the king himself. One of whom was a famous dancer and courtesan more known by her stage name Lola Montez. Born Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Lola was an Irish dancer and actress who caught the eye of King Ludwig I. She later became his mistress and her sultry looks continue to adorn the wall of Nymphenburg.
Neuschwanstein – The New Swan Castle
The renown fairy tale castle is located not in heart of Munich but on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria, about five hours away by train. But this day trip is worth it, if only to indulge in this fantasy land built by Mad King Ludwig. As a child, the future king of Bavaria was fascinated with legends and myths. His fascination with the grail knight, Perceval, Tannhauser the poet and knight Lohengrin inspired the olde German Knight style furnishings and medieval structure.
The Neuschwanstein castle was the inspiration of the Sleeping Beauty castle in the famous Disney film. But, to visit the castle, you need to be in pretty good shape to make the 20 minutes climb. Or you can choose to be a princess for a day and go to the castle riding a horse-drawn carriage. Now that's traveling in style!
Clean and Cheap hostel: If you have a modest budget but want to stay in a clean and comfortable place, I suggest that you book a room at the Wombat City Hostel at http://www.wombats-hostels.com/ The centrally-located hostel is clean, safe, has Wi-fi and near a train station. An ensuite double room costs 40 euros a night, breakfast set is about four euros.
Cheap and Chic Train travel: Stretch your budget further by getting a city day ticket which you can purchase at the airport. This is the best and cheapest way to get you from the airport to the city and also to wander around Munich. For just 11 euros, you can use the day ticket to travel by bus, train or tram that is part of the MVV network fopr one day. You can visit http://www.mvv-muenchen.de/en/ for more details.
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