Accustomed to live in luxury, Bavarian kings kept much of their wealth in the Munich Residenz. The royal palace was decorated with great pomp and refinement, almost matching and competing with the taste of French monarchs. Therefore, the interior and collections of the Munich Residenz are worth spending a few hours of tourist’s time.
Interestingly, at first one may miss the royal residence while wandering through the Munich’s Old Town and enjoying its attractions. This is because it is not just a palace, but a complex of various buildings covering an area of several city blocks. Actually, it is one of the largest in Europe. At first glance, the façades may look rather simple, which, one may say, is typical for German architecture. Moreover, it is a mixture of different architectural styles, from Classicism to Rococo, rather than a single architectural ensemble. This is because Bavarian dukes and kings kept rebuilding the palace according to the taste and fashion of their epoch. Well, eventually it does not matter, because the main masterpieces are hidden inside, where a real parade of luxury and wealth on display is awaiting the visitors.
A few words how to get there. The question is not as simple as it looks, because the Munich Residenz has several entrances on all sides of the complex. One may miss the main entrance and, as a result, will waste time, wandering through secondary buildings with numerous halls. Someone had advised us to enter from the Hofgarten since it is close to the Odeonsplatz subway (U-Bahn) station. However, it is not the best way, at least for those who want first of all to see the Treasury (Schatzkammer) and Antiquarium. Therefore, we would advise you to walk a little farther to the Max-Weber-Platz where the actual main entrance is located. By the way, it is not far from the Maximillianplatz subway station, either.
Well, we found the main entrance and the box office and started to think where we shall go in the huge palace complex. The fact is that the Munich Residenz is too big to see everything interesting during one visit. One has to sacrifice something in order not to miss the main attractions. We decided to limit ourselves to the Treasury and Residenz Museum. One needs at least three hours (we spent four) to just quickly browse through their halls. We would have also liked to see the Cuvillies Theater with its elegant Rococo hall, but unfortunately we were out of time.
We started walking through the Treasury halls and were immediately stunned by the abundance of luxury precious things. Almost every Bavarian ruler of the Wittelsbach dynasty had a passion for collecting, and all of them took on themselves to fill the palace with new treasures. In the 16th century, Duke Albrecht even gave instruction to his descendants: the treasures of the palace were not to be sold or pawned. Treasures and precious trinkets were brought from all over the world: Chinese porcelain, amber, gems and rock-crystal, etc. The abundance of gold and diamonds in the Treasury really dazzles. Many royal attributes, such as crowns and wands are displayed; some of them belonged to French, Austrian and other European royal dynasties. Bavarian Royal Crown is also on display here.
Residenz MuseumA full day would be needed for a thorough tour of the Residenz Museum. We walked through an infinite number of audience halls, living rooms and bedrooms. Each one has an individual interior style. The throne hall is magnificient. In addition to rooms and halls, there are six courtyards, the most beautiful of which is the courtyard with a grotto. The yard was closed for the winter (we were there in January), but we still could see from the outside the magnificently decorated artificial grotto. However, the prime jewel of the museum is the famous Antiquarium. This is a large gallery with a vaulted ceiling covered with paintings. It houses a collection of marble sculptures of different eras. This hall is really gorgeous; I cannot remember seeing anything like it even in Versailles.
The four-hour visit was certainly not enough to see everything in the Munich Residenz, but what we managed to see has left a very positive impression. To fully enjoy the visit we would recommend renting an audio guide available in several languages.
Helpful tipsLet me offer more advice to future visitors. It is rather chilly in the palace during the cold time of the year. We got the impression as if there was no heating at all. Therefore, although there is a dressing room, you may want to leave on your jacket or overcoat. Another problem we encountered in the museum was that the only restrooms for visitors we saw were in the lobby at the main entrance. So, keep this in mind at the beginning of the tour. With snack, on the other hand, there is no problem: there are several small cafes in the complex. However, I would recommend having lunch or dinner in the Spatenhaus restaurant, which is nearby on the Max-Joseph-Platz. They serve famous beer brands and their cuisine is also excellent. It is best to sit on the second floor, where there are fewer tourists. Theater aficionados may want to spend an hour or more to visit the Cuvillies Theater in the Munich Residenz. Better yet, visit the Bavarian Opera House, right here on the Max-Joseph-Platz. The opera hall is just stunning; besides someone of the opera celebrities is always performing there.