The Grandeur of the Munich Residenz
We saw quite a few castles and museums during our European trip this past summer. But, a visit to the Munich Residence or Residenz München was one of our cherished experiences. With over 100 rooms of art, furnishings, treasures and everything in between, it’s easy to spend days here. With kids in tow, we only spent about three hours here and got more than we expected. These are some of the highlights of our tour.
The Munich Residenz started out as a castle in 1385 and evolved into a government seat and residence of Bavarian royalty from 1508 to 1918. It was heavily damaged during World War II but luckily, many of the masterpieces and treasures were safely moved elsewhere. Restoration and reconstruction started in 1945 and continued until 2003 with some new sections. Today, it is one of Bavaria’s largest complex of museums, gardens, courtyards and monuments.
Each museum ticket came with a free audio guide which was very helpful. The exhibits were numbered so all we had to do was punch into the audio guide the corresponding numbers of the items we were particularly interested in hearing more. The kids had their own audio guide too so they really liked this self-guided tour and it kept them engaged.
Located in Munich’s city center, it is easily accessible. We first ventured into the Schatzkammer or Treasury since the kids were excited to see the crown jewels and knights’ weaponry. I admit I was a little excited too to see all the Treasury had to offer. My daughter and I were captivated with all the priceless gems, crystal and shiny objects displayed in the ten rooms. It was a bit overwhelming to see the amount of treasures collected by the German monarchy.
The most memorable for me was the statuette of St. George in the Treasury. This housed the relics of St. George and was exquisite. It’s probably the fanciest relic holder I’ve ever seen. The details on this piece were amazing.
After the Treasury, we headed to the residence palace museum which is considered one of the finest in Europe despite being re-creations of its glory days. They did an outstanding job in refurbishing and reconstructing many of the rooms. Art work and furnishings were returned to original locations as much as possible showing the opulence of the royals.
The architecture, interior furnishings and art collection varied in styles and design. Each of the rulers left their mark and added their own collection to make the Munich Residenz their own while living theere.The rulers were from the Wittelsbach dynasty which was the longest dynasty in Europe.
The first masterpiece we saw was this unique grotto decorated entirely with seashells.
One of the first rooms we saw that completely took my breath away was the Antiquarium. This 216 feet (66 meters) long room is the museum’s oldest and considered the largest Renaissance interior north of the Alps. This was initially built by Duke Albrecht V in the mid-1500s to hold his antique sculpture collection and thus earning its name.
This was also once used as a banquet hall. I could just imagine the dukes sitting here surveying the crowd. The Antiquarium’s wall and ceiling frescoes were remodeled. Along the windows were frescoes and views of Bavarian scenes and towns.
The walls were lined with busts and sculptures. Many of the duke’s original collection and some that were added later on make up the displays in the Antiquarium.
We toured apartments, throne rooms and chapels which the Bavarian rulers once used through the most part of the residence museum. Most of the rooms had overview descriptions and gave us a little insight into how the Bavarian rulers lived back then. We really liked that visitors could take pictures of everything (with no flash) compared to the other Bavarian castles in the area which had guided tours and no interior picture-taking rules.
Elaborate tapestries were on display in many of the rooms. It was hard to imagine living with this much grandeur. Some rooms were appropriately called Ornate Rooms.
These were a few of the bedrooms we saw inside the museum. Those beds looked small and uncomfortable.
As we wandered through the rooms, many of them seemed to overlap each other since a few were decorated in similar ways. They did such a wonderful job re-constructing the rooms with the elaborate paintings, artifacts and furnishings from floor to ceiling.
I admit we skipped through some rooms that didn’t hold our interest or were sparsely furnished. Some of the rooms felt randomly placed too. There was a room with many exhibits of silverware and china that were part of the palace.
We really liked the Green Gallery with green damask walls, its ornate ceiling and bright chandeliers. The walls were covered with framed portraits and mirrors.
The residence museum also featured chapels where the royals attended mass. Members of court worshipped in the chapel below, while the rulers and their families sat in the gallery. The Hofkapelle is dedicated to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception which was the focus on the high altar and was pretty big.
I dont think I would have been able to focus here during services especially with this glorious ceiling art.
One of my favorite places at the Residenz was the Reiche Kapelle or Ornate Chapel. This small room to the side of the chapel was the Duke’s private worship area. Only a few people were allowed inside at a time by the guard. This was also where the Duke kept his collection of relics from saints and became the spiritual center of the Residenz. Just like the rest of the palace, only a few of the original materials and decorations were salvaged. Fortunately, the stunning altar here was the chapel’s original with its silver reliefs and the Crucifixion of Christ as its centerpiece.
The last area in the residence museum was the shiny Ahnengalerie or Ancestral Gallery. The intricate gilded carvings on the walls and ceiling were almost blinding. The gallery displayed over 100 portraits of the Wittelsbach family members.
The last part of our tour was the Cuvilliés-Theatre which our Munich walking tour guide told us was a can’t-miss. The original theater was built in the mid 1700s as a “new opera house” and was originally reserved only for court members.
The theater was destroyed during World War II. This current theater is a new location and was reassembled. The only things that survived from the original theater were the painted wood carvings and other tier fittings which were restored here. The intricate carved decoration of the tiers could still be seen. The details were stunning and we could only imagine how this theater must have looked in its original form.
We were the only ones here so the kids had fun running down the aisle and sitting in the plush chairs to see which had the best views.
The ten courtyards of the Residenz were also a delight to see. The octagonal Brunnenhof or Fountain Court was our favorite due to its size. This was once used as a tournament and carriage entrance. The bronze statue is of Duke Otto I who was Bavaria’s first duke.
It’s always a challenge taking kids to museums like these but my kids actually enjoyed seeing all the opulence and doing our self-guided tour. The audio guide was an essential piece to touring the Munich Residenz and allowed us to take our time. It was grand and impressive and definitely worth the stop.
Visiting Munich Residenz Basics and Tips
Admission can be purchased separately for the Treasury, Residence Museum or Cuvillies Theatre or go for the combination tickets for two or three of the areas which had the best value. Combination ticket for all three was at the most 13 euros. Check the Munich Residenz site for more information.
Free admission to everyone 18 years old and under.
Buy the Bavarian Palace Department’s 14-day or annual pass to visit over 40 Bavarian attractions for a flat fee. 14 days is 24 euros or Family Ticket is 40 euros. We had the pass and went into the Munich Residenz for free.
There is a lot to see – be selective and allow plenty of time to get through the treasury and residence museum.
Free audioguide comes in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish versions.
Last admission is at 5 PM.
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