Maxvorstadt is a bustling district: it is home to two world-renowned universities, museums and temples to culture as well as a colourful mix of cafés and restaurants, shops, businesses, law firms, breweries, publishing houses and government offices.
The district extends north of the old town from the English Garden in the east to the Stiglmaierplatz (square) and ends in the west on the Arnulfstrasse, which runs parallel to the railway tracks towards Hauptbahnhof (Central Station).
Maxvorstadt is the result of the first planned extension of Munich: in 1806, Bavaria was elevated to a kingdom, and Munich's new role as an administrative and cultural centre needed to be highlighted. So in 1808 King Maximilian I Joseph, after whom the new suburb was named, decided to expand Munich. Levelling continued of the old shackles which by then served no military purpose, creating the space to deliver a modern development plan by Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell. Sckell had a grid system of streets in mind which ensured it stood out clearly from the twisting streets of the old town.
Even as Crown Prince, King Maximilian's son and successor Ludwig I was actively involved in the design of Maxvorstadt: he worked with the architects Leo von Klenze and Friedrich von Gärtner to turn the winding Schwabinger Landstrasse into the Ludwigstrasse, a work of art in terms of urban development. Majestic buildings line the 1250 metre-long street. At the very start of the Ludwigstrasse, in front of the Odeon which is today the Ministry of the Interior, and the Palais Leuchtenberg, now the Ministry of Finance, an impressive equestrian monument serves as a reminder to Ludwig I.
Other sites worth a look include the Bavarian State Library, the St. Ludwig's Church and the slightly set-back Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).
The Siegestor (gate), built along the lines of the Arch of Constantine in Rome, marks the end of the Ludwigstrasse. This grand boulevard is still the perfect place for parades, processions and pageants: on the first Sunday of the Oktoberfest, around 9,000 traditional costume and riflemen club members make their way via the Ludwigstrasse towards the Theresienwiese.
Each year on two weekends in May and September, the Ludwigstrasse is closed to traffic to make way for the Streetlife Festival, a particularly popular spectacular among the people of Munich.
"Munich is being a village of palaces!"
The Maxvorstadt flashed and flaunted its way from the Odeonsplatz (square), heading west along the Brienner Strasse: on a visit to the city, the poet Heinrich Heine mocked Munich as being a village of palaces. The original structures were changed hugely in the NS period and subsequently completely destroyed in bomb attacks. But this stretch of road always retained its importance: the Siemens head office on the Wittelsbacher Platz (square), upmarket boutiques and car showrooms, the Munich Stock Exchange and cafés create a sophisticated atmosphere.
Another of Crown Prince Ludwig's urban design visions was to build a prestigious square, which is today the Königsplatz. A lover of Greece, Ludwig was keen to turn Munich into an "Isar-Athens". The Glyptothek (art gallery), a Hellenistic temple building, became the first public museum. The Crown Prince exhibited his collection of ancient works of art here. On the opposite side are now the Staatliche Antikensammlungen (State Collections of Antiques) with their Corinthian Portal. On the western edge of the square a city gate, the Propyläen (Propylaea), serves as a reminder of Greece gaining independence with the help of the House of Wittelsbach.
Today, the Königsplatz is often the backdrop to large concerts from classical to hard rock, open-air cinema and also a poplar spot for peaceful demonstrations.
Between the circular Karolinenplatz (square) and the Königsplatz, the NS-Dokumentationszentrum (Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism) which opened in 2011 is a reminder of Munich's significant role in National Socialism.
Adolf Hitler used the Maxvorstadt district as his base for building the NSDAP and designed the area on the Brienner Strasse according to his own vision. Today, the party buildings on the Arcisstrasse, the administrative building of the NSDAP, and the Führerbau (the Führer's building), are home to the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich – students now use Hitler's office as a practice room – and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute of the History of Art).
The grid pattern of the streets in Maxvorstadt is most unmissable between the axes of the Ludwig Strasse and the Brienner Strasse. The university quarter more than lives up to its name, today being home to the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Technical University (TUM) on the Arcisstrasse along with a series of other major universities and academies.
The more than 120,000 students at the two universities shape life in this part of the city. Countless small shops, restaurants and cafés, alongside galleries with just one room, new and second-hand bookshops, copy shops and laundrettes line the Türkenstrasse, Amalienstrasse and Schellingstrasse, to name just three of the area's main arteries.
Some of the hostelries, steeped in tradition, have been here for over 100 years, for example the Alte Simpl at Türkenstrasse 57. Named after the satirical magazine Simplicissimus, the place was a meeting point for writers and artists at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1960s, it was frequented by prominent names from show business and politics: Duke Ellington, Curd Jürgens, Willy Brandt, Liv Ullmann, and many more.
Time seems to have stood still in the Schelling Salon at Schellingstrasse 54. People have played pool here since 1911. Old and young alike meet here to chat and play: cards, dice and table football are also available. Hearty and inexpensive dishes to sooth the soul are also on the menu.
Even Munich residents still talk about Schwabing when they mean Maxvorstadt, because this is the cradle of the Schwabing bohemian scene. Painters, the literary set and free and radical thinkers from every discipline worked and lived here. It is only in the last decade that this district, so significant not just in historical terms, has emancipated itself to become the Maxvorstadt.
Artists from all over the world flocked to Munich to study art. Pablo Picasso said in 1897 that you couldn't seriously study art in Paris or Madrid, but only in "Munick", because art was free here! Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alfred Kubin, to name just a few, studied at the Munich Academy.
"You couldn't seriously study art in Paris or Madrid, but only in "Munick", because art is free here!"
In 2002, the Pinakothek der Moderne opened on the former site of the Türkenkaserne (army barracks). Immediately next to it is the Brandhorst Museum. Its distinctive façade is reminiscent of an abstract painting. Another magnet for visitors is the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus (art gallery). The gallery owes its fame in part to its collection of works by the Blauer Reiter (Blue Rider) artist group.
At the heart of the Maxvorstadt museum quarter are three Pinakotheken (art galleries). The cornerstone for what is today known as the Kunstareal (Art Quarter) was laid with the construction of the Alte Pinakothek. The Neue Pinakothek on the opposite side was opened in 1853 and houses major works by Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and others.
The HFF Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (University for Television and Film Munich) has also resided in Maxvorstadt since 2011. It has ties with famous names familiar not just to film buffs, such as Doris Dörrie, Dominik Graf, Bernd Eichinger and Sönke Wortmann. Housed in the building's western ground floor is the Egyptian Museum, whose entrance, or rather descent alone draws you in.
The western part of Maxvorstadt is still home to two major breweries: the buildings of the large-scale Löwenbräu brewery were a temple to the brewing industry. Beer has been brewed on the Nymphenburgerstrasse since 1826. The only reminder today of Germany's biggest brewery at the turn of the century is the Löwenbräukeller, built in 1883.
The building, with its striking façade and tower, is today a go-to destination during the carnival and the Starkbierzeit (Strong Beer Festival) that immediately follows on from carnival. The "Löwenbräu-Wirtsgarten", which also opened in 1883, was a real attraction at the time: the citizens of Munich were astounded to see serviettes, table cloths and electric lighting in a beer garden.
In 2007, the brewery buildings were forced to give way to a luxury residential complex. Beer is still brewed and bottled in the nearby Sudhaus belonging to the Spaten Brewery, which merged with Löwenbräu in 1997. There is still the pleasant smell of hops in the air in this district.
Gabriel Sedlmayr established his Spaten Brewery in the Maxvorstadt district's Marsstrasse in 1851. Sedlmayr was the first Munich brewer to use refrigeration in the brewing process, storing his finished beer in cellars designed to maintain a cool temperature. After more than 300 years, this brewing revolution ended the prohibition on brewing beer in the summer. Sedlmayr went on to become the first to use Carl Linde's ice machine, marking the start of industrial beer production.
The "Löwenbräu-Wirtsgarten" which opened in 1883, was a real attraction at the time: The citizens of Munich were astounded to see serviettes, table cloths and electric lighting in a beer garden.
The site of what is today the Augustiner-Keller, one of the city's finest beer gardens, is said to be Munich's last place of execution. But this is just a legend, that "knowledgeable" locals like tell visitors over a "Mass" of beer beneath the shade of the nearby chestnut trees, laughing as they get the creeps.
In actual fact, the execution site was located on the opposite side of the Arnulfstrasse, formerly known as the Salzstrasse. The last hanging took place in 1861. A circus took up residence in the immediate vicinity of this bloody spot: the Circus Krone. Not just a winter home for animals, but a stage for aspiring young men from England: the Beatles kicked off their 1966 world tour with a concert here.
Within the vibrant of Maxvorstadt, there are also oases of green where you can stop for a while and take a deep breath: the English Garden in the east is the most extensive of them all. The Alte Nördliche Friedhof (Old North Cemetery) on the Arcisstrasse on the other had promises a quite special atmosphere. The graveyard has faced the threat of destruction several times, but fate was on its side and the residents of Maxvorstadt got to keep their green haven of peace. Children play between the gravestones here, runners do their laps, and others spend many an hour on the benches lost in the pages of a book, surrounded by the spirit of the many famous Munich artists who are buried here.
Especially in the summer months, the large area of greenery that is the Kunstareal between the Pinakothek art galleries and the Königsplatz is perfect for a spontaneous picnic, sunbathing during the lunch break, playing football, practising yoga or simply getting together for a chat and watching the sun go down.
Not forgetting the Alter Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden), if you can manage to navigate your way across the Karlsplatz-Stachus (square) traffic hotspot. And the Hofgarten at the Residence (palace), a baroque garden where you might be tempted to join in a game of boules or be lured into dancing the tango on warm summer evenings.