Panoramic view of the Neues Rathaus in Munich with the Frauenkirche in the background.

Munich turns 866 years old

Happy Birthday München!

On the weekend of June 08 and 09, 2024, the city of Munich celebrated its 866th birthday and transformed large parts of Munich's old town into a strolling place that invites visitors to marvel and discover. But how did Munich actually come into being? Here you will find the most important facts and figures about the city's founding.

Information on the city's birthday in 2025 will follow.

 

It started with the salt

The modern Bavarian capital is younger than other Bavarian cities that have Roman heritage, such as Augsburg or Regensburg. In fact its roots can be traced back to the mid-12th century salt trade; back in the Middle Ages it was possible to build a fortune on these familiar white crystals because, before refrigeration arrived, salt was the only way to preserve food. So those in pursuit of political and economic influence were eager to take control of the trade routes, customs stations and shipment hubs that dealt with this precious raw material.

The founding of Munich: the result of a medieval mediation

There were three prominent 12th-century rulers involved in the founding of Munich, with various levels of enthusiasm about it: Henry the Lion (Heinrich der Löwe), Duke of Saxony and Bavaria; his cousin and “very best friend” Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor (Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa); and last but not least Bishop Otto of Freising, one of the leading historians and philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Heinrich is known for being adept at expanding his influence in Bavaria and tapping into new sources of wealth. One of his schemes was to divert the lucrative salt trade away from places such as Bad Reichenhall and Berchtesgaden, by building a bridge (on the site where Deutsches Museum now stands) that would instead bring traders across the Isar river and into his own area of influence. To ensure his success, he also destroyed the existing bridge and adjoining customs post a few kilometres further downriver, which were located in the territory presided over by Bishop Otto of Freising.

Up to that point the Bishop’s bridge had been the only means of crossing the Isar river for miles around. Of course Otto did not submit peacefully to this act of hostility. A dispute ensued and Kaiser Barbarossa stepped in to arbitrate. He passed a ruling known as the Augsburger Einung (Augsburg Unification), in which he essentially approved the actions of his favoured Heinrich – who had, after all, supported the Kaiser in a number of decisive battles – but also compelled the Duke to pay one-third of all his customs revenues to Freising. These payments continued until the start of the 19th century.

 

A star is born: from monastic settlement to metropolis

The issue date of the Emperor’s ruling – 14 June 1158 – is often considered the birth date of Munich as it is the first time the city’s name is mentioned in an official document. The same document grants the previously insignificant settlement of “Munichen” the right to hold a market and mint its own coins, with the result that it rapidly transformed into an important trading city.

Salt and other goods were traded on Marienplatz, which was still known as Schrannenplatz at that time – this was where the Salt Road towards Augsburg met the northern trade route that led to Italy, after Henry the Lion had rerouted traffic.

Carts accessed the fortified city through Talburgtor (the tower of the Altes Rathaus) and exited it by travelling towards Karlsplatz-Stachus along what is now the Fussgängerzone pedestrian area, and then passing through Kaufingertor (gate), which is no longer standing. Which means the history of the pedestrian area as a thoroughfare goes back more than just half a century – all the way to the city’s early days during the Middle Ages, in fact.

Video: simply City Birthday

 

Want to find out more? Tours of Altstadt by München Tourismus

We offer a wide range of city walking tours led by official City of Munich tour guides and suitable for groups or individuals.

 

 

Text: Karoline Graf; Foto: Jörg Lutz, Münchner Stadtmuseum, istock/aprott
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Munich Card & City Pass

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Merchant with dried fruit on the Viktualienmarkt in Munich.

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Discover the most delicious delicacies of the city and learn all kinds of interesting historical facts about Munich's most famous food market.

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Justizpalast Tour

During the guided tour of the present-day seat of the Bavarian State Ministry of Justice, you will learn everything about the history and significance of the neo-baroque court and administrative building.

Book now for 20 €!

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Small meeting room of the Neues Rathaus in Munich

New Town Hall Tour

Explore the Neue Rathaus on Marienplatz with an official City of Munich tour guide. A visit of the famous law library is also included!

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Discover the most famous beer hall in the world with an official guide of the city of Munich and enjoy a fresh Mass of beer afterward!

Book for 28€, Mass beer included!

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Towers at Marienplatz in Munich

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The city walk for everyone who wants to become acquainted with the most beautiful parts of Munich's city centre.

Book now for 18 €!

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Wort kettle at the Spaten brewery in Munich.

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Experience a brewery tour at Spaten with a look behind the scenes, interesting facts about the company history and beer tasting in the brewery tower.

Book now for 22 €!

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A woman with varnished fingernails holds a gift with the inscription "simply Munich".

Vouchers

Buy now vouchers for your visit in Munich. The ideal gift! Guided tours, guest cards and more...

Buy vouchers from 6,50 €

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View of the Salzach river and the castle in Salzburg.

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Visit the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and relax on the journey to beautiful Lake Wolfgang.

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A stone jug with the inscription Oktoberfest Munich.

Order now!

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Bring a piece of Oktoberfest home: Purchase official souvenirs such as the Wiesn poster or the Oktoberfest beer stein in the official Oktoberfest shop.

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Bikes stand in the green grass in the English Garden in Munich

Rental bike 1 day

With a rental bike, you can experience Munich at your own personal pace. Discover hidden alleys and charming districts off the beaten track.

Book now for 26 €!

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A woman in the exhibition "Der Blaue Reiter" in the Lenbachhaus in Munich

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2 nights in your selected hotel and - thanks to the City Pass - free admission to 45 museums, sights and attractions: our travel package for explorers.

3 days from 313 € for 2 Pers.

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Bag on green background

Vouchers

Give the gift of a special Munich voucher: we also offer vouchers for all our guided tours. Here you can book unique Munich experiences directly online, print them out and give them as a gift voucher to friends or family.

Buy vouchers from 6,50 €

Give the gift of a special Munich voucher: we also offer vouchers for all our guided tours. Here you can book unique Munich experiences directly online, print them out and give them as a gift voucher to friends or family.