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

Munich turns 864 years old

Happy Birthday München!

On 19 June 2022, the city of Munich will celebrate its 864th birthday and at the same time the 50th anniversary of the Summer Olympic Games of 1972 with an event mile in large parts of Munich's old town. But how did Munich actually come into being? Here you will find the most important facts and figures about the city's founding.

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: Old Town tour

 

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Text: Karoline Graf; Foto: Jörg Lutz, Münchner Stadtmuseum, istock/aprott

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A women is drinking beer out of a beer mug at the Auer Dult in Munich.

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A group of young men dressed in traditional costumes at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

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Close-up of a young woman with a orange hair ribbon at the festival Tollwood in Munich.

simply magical

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Tollwood winter festival in Munich

The alternative Christmas market

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Christmas angels in a sales booth at the christmas market in Munich.

Christmas magic

When the snow shines in the glow of countless lights, the Christmas market on Marienplatz is the most beautiful.

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Small meeting room of the Neues Rathaus in Munich

Exclusive tour through the town hall

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

Book now from 18 €

Magistrates, Monachia and magnificent celebrations: explore the Neue Rathaus on Marienplatz with an official City of Munich tour guide. A visit of the famous law library is also included!

Stage and audience of the Passionsspiel in Oberammergau.

The game of suffering, death and resurrection

The inhabitants of Oberammergau staging probably the world's most successful and largest amateur play. Buy your Tickets here.

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Merchant with dried fruit on the Viktualienmarkt in Munich.

Viktualienmarkt Tasting Tour

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

Book now for 32 €!

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

Visit to the Town Hall Balcony

Join us on the famous balcony of the New Town Hall, where FC Bayern has celebrated a triumph many times - and enjoy the beautiful view over Marienplatz.

Book now for only 6 €!

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