Loops of the roller coaster in the colors yellow, blue-red and green with writing against the blue sky.

Munich: Olympic city and cultural metropolis

Flying high

The 1972 Summer Olympic Games were a powerful driver of Munich’s transformation into the lively sports and cultural metropolis it is today. The 50th anniversary of that landmark year offers a great opportunity to appreciate the sporting and Olympic aspects of the city together with its cultural delights. If you’re planning a trip to Munich during this celebration year, be sure to include these highlights.

When IOC President Avery Brundage uttered the words, “The games are awarded to Munich,” in 1966, there was jubilation in the city. The seemingly impossible had been achieved: the 1972 Summer Olympic Games would take place in Munich. When the Games opened on 26 August 1972, the city welcomed the sporting world to its brand-new Olympic campus. Featuring spectacular tented roof architecture, the site continues to be an architectural highlight to this day.

Video: Spirit of '72 – Architecture

The international visitors who flocked to the city were impressed not only by the sporting wonders on display, but also by the extraordinary and often groundbreaking accomplishments in Munich’s architecture, urban planning, museums, music scene, theatre and art world.

Nothing has changed in this respect to this day: The 50th anniversary of the 1972 Summer Olympics is a good occasion to experience great sport or to become active in sport yourself, and furthermore to discover and enjoy the cultural richness of Munich and the special charm of its neighbourhoods. Have fun!


Sporting highlights

Cycling tour: 1972 Olympics venues

From the equestrian stadium in Riem through Englischer Garten and on to Olympiapark, then continuing to Schloss Nymphenburg (palace) and the rowing regatta course that leads to Oberschleissheim: this 38-kilometre cycling route will take you to several former Olympic Games venues. You can use the komoot touring app as a handy orientation guide.

What is there to see and do?

You can actually feel a little of the atmosphere of those Olympic Games – the “Spirit of 1972” – at the respective stops along the way. On a number of the buildings and signposts you pass you’ll see original signs and pictograms designed by Otl Aicher, head designer for the games, and they are a real highlight of this tour. Their sleek, minimalist design means they look more modern than ever. You can also experience some typical Munich hospitality, for example when you walk into the beer garden at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) or at Seehaus, both in Englischer Garten, or at the Palmenhaus in the park at Schloss Nymphenburg.



Zeltdach Roof Climb tour in Olympiapark

It all started with a lady’s stocking. Fixed in place on a tabletop with toothpicks and drawing pins, it served as the model when designing the Zeltdach tented roof that extends over the sports facilities in Olympiapark. The construction was so audacious that entirely new calculation methods had to be developed for the structural analysis. Today the transparent tented roof has become every bit as much a Munich landmark as the towers of the Frauenkirche.

What is there to see and do?

On the Zeltdachtour (Roof Climb tour) you can navigate the edge of the Olympiastadion roof while roped to an iron rail, learning all about the construction and the 50-year history of Olympiapark. And for an extra adrenaline rush, you can finish the tour with a trip on the Flying Fox zip line or by abseiling down into the stadium below.



Allianz Arena

The Allianz Arena football stadium superseded the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) in 2005 as the city’s most important football venue. In designing the new stadium a conscious decision was made to avoid a conventional construction approach, with the facility instead based on a futuristic design by architects Herzog & De Meuron. When the approximately 2,700 air cushions on the exterior of the structure are illuminated in the red of home team FC Bayern, you could be forgiven for thinking that a UFO had landed in the north of the city. Located around 15 kilometres from Olympiapark as the crow flies, the arena is an example of a stadium which is striking for the fascinating lightness of its construction.

What is there to see and do?

FC Bayern fans can come here to watch their team play at home. On days when there are no matches, a visit to the FC Bayern Museum and/or a guided tour of the stadium is a wonderful alternative.



TSV 1860 München und Giesing

The TSV 1860 football team played its home games at the legendary Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) until 2005. After a brief stint at the Allianz Arena however, the team (known as “the Lions” or simply the “Sechzger", which means “60s”) is now firmly established back at its home stadium on Giesing’s Grünwalder Strasse. The Lions, and in fact football in general, are a hot topic in this district of Munich – which incidentally is also the birthplace of famed footballer the “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer. Both of the city’s major clubs – and the 60s – train here. The training grounds of both big clubs, FC Bayern and Sechzger, are also located in Giesing.

What is there to see and do?

The Lions and FC Bayern both offer fans the opportunity to watch training sessions free of charge. Meanwhile, Munich’s official tour guides invite you to enjoy a Hood Love tour of Giesing, which takes in the area’s love of football as well as Giesing’s beer and beer garden culture, the listed buildings in which day labourers found lodgings in times past and the idyllic spots in Rosengarten park or “Little Venice” on Mondstrasse.



Architectural highlights

BMW Welt

The double-coned roof of the building, designed by architects from Coop Himmelb(l)au, is nothing short of spectacular, with its upward-twisting dynamic curve. The “floating” roof cloud is thrillingly resonant with the airy roof structure that can be seen in Olympiapark just opposite. Opened in 2007, the BMW Welt experience and distribution centre is a milestone on the road of Munich’s rapid development into a modern metropolis.

What is there to see and do?

In addition to the display of all of the manufacturer’s current cars and motorbikes, the venue regularly hosts jazz concerts and other cultural events, and is home to a Junior Campus for children as well as various gastronomic offerings, from the café to its award-winning restaurant. A guided tour tells you everything you need to know about the architecture and origins of the building, the brands and products of the BMW Group and even offers a look behind the scenes of delivering a car to a customer.



Ohel Jakob Synagogue

68 years after the destruction of Munich’s former main synagogue, when the Ohel Jakob Synagogue opened in 2006 the Jewish community once again had a home in the heart of the city. Clad in natural stone, the base is reminiscent of the temples of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the glass structure with steel skeleton looks like it is covered with intertwining Stars of David and represents the Tabernacle.

The interior was fitted out using cedar wood from Lebanon and stone from Israel. Designed by architect Wandel Hoefer Lorch, the place of worship won the Deutscher Städtebaupreis (German Urban Development Prize) in 2008.

What is there to see and do?

Those interested in visiting the synagogue can book an individual place on one of the regular public tours or opt for a group tour.

The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) next door offers insights into Munich’s Jewish history and culture. 50 years after the Olympic Games in Munich, it has joined forces with the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism and the Consulate General of the State of Israel to launch the commemorative project Twelve Months - Twelve Names. 50 years of the Munich Olympic assassination. Each month, a victim is the focus of the commemoration.




Herz-Jesu-Kirche, a project by architectural firm Allmann Sattler Wappner, is Munich’s most modern Catholic church. Built in 2000, this sacred building has a pure, stripped-back design that takes the breath away. The church contains no ornaments or paintings so as not to distract visitors from their time of introspection. A monumental two-leaf door made from blue glass covers almost the entire façade of the church; in summer it is sometimes opened up for concerts and special events.

What is there to see and do?

Experience a moment of silence. Simply go inside and let the tranquillity envelop you. The light streaming through the building’s outer shell and filtering into the interior through vertical slats of light wood creates a warm, contemplative atmosphere.




At the time of the 1972 Olympic Games, dumplings were still being cheerfully produced on the site of the Werksviertel-Mitte behind the Ostbahnhof.  From the mid-1990s, after production ceased, the buildings were used for a party mile. In addition to creative interim uses, offices, hotels and apartments have also been springing up in the past few years. And Werksviertel will soon be getting a new concert house for one of Munich’s three star orchestras: the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

What is there to see and do?

The Werksviertel area is the epitome of futuristic architecture. The Werk 12 building is just one of the many spectacular construction projects in this new district of the city. Adorned with comic-style lettering on its façade, the building was honoured with the 2021 DAM (Deutsches Architekturmuseum/German Architectural Museum) Prize as the best new build of the year. A kind of “horizontal high-rise”, this three-storey “media bridge” stands on two 50-metre tall pillars. It was designed by Otto Steidle and implemented after his death by his successors at architectural firm steidle architekten.

There is a Stadtalm (urban farm) on the roof of Werk 3, which is currently home to several sheep and chickens as well as a number of bee colonies. If you’d like to find out more, you can book a guided tour of the farm. The “Freiraummuseum” (open-air museum), featuring graffiti and street art by international artists, has grown over 20 years and can be visited day or night free of charge. whiteBOX and its guest studio spray industrial charm in New York style. Art exhibitions and workshops take place regularly at this venue.



Art and cultural treasures


5,000 years of art and cultural history in just 500 square metres: how many cities can offer that? The Glyptothek and the Antikensammlungen were the first art museums to be built here in the Kunstareal in Maxvorstadt by the art-loving monarch Ludwig I in the early to mid-19th century. In an ensemble with the Propylaea on Königsplatz, they paid homage to ancient Greece, the country of origin of the Olympic Games.

The Alte Pinakothek and Neue Pinakothek followed and the Lenbachhaus also existed at that time as the artists' residence of Franz von Lenbach. In addition to the existing museums, a total of four new buildings were opened in less than 20 years at the beginning of the 21st century: the Pinakothek der Moderne (2002), Museum Brandhorst (2009), the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art) (2013) and the NS-Dokumentationszentrum (Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism) (2015).

What is there to see and do?

Art, culture, and knowledge. And coffee and cake in one of the museum cafés in between. You may wish to purchase a Munich Card or Munich City Card so you can enjoy discounts and in some cases free entry to the museums.



The Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum

The world of design interweaves with the Olympics in many ways – and Munich is internationally synonymous with good design! The Neue Sammlung has been sited in the Pinakothek der Moderne art gallery in the Kunstareal museum area since 2001, but has been in existence since 1907. Today it is home to one of the world’s largest design collections and is considered one of the best in the field of industrial and product design.

What is there to see and do?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the Neue Sammlung will be focusing on the reciprocal relationship between design and the Olympics. Taking place between 8 July 2022 and 3 October 2023, the Design für Olympia (Design for the Olympics) exhibition will feature selected objects and graphics showcasing how design for the Olympic and Paralympic Games harnesses a wealth of ideas, innovative spirit and technological progress, and examining the values and goals that are expressed in the designs used for the Olympics.



The new Isarphilharmonie

In the early 1970s, at the time of the Olympic Games, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra performed in the Herkulessaal of the Residenz before moving to the Philharmonie in the Gasteig cultural centre in Haidhausen, which opened in 1985. Almost 40 years later, the entire property is now being completely renovated. The Isarphilharmonie, which will open in October 2021, is a pop-up concert hall that will serve as an interim stage for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra for the time being.

Indeed, Munich concertgoers will likely be reluctant to relinquish the Isarphilharmonie, so wonderful are the acoustics in the hall. That is thanks to internationally renowned sound expert Yasuhisa Toyota and his company Nagata Acoustics, which was previously responsible for the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie’s excellent acoustics.

Video: Spirit of '72 – Music

What is there to see and do?

Top-class concerts in a rather rough-and-ready setting, not far from Isarstrand beach and close to a cogeneration plant, car repair shops, architectural firms and start-ups. During the interval, you can treat yourself to a little glass of Prosecco in the lovingly restored, deliberately minimalist 1920s “Halle E” transformer hall, in the historic heart of the Gasteig HP8 complex.



The new Volkstheater

Even then, Munich was proud of its repertoire of drama and music and dance theatre. On a poster created by designer Otl Aicher, visitors to the 1972 Games were able to get an overview of the premieres and guest performances of Munich's theatres taking place at the same time. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Munich is pleased to present one of its latest new theatre buildings:

In mid-October, the Volkstheater found a new home in the Schlachthofviertel, where slaughter cattle were still traded until the early 2000s. The modern brick building with trendy arches, designed by Stuttgart architectural firm LRO (Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei), looks as though it has always been here. And the three premières that marked its opening were extremely promising, leading the New York Times to declare the Volkstheater a world-class venue.

What is there to see and do?

A cool theatre with a young ensemble, situated in a particularly lively city district.



The Kreativquartier


The Kreativquartier (creative quarter) is a place where living, art and work coexist, and ideas are given free rein. The cityscape here is surprising, featuring old industrial buildings, graffiti and overgrown gardens. Graphic artists and advertising folk brainstorm over picnics on the green, while others enjoy their lunch on beer benches in the sun – it’s an inspiring atmosphere.

What is there to see and do?

The new schwere reiter theatre. Rusty iron girders, normally sunk into soil to reinforce excavation pits, have been used to make the façade of the new square building, constructed right beside the old theatre. Since September 2021, the free theatre scene has been running its established three-pronged programme incorporating dance, theatre and music. The new theatre also replaces its predecessor as a permanent venue for theatre and dance festivals including Spielart, Dance, the Munich Biennale, RODEO and Tanzwerkstatt Europa.



 Kunstlabor 2

The first graffiti appeared in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. When the wave spilled over from New York to the continent at the beginning of the 1980s, the people of Munich got started before the people of Berlin. Today, there are a number of places in Munich where all kinds of urban art can be found.

Almost 10,000 square metres over six floors dedicated to street art and urban art! That’s the incredible extent of Kunstlabor 2, an art laboratory located in a former health centre in Maxvorstadt, which opened in mid-October 2021. The building was transformed into a new centre for art and culture as a temporary five-year project by the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA).

What is there to see and do?

Two of the six floors have been – and continue to be – transformed into a walk-in work of art by more than 100 artists. Those involved include household names such as Loomit and rapper Samy Deluxe, but also newcomers such as Pepe (alias Jose Luis Villanueva Contreras).

Video: Spirit of '72 – Innovation

In addition to the permanent room installations and changing exhibitions, the centre offers an extensive framework programme including guided tours, workshops, film days, concerts, readings, labs, performances and many other cultural highlights. The operators of Kunstlabor 2 offer the façade to artists to use as a design platform, legally and free of charge.




Text: Karoline Graf; Photos: Getty Images, Dominik Morbitzer, Sigi Müller, Frank Stolle, München Tourismus, BMW AG, Jörg Lutz, Christian Kasper, HGEsch/ gmp Architekten, Felix Löchner, MUCA/ Wunderland Media; Videos: redline enterprises
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