Nymphenburg Palace and the park that surrounds it are among Munich’s outstanding sights. What many people are not aware of is that there all kinds of other things to explore near the palace, too: the Botanical Garden, a variety of different museums and the district of Neuhausen – a supremely laid-back, easy-going neighbourhood. Here you can find out what else it is that makes Neuhausen-Nymphenburg so unique.
Historically, Nymphenburg started with a palace, while Neuhausen began as a farm. Neuhausen was there first: shortly after the city of Munich was founded in 1158, there is mention of an estate to the west of the medieval town which belonged to a certain Rudolfus de Niwenhusen. This is the most likely origin of the name Neuhausen, which officially became a district of the city of Munich in 1890.
Construction of Nymphenburg Palace didn’t start until 1664. What is now the central wing of the palace was built first: it was designed in the style of a villa suburbana – an Italian country house known from the area around Turin. The latter was the home town of the then Electress Henriette Adelaide: Nymphenburg Palace was built as a gift to her by her husband Ferdinand Maria for the birth of the heir to the throne, Max Emanuel.
This eagerly awaited addition to the family went on to become a power-hungry general who added numerous prestigious extensions to the palace during the period up until 1726. Max Emanuel’s son Karl Albrecht was crowned Emperor in the middle of the 18th century. This was when several key features were added: the Schlossrondell – a semi-circular approach area lined with ten yellow- and white-plastered palais – the pale pink hunting lodge Amalienburg situated in the park beyond the main palace complex, and the canal with its two parallel tree-lined access avenues. Nymphenburg became part of the city of Munich in 1899.
Neuhausen and Nymphenburg have since merged: nowadays, no one really knows exactly where one begins and the other ends. The district has a pleasantly spacious feel to it, with lots of light and abundant greenery. The path leading along the canal into the expanse of the palace park is popular with joggers and walkers alike. The bridges over the canal and the steps to Hubertusbrunnen fountain, are great spots to follow the sun as it sets behind the palace in the evening – perfect for photographic effects, too.
With its streams, canals, cascades, bridges, lakes, statues and lodges, the palace park instantly gives you the sense of being in a fairy tale forest.
It must be wonderful to live near the tree-lined avenues that lead to the palace: this is where colonies of villas were built from the end of the 19th century onwards, along with numerous turn-of-the century apartment buildings in the grand Wilhelminian style popularly referred to in German as Altbau (old buildings). And from here it is not far to the Taxisgarten, a beer garden popular among both local residents and guests from all over the world.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Slow Food movement originated here in Neuhausen. It was back in 1978 that members of the Ruffini Collective on Ruffinistrasse set out to offer better and healthier food, and Café Ruffini remains something of a second home to many locals to this day.
The typical Neuhausen resident is a bon vivant – at least that’s what a good deal of the shops, cafés and restaurants here would appear to suggest: coffee is supplied by small independent roasteries, the bread and rolls bear the organic Bioland seal and people here don’t seem averse to a drop of fine wine, either.
Residents enjoy the summer on their balcony, in a vintage seating area at the concept store next door or with friends and neighbours at one of the cafés or restaurants just down the street. The ice cream parlour at Rotkreuzplatz has a longstanding tradition. The Sarcletti family started selling their home-made ice cream in Munich in 1879, moving to Rotkreuzplatz in 1921 – the centre of Neuhausen.
Half of the properties in the district are buildings or ensembles under preservation order. Meanwhile Lachner Strasse is also home to the church Herz-Jesu-Kirche – an outstanding example of contemporary architecture and the most modern Catholic place of worship in Munich. Built in 2000 and designed by the architects’ office Allmann Sattler Wappner, it is particularly impressive due to the clarity and reduction of its style, devoid of any ornamental decorations or paintings. Taking up virtually the entire facade of the church, the monumental, double-winged entrance door is made of blue stained glass and can be opened in summer for concerts and festivities.
Who knows, perhaps the love of music in this neighbourhood is somehow linked to the fact that Mozart – at the tender age of seven – performed brilliantly on the piano to the entire royal court at the palace just a few kilometres away.
A local piano school features the slogan Neuhausen spielt Klavier (“Neuhausen plays the piano”) and the music youth hostel on Winthirplatz, which reopened in 2022 after extensive modernisation, is also a meeting place for choirs, orchestras, bands and theatre groups from all over the world. Who knows, perhaps the love of music in this neighbourhood is somehow linked to the fact that Mozart – at the tender age of seven – performed brilliantly on the piano to the entire royal court at the palace just a few kilometres away. Classical music in particular is still very much at home in Nymphenburg. The Hubertussaal (Hubertus Hall) in the Orangery wing of the palace complex continues to host top-class concerts and events throughout the year.
Hirschgarten is located between Neuhausen and Nymphenburg. The name of the beer garden (literally “Garden of Deer”) and an adjacent game enclosure recall a time when this land was reserved for hunting by the Elector.
But as far back as 1791, Hirschgarten was opened to all Munich residents as a place to go for a day out. With seating capacity for 8,000, it is home to Bavaria’s biggest beer garden – though set amid a park with meadows, mature trees and numerous playgrounds, it nonetheless retains a wonderfully peaceful air.
Notices on the chestnut trees explain to guests the traditional Bavarian beer garden custom: all drinks are to be purchased on the premises but guests may bring along their own snacks if they wish. For generations, the little light-blue swing ride has provided the first flights of fancy for youngsters. It is ornately painted all around with garden gnomes in all kinds of situations – certain to delight the kids if they can manage to take their eyes off their parents waiting and waving alongside.
Accessible via the palace park, the Botanical Garden established in Nymphenburg in 1914 contains an abundance of plants that is nothing short of fabulous. The fragrance that permeates the garden is beguiling – especially when the roses are in bloom The buzzing of insects and birdsong fill the air, while frogs and toads cavort in the ponds among the water lilies. A walk through this lush paradise with its 14,000 different plant species takes you on a trip around the world. Palm trees, orchids, cacti and multi-coloured butterflies in the greenhouses allow guests to savour moments of summer even in the depths of winter.
People all over the world have heard of King Ludwig II – the Fairy tale King – with his palaces such as Neuschwanstein and his tragic fate. The green-silk furnished room in which he was born on 25 August 1845 is one of the highlights at Nymphenburg Palace, where the Head of the House of Wittelsbach, Duke Franz of Bavaria, still lives to this day.
Other highlights include the Steinerner Saal (“Stone Hall”), which extends over three floors, and also King Ludwig I’s Schönheitengalerie (“Beauty Gallery”), where the array of portraits includes one of the latter’s legendary mistress’ Lola Montez.
With its streams, canals, cascades, bridges, lakes, statues and lodges, the palace park instantly gives you the sense of being in a fairy tale forest. Numerous animal species live here, including several rare ones, so it’s well worthwhile setting off on safari with your camera. There is now a gondola on which you can take a trip on the canal behind the palace – a reminder of the times when the palace and park provided a backdrop for Baroque court festivities. At the park café – Schlosscafé im Palmenhaus – you can sit outdoors or indoors and enjoy breakfast or a cup of coffee in the afternoon.
The north wing of the palace houses the Museum Mensch und Natur (“Museum of Man and Nature”) Children love to spend hours here: they can listen to what the ancient bird Archaeopteryx has to say, see for themselves how the brain works, find out why the dinosaurs disappeared and guess which animal runs the fastest – it’s a perfect way to explore the secrets of nature in hands-on style and involving all the senses.
Accessible via the palace park, the Botanical Garden established in Nymphenburg in 1914 contains an abundance of plants that is nothing short of fabulous.
Since the Museum Mensch und Natur is expected to close at the end of 2022 to be converted into a new natural history museum called Biotopia Naturkundemuseum Bayern, the Biotopia Lab in the Botanical Garden is an interim platform that offers a foretaste of the future concept. Here, the virtual reality flight simulator Birdly enables you to become a bird yourself and fly over Bavaria’s most beautiful landscapes. You can also discover aquatic life through the microscope, or plant your own miniature bottle garden. It’s even possible to isolate the DNA of a banana under guidance so as to find out about the building blocks of life.
The Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory established in 1747 by Elector Max III Joseph is also situated in the grounds of the palace, along with the Nymphenburg Porcelain Museum and the manufactory’s flagship store, whose entrance is marked by two huge porcelain parrots.
The Marstallmuseum (Museum of Carriage and Sleighs) is housed in the historic palace stable buildings, where more than forty carriages and sleighs owned by the Wittelsbach dynasty are on display. The museum’s highlights include Emperor Charles VII’ coronation carriage and the carriages that belonged to King Ludwig II. The clock on the museum roof has such elaborately ornate hands that it takes a while to read off the correct time – but that will scarcely bother the broad-minded visitor as they are transported back to the heyday of courtly life in Bavaria.