From Odeonsplatz (square) to the National Theatre – Residenzstrasse may initially seem unprepossessing, but it has a surprise in store at every turn. Not only can you travel back in time through Munich’s history here: the architecture also gives you an instant sense of being transported to Italy.
Munich’s historical city centre has all kinds of winding and wonderful streets, but one of the most intriguing has to be Residenzstrasse. Not only are there lots of sights here – such as the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal's Hall), the Residenz (city palace) and the National Theatre – but also numerous buildings that are so reminiscent of Florence or Rome that you almost feel you have been instantly transported south to Italy. When the evening sun glows on the facade of the Residenz and – ice cream in hand – you lean against the wall, soaking up the warmth of its stones, observing the hustle and bustle around you, you might even catch yourself uttering something in Italian .... bellissima!
Numerous buildings that are so reminiscent of Florence or Rome that you almost feel you have been instantly transported south to Italy.
And indeed, Munich’s nickname – “Italy’s northernmost city” – is absolutely justified in the area around Residenzstrasse. After all, Max-Joseph-Platz was designed by Leo von Klenze based on the model of the famous Capitol Square in Rome. And on neighbouring Odeonsplatz, which is connected to the square in front of the opera via Residenzstrasse, the buildings also have a southern feel to them. No wonder: Theatinerkirche was the first church to be built in the late Baroque style north of the Alps, in 1675, while the design of the Feldherrnhalle is based on the famous Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.
If you’d like to take a lengthier look at this fine architecture, you get a wonderful view from the terrace of Frank Weinbar. The restaurant on Residenzstrasse opened in 2018; prior to this, the people managing it used to run the neighbouring Stereo Café. None of the barkeepers at Frank Weinbar is called Frank: this bar specialises in Franconian wines, hence the name. And there’s fantastic food to go with it, too: we order a salmon tartare with avocado and a strawberry salad with burrata as a light afternoon snack, accompanied by an even lighter glass of white wine.
A lot of locals go to this restaurant, but its very central location means it attracts a lot of tourists, too, as we are told by Felix, the manager. In the evenings, he has theatre and opera guests who go to the neighbouring National Theatre, the Kammerspiele or the Residenztheater. One thing that’s good to know: “We don’t take reservations – I like it when guests drop in spontaneously,” says Felix. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Frank Weinbar has such an inviting, effortless air about it. The food and wine are upmarket, the service is amicable, the atmosphere relaxed.
“Residenzstrasse is in a nice central location near Odeonsplatz and Theatinerkirche, but there are lots of construction sites, so it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship.”
Felix certainly thinks his restaurant is excellently situated, but being right in the city centre does have its disadvantages, too: “Residenzstrasse is in a nice central location near Odeonsplatz and Theatinerkirche, but there are lots of construction sites, so it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship.” In his free time he does his clothes shopping at Stereo Muc, and he likes to buy his glasses a few yards away at the optician’s Freudenhaus on Odeonsplatz. And when Felix isn’t busy working at his own restaurant, he enjoys taking a seat next door at Schumann's, too.
Meanwhile, tour guide Christa Wagner has long been a regular at Pfälzer Weinstube, right next to Frank Weinbar. As the name suggests, the speciality here is wine from the Palatinate region. “I've been coming here since I was 17! The wine bar has been around since 1950, though it used to be further forward and much smaller.” Christa is not only very familiar with Pfälzer Weinstube, she knows the whole of Residenzstrasse like the back of her hand, having done guided tours with visitors and locals here for 40 years. She knows every shop, every rear courtyard and – after so many years of working here – all the best bars and restaurants of course, too.
Christa has been guiding her customers through Residenzstraße for 40 years. She knows every shop, every backyard and all the restaurant tips.
“The very best Leberkassemmel (roll with meat loaf) is still to be had at Franziskaner – with potato and cucumber salad, absolutely delicious! And then you meet up for an espresso at the little Segafredo Espresso Bar.” Residenzstrasse also has some hidden sights in store, which she tells us about – such as the inner courtyard at number 13: Püttrich Monastery used to be located here, then a Franciscan monastery in the 15th century. You can still spot the distinctive facade with its Gothic embellishments. Or the staircase to Preysingpalais directly behind Feldherrnhalle.
Residenzstrasse has long been considered a grand boulevard and the perfect address for Munich’s tradition-steeped stores. Some are still to be found here today, such as the cigar shop Zechbauer Zigarren, Max Dietl, the bespoke tailor, and the shoe shop Ed. Meier, which has moved just a block away to Brienner Strasse. After all these years, a lot has changed in this stately street, but one thing has remained for Christa: her love of the Residenz. Her enthusiasm is obvious: “Even today, I still find it fascinating to consider what they managed to achieve after the war. Only 25 square metres of the Residenz survived the bombing – yet the decision was taken to rebuild the entire thing right after 1945!”
The Residenz is indeed an outstanding piece of architecture. It served as both the residence and seat of government of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. Today it is the largest inner-city palace in Germany, and the biggest museum for interior art in Europe. With the famous Antiquarium dating back to the Renaissance, the Baroque Kaisersaal (“Emperor's Hall”), King Ludwig I’s private apartment and his Grottenhof (“Grotto Courtyard”) including a dripstone fountain, it is one of Munich’s most popular sights.
Prominent guests who have visited the Residenz include Charles De Gaulle, Queen Silvia of Sweden and Queen Elisabeth II – some of them even spending the night in the magnificent though not very comfortable chambers on a state visit. It is also home to the Cuvilliés-Theater, where Mozart’s opera Idomeneo was first performed in 1781.
But there is much more history to Residenzstrasse than this – especially linked to Feldherrnhalle. This monumental loggia gained sad notoriety during the Nazi era: the Nazis misused the site for speeches and marches, and it was here in 1923 – ten years before seizing power – that Hitler staged his early coup, the Munich Putsch. At one of the subsequent commemorative marches in 1938, a failed assassination attempt on Hitler was undertaken by Maurice Bavaud from Switzerland. Up until the end of the war, a memorial plaque hung on the hall which passers-by were expected to honour by giving the Hitler salute. Anyone wanting to avoid having to do this would often discreetly opt for the route through Viscardigasse behind Feldherrnhalle. In recognition of this silent protest, there is now a golden monument installed in the ground in the so-called “Shirkers’ Alley”.