Munich is the city of beer, as we all know. But Munich, you see, is also a city of art – and just as many art lovers as beer enthusiasts descend on this wonderful city in the southeastern corner of Germany.
In Bavaria’s capital – to pick out just the highlights – you find one of the world’s best collections of old masters, an astounding collection of classical sculptures, one of Europe’s best modern art museums, a brilliant collection of recent art, and a major exhibition venue for contemporary art, good museums of ancient art, and the great royal palaces – works of art in themselves – as well as a thriving culture of working artists and commercial galleries.
Note that, though German is the main language in use, English language audio guides are available at most venues and some have English language tours. Note also that most of these museums are located in a single area in the northwest of the city centre called the Kunstareal, or Art District. This makes it extraordinarily easy to walk from one institution to another. And here are 14 museums and galleries that prove my words. Enjoy!
THE OLD PICTURE GALLERY: ALTE PINAKOTHEK
This splendid old gallery was the largest in Europe, built in the first half of the 19th century. It’s a truly massive structure home to many wonderful collections, including a rare Rembrandt self-portrait, Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Child, and Spanish, French, and German masterpieces. The Rubens collection is also one of the world’s largest.
Address: Barerstrasse 27
THE NEW PICTURE GALLERY: NEUE PINAKOTHEK
Here is another standout, one of the world’s most important collections of European 19th-century art, boasting some 400 paintings and 50 sculptures, ranging from Romantic to Art Nouveau masterpieces via Impressionist works by Gauguin, Manet and Monet, and Post-impressionist works by Van Gogh and Cézanne.
Address: Barerstrasse 29
THE SCHACK GALLERY: SAMMLUNG SCHACK
Discover the beauty and mystery of German 19th-century art here. The gallery’s founder was a generous patron of the arts, purchasing and commissioning numerous works by leading 19th-century German painters. His collection now forms part of the Bavarian State Collection, which includes paintings of Germany’s Early Romantic school with their mystical, almost fairy-tale-like settings.
Address: Prinzregentenstrasse 9
Delight in the beautiful villa which was the home of the painter Franz von Stuck. As a leader in 20th Century’s Jugendstil movement, Stuck designed one of the era’s masterpieces, a villa whose design merges coffered ceilings, inlaid floors, furniture and furnishings into a single harmonious artwork. Here, you experience one of Europe’s finest examples of the artistic sensibilities of that period.
Address: Prinzregentenstrasse 60
Step into the beautiful villa which was the home and studio of Franz von Lenbach, a popular late 19th-century artist and portraitist, and find an unparalleled collection of paintings of the Blauer Reiter – Blue Rider – movement. The collection combines with the villa’s historic furniture and decorations to create an extraordinary artistic experience for visitors.
Address: Luisenstrasse 33
THE MODERN PICTURE GALLERY: PINAKOTHEK DER MODERNE
In a stunning modern building that is spacious and bright, this is Germany’s largest museum for modern art. The museum is especially strong in its collections of German artists and also boasts significant pieces created by world-renowned modernists such as Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Dali, Bacon and Warhol. It is also home to an architecture museum and the oldest design museum in the world. This is the kind of place you could spend a whole day in, fortified by its restaurant, cafe and bar, absorbing some of the best artistic creativity of modern times.
Address: Barerstrasse 40
Be dazzled by the multicoloured exterior of Munich’s newest art museum – and be stimulated by its vibrant contemporary collection. Featuring more than 1,000 works by pioneering artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, the museum focuses on avant-garde styles, European post-war modernism, pop art and recent art from the United States. Highlights include 100 works by Andy Warhol and some 60 pieces by Cy Twombly, the largest such collection outside the USA, plus a rare collection of more than 100 books illustrated by Pablo Picasso.
Address: Theresienstrasse 35a
THE RESIDENZ MUSEUM
Marvel at the immense wealth of Bavaria’s royal family in their main palace; this is one of the best palace museums in Europe. A highlight is the wonderful Antiquarium, a long hall with a barrel-vaulted roof, filled with antique busts and statues, adorned with over 100 painted views of Bavarian towns and castles. The Gallery of Ancestors presents 121 portraits of Bavarian rulers and the Grotto Court is unique. In the Treasury (Schatzkammer), one of the largest and most valuable collections of its kind, including ivories from Ceylon, Turkish daggers and Chinese porcelain are assembled.
Address: Residenzstrasse 1
THE BAVARIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
Delight in the decorative arts in a historic building which is a sight to behold. Founded in 1855 by King Maximilian II, this is one of Europe’s most important museums of the decorative arts. Among its most outstanding exhibits are its panoply of medieval German sculptures and its great wealth of tapestries. There is a large section dedicated to the art and cultural history of Bavaria from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Address: Prinzregentenstrasse 3
THE STATE MUSEUM OF EGYPTIAN ART
Step back into the ancient world of the Nile. A new subterranean museum, inspired by an Ancient Egyptian burial chamber and housing the Bavarian state collection of Ancient Egyptian art, here you find an impressive collection of sculptures, jewellery, papyri and tablets with hieroglyphics displayed in theme rooms. Outstanding items include statues of the pharaohs Ramses II, Thutmose III and Akhenaten, and the oldest glass vessel in the world.
Address: Hofgartenstrasse 1
Enter the masterly marble world of classical European sculptures. In a stately neoclassical building, the Glyptothek houses one of the world’s foremost collections of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. Highlights include rare works, such as figures from the Temple of Aphaia, a sculpture of Homer, and a statue of Irene, the Greek Goddess of Peace.
Address: Konigsplatz 3
THE CONTEMPORARY SCENE HAUS DER KUNST: HOUSE OF ART
Be astounded by an extraordinary place with powerful political vibes. A massive neoclassical edifice dominating a major boulevard, the Haus der Kunst was built by the Nazis in the 1930s as propaganda for ‘healthy’ German art. Now used for rotating temporary exhibitions, the gallery has hosted major exhibitions by the likes of China’s Ai Wei Wei and Britain’s Gilbert and George.
Address: Prinzregentenstrasse 3
M|U|C|A (MUNICH URBAN AND CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY)
Check out today’s urban and street art scene here. Munich’s meeting point for urban art, m|u|c|a offers a high-profile programme and rotating shows. Its focus is on established representatives of the urban and street art movement, like Banksy, David Choe, FAILE, Shepard Fairey and Herakut, as well as contemporary art masters like Andy Warhol, and young, emerging artists.
Address: Hotterstrasse 12
Go underground! The pedestrian underpass between Maximilianstrasse and Altstadtring has been a forum for contemporary art since 1973, on 800 square metres, and accessible 24/7.