English Garden Walking Tour:
Walking Tour Location: English Garden (Englischer Garten)
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Museum and sight costs below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Start: Hofgarden (Odeonplatz Subway Stop)
End: Victory Gate (Universität Subway Stop)
Walking Distance: 2.3 miles (+2 miles for upper park stops)
Time: 90 Minutes for Walk (Full tour 4+ hours with all stops)
Fun Scale: 9.5 out of 10
Overview of the English Garden:
Established in 1789 by Elector Karl, the English Garden was formed out of the large Schönfeld Meadow and Royal deer hunting grounds to become one of the best urban parks in the world. Munich’s massive green space is not only one of the biggest in Europe, but it is more than twice the size of both New York City’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park.
On Summer days there can be over 100,000 people in English Garden, but the park is so vast it never seems crowded. While you may be tempted to skip this English Garden walking tour if cramped for time, it is too unique to miss and serves as an excellent stop to both rest and recharge your batteries. Did we mention the park has a beer garden and naked people?
English Garden Walking Tour:
1. Royal Court Garden (Hofgarten):
About The Hofgarten: Originally laid out between 1613-17 on the North side of the Residenz Palace, the Hofgarten was a private garden for members of the Wittelsbach Royal Court. At the time the Royal Court Garden was outside of Munich’s moat and the outer wall, but was quickly protected by a double wall and moat built in 1618 to protect the city during the 30 Years War. It is said that the new fortifications around the city took a workforce of over 40,000 people 13 years to complete. To get an idea of what we are talking about, these new fortifications with starred ramparts can be seen around the Hofgarten HERE in a drawing from 1740. The Hofgarten was opened to the general public in 1780 as the 1st public park in Munich. With Hofgarten open to the public, the Royal Family then used a private park on East side of the Residenz Palace near their horse stables called Lustgarten which had been laid out in 1550, but later ruined in WW2.
While the open spaces and beer garden are nice, the main draw to the flower lined Hofgarten park is the 8 portal pavilion in the center. Built in 1615 in honor of Diana, the Greek Goddess of Hunting, the green domed pavilion is a little plain, but a great place to people watch. The large building on the East side of the Hofgarten that looks like a green house is actually Bayerische Staatskanzlei which is home to office of Bavaria’s Governor and is still the state’s government seat. Also located adjacent to the Hofgarten is the Munich War Memorial. The most striking inscription is the one covering the 22000 dead, 11000 missing Munich soldiers and 6600 citizens from WWII. 360 Degree Panorama: Click Here. Photos: (Garden in 1740).
2. Prince Karl’s Palace:
About Prince Karl’s Palace: This columned mansion was built in 1806 for Abbé Pierre de Salabert, the former teacher of King Maximilian I Joseph. Salabert only got to live here for a year before he died and King Maximilian took it over. Later when the King died in 1825, the home was willed to his son King Ludwig who quickly gave it to his brother Prince Karl. Unlike his brothers Ludwig (King of Bavaria) and Otto (King of Greece) who became rulers, Karl dedicated his life to service in the military. Karl became a successful commander and served until the age of 71 when he died in battle during the Austro-Prussian War. After Karl’s death, the home served as the diplomatic outpost for Austria-Hungary for almost 50 years before becoming home to each new Bavarian Prime Minister in 1924. Palace Website: (HERE).
3. House of Art (Haus der Kunst):
About The House Of Art: The House of Art which opened in 1937, was one of the first major building projects of the Nazi party. It house some of Germany’s best art as well as new acquired master pieces. As horrible as a person as Hitler was, he had a keen eye for the arts and actually had tried getting into art school before getting into politics. Today the museum doesn’t have any permanent exhibits, but often has some worthwhile temporary ones. If the current exhibits don’t interest you, don’t worry as Munich’s best art museums are very close to the English Garden which we will touch on below. Hours: Daily 10am-8pm; on Thursday until 10pm. Cost: 12€ for all exhibits or you can also pick and choose for less. Museum Website: (HERE).
4. Eisbach River Surfing:
About The River Surfing: There aren’t many places in the world where you can find World-Class river surfing, but right in the middle of the English Garden is one of them. Although the Eisbach River is fairly tame, a water pumping mechanism creates great surfing waves as it pushes the water over a slab of concrete. With the water being pumped at a rate of 20 tons a second the waves are powerful and consistent. There are almost always groups of surfers going surfs up even though skull and cross bone warning signs dramatically say you will die. In peak season there will be in upwards of 100 surfers a day. Wetsuits are a must in the chilly water which makes sense as the name Eisbach literally means Ice Stream. The waters rarely get above 60 degrees even in the middle of Summer. The danger doesn’t stop die-hards and experts from showing off their stuff and as a tourist you’ll be happy for the show they put on.
5. Bavarian National Museum:
About The Museum: Just the building itself at the Bavarian National Museum is amazing, let alone the works of art. The original museum started by King Maximilian II of Bavaria in 1855 before getting its current grand building in 1900. Even the outside of the museum is awesome as parts resemble Renaissance castles and inside is a sea of marble. The focus of the museum is on the declarative arts of Bavaria from folklore items to historical pieces. The historical wing is filled with carved wood items, textiles, armor, ivory and gold works, plus tapestries from ancients times through the late Middle Ages. While the folklore section has some great Christmas pieces, the best hidden gem of the museum is the Bollert Collection of sculptures. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; Thursdays until 8pm, Closed Mondays. Cost: €7; to add on the Bollert Collection it’s €1. Museum Website: (HERE).
6. Sammlung Schack Gallery:
About The Gallery: King Maximilian II invited poet and literary historian Count Adolf Friedrich von Schack to Munich in 1856 to work on his staff promoting the art. Schack, who was also a collector, started opening up his personal painting collection to the public in 1865 which officially started his gallery. Schack later willed his collection to the Royal family and when he dies in 1894 it became part of the collection of Wilhelm II. The amazing collection had some of the best paintings from the era of Romanticism (late-1700 to mid-1800s) and Wilhelm II knew it needed to be in a proper gallery. Finally in 1909 a new building was finished which is now the current home of the Sammlung Schack Gallery. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 10am-6pm; every 1st and 3rd Wednesday they stay open until 10pm; Closed Mondays & Tuesdays. Cost: 4€; only 1€ on Sundays; they have a great combo ticket for 12€ which also includes all 3 Pinakothek Museums during the same day. Museum Website: (HERE).
7. Nude Sunbathers:
About The Sunbathing: As a huge culture shock to the Americans, it is legal to be nude in the the English Garden and sun bathers by the masses take advantage of this freedom. Most people enjoying this amazing park do it with clothes on, but be prepared to see quite a few baring it all even if it’s far from peak sunbathing hours. It is not uncommon for nudist parents to bring their entire family to the park while in the buff. The first time we saw it we felt like immature teenager gawking at the naked people, but the next time we strolled through it seemed perfectly normal somehow.
8. Monopteros Pavilion:
About Monopteros: One of the best subtle elements of the English Garden walking tour is the small hilltop acropolis called the Monopteros. Not only does it create a great backdrop, but the views from the hill it sits on are unmatched as you can see the tops of all of Munich’s historic buildings. Upon closer inspection, the underside of the acropolis is also very beautiful from a number of angles. The Monopteros is a popular photo stop for couples of all ages and should be a stop for you too.
9. Chinese Tower Beer Garden (Chinesischer Turm):
About The Beer Garden: This large famous beer garden, complete with its ionic Chinese Tower, is the perfect place to get a huge glass of beer and an authentic lunch in your belly. The food lines are cafeteria-style and the community seating encourages friendly socializing. People who find German beers halls a bit claustrophobic will love the open air park setting and 6,000 seats that the Chinese Tower Beer Garden has to offer. Hours: Daily 9am-Late. 360 Degree Panorama: Click Here. Beer Garden Website: (HERE).
10. Victory Gate (Siegestor):
About Siegestor: Built by King Ludwig I in 1852, this massive Northern gateway into the city was dedicated to the great Bavarian victory of 1815. Capping the gateway is Lady Bavaria and 4 lions, which is the animal symbol of Munich’s royal family the Wittelsbachs. While not as big as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Siegestor is almost an exact copy of the Arch of Constantine in Rome. It was heavily damaged in WW2, but resorted with the added inscription of “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace” in German.
11. Fine Arts Academy:
About The Fine Arts Academy: The Fine Arts Academy was started in 1808 making it one of Germany’s oldest art schools. The main building was opened in 1887 and we really like its long French palace look. Even cooler is the neighboring new building from 2005 which is a mash-up of modern glass and steel. There isn’t much to do here as a tourist, but the outside of the buildings are impressive. If the new building is open take a peek inside the impressive glass and steel beam lobby.
12. Saint Ludwig’s Church:
About Saint Ludwig’s Church: Construction stated on the twin tower church of Saint Ludwig in 1829 and they made sure to do it right. The 232 foot tall towers and surrounding series of archways may be impressive, but it is the Church’s interior that is the main draw. As you enter the Saint Ludwig’s you’ll be amazing by the colorful frescoes lining almost every inch of the walls and ceiling. At 38 feet wide by 63 feet tall, the fresco above the alter is said to be the 2nd largest altar fresco of the world. Adding to the beauty of St Ludwig’s are the exposed bright red bricks and the blue ceiling panels above the door that even have gold accents. On an interesting note, you may notice that the layout of the church makes a perfect cross shape. 360 Degree Panorama: Click Here. Church Website: (HERE).
The Upper English Garden:
To add the Upper English Garden (stops 13-17), continue North from the Chinese Beer Garden working your way around to the Münchner Freiheit metro stop. This longer route adds 2 miles to your walk but you can still pop out of the subway at the Universität Station to see the Victory Gate on your way to Old Town.
13. Seehaus Restaurant & Paddle Boats: Sitting on the shore of the English Garden’s Kleinhesseloher Lake, the Seehaus Restaurant is a hidden gem of gourmet food. Try to get a seat in the Bavarian Stueberl to get the feel of old Bavaria. During some times of the day indoor seating may require a reservation, but the lakeside beer garden is also available. Right next to the beer garden if a decent beach and a spot to rent paddle boats. We really like paddling around Lake Kleinhesseloher and its group of small islands. Hours: 10am-1am. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
14. Hirschau Beer Garden: If you are looking for a more laid back place to eat or grab a drink the Hirschau Beer Garden is for you. This cozy beer garden, opened in 1840, is a favorite among locals and we love the authentic feel you get from not having many tourists around. Tourists are still welcome with open arms to both the restaurant and 1,800 person beer garden so make sure to stop by. After visiting Hirschau, consider popping over to the Tivoli Kraftwerk Museum along the river if you aren’t too tired as it is a wonderful old water wheel power plant from 1895. Restaurant Hours: Daily 11am-11:30pm. Beer Garden Hours: Daily in good weather from 11am-11:30pm; opens at 10am on weekends. Beer Garden Website: (HERE).
15. Trausaal Mandlstraße Mansions: The area on both sides of the Upper English Garden once held the finest mansions in all of Munich. Before WW2 this neighborhood, known as Schwabing, was a self governing town separate from Munich. Bombings in the war ruined some houses and many more got tore down after being vacant fr years. Along Trausaal Mandlstraße, especially the Southern end of the road, is a small glimpse into what the former mansion neighborhood once was like.
16. Schwabing Seidlvilla Manor: One of our favorite homes in the neighborhood is the Schwabing Seidlvilla Manor. When the owner of the famous Spaten Brewery died, he left his widow Franziska all of the family wealth, which of course she used to build this mansion for herself and her 2nd husband in 1904. At the time the Schwabing neighborhood was actually considered the countryside if you can believe it. The architect, Emmanuel von Seidl, was already famous for designing many stately homes and even the Augustinian Brauhuas in the heart of Old Town. Franziska loved it so much she name her home after him calling is the Seidvilla. When she died the home sat vacant for a long time until the City of Munich finally bought it. Today it hosts more than 2,500 public events a year and is usually open.
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10am-Noon; Wednesday 3-5pm. Event Times: Programs and events vary but the 2nd Tuesday of every month they host Jazz, and each Sunday they have a coffee and art program. Visiting: During office hours is the best time to sneak a peek unless there is a public event going on. Manor Website: (HERE).
17. Schloss Suresnes: This is one of our favorite homes in Munich. It was built in 1718 for Elector Max Emanuel, the noble cabinet secretary of Versailles when he spent time exiled in Munich. The home is now run by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria as a conference venue and cannot be toured, but it is still pretty cool given its age.
Other Sights Near The English Garden:
18. Old Town Walking Tour: The historic core of Munich known as Old Town should be the main focus of your time in town. Most of the best sites are tucked into this compact, largely pedestrian only, city center. Although it was heavily bombed in WW2 there is still a ton of history plus a new found mix of new and old that adds to Munich’s flavor. Follow our Old Town Free Walking Tour to get the most out of your time and make sure you track down all the hidden attractions that most tourists miss.
19. Angel of Peace Statue (Friedensengel): One of our favorite monuments in Munich is the Angel of Peace which opened in 1899. Built as a reminder of the 25 peaceful years after the Franco-German war of 1870, the golden angel looks on toward Munich from the top of a 125 foot tall column. Originally the angel was made out of bronze, but after it started tipping off the column in 1981 the City gave it a golden makeover. Today the 20 foot tall angel is actually a version of Nike, Goddess of Victory, and is stretching out a olive branch as a symbol of peace. As you climb up the twin stair case to the large viewing platform overlooking town, make sure to inspect the beautiful altar at the base of the column.
20. Villa Stuck Museum: What a beautiful mansion from 1898. It remained a private home until it was turned into a museum in 1992 featuring the works of painter Franz Stuck who was a head of his time in the early 1900’s. You can tour numerous areas with the artists paintings as well as a bunch o historic period rooms of the mansion. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-6pm; open late until 10pm on Fridays; Closed on Mondays. Cost: 9€ for the entire house or just 4€ for the historic rooms. Museum Website: (HERE).
21. Pinakothek Museums: The powerful Wittelsbach Royal Family ruled Bavaria from the 1100’s through 1918 and during their reign also produced 2 Holy Roman Emperors, a German King, a King of Greece, King of Rome, and Kings of Scandinavia. As you can imagine with such vast influence the Wittelsbachs accumulated a trove of wealth and art. In the early 1800’s King Ludwig I had a huge art complex built to hold the Royal family’s vast painting collection. When the Pinakothek building opened in 1836 it became the largest museum in the World. One of the huge galleries was built just to house Rubens’s “Last Judgment” from 1617 which was one of the largest canvasses ever painted.
Known today as the Alte Pinakothek, the Wittelsbach’s first major museum build now focuses on the Old Master painters. Two other World-class museums were later added to the Pinakothek including the Neue Pinakothek in 1981 which covers the painters of the 1800’s and the Pinakothek Moderne which covers modern art from the early 1900 as well as post-1960 contemporary art. Alte Hours: Daily 10am-6pm; open until 8pm on Tuesdays. Neue Hours: Daily 10am-6pm; open until 8pm on Wednesdays. Moderne Hours: Daily 10am-6pm; open until 8pm on Thursdays. Museum Cost: Each museum is from 5-10€ each; they have a great combo ticket for 12€ which also includes all 3 Pinakothek Museums during the same day plus the Sammlung Gallery. Museum Website: (HERE).
22. Königsplatz Square Museums: The large Königsplatz Square was originally laid out in the early 1800’s by Kind Ludwig I to be a Roman Forum-like complex. Building started in 1816 with the large Glyptothek Museum done in the Ionic style to house the Wittelsbach Royal Family’s Greek and Roman sculptures. Building went really slow as the Glyptothek Museum didn’t open until 1930, just 6 years before Ludwig’s painting museum opened at Pinakothek. The 2nd major building in the Square, called the Propylaea Gate, was also supposed to start being built in 1816 but just couldn’t get off the ground. Finally in 1848 King Ludwig I paid for the gate out of his own pocket in honor of his son Otto who was the King of Greece. The gate, modeled after the entrance to the ancient Athenian Acropolis, was built in the Doric style and took 14 years to slowly build. At the same time as the Propylaea Gate, the Corinthian style columns of the State Museum of Antiques was started to house the royal family’s antiques. In 1887 a huge mansion was built on the West side of the square by Franz von Lenbach which was later turned into the Städtische Galerieafter his death. Even if you don’t go inside, check out the amazing garden courtyard from the road.
While the full Roman Forum vision the King Ludwig had was never realized, the buildings and museums around Königsplatz Square are still impressive. The Square gained even more historical context when the Nazi Party made their headquarters, called the Brown House, right next to it in the 1930’s. In 1935 they even added 2 large Greek Temples to enshrine the remains of 16 members killed in a beer hall raid. In the height of the Third Reich, mass rallies were commonly held in the square. After WW2 the rallies platforms and Nazi-made Greek temples were all tore down. Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; Glyptohek open until 8pm on Thursdays; Antiques open until 8pm on Wednesdays. Museum Website: (HERE).
23. Bavarian Parliament (Maximilianeum): Home of the Bavarian Parliament, Maximilianeum is a great example of renaissance architecture. While there isn’t a ton to see inside Maximilianeum, the atmosphere at neighboring Wienerplatz and it’s beer garden Hofbrau Keller make it worth the trip. Wienerpatz is a cute square located just Southeast of Maximilianeum which has a quaint old-world feel, complete with it’s own Maypole. A favorite backdrop for photos on the square fits the square, the May Pole, and the towering St Johns church all in one picture. 360 Degree Panorama: Click Here. Photos: (Wienerplatz). Building Website: (HERE).