Glockenspiel Munich – the famous tourist attraction on Marienplatz

Everything you need to know about the famous Munich Glockenspiel on Marienplatz – times, history and useful tips.

Munich’s central square, better known as Marienplatz, is quite the sight. Especially the neogothic New Town Hall (“Neues Rathaus“) has been fascinating tourists for more than a hundred years. Built into the mighty tower is a balcony where you’ll find the famous Munich Glockenspiel – one of the 20 top tourist attractions in Munich.

The Munich Glockenspiel
The Munich Glockenspiel as seen from Marienplatz

It was added to the town hall in 1908 and consists of 43 bells and altogether 32 life-sized figures. It is the largest glockenspiel in Germany and the fourth-largest in Europe. It was designed by Christian Reithmann, the inventor of the four-stroke engine and reenacts two very important scenes from Munich’s history.

The standard-bearers in front of the knights of the Munich Glockenspiel
The standard-bearers in front of the knights

First, you’ll see a knight tournament, which was held in honor of Duke Wilhelm V with Renata of Lorraine on Marienplatz in 1568. A procession of jesters, fanfares, and standard-bearers are followed by two knights.

The Bavarian knight knocking the knight of Lorraine out
The Bavarian knight knocking the knight of Lorraine out

The blue and white knight represents Bavaria and “of course” he wins every time against the black and yellow knight form the house of Lorraine. Above the tournament, you’ll see a little balcony with the monarch and his new queen.

The Schäfflertanz of the Munich Glockenspiel
The Schäfflertanz

After that, you’ll see a so-called Schäfflertanz. Schäffler is an archaic German word for the barrel-maker guild. Between 1515 and 1517 the black death came to Munich, but after the disease passes, nobody wanted to leave the houses. So the barrel-makers donned their colorful livery in order to lure the frightened citizens back out on the streets.

A crowd watching the Schäfflertanz on Marienplatz in Munich in January 2019
A crowd watching the Schäfflertanz on Marienplatz (the Schäffler are the guys in red with the green wreaths)

Even today, the schäffler will perform the same dance every 7 years on Marienplatz. The last time was 2019. So alas, you will have to wait until 2026 for the next performance and watch the Glockenspiel in the meantime.

Schäfflertanz during Oktoberfest parade
The Schäffler guild during the Oktoberfest parade

They will also appear during the Trachten und Schützenzug parade on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest (but they won’t dance there).

The Munich Glockenspiel was renovated in 2007 (which cost around 750,000 euro) with donations from the citizens. Ever since the sounds from the Munich clock tower is brilliant once again.

the solar panel which produces the energy for the Glockenspiel on the roof of the New Town Hall in Munich
The solar panel which produces the energy for the Glockenspiel

You should, however, know two important facts: First of all, the mechanism is powered by solar power. And secondly, the Glockenspiel is only semi-automatic. It does need a player to turn the levers at the exact right times 364 days a year, can you believe it?

The Duke of Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine Munich Glockenspiel
The Duke of Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine

The music of the chimes comes from cylinders. You’ll hear four different songs in summer: Loreley, Preisend mit viel schönen Reden, Schäfflertanz Part 1 and the Wendelstein-Lied. The show only activates after the first song, so don’t be worried if you see nothing moving for a while. It lasts around 10 minutes.

What time Does the glockenspiel play in Munich?

The clock tower of the New Town Hall five past twelve
The clock tower of the New Town Hall five past twelve

The Glockenspiel activates every day at 11 a.m. and 12 o’clock noon in the tower of the New Town Hall at Marienplatz. There is another show at 5 p.m. which is skipped between November through February. Originally there was only the 11 a.m. show, but ever since the Olympic games in 1972 the two extra performances were added. The show lasts around 8 minutes (depending on which songs they play).

The Munich Glockenspiel is only silent on Good Friday.

There is another short show at 9 p.m. but it’s different. On the side of the actual glockenspiel are two little turrets. First, a night watchman appears in the left oriel (accompanied by Wagner’s Nachtwächterruf) and then you’ll see the Münchner Kindl followed by an angel while you hear Brahm’s Wiegenlied.

Depending on your Munich itinerary, you could try to see both performances!

Full view of Marienplatz square and the Clock Tower of the New Town Hall with the Glockenspiel
Full view of Marienplatz square and the Clock Tower of the New Town Hall with the Glockenspiel

glockenspiel restaurant – best places to view the glockenspiel

Café Glockenspiel above Marienplatz, Munich
The café on the 5th floor of the building across the square

You can view the Glockenspiel more or less anywhere from Marienplatz, but there is one place that deserves a special mention. Right across the glockenspiel, on the top floor of the otherwise nondescript building with a fashion shop on the ground floor, you’ll find a café. It’s called Café Glockenspiel and from here you have an unparalleled level view of the performance.

The entrance is a bit harder to find. You need to walk around 15 meters down the Rosenstraße and right before the Apple Store, there is a little passage. Here you’ll find an elevator which will bring you two the top floor of the building where you’ll find the café. You might want to reserve your table, though!

As an alternative, you can also climb all the way to the top of the Alter Peter clock tower. From here, you will be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Glockenspiel (and the best view in Munich).

How old is the Glockenspiel in Munich?

The knights of the Munich Glockenspiel charging towards each other
The knights of Bavaria and Lorraine charging towards each other

The Munich Glockenspiel is 110 years old. The idea for the Glockenspiel originally surfaced in 1904 in the final construction phase of the New Town Hall, but it wasn’t finished until 1908. There were some problems with the sound in the first months, but it was finally put into operation on February 18th, 1909.

I hope I was able to give you a good overview of this fabulous tourist attraction. Got any questions about the Munich Glockenspiel? Feel free to leave a comment below!

The Munich GLockenspiel - everything you need to know. When it plays, how to get there and what to know about it's history

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