Right in the heart of Munich’s old town, you’ll find a gigantic and incredibly beautiful square. It’s called Marienplatz (“Square of Mary”) and it should definitely be on your list of places to see in Bavaria’s charming capital.
The lively square is a great place to start exploring the city. There are quite a couple of points of interest lining Marienplatz and you should definitely reserve an hour to explore them all – even if you are just one day in Munich. Here’s everything you can see and need to know:
Tourist attractions and viewpoints on Marienplatz
1. New TownHall
It’s virtually impossible to miss the Neues Rathaus (“New Townhall”) on Marienplatz. The imposing neo-gothic complex was finished in 1909 and probably appears on half of the postcards in the souvenir shops in Munich.
Don’t hesitate to enter the beautiful courtyard of the town hall. You can even climb the clock tower. You’ll have to buy tickets in the tourist information on the square and then enter through the door on the left as you pass under the main arch.
The view from up here is quite spectacular and there is an elevator that will bring you to the top. I personally prefer the Alter Peter viewpoint (see below), but if you are not as sure-footed this will the perfect alternative for you.
Note: Each Saturday around noon you can join a tour through the New Townhall. Tickets are available in the tourist information as well.
2. Old Town Hall
On the East end of the Marienplatz, you’ll find the Altes Rathaus (“Old Townhall”). From 1475 up until 1874, this was the seat city council. These days, you’ll find a small toy museum inside. The big festival hall was reconstructed after World War II and can now be rented for special events.
The Pillar of Mary (Mariensäule) is, despite its small size, one of the oldest and most important monuments on Marienplatz. At the beginning of the 17th century, prince-elector Maximilian I. vowed to build a “God-pleasing creation” in case the invading Swedish troops wouldn’t destroy Munich (and Landshut). Even though Munich was indeed occupied, the Swedish King prevented his troops from sacking the city. Later, people would call this the “wonder of Munich”.
So, the prince-elector kept his promise and the Pillar of Mary was consecrated in 1638. For the longest time, it was considered the center of the country. Even today, google maps will calculate distances to Munich’s center based on the location of the Mariensäule. If you have a telephoto lens, you can shoot nice pictures with the onion-shaped domes of the Church of Our Lady in the background.
4. Alter Peter
Technically speaking, St. Peter’s church is not located on Marienplatz. But as it’s not even 50 meters further to the entrance of the oldest church in Munich, I don’t think this is the best time to be nitpicking.
The main reason why I am mentioning it here is the fact that you can climb the imposing bell tower of the church (300 stairs). From here, you’ll be able to enjoy the best view of Marienplatz and Munich’s old town. It’s really worth it!
5. Munich Glockenspiel
Every day at 11 a.m. and 12 o’clock noon you’ll see huge groups of tourists on Marienplatz. They are all waiting for the famous Munich Glockenspiel to activate in the tower of the city hall. It was installed in 1909 and has been playing without fail for more than 110 years now. If you want to know more about the tournament of the knights and the dance of the barrel makers guild you see, check out this detailed guide to the Glockenspiel.
Note: The chimes first perform one song before the performance starts. So, don’t be irritated when nothing is moving at first.
6. Restaurant “Zum Ewigen Licht”
Brezels, roasted pork, cheesy noodles – no matter where you go, you’ll find excellent Bavarian food. But the restaurant Zum ewigen Licht (“To the Eternal Light”) is special. It’s the birthplace of the Bavarian white sausages (Weißwurst). They were born on February 22nd, 1857 when the then typical local sausage variant wasn’t available and the cook went creative with the remaining sausage meat.
Ever since you’ll find Weißwürste on basically every menu in a traditional bavarian restaurant. But of course, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to eat them where they were originally created. A good alternative could be the Donisl Wirtshaus which is quite a bit larger and serves authentic Bavarian food as well.
A very interesting place to have lunch or dinner could also be the Ratskeller below the town hall. It’s actually surprisingly big and beautiful. There are colorful murals adorning the ceilings and it’s quite the lively place.
I do want to be honest with you, though. Chances are really low you’ll meet a local here. It’s a touristy place. But the menu features all the bavarian highlights, the atmosphere is quite lovely, and it’s very central. So, I wouldn’t let that fact speak against eating here.
9. Café Glockenspiel
Not that hungry? Then consider drinking a cup of coffee at the Café Glockenspiel. You’ll find it on the top floor of the house directly opposite the Glockenspiel (hence the name). It’s an excellent viewpoint if you want to see the performance, but you will have to reserve your seats in advance if you want a table at the window.
Fischbrunnen at Marienplatz
The most popular meeting point among locals on Marienplatz? The Fischbrunnen (The fish fountain). Why? Because it’s easy to find and a bit quieter here. Most tourist groups will flock underneath the Glockenspiel and the right side of the square is usually a bit less crowded. There’s a subway exit right net to it and it’s actually quite a nice spot to shoot a picture!
Marienplatz Subway station
Now, you might think me crazy mentioning the gigantic subway station below Marienplatz but bear with me. It is actually one of the top photography locations in Munich. If you are a big fan of architecture, you really should take the escalator down and explore the endless network of orange tunnels.
The station is quite busy, so it’s probably best to avoid the rush hour if you want to take a picture without people. Please also be aware that it’s far from the only beautiful subway station in Munich. So, if that’s something that interests you, definitely consider exploring the underground of Bavaria’s capital a little bit more.
On a side note: Subway lines U3 and U6 and all suburban trains stop at Marienplatz. If your hotel is a bit farther outside, it’s still incredibly easy to get to Munich’s central square!
The Christmas market
Once a year, in December, the Marienplatz transforms into a true fairy tale village. While there are over 20 different Christmas markets in Munich, none can compare in terms of the sheer beauty of the scenery. The Chrismas market on Marienplatz usually starts on the last weekend of November and closes around noon on December 24th.
Hotels near Marienplatz
Note: I earn a small commission for purchased made through booking.com links in this post.
Are you looking for a hotel near Marienplatz? Then I do have a couple of recommendations for you. Don’t forget, however, that Munich has an excellent public transport system and it’s very easy, fast, and cheap to move around with trams, buses, and subways. Hotels in the immediate old town are quite expensive, but obviously they are quite lovely if you want to explore the city center at night.
Hotels for a smaller budget
(please note: if you want hostels & accommodation below 100 USD a night you won’t find them in the city center)
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