Why did I visit the Residenz in Munich? It’s a long story…I can’t help it – I love baubles, I love gems, I love all things shinny and bright. Not that I can afford to buy a gem of a substantial size, but I do love to peer into the deep green of a huge emerald and revel in the reflections of light, while I imagine the exotic country it came from, and what the person finding itmust have felt. Probably very little because for miners it’s just a job and a very hard one at that, but still, a girl can dream. That’s how I came to a dead stop in front of Cartier’s on Munich’s fashionable Maximilian Strasse, admiring a particularly beautiful specimen in the window.
My friend, who knows something about my ‘bauble attraction’ laughed when she saw the sparkle in my eyes and said, “So, you want to see really, truly breathtaking pieces? Let’s go visit the Residenz, it’s nearby and you are sure to treat your eyes to some of the most extraordinary glitz ever. ” She went on to say, ” there are a great variety of reasons why one may want to visit a museum; interest in art or history, to further one’s education, or simply to feast your eyes on beautiful things, all reasons are equally valid.”
Located in the heart of Munich, adjacent to the lovely Hofgarten, the Residenz is Germany’s largest inner city castle and one of the most important castle museums in Europe. The origins of the building date back to 1385 when the first fortress- like ‘Burg’ was erected as a gothic water castle only accessible via drawbridges. Since then many additions were made and the castle, as well as the rooms and collections within it, cover a number of architectual periods to include renaissance, baroque , rococo and neo classicism. Ever since 1385 it was the seat of the dukes and rulers of Bavaria as well as the Wittelsbach dynasty once Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806.
Each royal occupant of the castle added rooms, decorations and items to the already vast art collection until the revolution of 1918 when Bavaria ceased to be a kingdom. Even King Ludwig II, the’ fairy tale king’, spent some time in the Residenz as a crown prince and he, too, added his own touches although he much preferred his other castles; Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee, the constructions of which earned him his nick name.
During WWII, the Residenz suffered terrible damage (only 50sqm of the roof remained intact), but since 1945 reconstruction has been under way and continues to this day.Visitors can admire 130 rooms, each one with a ‘theme’ and each containing furniture, paintings, tapisseries, chandeliers, porcelain and countless other items covering the styles from medieval to neoclassicism. Visitors are also offered a unique opportunity to get a vivid insight into the lives and tastes of kings and noblemen of times gone by.
As you can see from the number of rooms alone, a visit to the Residenz easily fills an entire day and that does not even take into account the most glamorous part: the Treasury. Displayed in rooms with muted lighting and carefully focused spotlights, the crown jewels, an emerald encrusted chain, gem studded tiaras, jewelry, trinkets, and gold and silver tableware adorned with even more precious and semi precious stones abound.
What made me smile a bit is that you have to check-in everything you are carrying, apart from the smallest hand bag, before you are allowed in as if you could nick a trinket, all of which are displayed in thick, security protected glass cases and far too big and heavy anyway.
Another important aspect of the Residenz is the Cuvillies Theatre. It’s Germany’s most important rococo theatre, built between 1751 and 1753 following a fire which, in 1750, destroyed a part of the Residenz and the previous, much more modest Court Theatre. The decorations on the ceiling are fabulous and some of the finest examples of rococo painting and sculpture of its kind.
Occasionally, King Ludwig I allowed some humble ‘Bürger’ in to view the art collections, but only after a long process of screening and appointments! After extensive reconstruction was completed, the Residenz was opened to the public.
Today, everyone can enjoy the castle and the Treasury which is open daily from 9 am to 6pm. The most economic admission fee is a joint ticket for Residenz, Treasury and Theater which costs EUROS 13. If you don’t have the time to see it all, admission to the treasury costs EUROS 7 as does the ticket for the Residenz alone. Check for reduced price tickets or group rates upon arrival.
No visit to the Residenz is complete without a stroll through the adjacent Hofgarten. Commissioned by Kurfürst Maxilmilian I, it was designed between 1613 and 1617 in the form of a Renaissance garden in the Italian style. The middle of the garden is marked by the delightful Temple of Diana which today is the venue for concerts, while arcaded promenades line the sides. During WWII the Hofgarten was completely destroyed and has since been restored combining plans of the original design with aspects of an English country garden with emphasis on plants, flowers and trees to provide shade. Admission to the Hofgarten is free.
Munich is a city which favors bicycles, so don’t be surprised at the long line of bikes chained to the railings at the entrance to the Hofgarten. If you like, you can even go on a guided tour by bicycle. For up to date information, visit the tourist information center at the Marienplatz or the Hauptbahnhof. Assistants are very helpful and speak several languages.
Written by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte for EuropeUpClose.com