Maxvorstadt, cult(s) district
Twelve museums with the best of art, twenty two libraries, 44 thousand students at a college with over 500 years. That’s Maxvorstadt, a fascinating district of the city of Munich, with culture for all.
From the real Residenz complex --house of the Wittelsbach since 1385--, you have to walk westbound, down Brienner Street, and leave behind tons of tourists who enjoy the classic attractions of the city. You may go back to that part of Munich later. There are several arguments, like its beer gardens located in the Viktualien Market, or in the bar-magnet of all Bavarian brewers, the Hofbräuhaus.
If the idea to go straight down Brienner Street is not neglected, soon you will find a wide street full of traffic, called Oskar von Miller Ring. From there you begin to feel the scent of culture that Maxvorstadt district emanates in each of its corners. Another obvious symptom of being in a different area of the city is the grid layout of the streets: an urban drawing used in the early XIX century, a time when this area began to take shape in the mind of Maximilian I of Bavaria.
From Greece to Kandinsky
In a square that in spring and summer shines with flowers arranged in such a German way, is an obelisk that commemorates the death in Russia of thousands of Bavarian soldiers during the campaign of Napoleon in 1812, from where you can see Greece, or at least a bombastic attempt to reproduce it. This Athens of the Isar is located in Königsplatz and was conceived bt Luis I, son of Maximilian I, from his deepest passion for ancient Greece.
Head on, coming from the obelisk, is Munich’s door, represented by the Propyläen Building, twin of the Acropolis door. On the right is the Glyptothek Museum, another building of classic cut that houses a large collection of sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome that Luis I initiated being a prince, and face to face, but across the whole square, is the Antikensammlungen Building, which houses antiquities of Greek and Roman art. It is recommendable for those who delight passing half a day between vessels, pottery and jewelry of those history moments.
If you do not want to choke the visit, the best is not knowing that the Königsplatz, which formally initiated Maxvorstadt as the museums district, saw a black moment in the history of the twentieth century. Under Nazi command, here were staged great parades and ceremonies that would gestate Hitler’s power. But to forget that data you better dive into the artistic proposal of Der Blaue Reiter movement and travel between colorists symphonies of Kandinsky or Franz Marc in the gallery of the city, the Lenbach House, or to leave it less clear, in the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. Incidentally, Hitler, as well as Kandinsky, Franz Marc and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929, Thomas Mann, lived in this neighborhood. Some with the idea of being creative, but one with very debatable purposes.
Behind the Glyptothek Building are the facilities of the Technical University. Not much to see there but you should visit it to understand that besides memories of Greece and Rome, Maxvorstadt is a district with strong college life that remains at the forefront. A few blocks from here is the second largest college in Germany --the Ludwig Maximilian--, with over 500 years of history, and today with 44 thousand students. This is seen in the streets without any effort: next to tourists escaping to roam around, the common neighbor, or the people who work in the district, there will always be the presence of a college student. Twenty five percent of the population is between 20 and 30 years old. Just walk around to see them go full speed on the bike, with the face of students in exams, or scattered in neighborhood parks any Sunday.
On one side of the Technical University you may find a lot of medieval paintings of great masters of this art. Durero or Rubens –among many others—are two of the artists than can be admired in the Alte Pinakothek. Keep the rest of the day to be there: this royal collection of paintings is considered one of the best in the world and it will be sufficient to see the works of Brueghel in the first rooms to know that you will stay here for a long time, even if you don’t like art so much. The totally medieval atmospheres of this painter are just the prelude of what will come next, on the second floor: the paintings of the Italian Renaissance in the hands of Ticiano, Rafael or Botticelli, but also Spain is well represented with works by Murillo, Goya or El Greco.
Crossing a park inhabited by sculptures and people dedicated to doing nothing except spending the day quietly, we reach the art world of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth. It is the Neue Pinakothek, located in a building constructed in 1981, after the original was destroyed during Second World War. If you admire the work of painters like Caspar David Friedrich, Ludwig Richter or Max Liebermann, then you will be there a good deal of time.
To rest your eyes, and feet of course, have a coffee in a small but comfortable room overlooking the two newly explored museums: the Batty Baristas coffee shop (Barer Street 42). Besides trying to order a coffee in German and enjoy the neighborhood’s atmosphere, there is free internet. So, it is a good place to rest the body and communicate with the world. If preferred, you can eat in a restaurant located in the same street: the Warm Nudel Bar (Barer Street 56). It’s a small Japanese restaurant, with authentic food of that country, and a menu that can not solve anything to the tourists as everything is in German and Japanese. However, the owner, Japanese, who does not speak English, is a great cook.
Türken and Amalien streets
These two streets are the heart of the neighborhood contemporary atmosphere. Here, Maxvorstadt can be categorized as a cult and trendy place. Art galleries and bookstores with antique jewelry or publications of recent issue, share the street with exclusive clothing stores or with an ice cream parlor: the Balla Beni
(Theresien Street 46), capable of creating true thirsty mobs of Italian gelati in full Bavarian streets. From spring to early October, cafés jostle for having the best terrace of the street. Any corner is ideal to listen to conversations in German or English, which can run between subjects of literature or politics, but also the last goal of the home team. Amalien Street is one block from Ludwig Street
--limit of the neighborhood--, which connects quickly with the city center via subway or car. There is the Ludwig Maximilian University, with 500 years of tradition. The Ludwig church is also here, with its notorious towers 71 meters high and, if brewer smell is good, from here you can walk to the heart of one of the largest urban parks in the world, the Englischer Garten, with the idea of prostrating yourself around the large pagoda of the Chinesischer Turm (beer garden) and witness the honors that are given to German beer: drinking it all!
Before leaving Maxvorstadt district, you better return to Ludwig Street and leave the Chinesischer Turm for later. Even it would be wise to visit two shrines of art located on Türken Street, dedicated exclusively to the produced during the twentieth century and the present. The first one is located opposite the fabulous Balla Beni ice creams, in a modern building that houses, since 2009, the Brandhorst Museum. Here, with every step you take, a jolt of admiration occurs. The walls are shared by Joseph Beuys, Warhol, Basquiat, Damien Hirst or Sigmar Polke. The site is not comparable in size with the two great galleries in the city, but it also let the soul flutter with such intensity. Just steps from this museum is another of enormous dimensions: the Pinakothek der Moderne, Germany’s largest modern and contemporary art gallery. It was inaugurated in 2002 and houses works by Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Warhol and Beuys. Also, has one of the most complete collections of design and applied arts, and within its architectural section, original drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright are presented. All art should be here...
Now we will experience the neighborhood from its own entrails. Let’s walk Türken Street and, at number 57, find one of its nightlife icons: the Alter Simpl Bar. The name comes from the satirical magazine Simplissimus, which denounced the Nazi regime and certain conservative customs of the time. Characters like Herman Hesse and Thomas Mann have drunk beer at their tables, and today, with the walls painted by smoke snuff after many years of rebellion, it has become a unique space that surrounds the true character of Maxvorstadt, always creative, but critical at the same time.