Visiting Munich? Want to see something special? Here's a complete chapter from the new Seventh Edition of my guidebook Daytrips Germany (2009) that describes just that. Enjoy!
Another fascinating excursion to make while in Munich is a delightful half-day stroll through the Nymphenburg Palace and its surrounding park. This summer home of the Wittelsbachs is one of the most splendid royal palaces of Europe, in many ways outshining their downtown Residenz itself.
Begun in 1664 as a simple Italianate villa, Nymphenburg gradually expanded over the next century and a half as succeeding generations added their own ideas of how royalty should live. In much the same way as Versailles, the main palace is only part of the attraction. Hidden among the trees is an absolute jewel of a hunting lodge and several intriguing pavilions. The formal gardens are dazzling, while the Carriage Museum, Botanical Gardens, Natural History Museum, and Royal Porcelain Factory all add their share of interest.
Take route U-1 or U-7 of the U-Bahn subway to Rotkreuzplatz. Here you change to streetcar #17 in the direction of Amalienburg Strasse, getting off at the Schloss Nymphenburg stop.
By Car, follow Arnulfstrasse from the main train station to Roman Platz, which is very close to the palace.
Schloss Nymphenburg is open daily all year round, but note that the smaller pavilions are closed in winter. Fine weather will greatly enhance this trip. For more information contact the Munich tourist office listed in the previous chapter.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Acetaia (Nymphenburger Str. 215, about a mile southeast of the palace) A comfortably elegant restaurant with Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Reservations suggested. X: Sat. lunch. T: (089) 1392-9077. €€ and €€€
Schlosscafé im Palmenhaus (in the gardens of Schloss Nymphenburg) Light lunches, beverages, and dessert in a reconstructed 17th-century conservatory. X: Mon. in winter. T: (089) 175-309. € and €€
Königlicher Hirschgarten (Hirschgartenalle 1, a half-mile southeast of the palace) Munich's largest outdoor beer garden, noted for its food. T: (089) 172-591. €
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
You will get a good view of the palace complex from the streetcar stop (1) on Notburgastrasse. Walk along the ornamental canal to the central building and purchase a combined ticket for the Schloss, Carriage Museum, and the park pavilions.
SCHLOSS NYMPHENBURG (2-9), T: (089) 179-080. Palace open mid-April to mid-Oct., daily 9-6; rest of year daily 10-4. All-inclusive ticket €€. Restaurant. Café. Shop.
Enter the Palace (2) and step into the Great Hall (Steinerner Saal), a vast room of rococo splendor. The ceiling frescoes, full of allegorical references, are well worth a detailed examination. Stroll through the gorgeously decorated north wing, noting the gallery with the paintings of Nymphenburg as it appeared in the 1720s.
For most visitors, however, the south wing is more interesting. Here you will find King Ludwig I's famous Gallery of Beauties — 36 paintings commissioned by the king of the most beautiful women of his time. Included in the group is the notorious Lola Montez, an Irish-born "Spanish" dancer who ultimately became his undoing. At the ripe old age of 60 the king took her as his latest mistress, an act that did not sit well with the conservative Bavarians, and which was partly responsible for his forced abdication in 1848. Poor Lola was sent into deepest exile — the far-off United States, where she entertained folks from New York to California. Today she lies buried in Brooklyn.
Close to this is the bedroom in which Ludwig II, the "mad" king, was born on August 25th, 1845. You will probably be meeting up with him, or at least his creations, several times during your Bavarian adventures.
Other particularly interesting rooms nearby include the South Gallery, with its paintings of various Wittelsbach properties, and the Chinese Lacquer Room.
Leave the palace and walk out into the gardens. The part facing you, laid out in a formal manner, is called the Large Parterre (3). Statues of mythological gods adorn the paths leading to the fountain.
Follow the trail on the left to *Amalienburg (4), an exquisite hunting lodge in the rococo style by Cuvilliés. Its exterior is rather restrained, but once inside you will be treated to a visual feast. The most sumptuously decorated room here is the circular Hall of Mirrors. The Pheasant Room, kitchen, and bedrooms are also outstanding.
A path leads through the trees to the Dörfchen, a tiny group of cottages reminiscent of the hameau at Versailles. The nearby 18th-century pump house still works the big fountains in the parterre. Continue on to the Badenburg (5), an elegant bath house complete with a banquet hall and a luxurious indoor swimming pool. The trail now follows along the side of a lake to the Monopteros, a little love temple on the water's edge.
The elaborate Cascade (6) marks the beginning of the main canal. Stroll through the woods beyond to the Pagodenburg (7), an octagonal tea pavilion whose upper floor is decorated in Chinese motifs.
Returning in the direction of the palace brings you to the Magdalenenklause (8), also called the Hermitage. A refreshing change after all the splendor, this at first seems to be in a state of ruin. Don't be deceived — it was built that way in 1725 for the private meditations of the ruler; the appearance of poverty then being very fashionable. The interior contains a strange chapel in the form of a grotto, and unadorned rooms where the ceremonies of court life could be avoided.
Continue through the ornamental gardens and exit the grounds via a passageway under the palace. To the right, in the south wing, is the Carriage Museum (Marstallmuseum) (9). Here the state coaches and sleighs of the Wittelsbachs are on display, including the utterly fantastic ones used to transport Ludwig II on his nocturnal escapades. On the floor above this is Museum of Nymphenburg Porcelains.
The north wing of the palace is now occupied by the Museum Mensch und Natur (Museum of Man and Nature) (10), which concerns itself with the history of mankind’s role on Earth and its impact on the environment. Admission to this is separate from the palace. T: (089) 179-080. Open Tues.-Sun. 9-5. €.
The New Botanical Gardens(Botanischer Garten) (11), slightly to the north of Nymphenburg on Menzinger Strasse, provide a delightful end to this trip. Various climates of the world are skillfully re-created and planted with appropriate flora in this wonderful landscape of natural beauty. T: (089) 1786-1310, W: botmuc.de. Open daily 9-5, 6, or 7, closing earlier in winter. The hothouses close between noon and 1 p.m. €.
On the way back to the streetcar stop (1) you may want to pause at the Royal State Porcelain Factory (12), where Nymphenburg porcelain is still made to traditional rococo designs and may be purchased from the factory.
You might possibly have a déjà-vu experience here, if back in the 1960s you thrilled to that enigmatic 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad (L'année Dernière á Marienbad) by French director Alain Resnais. Especially the garden scene where the leading characters cast long shadows while the trees and bushes cast none. Were they really there? Did this place actually exist? It was filmed here, and the outdoor scenes done at high noon when there were no shadows; the shadows of the people were painted on the ground.