World ? Europe ? Germany ? Munich

Munich: Walking Tour 3


Start: Wedekindplatz.

Finish: Englischer Garten.

Time: 2 1/2 hours with minimal stopovers.

Best Times: Morning to mid-afternoon while students bustle to and from class.

Worst Times: Monday to Friday from 7:30 to 9am and 4:30 to 6pm.

Schwabing was incorporated into the city in 1890. Its golden era as an artists' center was from 1890 to 1914. Novelists Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, satirist Karl Kraus, and playwright Franz Wedekind were some of the better-known authors who lived in the area. For a short period after World War II, it became legendary as Germany's hip center. But now the days of vie de bohȲme (bohemian life) are long gone, and Schwabing has lost most of its distinctive character. In many ways, its situation is comparable to that of New York's Greenwich Village, which is hardly the haven for artists, writers, and poets that it once was. Since rents have soared to ridiculous highs, the artists in Schwabing long ago retreated to cheaper areas. A more monied crowd occupies Schwabing today, as it has become the "in" place to live in Munich.

The tour begins in the section of Schwabing behind the Mɒnchner Freiheit station known as Old Schwabing. Movie theaters, music clubs, and even a handful of cabarets give it the markings of cosmopolitanism.

1. Wedekindplatz

Once the community market, the Wedekindplatz is named for Franz Wedekind, whose "Lulu" plays about a femme fatale provided the basis for the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Pandora's Box, and for Alban Berg's opera Lulu. The platz is the focal point of the neighborhood.

Head west down Fellitzschstrasse past the Mɒnchner Freiheit rail station, and cross the:

2. Leopoldstrasse

The most famous street in Schwabing is also the most fun to walk down and to take in scenes of local life. It is a favorite promenade for both visitors and the local residents themselves. Cafes line both sides of the street, and there are many restaurants and bars to enjoy. In winter, life calms down considerably here, but on a summer evening, Leopoldstrasse is the place to be. Students, struggling artists, whatever, fill the streets hawking their wares, usually arts and crafts -- often trash. Leopoldstrasse becomes like an outdoor souk, with vendors selling everything from carvings to leather items, some of dubious quality.

A block farther on, take a left on Wilhelmstrasse, travel south for 2 blocks, and then take a right on:

3. Hohenzollernstrasse

Here you can further study Jugendstil. The facades that adorn the buildings lining this street are fine examples of the bright and geometric decorations that typify that style. Look also for the little quirky fashion boutiques that give the street its fame.

To take in the full view of the street, continue west to the junction with RɆmerstrasse. Once here, head south along RɆmerstrasse until you come to Ainmillerstrasse, at which point you walk east.

4. Ainmillerstrasse

The artistic unshackling of the Jugendstil movement laid the foundation for further development of an artistic consciousness that was the basis for many of the eager manifestos set forth by the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) school. Appropriately, Wassily Kandinsky, the premier artist associated with the Blue Rider movement, once lived down the street. You will find many of the finest examples of Jugendstil on the east end of the street -- including the facade at no. 22 that sports Adam and Eve lying at the base of the tree of knowledge. Continue east to Leopoldstrasse, where Kandinsky once lived in a building long gone.

Take a Break

The cafe-bar, Cafȳ Roxy, Leopoldstrasse 48 (tel. 089/34-92-92), is owned by Iris Berben, star of German TV. She presides over the neo-Deco interior, the Italian cuisine, and an affectedly urbane crowd. It's chic, it's hip, and it's the best place to relax in the neighborhood.

Head south down Leopoldstrasse until you approach the:

5. Akademie der ShɆnen Kunst (Academy of Fine Arts)

This building, erected at the end of the 19th century, enthusiastically recalls the Italian Renaissance. The academy is best known for the "Secession" movement that was spearheaded by its students in the 1890s. This protest against "traditional aesthetics" and a call for a new creativity in the arts led quickly to the growth of Jugendstil and helped define Munich as a centerpiece of the Art Nouveau movement.

Continue south on Leopoldstrasse and you will enter the:

6. Ludwig-Maximilians UniversitȨt (University of Munich) campus

Frederich von GȨrtner engineered the construction of the edifice, one of the most aesthetically fine in all of Munich. GȨrtner relieved Leo von Klenze (who designed the Alte Pinakothek) as Bavaria's court architect, and the relative flamboyance of this structure is compared favorably with Klenze's more staid approach. It was here that the student society, the White Rose, made a last effort to resist Hitler in 1942 to 1943. Its leaders, Sophie and Hans Scholl, were brutally executed for "civil disobedience." (A memorial to the movement is located in the lower mezzanine at Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1; open weekdays 10am-4pm.)

A 2-minute walk south is the twin-spired university church of St. Ludwig's and the:

7. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library)

This mammoth library is one of the largest in all of Europe. It stands where the Schwabing Gate of medieval Munich once cast its shadow.

Before leaving campus, duck down Schellingstrasse and drop in at:

8. Words' Worth Bookshop

Schellingstrasse 3. The student district's liveliest street is south of the university in a suburb of Schwabing known as Maxvorstadt. Munich is Germany's publishing center, and the bookstores throughout Schwabing will satisfy the most avid reader. Formerly the Anglia English Bookshop, this Words' Worth branch is our favorite bookstore along this street. As the name suggests, this store specializes in English-language titles, and it's a hangout for visiting Americans and English-speaking expatriates living in Munich.

Head back north up Leopoldstrasse, returning to the university's center. Take a right on VeterinȨrstrasse, directly across the street from GȨrtner's famed building. Those without inhibition may want to begin disrobing. You're being routed to the:

9. Englischer Garten

Munich's most famous park is full of nude sunbathers. The Chinese Tower is the most recognizable landmark of the gardens. The wooden tower, trimmed with gold leaf, was destroyed during World War II but reemerged in the 1950s to the delight of its beer-garden devotees -- a Munich tradition revered even by upstart Schwabingers, and a good place to take a break and end your walk.

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