The city is an inspiring mix of historic buildings and impressive architecture, since Munich reconstructed the ruins of their historic buildings but also created new landmarks of architecture. A survey, conducted by the Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations for the National Geographic Traveler, chose over 100 historic places around the world and ranked Munich as the 30th best destination.
At the centre of the city is the Marienplatz—a large open square named after the Mariensäule, a Marian column in its centre—with the Old and the New Town Hall. Its tower contains the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Three gates of the demolished medieval fortification have survived to this day—the Isartor in the east, the Sendlinger Tor in the south and the Karlstor in the west of the inner city. The Karlstor leads up to the Stachus, a grand square dominated by the Justizpalast (Palace of Justice) and a fountain.
The Peterskirche close to Marienplatz is the oldest church of the inner city. It was first built during the Romanesque period, and was the focus of the early monastic settlement in Munich before the city's official foundation in 1158. Nearby St. Peter the Gothic hall-church Heiliggeistkirche (The Church of the Holy Spirit) was converted to baroque style from 1724 onwards and looks down upon the Viktualienmarkt, the most popular market of Munich.
The nearby Michaelskirche is the largest renaissance church north of the Alps, while the Theatinerkirche is a basilica in Italianate high baroque which had a major influence on Southern German baroque architecture. Its dome dominates the Odeonsplatz. Other baroque churches in the inner city which are worth a detour are the Bürgersaalkirche, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche, the St. Anna Damenstiftskirche and St. Anna im Lehel, the first rococo church in Bavaria. The Asamkirche was endowed and built by the Brothers Asam, pioneering artists of the rococo period.
The large Residenz palace complex (begun in 1385) on the edge of Munich's Old Town ranks among Europe's most significant museums of interior decoration. Having undergone several extensions, it contains also the treasury and the splendid rococo Cuvilliés Theatre. Next door to the Residenz the neo-classical opera, the National Theatre was erected. Among the baroque and neoclassical mansions which still exist in Munich are the Palais Porcia, the Palais Preysing, the Palais Holnstein and the Prinz-Carl-Palais. All mansions are situated close to the Residenz, same as the Alte Hof, a medieval castle and first residence of the Wittelsbach dukes in Munich.
The inner city has been recreated in the virtual world of Second Life and can be visited for a virtual sight seeing tour.
Four grand royal avenues of the 19th century with magnificent official buildings connect Munich's inner city with the suburbs:
The neoclassical Briennerstrasse, starting at Odeonsplatz on the northern fringe of the Old Town close to the Residenz, runs from east to west and opens into the impressive Königsplatz, designed with the "Doric" Propyläen, the "Ionic" Glyptothek and the "Corinthian" State Museum of Classical Art, on its back side St. Boniface's Abbey was erected. The area around Königsplatz is home to the Kunstareal, Munich's gallery and museum quarter (as described below).
Ludwigstrasse also begins at Odeonsplatz and runs from south to north, skirting the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, the St. Louis church, the Bavarian State Library and numerous state ministries and palaces. The southern part of the avenue was constructed in Italian renaissance style while the north is strongly influenced by Italian Romanesque architecture.
The neo-Gothic Maximilianstraße starts at Max-Joseph-Platz, where the Residenz and the National Theatre are situated, and runs from west to east. The avenue is framed by neo-Gothic buildings which house, among others, the Schauspielhaus and the Building of the district government of Upper Bavaria and the Museum of Ethnology. After crossing the river Isar, the avenue circles the Maximilianeum, home of the state parliament. The western portion of Maximilianstraße is known for its designer shops, luxury boutiques, jewellery stores, and one of Munich's foremost five-star hotels, the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten.
Prinzregentenstrasse runs parallel to Maximilianstraße and begins at Prinz-Carl-Palais. Many museums can be found along the avenue, such as the Haus der Kunst, the Bavarian National Museum and the Schackgalerie. The avenue crosses the Isar and circles the Friedensengel monument passing the Villa Stuck and Hitler's old apartment. The Prinzregententheater is at Prinzregentenplatz further to the east.
Two large baroque palaces in Nymphenburg and Oberschleissheim are reminders of Bavaria's royal past. Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace), some north west of the city centre, is surrounded by an impressive park and is considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful royal residences. north west of Nymphenburg Palace is Schloss Blutenburg (Blutenburg Castle), an old ducal country seat with a late-Gothic palace church. Schloss Fürstenried (Fürstenried Palace), a baroque palace of similar structure to Nymphenburg but of much smaller size, was erected around the same time in the south west of Munich. The second large baroque residence is Schloss Schleissheim (Schleissheim Palace), located in the suburb of Oberschleissheim, a palace complex encompassing three separate residences: Altes Schloss Schleissheim (the old palace), Neues Schloss Schleissheim (the new palace) and Schloss Lustheim (Lustheim Palace). Most parts of the palace complex serve as museums and art galleries. Deutsches Museum's Flugwerft Schleissheim flight exhibition centre is located nearby, on the Schleissheim Special Landing Field. The Bavaria statue before the neo-classical Ruhmeshalle is a monumental, bronze sand-cast 19th-century statue at Theresienwiese. The Grünwald castle is the only medieval castle in the Munich area which still exisists.
St Michael in Berg am Laim might be the most remarkable church out of the inner city. Most of the boroughs have parish churches which originate from the Middle Ages like the most famous church of pilgrimage in Munich St Mary in Ramersdorf. The oldest church within the city borders is Heilig Kreuz in Fröttmaning next to the Allianz-Arena, known for its Romanesque fresco.
Especially in its suburbs, Munich features a wide and diverse array of modern architecture, although strict culturally sensitive height limitations for buildings have limited the construction of skyscrapers to avoid a loss of views to the distant Bavarian Alps. Most high-rise buildings are clustered at the northern edge of Munich in the skyline, like the Hypo-Haus, the Arabella High-Rise Building, the Highlight Towers, Uptown Munich, Münchner Tor and the BMW Headquarters next to the Olympic Park. Several other high-rise buildings are located near the city centre and on the Siemens campus in southern Munich. A landmark of modern Munich is also the architecture of the sport stadiums (as described below).
Munich is a green city with numerous parks. The Englischer Garten, close to the city centre and covering an area of (larger than Central Park in New York), is one of the world's largest urban public parks, and contains a nudist area, jogging tracks and bridle-paths. It was designed and laid out by Benjamin Thompson, Count of Rumford, for both pleasure and as a work area for the city's vagrants and homeless. Nowadays it is entirely a park with a Biergarten at the Chinese Pagoda.
Other large green spaces are the modern Olympiapark, Westpark, and the parks of Nymphenburg Palace (with the Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg to the north), and Schleissheim Palace. The city's oldest park is the Hofgarten, near the Residenz, and dating back to the 16th century. Best known for the largest beergarden in the town is the former royal Hirschgarten, founded in 1780 for deer which still live there.
The city's zoo is the Tierpark Hellabrunn near the Flaucher Island in the Isar in the south of the city. Another notable park is Ostpark, located in Perlach-Ramersdorf area which houses the swimming area, Michaelibad, one of the largest in Munich.
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