In the massive Munich Residenz, the main palace of Bavaria’s rulers, the Residenz Museum is the most important (and largest) of the city’s many museums and galleries. While much of the huge palace complex is open to the public, many of its most interesting sites are included under the umbrella of the Residenz Museum, which opened to the public in 1920 and is now considered one of the best palace museums in Europe. A highlight of a visit is the wonderful Antiquarium, the first part of the Residenz to be built and completed in 1571. This 69-meter-long hall, with its barrel-vaulted roof and side vaults over the windows, is filled with antique busts and statues, as well as more than 100 painted views of Bavaria’s most picturesque towns and castles. The Gallery of Ancestors (Ahnengalerie) contains 121 portraits of Bavarian rulers; the Porcelain Room (Porzellankabinett) contains vast collections from Vienna, Meissen, and Würzburg. The quirky Grotto Court (Grottenhof), constructed from crystals and shells in 1586, is highlighted by a fine bronze figure of Mercury and the lovely Perseus Fountain from the same period. Free audio-guides are available, and you can book guided tours in English in advance. There’s so much to see at the Residenz Museum that you should be prepared to spend at least a day enjoying this impressive attraction.
Munich’s Old Picture Gallery (Alte Pinakothek), one of the world’s largest and finest such facilities, was built between 1836 to replace an older gallery that had become too small for the steadily increasing Royal Collection. Credited as a “masterpiece of architectural proportion,” this splendid old gallery – modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice – was the largest gallery in Europe built in the first half of the 19th century, and as such became the model for others in both Rome and Brussels. It’s a truly massive structure, 127 meters long with short side wings, and home to many wonderful collections, including numerous old Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries (including a rare Rembrandt self-portrait), Italian artworks from the 14th to 18th centuries (including Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Child, from 1436), and a broad collection of medieval German paintings from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The Rubens collection is one of the world’s largest, and Spanish and French masterpieces are also represented. Guided tours are available in English with advance notice, while audio-guides are included with the price of admission.
The New Picture Gallery (Neue Pinakothek), established in 1853 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, is considered to be one of the world’s most important collections of 19th-century artwork. In its possession are some 400 paintings and 50 works of sculpture ranging from Rococo to Art Nouveau masterpieces, as well as works by Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Manet, and Monet. Much of the collection is split between 22 Säle (large rooms) and 11 Kabinette (small rooms), where they’re exhibited under such groupings as International Paintings, English Paintings (one of the largest such collections outside of the UK and including works by Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Constable), and German Artists of Classicism. English language tours are available upon request with a variety of themes to choose from, and audio-guides are included in the price of admission.
In a stunning modern building in Munich’s art district, Kunstareal, Pinakothek der Moderne incorporates the former State Gallery of Modern Art with three other outstanding collections to form Germany’s largest museum for modern art. Featuring graphics, applied art, and architecture as well as paintings, the museum is especially strong in its collections of German artists including Klee, Schlemmer, Nolde, Baselitz, and Kiefer. But among its large collection of modern and contemporary art are works by Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, and Warhol. English language tours are available upon request, and audio guides are included with the cost of admission.