Munich is home to a sheer abundance of houses from the era of Art Nouveau. This walking tour through Munich covers the Jugendstil highlights.
Munich is best known for its beer and the Oktoberfest. But just a short walk away from the infamous Hofbräuhaus hides, quite in plain sight, the bohemian side of Bavaria’s capital: An almost unparalleled wealth of fascinating Art Nouveau houses are scattered throughout the city. A wonder in itself, because Munich suffered severe damage during WWI, and so much of its ancient past has been lost after the bombings.
I have recently been to Riga, where the Art Nouveau district will appear in every city guide. It made me realize that this part of Munich’s history deserves much more attention – especially since there are few cities (if any) with more buildings from that time.
Around the fin de siècle Munich was a city of art, artist and basically everything new. Schwabing, back then still a real suburb, became the hotspot for students, philosophers and painters alike. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc or Thomas Mann – the list of world famous artist spending parts of their lives in Schwabing is as long as illustrious. Newspapers like the Jugend or the Simplicissimus appeared in that time and inspired a whole generation with new ideas – some of them quite evidently left their mark on architecture.
Jugendstil is what Art Nouveau is called in Germany. Derived from that Newspaper “Jugend” which started it all. As a tourist, you can still get glimpses of those glorious times. A walking tour through Munich and its Art Nouveau architecture might be just the most special way to while away your time in the city so often reduced to lederhosen and beer.
Walking tour through Munich – Chose a district
Now most guides will probably tell you to go to the district of Schwabing if you want to get intimate with Munich’s Art Nouveau past. As a local, I’m willing to disagree (though Schwabing certainly is a good choice as you will see further down below). Instead, go to Bogenhausen, where not only normal city houses but also sprawling villas, a museum, and quite a famous theater can be seen – all in the style of Art Nouveau.
I’d start the tour with the Friedensengel (Angel of Peace). The Friedensengel is an unmissable huge monument in the suburb of Bogenhausen. Being built in 1871 it is, strictly speaking, not Art Nouveau, except for the beautiful mosaics in its basement. Quite evidently the Friedensengel is, even if you are not interested in Art Nouveau, a must-see in Munich.
Follow the Prinzregentenstraße further outside the city. After perhaps 100 meters, you will find the Villa Stuck on the right-hand side of the road. Built by famous painter Franz von Stuck, this magnificent villa certainly is the very Art Nouveau highlight in Munich. The whole ensemble virtually screams: visit me. And you can! It is now a museum, mostly dedicated to modern art. But parts of original Art Nouveau interior survived, as well as the garden, and those can be seen for a small fee of 4 Euro.
Here’s the official website: http://www.villastuck.de/
Whether you decide to go into Villa Stuck or not, you should definitely turn left into the Ismaninger Strasse. House number 98 on the right-hand side will reveal a captivating teal facade above an old tobacco store.
From here it is only a short walk of perhaps 5 minutes to Maria-Theresia-Straße number 27. The enchanting little villa is called Villa Bechtolsheim. Built in between 1896 and 1898 by Martin Dülfer, it is one of the oldest surviving examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Germany. I wish I had had my nursery in that tower!
Now you have to get back to the main street (Prinzregentenstrasse). Do so by walking through the Trogerstrasse. At house number 50 you will find a small little gallery (they actually got wonderful paintings, some of them actually Art Nouveau!) called “Gallerie Krausz”. Your main highlight will be the Art Nouveau entranceway, though.
Trogerstrasse will lead you right back to the main street. Follow that road further outside the city until you reach one of Munich’s grand theaters (do look out for Prinzregentenstrasse house number 74 – another Art Nouveau house mostly hidden behind trees). The Prinzregententheater has been built between 1900 and 1901 and is a prime example of the neo-classical Art Nouveau. Operas, ballet, and classical concerts are staged here. The interior is outright stunning and pure Art Nouveau! So do consider booking a performance in the evening.
By the way, if you are looking for further options to spend one perfect day in Munich, do read my guide.
In the vicinity of the Prinzregententheater, you will find a square with the same name: Prinzregentenplatz. The so-called Prince-Regent-Time has been one of the most prosperous ones in the Bavarian history, just in case you were wondering why it left such a big mark on the city. (There is also the Prinzregententorte – a cake you really have to eat when in Munich). Facing that square you will find quite an abundance of Art Nouveau houses. It is also where I am living (do say hi when you are around!).
Definitely, check out the Lucile-Grahn-Straße 22, one of the side streets leading onto the Prinzregentenplatz. The facade of this house is really beyond stunning! But basically no matter in which direction you’ll turn, beauty can be found! Hitlers old apartment is also located on Prinzregentenplatz (now a police station). I wrote about that history-loaded place in a separate blog article. Check it out here.
Sadly most houses will be closed to you. But to be quite honest: it is worth going inside. Not all interiors survived, but when they did, they are stunning right to the last detailed. Above you can see an ancient button used to call the lift. It says “Fahrstuhl” – the German word for lift.
Here is your map for your walking tour through Bogenhausen
Moving on to Schwabing
Once you explored all Prinzregentenplatz has to offer, it’s time to move on. Bus number 54 will take you right to “Münchner Freiheit” and into the heart of Schwabing. Schwabing, you will soon notice, is a much livelier district than Bogenhausen – shops, bars, cafés and people are everywhere. It might give you an idea of what it must have been a hundred years ago.
Ainmillerstrasse in Schwabing
Do take your time around Münchner Freiheit. Feilitzstrasse has a couple of grand houses that are somewhat Art Nouveauish but more in the way of Historicism. Your ultimate goal should be Ainmillerstrasse, which means walking down the Leopoldstrasse back into the city. Animillerstrasse 22 is probably the most amazing Art Nouveau house in the whole city.
Above the door, you will find the loveliest Art Nouveau interpretation of the Adam and Eve theme ever. Usually, the door will be open during the week. Please be aware that this is not a museum but private property. So if you decide to go on, do so with the utmost respect!
Right, next to this house built by Ernst Haiger/Henry Helbig you will find another wonderful Art Nouveau example. Schwabing had been the most liberal place in Germany, if not Europe during that time – here it feels like you can breathe in that spirit!
Your next stop on your Art Nouveau walking tour through Schwabing should be Franz-Joseph-Straße. Though there are many wonderful houses along this regal street, house number 19 will be its highlight. Franz Nyilas designed the building in 1903 that now houses an apothecary.
It is even possible to get inside! Again I want to note that you are entering private property and everything you do should be respectful towards the residents.
But there is more to explore on Franz-Joseph-Strasse. House number 23 has a very lovely doorway, don’t you think?
You might consider walking all the way around that building. Behind you will find a park. Facing the Leopoldpark is a wonderful Art Nouveau back building with a beautiful peacock ornament in the pediment.
You think you’ve seen it all now? Well then, Römerstrasse 11 is something you really shouldn’t miss on your Art Nouveau tour. It doesn’t take a scientist to notice the similarities between this house and the one at Ainmillerstrasse. So yes it was designed by the same architects. Personally speaking, I love this one even more!
The door, now partially hidden behind a little tree, is kind of sinister, though. There is a wreath of flowers around it. But the face on top of the arch really looks kind of like “all who pass shall be tested for the purity of their heart”. Also: What is Narcis doing on that little Fresco to the right?
Ending your Art Nouveau Walking tour through Munich
Every tour has to end somewhere. Schwabing has a lot of more Art Nouveau houses than I mentioned here. The highlights, however, all found their mentioning. Still – no matter which way you turn, architectonic treasures can be found. Georgenstrasse 10 is one. In one of the many bays of the building hides this amazing Art Nouveau mosaic.
The very best way to end your walking through Schwabing would be with a traditional bavarian lunch or dinner at the Alter Simpl. This isn’t just any restaurant, though! First of all the interiors are Art Nouveau. But that is not all: this restaurant can actually be considered the very birthplace of Art Nouveau in Germany. Back in 1903, this restaurant became the meeting point for all those who would really start the movement! The building didn’t survive the bombings during WWII – but they did a good job restoring it. Also, the food is very authentic and not even expensive (here is their website).
Here is your walking tour map through Schwabing
Another way to finish your walking tour could be taking a bath. Yes, you heard that right! Not because you are all sweaty after a long walk (the tour really IS easy!), but because in Munich you will also find an Art Nouveau public bath. The Müller’sches Volksbad is both stunning from in- and outside.
I especially love the clock tower. In all honesty, I really got no clue why a public bath needs a clock tower, but let’s put logic, in the face of beauty, aside :P
Here is their official website.
Last notes and hints
First of all, you might have noticed that the Art Nouveau buildings in Munich are not really close together. Taking the bike might actually be an option. All in all this walking tour will take you roughly 3 hours – not calculating any time you spent inside the various attractions. Obviously, you could decide just doing the part in Bogenhousen or Schwabing – Google Maps will give you a good indication how long it will take.
There is an official list compiled by the city of Munich with all its buildings and landmarks in the Art Nouveau style. As you can see it is quite extensive and obviously my tour does not cover them all. So if you have any questions, do ask and I can try pointing you in the right direction.
More blogs from my hometown Munich:
- Viktualienmarkt: Insider tips for Munich’s gourmet food Market
- The ultimate Oktoberfest survival guide
- A Traditional costume parade in Munich
Hope you liked this Art Nouveau walking tour through Munich. I had quite a tough time researching all the best buildings and finding time to take pictures on a sunny day. Do tell me in the comments below, if my efforts were worth it! :)