Empty splendour at the Residenz Palace in Munich
The Residenz is the palace in the heart of Munich, formerly home to the Bavarian kings, queens,electors and the ruling Wittelbach dynasty. Large parts of the palace were destroyed in World War II but were restored after the war. We visited Munich in mid December for a long weekend and on our first afternoon it was raining, so we decided to get out of the damp and take a look around the Residenz.
We went through the archway to the inner courtyard and ticket office and picked up an audio-guide which can be used for both the Treasury and the main palace itself. We decided to see the Treasury or Schatzkammer first as it was the shorter of the two, taking about 30 mins to look around. We left our coats and larger bags in the free cloakroom – nothing larger than a handbag is allowed around the palace which may cause problems if you have a lot of camera equipment to carry.
The Treasury is a series of rooms with the crown jewels of Bavaria, from crowns, swords and tiaras, to altar pieces, decorative plates and tablewear. There was everything a royal family or court could want to impress and display their wealth, and the audio-guide did a good job at explaining it all.
Next we walked around the palace itself which takes over an hour. There are some rooms from the Renaissance period, such as the magnificent Antiquarium, a hall with a decorative vaulted ceiling that was used for banquets and receiving guests, and an interesting shell grotto, to one side of an inner courtyard. Most of the rooms are in the decorative Rococo style from the 18th century, with plenty of damask, gilding and painted ceilings, with furniture, portraits and porcelein of the period on display.
As there were not many visitors on a Friday afternoon in December, we practically had the place to ourselves and it felt a little sterile and empty. The palace is also rather large and after wandering from one room to another, I started to get a bit weary with gorgeous rococo room after gorgeous rococo room and was getting a bit desperate to be let out from the gilded cage.
I thought about the stately homes and palaces in England, where so much effort is put into bringing the experience to life, with seasonal events, opening up the domestic areas such as the kitchens, actors in period costume, and special activities for children. I couldn’t see any of this happening here, and wondered why – perhaps there are so many lovely palaces in Southern Germany that people become a bit weary of them. There just seemed to be too much splendour and not enough life in the Residenz – it was was difficult to imagine that it was once full of people, activity and the excitement of the Bavarian court.
After we’d spent a couple of hours in the Residenz, we were ready to sit down and found a rather nice coffee shop just round the corner, where we relaxed for an hour with our Kaffee und Kuchen, and admired all the Chrismas chocolates, stollen and iced gingerbread on sale in the shop.
After that we took a look at the famous Cuvilliés Court Theatre, also created in the 1750s, which was also included in the ticket and was tucked away in the courtyards of the Residenz. The best thing about tour, was that we discovered a lovely, atmospheric Christmas market in the courtyard of the Residenz, that we went back to the next day.
If you love beautiful palaces, portraits and decoration, you’ll enjoy seeing the Residenz, but it did feel more of a museum than a former home of kings – perhaps it would have more atmosphere in the summer that it did on a rainy afternoon in December.
Other Munich articles to enjoy
- Website of the Munich Residenz
- We stayed in Munich at Hotel Falkenturm, a comfortable, 2 star hotel which is well-located for sightseeing – read my review of Hotel Falkenturm here
- The guidebook I used on this trip was the pocket sized Dorling Kindersley, Eyewitness Top 10 guide to Munich, which I found ideal for sightseeing if you are there for a short time.
- Official Munich Tourism Website