Munich's Marienplatz (which translates to "St. Mary’s Square") is the city's most famous square. Located in the heart of the Altstadt (old town), it is the best place to start a tour of Munich with many interesting things to see and do, and it is in walking distance to even more must-see attractions of Munich. Here is how to start your trip to Munich in Marienplatz.
Dating back to the 12th century, Marienplatz was founded by Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria. It was used to be home to medieval markets, celebrations, and tournaments.
Various monuments were erected throughout the centuries like the Mariensäule in 1638 to signify the end of the Swedish invasion during the 30 Years' War. And others changes, like the re-naming the square from Schrannen to Marienplatz to plead with the Virgin Mary to protect the town from a cholera epidemic, also marked the square's evolution. It remained a market place until 1807 when the market moved to Viktualienmarkt. During the 1972 Munich Olympics the square became a pedestrian area.
Today, the square is still in the center of the action and is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike.
How to Get There
Marienplatz is in central Munich, in the Altstadt. The actual address is 80331 Munich, Germany.
It is well-connected to the rest of the city by the S-Bahn (local trains) and U-Bahn (subway) with its own stop: Marienplatz. On the S-Bahn, that includes the S1, S2, S3, S4, S6, S7 and S8; while the U-Bahn connects via the U3 and U6. The S8 runs directly from the airport to Marienplatz.
What to See in Marienplatz
The first thing you see when coming to Munich's Marienplatz is the impressive Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). It is a 300-foot-long, elaborately decorated façade with hundreds of statues, turrets and arches that dominate the square. Although it seems like the New Town Hall dates back to the Middle Ages, the building was constructed between 1867 and 1909 in Flanders Gothic style. The New Town Hall is home to the city government and the Munich Tourism Office.
The tower of the Neues Rathaus houses the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. This clock has a show every day at 11 a.m. and noon. Hundreds of people gather in front of the tower to hear the Glockenspiel chime and watch the 32 life-sized figures reenact historical Bavarian events. Look out for the golden bird that chirps 3 times to mark the end of each show.
In the center of the Marienplatz, you’ll find the Mariensaule, the column of St. Mary. Topped by the golden statue of Virgin Mary, the column's pedestal has a figure on each corner showcasing the city's overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger, and heresy.
The Altes Rathaus (Munich’s Old Town Hall), located on the east side of Marienplatz, is the original city hall building dating back to the 14th century. In 1874, when the building became too small, Munich’s municipality moved into the New Town Hall on the other side of the square. Completely destroyed in World War II, the Old Town Hall has been rebuilt on the original plans in neo-gothic style and now houses Munich’s Spielzeugmuseum (toy museum). The inexpensive and charming museum holds a collection of unique historic toys from Europe and the U.S.
What to Eat and Drink in Marienplatz
As with most cities, this area can be quite touristy with higher than average prices and lower than average quality. That said, paying for the ease and ambiance can be worth it.
Nearby Viktualienmarket is the city's premier farmers’ market with plenty of fresh goods and prepared foods. The beer garden there also satisfies all the food and drink needs you could have in Munich.
What Else to Do Nearby
Marienplatz is just the starting point for many other Munich attractions.
Munich’s primary shopping avenues of Kaufingerstrasse begins here.
The twin towers of the Frauenkirche define Munich's skyline and are just steps from the square. It is the city's largest church and features such oddities as the Teufelstritt, the "Devil's Footstep."
The English Garden is within walking distance and is the city's largest park. You can rent a paddle boat, stroll along the wooded paths, watch the surfers, or visit one of its traditional beer gardens. Or you could get nude and enjoy the occasional sunshine.
At Christmas time, Munich’s oldest Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) dates from 1642. It sprawls out over the square offering handmade gifts and very merry treats. Listen for the free Christmas concerts on the balcony of Munich's Neues Rathaus.