For me, no visit to Munich would be complete without a visit to Nymphenburg Palace, or as they say in German: Schloss Nymphenburg. It’s a little different than the nearby royal buildings. At Munich’s Residenz you can spend days touring the riches of the Wittelsbachs. Neuschwanstein is a fan favorite that is world famous as a massive fairy tale castle. But Nymphenburg is a little different. It’s almost as if it’s a suburban park that just happens to have a spectacular palace.
Maybe you’re your interests lie with the royal connection. Maybe you just want to experience life like a local. Nymphenburg Palace and Park is a great way to spend a day.
The History Behind Nymphenburg Palace
While it might not seem far from downtown Munich and the Residenz, Nymphenburg Palace was built as the summer residence for Bavarian Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy. Italian architect Agostino Barelli, who is responsible for the bright yellow Theatine Church on Odeonsplatz, designed the palace. Construction began in 1664 and was completed in 1679.
As you might expect, the palace and property changed each time a new elector came into power. The initial Munich palace wasn’t very large. It was under the rule of the couple’s son, Max Emanuel, that the palace was enlarged to what is seen today. Court architect Henrico Zuccalli added a structure to either side of the main building. The once cubist structure now had more of a flow to it.
While the earlier architects were influenced by Italian design, French tastes took over by 1715. It was then that Max Emanuel returned to Bavaria after living away for a period during the Spanish War of Succession. French talents, as well as local craftsmen, added to Nymphenburg by way of landscape and gardens, paintings and stucco work.
It was also around this time that the Nymphenburg garden pavilions began being erected.
Under the reign of Elector Maximilian III Joseph (reigned from 1745-1777), the palace became more lavish. The Great Hall saw a collaboration from Johann Baptist Zimmermann and François Cuvilliés the Elder. The Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory also took its spot at the front of the palace estate during this time. And you can still visit it there today!
Nymphenburg Palace Gardens
While the palace at Nymphenburg is undoubtedly the draw for most visitors, the garden — and park! — are must sees.
If you approach from the front of the Munich palace, near the parking lot, and pass through the arches to the garden you’re met with a visual surprise. The canals out front of the palace extend back as far as the eye can see through the garden. During the warm summer months, a gondolier offers rides. Flower beds and sculptures run parallel to the canal. In the distance, the water shimmers in cascading fountains.
The gardens originally began in the Italian style in 1671 before being redone in a French and then, under Friedrich Ludwig Sckell, English style.
Beyond the immediate palace and gardens is a wooded park. Trails meander throughout the property. They lead over old bridges and past countless birds, ducks, and waterfowl. It’s back in the park areas that you’re more likely to find locals strolling, jogging or just meeting up with friends.
Nymphenburg Park Palaces
One of the great pleasure of exploring the more than 400 acres of the park is you never know what you’ll find. If you search carefully, you’ll stumble upon Pan hidden under a tree with his flute. Elsewhere small palace buildings dot the landscape.
While these park palaces seem small, you’ll get a surprise once inside. They are really quite spacious.
Built for Max Emanuel by Joseph Effner from 1716-1719, Pagodenburg is a 2-storey building. The downstairs features richly colored blue and white Delft tiles. Upstairs has several small Chinese-themed rooms.
Located at the far end of the park from the main palace, just off the Badenburg Lake, is the Badenburg building. It was also built by Effner but from 1719-1721. The building, appropriately, served as a private bathhouse with additional banquet rooms and a private apartment. Highlights of the banquet hall, like the stucco and ceiling frescoes by Jacopo Amigoni, were destroyed during World War II but have since been restored. The Roman-inspired bath is large enough for swimming!
Directly outside of Badenburg are benches. This part of the lake is a popular spot for birds and visitors looking for a quiet moment. The benches here are also a favorite spot of my husband and me. It’s easy to sit for hours watching the ducks and birds of all different varieties feeding, playing and simply living.
Across Badenburg Lake is Monopteros, or a Temple to Diana. The massive temple features lovely artwork on the inside of the domed roof and is a great place to sit.
Tucked away not far from the Munich Botanical Garden, the Magdalenenklause was built by Effner in 1725-1728. Commissioned by Max Emanuel, he didn’t live to see the building’s completion. The project was, however, taken over by his son, Elector Karl Albrecht.
While the Magdalenenklause looks like it’s falling apart, the ruin appearance is intentional. Inside there is religious imagery. The single-storey building is a place for reflection.
The newest of the park palaces is Amalienburg. Built between 1734 and 1739 by Karl Albrecht, the building was a hunting lodge and “small pleasure palace.” The building is lavishly decorated in rococo style. A hall of mirrors sits at the building’s center. All of the rooms of the building feature rich decorations with paintings, stucco work, wood carvings, and more.
Touring Nymphenburg Palace
Admission to Nymphenburg Palace and Park is free — unless you would like to enter the main palace or any of the park palaces. To enter the buildings there is a fee. I recommend getting the Bavarian palaces pass to save some money if you plan to visit multiple Bavarian palaces and castles or want to visit more than once.
In the main palace, a selection of rooms on the first floor are open to visitors. If you’re visiting during the winter, take note that the park palaces are not open. The main palace is open year round.
You will also find the Marstallmuseum on the Nymphenburg Park grounds. The museum houses a collection of Nymphenburg Porcelain as well as a collection of historic carriages and sleighs.
Getting to Nymphenburg Palace
There is a parking lot with free parking directly in front of the palace. However, there some parking available.
There is a Schloss Nymphenburg stop on the Tram 17 line. However, it’s only a short walk from Romanplatz (tram lines 12 and 16). With the S-Bahn, the closest stop is Laim while Rotkreuzplatz is the closest U-Bahn stop. Both S-Bahn and U-Bahn are somewhat far away (more than a mile) so you’ll likely want to take a bus (or, from Rotkreuzplatz, a tram) unless you’re feeling energetic.
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All photos, as well as all opinions, are my own.