Finish: Englischer Garten.
Time: 2 1/2 hours with minimal stopovers.
Best Times: Morning to midafternoon while students bustle to and from class.
Worst Times: Monday to Friday from 7:30 to 9am and 4:30 to 6pm.
Schwabing was incorporated into the city in 1890. Its golden era as an artists' center was from 1890 to 1914. Novelists Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, satirist Karl Kraus, and playwright Franz Wedekind were some of the better-known authors who lived in the area. For a short period after World War II, it became legendary as Germany's hip center. The days of vie de bohème (bohemian life) are long gone, and Schwabing has lost most of its distinctive character. In many ways, its situation is comparable to that of New York's Greenwich Village, which is hardly the haven for artists, writers, and poets that it once was. Rents have soared to ridiculous highs, and the artists in Schwabing long ago retreated to cheaper areas. A more moneyed crowd occupies Schwabing today, as it has become the "in" place to live in Munich.
The tour begins in the section of Schwabing behind the Münchner Freiheit station known as Old Schwabing. Movie theaters, music clubs, and even a handful of cabarets give it the markings of cosmopolitanism.
Once the community market, the Wedekindplatz is the neighborhood's focal point. It is named for Franz Wedekind, whose "Lulu" plays about a femme fatale provided the basis for the 1929 Louise Brooks film, Pandora's Box, and for Alban Berg's opera Lulu.
Head west down Feilitzschstrasse past the Münchner Freiheit rail station, and cross the:
The most famous street in Schwabing is also the most fun to walk down and to take in scenes of local life. It is a favorite promenade for both visitors and local residents. Cafes line both sides of the street, and there are many restaurants and bars to enjoy. On a summer evening, Leopoldstrasse is the place to be. Students, struggling artists, whatever, fill the streets hawking their wares, usually arts and crafts -- often trash. The street becomes like an outdoor souk, with vendors selling everything from carvings to leather items, some of dubious quality.
3. Take a Break
The cafe/bar, Café Roxy, Leopoldstrasse 48 (tel. 089/34-92-92), is a good place for a refreshing cold drink, perhaps a beer, which seems to be the choice for most patrons. If you're hungry, you can also order some Bavarian or Italian dishes. An urbane crowd is attracted to this hip cafe, the best place to relax in the neighborhood.
Continue south on Leopoldstrasse to Franz-Joseph-Strasse. Take a right on Franz-Joseph-Strasse, then take the next right onto Wilhelmstrasse, Follow Wilhelmstrasse north for 2 blocks, then take a left onto:
Here you can further study Jugendstil. The facades that adorn the buildings lining this street are fine examples of the bright and geometric decorations that typify that style. Look also for the little quirky fashion boutiques that give the street its fame.
Continue west to the junction with Römerstrasse. Once here, head south along Römerstrasse until you come to Ainmillerstrasse, at which point you walk east.
The artistic unshackling of the Jugendstil movement laid the foundation for further development of an artistic consciousness that was the basis for many of the eager manifestos set forth by the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) school. Appropriately, Wassily Kandinsky, the premier artist associated with the Blue Rider movement, once lived down the street. You will find many of the finest examples of Jugendstil on the east end of the street -- including the facade at no. 22 that sports Adam and Eve lying at the base of the tree of knowledge. Continue east to Leopoldstrasse, where Kandinsky once lived in a building long gone.
Head south down Leopoldstrasse until you approach the:
6. Akademie der Schönen Künste (Academy of Fine Arts)
This building, erected at the end of the 19th century, enthusiastically recalls the Italian Renaissance. The academy is best known for the "Secession" movement that was spearheaded by its students in the 1890s. This protest against traditional aesthetics and a call for a new creativity in the arts led quickly to the growth of Jugendstil and helped define Munich as a centerpiece of the Art Nouveau movement.
Continue south on Leopoldstrasse and you will enter the:
7. Ludwig-Maximilians Universität (University of Munich) campus
Frederich von Gärtner engineered the construction of the edifice, one of the most aesthetically fine in all of Munich. Gärtner relieved Leo von Klenze (who designed the Alte Pinakothek) as Bavaria's court architect, and the relative flamboyance of this structure is compared favorably with Von Klenze's more staid approach. It was here that the student society, the White Rose, made a last effort to resist Hitler in 1942 to 1943. Its leaders, Sophie and Hans Scholl, were brutally executed for "civil disobedience." (A memorial to the movement is located in the lower mezzanine at Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1; open weekdays 10am-4pm.)
A 2-minute walk south is the twin-spired university church of St. Ludwig's and the:
8. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library)
This mammoth library is one of the largest in all of Europe. It stands where the Schwabing Gate of medieval Munich once cast its shadow.
Before leaving campus, duck down Schellingstrasse and drop in at:
9. Words' Worth Bookshop
This shop is located at Schellingstrasse 3. The student district's liveliest street is south of the university in a suburb of Schwabing known as Maxvorstadt. Munich is Germany's publishing center, and the bookstores throughout Schwabing will satisfy the most avid reader. Formerly the Anglia English Bookshop, this Words' Worth branch is our favorite bookstore along this street. As the name suggests, this store specializes in English-language titles, and it's a hangout for visiting Americans and English-speaking expatriates living in Munich.
Head back north up Leopoldstrasse, returning to the university's center. Take a right on Veterinärstrasse, directly across the street from Gärtner's famed building. Those without inhibition may want to begin disrobing. You're being routed to the:
10. Englischer Garten
Munich's most famous park is full of nude sunbathers. The Chinese Tower is the most recognizable landmark of the gardens. The wooden tower, trimmed with gold leaf, was destroyed during World War II but reemerged in the 1950s to the delight of its beer-garden devotees -- revered even by upstart Schwabingers, and a good place to take a break and end your walk.
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