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Mountains, lakes, spas, and medieval towns lie within an hour of Munich, and the landscape is dotted with castles, villas, and Alpine resorts.

A short drive from Munich delivers visitors to the heart of Starnberg's Five Lakes Region. The Starnberger See and Ammersee are weekend destinations that afford an enormous assortment of sports. The Tegernsee region is also a popular destination. The spa town of Bad Tölz is known for its healing waters and clear mountain air.

The environs of Munich are as rich in culture and history as in natural beauty. However, in the midst of all this serenity, the former concentration camp at Dachau sounds an ominous note. Before Hitler and the Holocaust, it was a little artists' community, but it's now visited mainly as a symbol of the great horror of the Nazi regime.

Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace) 

One of the most sophisticated and beautiful palaces in Europe, Schloss Nymphenburg served as a summer residence the for Bavaria’s royal family, the Wittelsbachs. (Their official Munich residence was the Residenz, which you can also visit.) Located 5 miles northwest of Munich, an easy 20-minute tram ride, the palace and grounds require at least half a day if you want to see everything.

Nymphenburg was begun in 1664 and took more than 150 years to complete. In 1702, Elector Max Emanuel decided to enlarge the original Italianate villa by adding four large pavilions connected by arcaded passageways. The Great Hall, decorated in a vibrant splash of rococo colors and stuccowork, is the most beautiful of the grand public rooms. The south pavilion displays Ludwig I’s famous Gallery of Beauties painted between 1827-1850 by Josef Karl Stieler. The beauties include a portrait of Lola Montez, the raven-haired dancer whose affair with Ludwig caused a scandal.

To the south of the palace buildings, in the rectangular block of low structures that once housed the court stables, is the Marstallmuseum with its dazzling collection of ornate, gilded coaches and sleighs, including those used by Ludwig II (the “Mad” King who built Neuschwanstein). The Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection; entrance across from the Marstallmuseum) contains superb pieces of 18th-century porcelain, including miniature porcelain copies of masterpieces in the Alte Pinakothek.

A canal runs through 500-acre Schlosspark, stretching all the way to the so-called Grand Cascade at the far end of the formal, French-style gardens. In the English-style park, full of quiet meadows and forested paths, stands the Badenburg Pavilion, with an 18th-century swimming pool; the Pagodenburg, decorated in the Chinese style that was all the rage in the 18th century; and the Magdalenenklause (Hermitage), meant to be a retreat for prayer and solitude. Prettiest of all the buildings in the park is Amalienburg, built in 1734 as a hunting lodge for Electress Amalia; the interior salons are a riot of flamboyant colors, swirling stuccowork, and wall paintings.

There are no guided tours within the palace, but you can rent an audioguide.

Schloss Nymphenburg, Schloss Nymphenburg 1. tel. 089/179080. www.schloss-nymphenburg.de. Palace grounds free; admission to all attractions 12€ adults (Oct 16–Mar 8.50€), 9€seniors (Oct 16–Mar 6.50€). Apr–Oct 15 daily 9am–6pm; Oct 16–Mar daily 10am–4pm. Badenburg and Magdalenenklause closed Oct 16–Mar.

GETTING THERE

You can get to Schloss Nymphenburg 1, 8km (5 miles) west of the city center, by taking to S-Bahn to “Laim” and then the bus marked “Schloss Nymphenburg.” Another option is to take the U-Bahn to Rotkreuzplatz, then the tram to Romanplatz (a 10-min. walk west to the palace entrance). From central Munich, you can also easily reach the palace in about 20 minutes by taking tram 17 to Romanplatz.

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.