The traditional heart of Munich is this large pedestrian-only square named in honor of the Virgin Mary, a gilded version of whom gazes benevolently down from the tall stone column in the middle of the square. On the north side is the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall), bristling with spires in full-on 19th-century Gothic Revival style, and famous for its Glockenspiel (see below). Like hiking? Huff-and-puff your way up the 55 steps of the tower (you can also hop on an elevator) and take in the city panoroma (tower admission 1.50€; open Monday to Friday 9am–7pm and Saturday to Sunday 10am–7pm). To the right of the Neues Rathaus stands the building it replaced, the 15th-century Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall), with its much more plain but authentically Gothic tower.

Watching the Glockenspiel: The best show on Marienplatz takes place at 11am and 9pm daily (also at noon and 5pm during the holiday seasons) when the 43-bell Glockenspiel on the 280-foot central spire of the Neues Rathaus goes through its paces. Brightly painted mechanical figures reenact two famous events from Munich’s history: the knights’ tournament during the 1586 wedding feast of Wilhelm V and Renate of Lorraine, and, one level below, the Schäfflertanz (Coopers’ Dance), first performed in 1683 to express gratitude for the end of the plague.