In summer, the Wittelsbachs would pack up their bags and head for their country house, Schloss Nymphenburg. A more complete, more sophisticated palace than the Residenz, it was begun in 1664 by Elector Ferdinand Maria in Italian-villa style and took more than 150 years to complete. The final palace plan was created mainly by Elector Max Emanuel, who in 1702 decided to enlarge the villa by adding four large pavilions connected by arcaded passageways. Gradually the French style took over, and today the facade is a subdued baroque.
The palace interior is less subtle, however. Upon entering the main building, you're in the great hall, decorated in rococo colors and stuccoes. The frescoes by Johann Baptist Zimmermann (1756) depict incidents from mythology, especially those dealing with Flora, goddess of spring, and her nymphs, for whom the palace was named. This hall was used for both banquets and concerts during the reign of Max Joseph III, elector during the mid-18th century. Concerts are still presented here in summer.
From the main building, turn left and head for the arcaded gallery connecting the northern pavilions. The first room in the arcade is the Great Gallery of Beauties, painted for Elector Max Emanuel in 1710. More provocative, however, is King Ludwig I's Gallery of Beauties in the south pavilion (the apartments of Queen Caroline). Ludwig commissioned no fewer than 36 portraits of the most beautiful women of his day. The paintings by J. Stieler (created 1827-50) include the Schöne Münchenerin (lovely Munich girl) and a portrait of Lola Montez, the dancer whose "friendship" with Ludwig caused a scandal that factored into the Revolution of 1848.
To the south of the palace buildings, in the rectangular block of low structures that once housed the court stables, is the Marstallmuseum. In the first hall, look for the glass coronation coach of Elector Karl Albrecht, built in Paris in 1740. From the same period comes the hunting sleigh of Electress Amalia, with the statue of Diana, goddess of the hunt; even the runners are decorated with shellwork and hunting trophies.
The coaches and sleighs of Ludwig II are displayed in the third hall. His constant longing for the grandeur of the past is reflected in the ornately designed state coach, meant for his marriage to Duchess Sophie of Bavaria, a royal wedding that never came off. The fairy-tale coach wasn't wasted, however, since Ludwig often used it to ride through the countryside at night, and from castle to castle, creating quite a picture. The coach is completely gilded, inside and out; rococo carvings cover every inch of space except for the panels faced with paintings on copper. In winter, the king would ride in his state sleigh (also on display), nearly as elaborate as the Cinderella coach.
Nymphenburg Park stretches for 200 hectares (494 acres). A canal runs through it from the pool at the foot of the staircase to the cascade at the far end of the English-style gardens. Within the park are a number of pavilions. The guided tour begins with the Amalienburg, whose plain exterior belies the rococo decoration inside, designed by Cuvilliés. Built as a hunting lodge for Electress Amalia (in 1734), the pavilion carries the hunting theme through the first few rooms and then bursts into salons of flamboyant colors, rich carvings, and wall paintings. Most impressive is the Hall of Mirrors, a symphony of silver ornaments on a faint blue background.
The Badenburg sits at the edge of the large lake of the same name. As its name implies, it was built as a bathing pavilion, although it's difficult to visualize Ludwig dashing from the water in a dripping swimsuit and across those elegant floors. A trip to the basement, however, will help you appreciate the pavilion's practical side. Here you'll see the unique bath, surrounded by blue-and-white Dutch tiles. The ceiling is painted with frescoes of mythological bathing scenes.
The octagonal Pagodenburg, on the smaller lake on the other side of the canal, looks like a Chinese pagoda from the outside. The interior, however, is decorated with pseudo-Chinese motifs, often using Dutch tiles in place of Chinese ones.
Magdalenenklause may look like a ruin, but that was the intention when it was built in 1725. Also called the Hermitage, it was planned as a retreat for prayer and solitude. The four main rooms of the one-story structure are paneled with uncarved stained oak, with simple furnishings and a few religious paintings -- a really drastic change from the other buildings.
Other attractions include the Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Museum), which is above the stables of the Marstallmuseum. Some of the finest pieces of porcelain in the world, executed in the 18th century, are displayed here, along with an absolute gem -- miniature copies in porcelain, done in extraordinary detail, of some of the grand masterpieces in the Old Pinakothek. Each was commissioned by Ludwig I.