A Minute History Of Munich

When I asked people about Munich, the first thing they said came to mind was “Oktoberfest!” While it’s true that Munich has a long history of an annual beer festival  that attracts millions of people for that exact celebration, it is lucky to be able to hold these festivities – because the German capital of Bavaria has had one long history of different rulers. It is one interesting story to know just how much parts of the city have an historic meaning – and how long Bavarian’s have already been cheering and celebrating with delicious beer.

Humble Beginnings

The story of Munich began very early – to be precise in the year of 1158, when it was first mentioned in official documents.But while it was then a small part of a larger dukedom, it became the capital of Bavaria in 1506. It has been the capital of the biggest state of Germany ever since. Munich’s place name goes back to the German word monk: “Mönch” later turned into “münchen/munich,” and because of that, the  city’s first seal was of a monk’s head, covered by a hood. This sign was the beginning of Munich’s emblem today.The representation of the monk over history eventually turned into the “Münchner Kindl”, the heraldic figure Munich is known for today.

Palatine Otto von Wittelsbach reigned as Duke over Bavaria in 1180, with the Wittelsbach family continuing to rule over Bavaria until 1918 as kings, dukes or electors.

For some beer-lovers a distant bell might ring; in 1487, the German purity law was introduced by duke Albrecht IV. With this new brewing law, later written in stone, beer could only be brewed from hops and barley,  with malt and water. No wonder the Germans take their beer so seriously.

Medieval History

But the image of Munich began changing in mid of the 16th century. In the 16th century, a wave of baroque architecture gave the city a flair comparable tomRome.

In 1522, religious schisms took shape in Munich with the censorship and prohibition of Luther’s writings. Bavaria was standing against religious reformers and promoted education according to catholic principles.

Many famous buildings were also constructed during this time, like the National Library, the famous “Residenzstraße” (residence of the monarchs), castle Nymphenburg and Schleißheim, the biggest Renaissance Church St. Michael and  most importantly: Munich’s Hofbräuhaus (brewery), which in its 400 years of brewing, has considerably influenced the beer culture and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Munich to this day.

But unfortunately, during the secularization in 1802, many churches and monasteries were destroyed, but nevertheless the remaining architecture in Munich sends out a very catholic and sacred feeling.

Munich was also not spared from the Thirty Years’ War that was raging over Germany between 1618 and 1638. Reasons  being of religious nature. The continued dispute between Catholics and Protestants led to an increase of strongholds in the city, which survived until today, however mostly as ruins.

The Mariensäule in the middle of Munich’s marketplace is a symbol of the victorious Catholic Party, showing the reinforced faith displayed throughout the war.

Modern History

To Munich’s south, Austria occupied German’s southern region for a short while, due to the lack of a male heir to the throne on the Bavarian side. After numerous bloody fights, the crown was won by Bavarian elector Albrecht, but the city still dealt  with Austrian troops until 1744.

The 19th century was one of rapid growth in industry, policy, and culture.

With Napoleon rearranging the European order and enlarging the present-day kingdom of Bavaria, Munich became the royal capital. The “Oktoberfest” as we know it today found its beginning on “Theresienwiese”, which was used for horse races at the time. The best university in Bavaria was also founded, the “Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität,” with the city also opening up new forms of religion. In 1839 the first railway was also introduced in Munich. As the first official state in Germany, freedom of the press was introduced in the capital. Many factories later opened and inventive talents all around began advancing the city’s art scene.

Recent Times

The first meetings of Hitler’s NSDAP were held in Munich in 1936. And like many other German cities, it suffered under the rule of the National Socialist PartyBut as much as it was center of numerous Nazi-meetings and raids against the Jews, Munich was also home to many revolutions against the new government In Munich’s universities, many resistance groups were active, most notable are the siblings “Scholl” and their group of the “White Rose”.

The city was heavily damaged by air raids during the Second World War and was occupied by American troops when the war finally ended in 1945.  The city’s population dropped in half after the war.

While the war devastated many, the people of Munich worked hard, not only to repent, but to make things better. In 1954, the city celebrated its 1 Million inhabitant-mark with many cultural and religious events taking place.. Munich also hosted the Olympics in 1972, but a tragic terror attack that year destroyed the attempt to overcome the wrong self-portrayal of the Nazis But the city didn’t  give up. Cultural centers  were built , museums were opened and improvements in  infrastructure were  made.  In 2005, the famous soccer stadium “Allianz-Arena” finally opened to the public. Since then, Munich was made famous, not only for soccer and beer, but for its musical philharmonics and  its academic excellence with its world-renowned  universities.

The people of Munich went through a lot – from having to follow many different rulers, to destruction and oppression, to industrialization and later, revival. However, Munich always had the will to improve, and that’s what the city will continue to thrive in years to come.  The city will always remember its past, but what makes Munich so special is its determination to improve and grow for the betterment of its people.


Have you been to Bavaria’s capital city? Let us know your fondest memories of Munich in the comments below.

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Selina Auer

Selina is a19-year old girl from a tiny mountain village in Germany. She was born with a very strong sense of disorientation, which is why she is constantly following her gut feeling. So far it led her to a year abroad in Michigan during her High School Studies, volunteering in Israel, bag packing through Eastern Europe and now to Tokyo. If she`s not lost or on a dessert hunt, she is pursuing a Bachelor`s degree in Political Science at Waseda University. Her big passion is writing, travelling and to meet new people- and to satisfy her sweet tooth that replaced the space for her inner compass. Check out her instagram account and follow her on her journey!

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