Bavarian National Museum © Matthias/Flickr

For an essential look at Bavarian history from the middle ages to the 19th century, spend a few hours at the Bayerisches National Museum.

The Bavarian National Museum (Bayerisches National Museum) was established in 1855 by King Maximilian II to preserve the most interesting and most traditional artifacts of Bavaria’s past history.

The collection was first housed in central Munich near the Marienplatz. Due to space constraints in the original building, a new structure was erected on Prinzregentenstrasse and opened in 1900. This elegant building, both inside and out, is nearly as impressive as the museum’s collection itself.

Museum highlights include religious art and artifacts, examples of Bavarian furniture and fine porcelain/silver, and a collection of medieval armor. If you are into history and museums, don’t miss this museum when visiting Munich.

Religious Art and Artifacts

Christianity has loomed large in Bavarian history since the early middle ages. The museum hosts an astonishing range of religious art. The Reiderische Tafel, an early 5th century ivory carving, is one of the oldest known depictions of Christ’s ascension.

They have a number of fine examples of Gothic-era folding altars and wooden carvings. Don’t miss the work of Tilman Riemenschneider, an early 16th century artist, whose breathtaking woodwork captures the smallest human details, such as the veins on a hand. There is also an interesting collection of Baroque/Rococo furniture with religious scenes.

The Armor Room

The Armor Room – Bavarian National Museum © Matthias/Flickr

Military history enthusiasts will be drawn especially to this enormous and impressive collection of near-perfectly preserved armor, weapons and hunting accessories from the middle ages to the 18th century. A great deal of the pieces come from the House of Wittelsbach, the ruling family in Bavaria for over 700 years. They even have examples of full armor for young boys and horses.

Nativity Scene Collection

The museum claims to have the artistically most valuable collection of nativity scenes (Krippen) in the world. The scenes depict–using miniature figures–some aspect of the birth of Christ. Some 60 scenes, dating from 1700 to the mid-19th century are displayed, including ones set in the Bavarian Alps, Jerusalem and Naples, Italy.

The detail in these pieces is impressive, especially the elegant textile clothing and delicate faces, many crafted in wax. Important note: The collection is only open from November to February, during regular museum hours.

Bavarian Furniture and Porcelain Collection

The museum’s lower level contains 5 rooms displaying 17th and 18th century wooden furniture and decor from Bavaria. The collection show of some of the best examples of furniture-making, woodcarving and painting from regional masters. Particularly interesting are the 2 great rooms (Stuben) from Bavarian farmhouses that were moved and installed en masse, and are complete with walls, windows, ovens, and furniture.

The museum has an extensive display of 18th century porcelain and faience as well as silver crafted in Bavaria. Nymphenburg porcelain, which was used by all the households of Bavarian royalty, is still being produced today, and still only in Munich.

Get a glimpse of royal court life in the enormous banquet table fully decked out with the silver service belonging to Prince-Bishop Friedrich Wilhelm of Westphalia (18th century).


 

A tour of the Bavarian National Museum is a must if you want to appreciate fully the rich history and culture of this region of southern Germany. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10am to 5pm (open until 8pm on Thursdays). Entrance is 5 Euros (US$6.50) and an audio guide is an additional 3 Euros (US$4).