Opened under the rule of Maximilian Joseph during the early years of the 19th century, the Maximilianstrasse sets off from its south-west end and the Residenzstrasse from its north one. The centre of the square is dominated by the statue of the abovementioned Bavarian King Maximilian Joseph who, in 1818, gave Germany its first Constitution. The Max-Joseph-Platz is surrounded by some of Munich’s best loved buildings: to the east, the neo-classical Nationaltheater and, to the north, the imposing 19th century façade of the Residenz. The Nationaltheater is Munich’s main theatre, instituted in 1818 by Maximilian I and modelled upon the Paris Odeon. In 1823, the austere building was totally destroyed in a fire and its reconstruction was entrusted to Leo von Klenze. The auditorium is circular and is decorated in crimson, ivory, gold and blue. It is surrounded by five levels of stalls, with the Royal box in the centre. The theatre is renowned for its productions of the operas of Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner: the first performances of Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and The Ride of the Valkyries were held here. Presently the Nationaltheater is the setting for operas and classical music concerts, but shows by the Bavarian State Ballet can also be watched here. The Residenz is, on the other hand, the largest building in Munich’s old town; it was the seat of the Bavarian Dukes and Sovereigns for over four hundred years, from the beginning of the 16th century to the early years of the 20th. The history of the Munich court began when, following the partition of the Duchy, in 1255, Louis the Stern transferred his court from Landshut to Munich. First as Dukes, then as Electors and finally as Kings of Bavaria, from 1385 onwards the Wittelsbachs transformed their Residenz from a small fortress defended by a moat to a large complex built around ten courtyards.
The monumental architectural plant includes: the Antiquarium, the largest renaissance hall north of the Alps; the rococo style Cuvillié Theatre; the elegant Konigsbau (Royal Palace) apartments; some interesting museums and the Schatzkammer, which holds the Crown treasures, a sumptuous celebration of jewels, crowns, chains and precious ornaments of incalculable value. There are two entrances: one on the Max-Joseph Platz and the other on the Residenzstrasse, just round the corner. Before you enter, come to a decision on what you wish to see and how much time you want to spend on your visit; the beauty of the complex is dazzling. As you might expect, working your way through the 130 rooms open to the public is not easy, but some of the spaces are truly unmissable: the Grottenhof, the most stunning among the palace’s courtyards, with the Perseus fountain and the reproduction of a nymphaeum entirely studded with sea shells; the Ahnengalerie, or Ancestors Gallery, the walls of which are completely covered with the portraits of the most important members of the Wittelsbach dynasty, and the Schwarzer Saal, on the first floor, so called because of the black marble that frames its doors and where you will be able to admire the exceptional trompe l’oeil ceiling, painted by Hans Werl, that creates the illusion of a pillar lined gallery in an imaginary upper floor. You will also certainly be surprised by the Green Gallery, where smartly placed mirrors expand the space to infinity. Also on the first floor there is the Reiche Kapelle (Rich Chapel), Maximilian I’s private oratory, with its opulent decoration. The vast and luxurious Kaisersaal, that will also mark the end of your visit, is a triumph of marbles, candelabras, tapestries and decors. For further information, visit www.residenz-muenchen.de/index.htm. Finally, at the southern end of the square, there is the old Central Post Office, located within the ex Palais Törring, to which the wing created by Leon von Klenze was attached, in imitation of Florence’s Loggia degli Innocenti.