17 Top-Rated Museums & Art Galleries in Munich
Perhaps not surprisingly for a city of this size—it is after all the third largest in Germany with a population of nearly one and a half million—Munich has more museums and art galleries than any visitor could possibly hope to see in a month, let alone during a shorter stay. The city's more than 80 museums range from massive state-run facilities, with rich collections of antiquities and artwork, to smaller attractions focusing on a single theme, such as the history of the potato.
The reason for such a vast selection of museums and galleries has less to do with Munich's size than with its prosperity and centuries-long tradition as a center of the arts. Several of these establishments are to be found in the city's art district, the Kunstareal, a neighborhood that seems designed for history and art lovers.
Munich celebrates its largesse in October, with the Long Night of Museums, when art galleries, museums, and other cultural centers stay open past midnight and offer special exhibitions, concerts, and film screenings. If you are looking for ideas on where to begin, have a read through our article on the top museums and art galleries in Munich.
1. Editor's Pick The Munich Residenz
Located in the massive Munich Residenz (Munich Residence), the main palace of Bavaria's rulers, the Residenz Museum is the most important (and largest) of the city's many museums and galleries. While much of the huge palace complex is open to the public, many of its most interesting sites are included under the umbrella of the Residenz Museum, which opened to the public in 1920 and is now considered one of the best palace museums in Europe.
A highlight of a visit is the wonderful Antiquarium, the first part of the Residenz to be built and completed in 1571. This 69-meter-long hall, with its barrel-vaulted roof and side vaults over the windows, is filled with antique busts and statues, as well as more than 100 painted views of Bavaria's most picturesque towns and castles.
The Gallery of Ancestors (Ahnengalerie) contains 121 portraits of Bavarian rulers; the Porcelain Room (Porzellankabinett) contains vast collections from Vienna, Meissen, and Würzburg. The quirky Grotto Court (Grottenhof), constructed from crystals and shells in 1586, is highlighted by a fine bronze figure of Mercury and the lovely Perseus Fountain from the same period.
Free audio-guides are available, and you can book guided tours in English in advance. There's so much to see at the Residenz Museum that you should be prepared to spend at least a day enjoying this impressive attraction.
Address: Residenzstrasse 1, 80333 München
Official site: www.residenz-muenchen.de/englisch/museum/index.htm
2. The Deutsches Museum
The Deutsches Museum is the world's largest museum of technology, covering more than 50,000 square meters and displaying some 28,000 artifacts. Founded in 1903, the museum's departments are well arranged with clear explanations, enabling visitors to easily follow the development of each scientific discipline and field of technology through cutting-edge displays of scientific apparatus and fascinating demonstrations and experiments.
Highlights include a number of rare German aircraft, including the vertical-take-off Dornier Do 31 transport plane, and a number of early military jet aircraft. A vast collection related to land transportation covers everything from bicycles and cars to trains and ships, including pre-1900 motor vehicles such as an 1885 Daimler Maybach, as well as vintage railway engines.
The vast display of musical instruments, where concerts and demonstrations are frequently hosted, includes organs and pianos. English language guided tours are available with advance booking.
Address: Museumsinsel 1, 80538 München
Official site: www.deutsches-museum.de/en
3. Treasury of the Munich Residenz
The many treasures assembled by the Dukes and Electors of Bavaria over the centuries make the Treasury (Schatzkammer) of the Munich Residenz one of the largest, most important, and most valuable collections of its kind. Founded by Duke Albrecht V in the 16th century, the Treasury accrued further treasures from the cities of Heidelberg, Düsseldorf, and Mannheim during the reign of Karl Theodor. The last items were added in the early 19th century, including the insignia of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
Spread over more than ten rooms, the collection includes highlights such as a prayer book from AD 860, a cross from around AD 1000 that belonged to Queen Gisela, the exquisite Statuette of St. George from 1599, and unique items from non-European countries including ivories from Ceylon, Turkish daggers, and Chinese porcelain. Free English language audio-guides are available.
Address: Residenzstrasse 1, 80333 München
Official site: www.residenz-muenchen.de/englisch/treasury/index.htm
4. The Old Picture Gallery: Alte Pinakothek
Munich's Old Picture Gallery (Alte Pinakothek), one of the world's largest and finest such facilities, was built in 1836 to replace an older gallery that had become too small for the steadily increasing Royal Collection. Credited as a "masterpiece of architectural proportion," this splendid old gallery - modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice - was the largest gallery in Europe built in the first half of the 19th century, and as such became the model for others in both Rome and Brussels.
It's a truly massive structure, 127 meters long with short side wings, and home to many wonderful collections, including numerous old Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries (including a rare Rembrandt self-portrait), Italian artworks from the 14th to 18th centuries (including Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna with the Carnation, from 1475), and a broad collection of medieval German paintings from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The Rubens collection is one of the world's largest, and Spanish and French masterpieces are also represented. Guided tours are available in English with advance notice, while audio-guides are included with the price of admission.
Address: Barer Strasse 27, 80333 München
Official site: www.pinakothek.de/en
5. The New Picture Gallery: Neue Pinakothek
The New Picture Gallery (Neue Pinakothek), established in 1853 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, is considered to be one of the world's most important collections of 19th-century artwork. In its possession are some 400 paintings and 50 works of sculpture ranging from Rococo to Art Nouveau masterpieces, as well as works by Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Manet, and Monet.
Much of the collection is split between 22 Säle (large rooms) and 11 Kabinette (small rooms), where it is exhibited under such groupings as International Paintings, English Paintings (one of the largest such collections outside of the UK and including works by Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Constable), and German Artists of Classicism. English language tours are available upon request with a variety of themes to choose from, and audio-guides are included in the price of admission.
Address: Barer Strasse 29, 80799 München
Official site: www.pinakothek.de/en
6. The Bavarian National Museum
Founded in 1855 by King Maximilian II, the Bavarian National Museum (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum), one of Europe's most important museums of decorative arts, stands on a forum-like extension of the magnificent Prinzregentenstrasse. Among its most outstanding exhibits are its collection of medieval German sculpture and its great wealth of tapestries. There are also important collections of bronzes, clocks, porcelain, and glass, and a large section dedicated to the art and cultural history of Bavaria arranged chronologically from the Middle Ages to the 19th-century.
The Late Gothic and Renaissance furnishings in particular testify to the heights reached by bourgeois culture in southern Germany. Also noteworthy are the Augsburg weaver's room, the room containing the Flanders tapestries, and the model towns exhibit. The porcelain exhibit is also of importance, and includes pieces from Meissen, Nymphenburg, and Ansbach, as well as French potteries and a number of smaller manufacturers.
Address: Prinzregentenstraße 3, 80538 München
Official site: www.bayerisches-nationalmuseum.de
7. The Glyptothek: Munich's Ancient Sculpture Gallery
The Glyptothek - a name derived from the Greek "glyptik," meaning sculpture - is the oldest museum in Munich. Completed in 1830, this Neoclassical building houses one of Europe's foremost collections of sculpture, much of it assembled in the early 19th-century by King Ludwig I, a great lover of ancient art. Fronted by an Ionic portico, its many rooms are lit from the central courtyard, the exterior walls being windowless and lined with numerous statues.
Highlights include many rare works of Greek and Roman sculpture, including the fine figures from the pediment of the Temple of Aphaia from 500 BC. Other highlights include a sculpture of Homer; a statue of Irene, the Greek Goddess of Peace; and a Sphinx from the roof of the Aeginetan temple. Also of interest—and only a short walk away across a pleasant park—is the State Collections of Antiquities (Staatliche Antikensammlungen), home to the Bavarian collections of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. (Editor's Note: The Glyptothek is closed until 2020 while major renovations are carried out.)
Address: Konigsplatz 3, 80333 München
Official site: www.antike-am-koenigsplatz.mwn.de/en/glyptothek-munich.html
8. Pinakothek der Moderne
In a stunning modern building in Munich's art district, Kunstareal, Pinakothek der Moderne incorporates the former State Gallery of Modern Art with three other outstanding collections to form Germany's largest museum of modern art. Featuring graphics, applied art, and architecture as well as paintings, the museum is especially strong in its collections of German artists including Klee, Schlemmer, Nolde, Baselitz, and Kiefer.
Also included in its large collection of modern and contemporary art are works by Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, and Warhol. English language tours are available upon request, and audio guides are included with the cost of admission.
Address: Barerstrasse 40, 80333 München
Official site: www.pinakothek-der-moderne.de/en/
In the villa that was the home and studio of Franz von Lenbach, a popular late 19th-century artist and portraitist, Lenbachhaus and its modern extension house an unparalleled collection of paintings of the Blauer Reiter (Blue Rider) group. This movement, led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, transformed the art world in the early 20th century. Along with the world's largest ensemble of paintings by Blue Rider artists, the collections include works of other artists in their sphere.
Displays follow Kandinsky's and Marc's theory that the essence of art is intrinsic and that folk arts, children's art, and other naïve expressions should be viewed with the same appreciation as the works of Old Masters. These innovative displays, combined with the historic furniture and decorations in the artist's villa, add to the collections themselves to create an extraordinary artistic experience for visitors. A restaurant and shop are also located on the premises.
Address: Luisenstraße 33, München
Official site: www.lenbachhaus.de/?L=1
10. Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism
Opened in 2015, the Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism (NS-Dokumentationszentrum München) chronicles the origins and rise of the National Socialists—the Nazi party. As well as recording the atrocities of this dark era in German history, the museum examines the roots of discontent and anger that created an atmosphere where extremism could flourish, and shows how the movement grew while people either misread its power or chose to ignore its potential for destruction.
Housed in a stark modern building erected on the site of the original Nazi Party headquarters, the permanent exhibits are chronological and contain no artifacts. But the stark images and well-presented information (in German and English) tell a powerful and compelling story—and a cautionary one for later generations with no personal memory of the terror of that period or the devastation that befell Munich in World War II.
Address: Max-Mannheimer-Platz 1, 80333 München
Official site: www.ns-dokuzentrum-muenchen.de/en/home/
11. BMW Welt and Museum
The BMW Museum is housed in a modern silver-colored building that can best be described as a giant metallic soup bowl. Some 41 meters in diameter, it provides a striking counterpoint to the company's adjacent skyscraper and sprawling factory complex. This attraction includes examples of BMW's first vehicles, with examples of almost every one ever produced by the company, from the unusual 1920s Dixi to the showy sports and racecars of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as world-record-breaking motorcycles.
The section devoted to the present day includes BMW's current models as well as demonstrations of modern production methods and a glimpse into the future that focuses on new forms of propulsion and futuristic designs and transport systems. Tours of the museum and the vehicle plant are available, as is a variety of interesting family and educational programming.
Address: Am Olympiapark 2, 80809 München
Official site: www.bmw-welt.com/en/locations/museum.html
12. The Bavarian State Archaeological Collection
Although housed in a well-designed modern building overlooking Munich's lovely English Garden, the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection (Archäologische Staatssammlung) can trace its roots to 1759 with the foundation of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. By the end of the 19th century, anthropologist Johannes Ranke's efforts to create a separate museum of prehistory paid off, and the resulting collection is widely regarded as one of the most important Archaeological museums in Europe.
Highlights are local finds from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods, including stone tools and pottery, as well as weapons and tools from the Bronze and Middle Ages, among them items from a royal grave at Wittislingen. Tourists with a special interest in the ancient world will also want to see the State Museum of Egyptian Art, an impressive collection of antiquities now located in the Kunstareal. (Editor's Note: The Bavarian State Archaeological Collection is closed for renovations and will reopen in 2020.)
Address: Lerchenfeldstraße 2, 80538 München
Official site: www.archaeologie-bayern.de/en/english-home/
13. Museum Brandhorst
One of Munich's newer museums - and one of its most interesting architecturally - the Museum Brandhorst was opened in 2009 to house an excellent collection of modern art. Highlights of the more than 700 pieces on display are 100 works by Andy Warhol, along with some 60 pieces by Cy Twombly, the largest such collection outside of the US.
Other featured artists include Joseph Beuys, Damien Hirst, Bruce Nauman, and Eric Fischl. One of the most important parts of this impressive museum is its rare collection of more than 100 books illustrated by Pablo Picasso. English language audio guides are available.
Address: Theresienstraße 35a, 80333 München
Official site: www.museum-brandhorst.de/en/
14. Villa Stuck
At the turn of the 20th century, Munich's art scene was a vibrant and thriving one filled with new ideas and powered by a middle class anxious to carve its own set of tastes and standards. A new standard was sweeping across Europe, broadening the definition of art to include architecture, design, and applied arts as well as traditional paintings. Art merged with architecture, so that a house might be designed completely by one artist, including the interior décor and furniture.
In Germany, this movement was known as Jugendstil, elsewhere as Arts & Crafts or Art Nouveau. A leader in this movement, Franz von Stuck designed one of Europe's masterpieces of that era, a villa whose design merges coffered ceilings, inlaid floors, the furniture, even the tapestries on the walls into a single harmonious art work. The villa is now a museum and one of Europe's finest examples of the artistic sensibilities of that period.
Address: Prinzregentenstrasse 60, 81675 München
Official site: www.villastuck.de
15. Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art
Since its opening in 2017, the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA) in the Marienplatz area of the city has fast become a must-visit destination for art-lovers visiting Munich. Set in a building that looks as if it's been covered in stark black-and-white graffiti—it was after all designed by street artist Stohead—this first-of-its-kind museum provides a place where visitors can gain a better understanding of this important art form.
Among its permanent collection are works by well-known artists, including Banksy and Herakut, to name but two, along with exhibits of other art forms, including calligraphy and photography. A variety of interesting tour options are available, including fun after hour and behind-the-scenes options. Kids tours are also available.
Address: Hotterstraße 12, 80331 München
Official site: http://www.muca.eu
16. Egyptian Museum Munich
If time permits, be sure to also include the State Museum of Egyptian Art (Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst). The home of the Bavarian state's collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt, as well as Assyria and Babylon, was relocated to the Kunstareal district in 2013, and set up in a new design inspired by burial chambers from the period. The building's three huge halls consist of themed rooms focusing on important events and periods of ancient Egyptian history, including dealing with the roles of the Pharaohs, death, and religion.
Highlights include displays of statues, stone tablets, jewelry, and, of course, the mummies. Guided tours are available, and educational programs and workshops for both kids and adults are held frequently.
Address: Gabelsbergerstraße 35, 80333 München
Official site: https://smaek.de
The Schackgalerie (Sammlung Schack), housed in a building designed in 1907 for the Prussian legation, contains a notable collection illustrating the development of German painting in the 19th century. Its founder, Count Adolf Friedrich von Schack, was a generous patron of the arts, purchasing and commissioning numerous works by many leading 19th-century German painters, including Schwind, Spitzweg, Böcklin, and Lenbach (whose home and studio, Lenbachhaus, now house the outstanding Blue Rider and expressionist collections).
Schack's collection now forms part of the Bavarian State Collection, which includes paintings of the Early Romantic school by Johann Georg von Dillis, Leo von Klenze, and Joseph Anton Koch. Their works capture the mystical, almost fairy-tale settings of the age of Romanticism in art. Other highlights include masterpieces by Carl Rottmann, Joseph von Führich, and Edward von Steinle.
Address: Prinzregentenstraße 9, 80538 München
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Munich Highlights: For an overview of the most important things to see and do while you're visiting the city, have a read through our list of the Top Tourist Attractions in Munich. Families, especially those with small children, will enjoy our list of Top Things to do with Kids in Munich. If you have time to get outside the city for a day or two, see our article on the Best Day Trips from Munich.