Munich’s western suburbs are the setting for Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer palace of the Bavarian electors. It has its origins in the simple cube-shaped building commissioned by the Elector Ferdinand Maria and his consort Henrietta Adelaide to celebrate the birth of their son, designed by Agostino Barelli and begun in 1664. The building was subsequently enlarged by that son – Max Emanuel – to plans by Enrico Zuccalli and Joseph Effner to create the substantial palace you see today. For the full monumental effect of its immensely wide frontage, approach it along the arrow-straight Auffahrtsallee, which straddles the ornamental canal aligned with the centre of the facade.
The massive Steinerner Saal, or Great Hall, in the central pavilion is a riot of Rococo stuccowork by Johann Baptist Zimmermann, created under the aegis of François Cuvilliés in 1755 and producing an effect that is at once festive and monumental. The room preserves its original Rococo form – since it was completed in 1758, work has been limited to dusting, filling cracks and light retouching.
As for the rest of the Schloss, the most famous room is the Schönheitsgalerie, or gallery of beauties, lined with portraits of famous beauties of the day painted for Ludwig I in the 1830s by Joseph Stieler. Among the women portrayed is the dancer Lola Montez – the Elector’s infatuation with her pushed Munich to the brink of rebellion, and Ludwig abdicated shortly afterwards.
Marstallmuseum and the Museum Nymphenburger Porzellan
In the south wing of the Schloss, the Marstallmuseum houses a collection of historic state coaches, including a predictably magnificent selection belonging to Ludwig II. Upstairs, the Museum Nymphenburger Porzellan displays porcelain from the Nymphenburg factory from its foundation by Elector Max III in 1747 until around 1920.
The Amalienburg and the Schlosspark pavilions
The decorative highlight of Nymphenburg is not in the main palace at all, but in the English-style park at the back of the Schloss, which is where you’ll find the graceful little Amalienburg, a hunting lodge created between 1734 and 1739 for the Electress Amalia by François Cuvilliés. Its ethereal Spiegelsaal is one of the pinnacles of the Rococo style: silver, not gold, is the dominant colour and the delicate stuccowork is again the work of Johann Baptist Zimmermann, with themes relating to Diana, Amphitrite, Ceres and Bacchus. The room was used for banquets, balls, concerts and relaxation after the hunt, and it’s hard to imagine a more ravishing setting for a party. Three other charming eighteenth-century pavilions in the Schlosspark – the Badenburg, Pagodenburg and Magdalenenklause – can also be visited.