When Munich has something to celebrate – from Christmas markets to Christopher Street Day – the focus of the festivities is Marienplatz, the small and irregularly shaped piazza at the heart of the Altstadt. As public squares go, it’s an amorphous space, with historic buildings scattered around in no particular order, though the gilded Madonna and Child atop the Mariensäule column, erected in 1638 by the Elector Maximilian I in thanks for the sparing of the city by its Swedish occupiers during the Thirty Years’ War, provides a central focus.
Marienplatz’s monumentality comes courtesy of the immense Neues Rathaus, a sooty pile in Flemish Gothic style that has dominated the square since the late nineteenth century. Its Glockenspiel draws crowds for the mechanical dancers that perform to musical accompaniment: jerky musicians and jousting knights before the work out newly-wed Wilhelm V and Renata von Lothringen – who actually married in 1568 – while coopers dance to celebrate the passing of the plague in 1517. You can climb the Rathaus tower for views of the city.