You’ve decided to head to Munich for a city break or cultural renaissance in the best art museums in Munich. A great choice for all tourists as Munich is not only a mecca for The Arts in Germany but, all of Europe.
It is a destination worthy of any Art-lover. Munich is home to 80 museums and art galleries dedicated to anything from Egyptian artefacts to BMW’s first vehicles, an Andy Warhol exhibition to Van Gogh Masterpieces. The city is one that is truly steeped in the culture and history of art. In particular it has been a focal point for the arts for centuries and the Kunstareal area (museum quarter) of the city is testament to this rich and vibrant art scene which exists throughout the city.
Munich has so many museums and art galleries, as a weekend tripper you simply will not have enough time to visit all. In this guide to the best art galleries in Munich, we will outline our top 5 galleries in detail and outline which are the free and paid art galleries in Munich.
Which are the 5 Best art museums in Munich?
A quick list of the top 5. Not in order of preference as everyone’s taste is different. Some want contemporary and some prefer impressionist art.
Under normal circumstances we would also include Neue Pinakothek in the list of the best art museums in Munich. Unfortunately, since 31 December 2019, The New Picture Gallery has been closed to the public due to structural issues but, also in preparation for a renovation of the entire building. However, a selection of 19th century masterpieces are on show in both the groundfloor of Alte Pinakothek and Sammlung Schack.
Save Money on Museums in Munich
There aren’t too many free art galleries and museums in Munich. If you’re a child or under 18 you can get in free of charge to most, if not all, the best Munich Museums.
However, you can save some money by the following means:
- Visit your preferred museums on Sunday when they all charge just €1
- A Munich Museum Day pass costs just 12 EURO to visit 5 museums in one day
- 5 Visit pass – 29 EURO – 5 Museums on separate days
Confused what to do? Let’s face it, visiting museums and galleries is tiring work. I love them, but the lower-back pain I experience can be so bad from standing for so long. You will need to ask yourself; Do you want to enjoy and appreciate the experience of seeing such great works of art, albeit a select few, or, do you want to do a whistle-stop tour of all 5 and stress yourself out in the process?
Can you visit all 5 Art Museums in one day?
Highly unlikely to be honest! Munich’s galleries, in general, are open from 10 am – 6 pm. 8 Hours to do 5 galleries, and have lunch, and have a beer? My advice? Pick 2 museums maximum, enjoy them, and bring home some fond memories of your trip to Munich.
Museum Brandhorst (Museum Brandhorst Müchen)
Contemporary art is my personal choice, so, of the galleries in Munich which I visited, this was certainly my personal favorite. Behind the unique facade of 36,000 ceramic rods, a world of modern masterpieces awaits you. Within you will find art from the 1960s to the present.
People may ask Where is the Andy Warhol museum in Munich? Well, there isn’t one, but, Museum Brandhorst is home to a permanent exhibit of 100 works by Warhol, and, in addition, you can see approximately 60 pieces by Cy Twombly. Warhol draws the tourists in and, in so doing, they discover so many more great artists.
Of the Artists who’s works are in the Brandhorst Collection, my favorite has to be Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“At first glance, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings are reminiscent of graffiti. His pictorial language is restless and sketch-like”Brandhorst Museum Collection
On a trip to Brandhorst museum you will also encounter featured artists such as Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richte and Eric Fischi. The gallery runs regular events and exhibitions, most notably, an exhibit of 85 illustrated books by Pablo Picasso in 2011.
Brandhorst visitor information:
Opening hours: Daily 10-6, Thursday 10-8, closed Mondays.
Admission: 7 EURO regular, 5 EURO reduced, 1 EURO on Sundays.
Before you even step inside the Alte Pinakothek you’re going to be blown away by this majestic building. Built by Leo von Klenze between 1826 and 1836 in the Neoclassical Style. Contracted by the Bavarian King, Ludwig I, it measures 127 meters long with short wings on either end forming a shape like an elongated H. The building was badly damaged during the Second World War and reconstructed by the architect Hans Döllgast
Within, immense high ceilings with natural light pouring through from above illuminate the masterpieces lining the walls. Rich colors of burgundy, green and white contrast beautifully with golden/brown frames on every painting.
If you’re a fan of the classics then Munich’s Old Picture Gallery in the Kunstareal is the place for you. Some real treats of art lie waiting for you here and certainly worth a visit. Let me tell you what’s in store:
- Early Netherlandish and Early German Painting, including a self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer. He painted himself displaying a hand in the foreground, a pose, until then, reserved exclusively for portraits of Christ.
- Italian Painting from 15th – 16th Centuries – Botticelli & Perugino pieces share an adjacent room to another where Florence and the Medici family is alive and well. Paintings by Raphael, Tizian(Titian) & Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Madonna of the Carnation’ are such highlights in this room.
- Flemish Painting – A whole room is dedicated to works by Anthonis van Dyck, one of the most important painters of the baroque period. Unmissable is Grand Rubens Hall where it is entirely dominated by his work ‘Last Judgement’ measuring in at 6.09 m high * 4.63m wide! HUGE!
- Dutch Painting – Finally you have to see a youthful self-portrait of Rembrandt from 1629 as well as works by Gerard van Honthorst who was hugely influenced by Caravaggio.
Many other paintings await you in Alte Pinakothek. Take your time to enjoy the old and some overlap into 19th Century new art on display from Neue Pinakothek while it is closed.
Alte Pinakothek visitor information:
Opening hours: Daily 10-6, Tuesday + Wednesday 10-8, closed Mondays.
Admission: 7 EURO regular, 5 EURO reduced, 1 EURO on Sundays.
Pinakothek der Moderne
Munich’s Museum of Modern Art has a wow factor. Built by Stephan Braunfels and opened in 2002, it is, in fact, one ‘One House’ with four museums under one roof, Kunst, Design, Graphic and Architecture.
Pinakothek der Modern has it all, an open and airy, design compliments the artworks. Kunst ‘s 400 paintings and sculptures are exhibited over 35 rooms. From expressionism, classical modern art to contemporary art. Sculptures, paintings, photography and video installations all live harmoniously within the Kunst museum.
In the Design Museum, or, Die Neue Sammlung, expect to find in the region of 100,000 objects which draw inspiration from everyday objects and concept pieces with a vision for the future.
The Graphic museum holds in the region of 400,000 drawings and prints ranging from the 12th to the 21st century. Don’t worry! They’re not all on display, but, don’t even try to view the remaining 200,000 for fear of brain overload!
The architecture museum section has over 350,000 drawings and 500 scale models.
All-in-all or all-in-one a fabulous museum.
Pinakothek der Moderne visitor information:
Opening hours: Daily 10-6, Thursday 10-8, closed Mondays.
Admission: 10 EURO regular, 5 EURO reduced, 1 EURO on Sundays.
Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA)
This is an important museum of urban and contemporary art depicting and explaining the age we live in. The importance of graffiti and street art for social commentary is very much to the fore. The museum building looks like it was tagged by street artist while the police were sleeping. Then again, it was designed by street artist, Stohead!
Unsurprising for a unique museum of this genre, on display here you will find a Banksy and work by the German duo, Herakut (Jasmin Siddiqui & Falk Lehmann).
The museum is not huge by any means, but, it’s worth checking out their events calendar and social media and fit a Street Art Bike Tour into your schedule. The gallery also run graffiti workshops so get tagging and find your style. I’m a huge Banksy fan. If you feel like buying a Banksy canvas or merchandise be sure to check out this site.
MUCA visitor information:
Opening hours: Friday-Sunday 10-6, closed Monday to Thursday
Admission: 7.50 EURO Regular, 5 EURO reduced, free for children.
Most art galleries in Munich are housed in beautiful, architecturally designed buildings. Lenbachhaus is no exception. Bright yellow in color with a Mediterranean Villa vibe, it is a stunning old house with a modern wing.
Lenbachhaus was the home of Franz von Lenbach, a 19th century artist and portraitist. The gallery nowadays, collects, studies and conserves art from the 19th century, especially the Blue Reiter or Blue Riders. In fact, Lenbachhaus is known worldwide for it’s extensive collection of Blue Rider works by Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky. If you want to know more about The Blue Riders, read more here.
The gallery also exhibits 19th century paintings from local Munich artists as well as sculptures. The pieces by Erwin Wurm also add some much needed levity to the sombre tone of the gallery.
This is an impressive gallery, and, it makes my list of the best art museums in Munich on account of the importance of the Blaue Reiter movement as a milestone in the history of modernism.
Lenbachhaus visitor information:
Opening hours: Tuesday 10-8, Wednesday – Sunday 10-6, closed Monday
Admission: 10 EURO Regular, 5 EURO reduced, free for children.
Other Munich Museums
You can’t visit all museums but this guide will hopefully make planning your Munich itinerary a bit easier. There are many other galleries and museums which makes narrowing it down to just 5 of the best art galleries all the harder.
Art Galleries tend not to be free unless you are under 18. It makes it cheaper for families if visiting a few museums on your vacation.
Some other museums you should visit in Munich are as follows:
- BMW Welt & Museum – FREE entry to the BMW Welt – the Museum costs 9 EURO Adults, 6 EURO reduced.
- Glyptothek – Built by Ludwig I to house and put on public display his fine collection of statues and busts from many ancient civilizations.
- Museum of Egyptian Art (SMÄK) – an impressive collection of Egyptian artefacts, most notably it’s sculptures. The Museum entrance portal is very impressive!
- Wikipedia has a list of many other museums if you wish to investigate further.
Tips for visiting Munich art museums
- Visit museums on Sunday as Museum entrance fees are 1 EURO – very few are Free.
- Follow the progressive development of art by visiting the Pinakothek in this order: 1. Alte Pinakothek, 2. Neue Pinakothek* 3. Pinakothek der Moderne.
*At the time of writing in 2020, Neue Pinakothek remains closed for restoration.
- Plan out what paintings you HAVE to see and move strategically between rooms or museums.
- It’s a long day. Be sure to pack water, some snacks and even some pain-killers for sore backs!
Centuries of prosperity and a love of the arts by the elite who lived in the city, means that Munich has such an amazing array of museums for visitors to choose from.
As a tourist with limited time in the city, you need to plan your gallery visits with military precision. As mentioned earlier, my advice is pick a maximum of two museums, and, take your time throughout the day to be swept up in the masterpieces on show in Munich. What a place to visit.
I do hope the guide for the best museums in the city will help you in your choices. I’d love to hear your feedback about the article and if you have further tips for city breaks and trips to Munich, feel free to send them through.
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