Munich (/ˈmjuːnɪk/; German: München, pronounced [ˈmʏnçn̩]) is the capital and the most populated city in the German state of Bavaria, on the banks of the 69 River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is also the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, and the 12th largest city in the European Union, with a population of around 1.5 million. The Munich Metropolitan Region is home to 6 million people.

Coat of Arms.

The city is a major centre of art, technology, finance, publishing, culture, innovation, education, business, and tourism in Germany and Europe and enjoys a very high standard and quality of living, reaching first in Germany and fourth worldwide according to the 2015 Mercer survey. According to the Globalization and World Rankings Research Institute Munich is considered an alpha-world city, as of 2015.


The name of the city is derived from the Old/Middle High German term Munichen, meaning “by the monks”. It derives from the monks of the Benedictine order, who ran a monastery at the place that was later to become the Old Town of Munich; hence the monk depicted on the city’s coat of arms. Munich was first mentioned in 1158. Catholic Munich was a cultural stronghold of the Counter-Reformation and a political point of divergence during the resulting Thirty Years’ War, but remained physically untouched despite an occupation by the Protestant Swedes. Once Bavaria was established as a sovereign kingdom in 1806, it became a major European centre of arts, architecture, culture and science. In 1918, during the German Revolution, the ruling house of Wittelsbach, which governed Bavaria since 1180, was forced to abdicate in Munich and a short-lived socialist republic was declared.

Location in Germany.

In the 1920s, Munich became home to several political factions, among them the NSDAP. The first attempt of the Nazi movement to take over the German government in 1923 with the Beer Hall Putsch was stopped by the Bavarian police in Munich with gunfire. After the Nazi’s rise to power, Munich was declared their “Capital of the Movement”. During World War II, Munich was heavily bombed and more than 50% of the entire city and up to 90% of the historic centre were destroyed. After the end of postwar American occupation in 1949, there was a great increase in population and economic power during the years of Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle”. Unlike many other German cities which were heavily bombed and destroyed, Munich restored most of its traditional cityscape and hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics. The 1980s brought strong economic growth, high-tech industries and scientific institutions, and population growth. The city is home to major corporations like BMW, Siemens, MAN, Linde, Allianz and MunichRE.

Munich is home to many universities, museums and theatres. Its numerous architectural attractions, sports events, exhibitions and its annual Oktoberfest attract considerable tourism. Munich is one of the most prosperous and fastest growing cities in Germany. It is a top-ranked destination for migration and expatriate location, despite being the municipality with the highest population density in Germany (4,500 people per km²) . Munich hosts more than 530,000 people of foreign background, making up 37.7% of its population.

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Historic Photos


Modern Day Photos

Munich in the 16th century.


Origin as a Medieval Town

The first known settlement in the area was of Benedictine monks on the Old Salt Route. The foundation date is considered the year 1158, the date the city was first mentioned in a document. The document was signed in Augsburg. By then, the Guelph Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, had built a toll bridge over the river Isar next to the monk settlement and on the salt route.

In 1175, Munich received city status and fortification. In 1180, with the trial of Henry the Lion, Otto I Wittelsbach became Duke of Bavaria, and Munich was handed to the Bishop of Freising. (Wittelsbach’s heirs, the Wittelsbach dynasty, ruled Bavaria until 1918.) In 1240, Munich was transferred to Otto II Wittelsbach and in 1255, when the Duchy of Bavaria was split in two, Munich became the ducal residence of Upper Bavaria.

Duke Louis IV, a native of Munich, was elected German king in 1314 and crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in 1328. He strengthened the city’s position by granting it the salt monopoly, thus assuring it of additional income. In the late 15th century, Munich underwent a revival of gothic arts: the Old Town Hall was enlarged, and Munich’s largest gothic church – the Frauenkirche – now a cathedral, was constructed in only 20 years, starting in 1468.

Capital of Reunited Bavaria

When Bavaria was reunited in 1506, Munich became its capital. The arts and politics became increasingly influenced by the court (see Orlando di Lasso, Heinrich Schütz and later Mozart and Richard Wagner). During the 16th century, Munich was a centre of the German counter reformation, and also of renaissance arts. Duke Wilhelm V commissioned the Jesuit Michaelskirche, which became a centre for the counter-reformation, and also built the Hofbräuhaus for brewing brown beer in 1589.The Catholic League was founded in Munich in 1609.

In 1623, during the Thirty Years’ War, Munich became electoral residence when Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria was invested with the electoral dignity, but in 1632 the city was occupied by Gustav II Adolph of Sweden. When the bubonic plague broke out in 1634 and 1635, about one third of the population died. Under the regency of the Bavarian electors, Munich was an important centre of baroque life, but also had to suffer under Habsburg occupations in 1704 and 1742.

Marienplatz, Munich about 1650.

In 1806, the city became the capital of the new Kingdom of Bavaria, with the state’s parliament (the Landtag) and the new archdiocese of Munich and Freising being located in the city. Twenty years later, Landshut University was moved to Munich. Many of the city’s finest buildings belong to this period and were built under the first three Bavarian kings. Especially Ludwig I rendered outstanding services to Munich’s status as a centre of the arts, attracting numerous artists and enhancing the city’s architectural substance with grand boulevards and buildings. On the other hand, Ludwig II, famous the world over as the fairytale king, was mostly aloof from his capital and focused more on his fanciful castles in the Bavarian countryside. Nevertheless, his patronage of Richard Wagner secured his posthumous reputation, as do his castles, which generate significant tourist income for Bavaria to this day. Later, Prince Regent Luitpold’s years as regent were marked by tremendous artistic and cultural activity in Munich, enhancing its status as a cultural force of global importance.

World War I to World War II

Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, life in Munich became very difficult, as the Allied blockade of Germany led to food and fuel shortages. During French air raids in 1916, three bombs fell on Munich.

After World War I, the city was at the centre of much political unrest. In November 1918 on the eve of German revolution, Ludwig III and his family fled the city. After the murder of the first republican premier of Bavaria Kurt Eisner in February 1919 by Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed. When Communists took power, Lenin, who had lived in Munich some years before, sent a congratulatory telegram, but the Soviet Republic was put down on 3 May 1919 by the Freikorps. While the republican government had been restored, Munich became a hotbed of extremist politics, among which Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists rose to prominence.

In 1923, Adolf Hitler and his supporters, who were concentrated in Munich, staged the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic and seize power. The revolt failed, resulting in Hitler’s arrest and the temporary crippling of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), which was virtually unknown outside Munich. The city again became a Nazi stronghold when the party took power in Germany in 1933. The party created its first concentration camp at Dachau, 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) north-west of the city. Because of its importance to the rise of National Socialism, Munich was referred to as the Hauptstadt der Bewegung (“Capital of the Movement”). The NSDAP headquarters were in Munich and many Führerbauten (“Führer-buildings”) were built around the Königsplatz, some of which still survive.

The city is known as the site of the culmination of the policy of appeasement by Britain and France leading up to World War II. It was in Munich that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain assented to the annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region into Greater Germany in the hopes of sating the desires of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Munich was the base of the White Rose, a student resistance movement from June 1942 to February 1943. The core members were arrested and executed following a distribution of leaflets in Munich University by Hans and Sophie Scholl.

The city was heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II – it was hit by 71 air raids during five years.

Bombing damage to the Altstadt. Note the roofless and pockmarked Altes Rathaus looking up the Tal. The roofless Heilig-Geist-Kirche is on the right of the photo. Its spire, without the copper top, is behind the church. The Talbruck gate tower is missing completely.


After US occupation in 1945, Munich was completely rebuilt following a meticulous and – by comparison to other war-ravaged West German cities – rather conservative plan which preserved its pre-war street grid. In 1957, Munich’s population surpassed 1 million. The city continued to play a highly significant role in the German economy, politics and culture, giving rise to its nickname Heimliche Hauptstadt (“secret capital”) in the decades after World War II.

Munich was the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics, during which Israeli athletes were assassinated by Palestinian fedayeen in the Munich massacre, when gunmen from the Palestinian “Black September” group took hostage members of the Israeli Olympic team.

Most Munich residents enjoy a high quality of life. Mercer HR Consulting consistently rates the city among the top 10 cities with the highest quality of life worldwide – a 2011 survey ranked Munich as 4th. The same company also ranks Munich as the 39th most expensive in the world and most expensive major city in Germany. Munich enjoys a thriving economy, driven by the information technology, biotechnology, and publishing sectors. Environmental pollution is low, although as of 2006 the city council is concerned about levels of particulate matter, especially along the city’s major thoroughfares. Since the enactment of EU legislation concerning the concentration of particulate in the air, environmental groups such as Greenpeace have staged large protest rallies to urge the city council and the State government to take a harder stance on pollution. Today, the crime rate is low compared with other large German cities, such as Hamburg or Berlin. For its high quality of life and safety, the city has been nicknamed “Toytown” among the English-speaking residents. German inhabitants call it “Millionendorf”, an expression which means “village of a million people”. Due to the high standard of living in and the thriving economy of the city and the region, there was an influx of people and Munich’s population surpassed 1.5 million by June 2015, an increase of more than 20% in 10 years.


German Military History with a focus on World War II History including other areas of German History