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Marienplatz has been the heart of Munich since the Middle Ages. Barrel-makers used to dance between the city hall and the market. Over the years, the market has moved slightly and the barrel-makers have been reduced to miniature figures that dance in the carillon of the new city hall, but the Marienplatz is still the city’s main square.
Marienplatz has 2 city halls: the Old City Hall and the New City Hall. Thanks to the work of architect Hauberrisser, Munich residents have a hard time telling which building is which. Set behind the buskers and the fountain, the Neo-Gothic building on the square looks older. However, it was ‘only’ built just over a 100 years ago — relatively recent compared to the Old City Hall which has been around for more than 800 years.
Munich’s main square was called 'Schrannen', until a cholera epidemic castigated the city. By changing the name to Marienplatz (Maria square) in 1854, residents hoped to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary. The square also played an important role during the plague epidemic of 1517: according to legend, barrel-makers danced around the square to entice residents to come out onto the streets. They still dance today: every 7 years on the actual square, and several times a day in miniature at the carillon of the New City Hall.
Many visitors take the lift to the top of the tower in the New City Hall to enjoy the fabulous city views. However, you won’t be able to admire the building’s own Neo-Gothic gable and carillon. To view those, you need to visit the Saint Peter’s Church which is situated on the other side of the square. Unfortunately this church does not offer a lift and visitors must climb 306 steps to reach the highest lookout in the city centre. On clear days you can even distinguish the peaks of the Alps on the horizon.
Marienplatz is framed by 2 large department stores: Galeria Kaufhof and Backs Kaufhof. Music fans should pay a visit to the 5th floor of Backs, because it is entirely dedicated to music. Here you will find an incredible collection of CDs and you can listen to a great selection of less mainstream music for free. Occasionally, the department store also hosts live performances. There are musical performances every night at the Night Club inside the classy and elegant Hotel Bayerischer Hof, just outside of Marienplatz.