Minimalism schminimalism: sometimes the eye craves excess and that’s when Rococo comes into its own. Too much was barely enough for this 18th century child of the Baroque, with its gilded lilies, chubby cherubs and overflowing cornucopias in riotous asymmetrical forms. Bavaria is home to some eye-popping feats of Rococo maximalism, and you can see some of the best without leaving Munich.
Start east of the city center for the entry level Rococo of St Michael’s church in Berg am Laim, which offers a stern Catholic façade but softens inside where ravishing pinks and greens compete with gold. Once in the old town, head for the Residenz. Built and remodeled over several centuries, it’s a mish-mash of styles, but there are a number of Rococo treasures. The Ahnengalerie, where dark forbidding portraits nestle in sumptuous gilded panels, was the ruling Wittelsbach family’s attempt to bolster their credentials with often dubious allusions to illustrious ancestors – social climbing up the family tree, if you will. The Electoral apartments and the “Reiche Zimmer” (or “ornate rooms” – and they aren’t kidding), with the exquisite Cabinet of Miniatures, continue the more-is-more decorative theme.
With a combined ticket, you can also see some world-class bling in the Treasury then head for one of the most beautiful performance spaces in Europe. Named for its French architect, the Cuvilliés Theater is a symphony in deep red and blazing gold.
Afterwards, poke your head in to see the magnificent staircase of the nearby Palais Preysing on your way to the Asamkirche which tries, and fails, to blend in with the street. Built by the Asam brothers as their own private place of worship, this is where tasteful restraint comes to die. Finally, head to the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace for the gorgeous Amalienburg pavilion, an intimate take on Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors.