This glorious baroque and rococo palace, the largest of its kind in Germany, draws around 500,000 visitors a year; only the Deutsches Museum is more popular in Munich. The palace grew in size and scope over more than 200 years, beginning as a summer residence built on land given by Prince Ferdinand Maria to his beloved wife, Henriette Adelaide, on the occasion of the birth of their son and heir, Max Emanuel, in 1662. The princess hired the Italian architect Agostino Barelli to build both the Theatinerkirche and the palace, which was completed by his successor, Enrico Zuccalli. It represents a tremendous high point of Italian cultural influence, in what is undoubtedly Germany's most Italian city. Within the original building, now the central axis of the palace complex, is the magnificent Steinerner Saal (Great hall). It extends over two floors and is richly decorated with stucco and grandiose frescoes by masters such as Francois Cuvilliés the Elder and Johann Baptist Zimmermann.
In summer, chamber-music concerts are given here. One of the surrounding royal chambers houses Ludwig I's famous Schönheitsgalerie (Gallery of Beauties). The walls are hung from floor to ceiling with portraits of women who caught the roving eye of Ludwig, among them a shoemaker's daughter and Lady Jane Ellenborough, the scandal-thriving English aristocrat. Lady Jane's affair with Ludwig, however, was a minor dalliance compared with the adventures in Munich of the most famous female on the walls here. Lola Montez was born in Ireland and passed herself off as a Spanish dancer during a tour of Europe's major cities, during which time she became the mistress of Franz Liszt and later Alexandre Dumas. Montez arrived in Munich in 1846 and so enchanted King Ludwig I that she became his closest advisor, much to the chagrin of his ministers and many Münchners. With revolution in the air across France and the German lands in 1848, Bavaria's greatest monarch abdicated rather than be told whom he could and could not appoint as his advisor. And Lola? She left Munich without the king for adventures in Australia and the U.S., where she eventually died.
The palace is in a park laid out in formal French style, with low hedges and gravel walks extending into woodland. Among the ancient tree stands are three fascinating pavilions. The Amalienburg hunting lodge is a rococo gem built by François Cuvilliés. The detailed stucco work of the little Amalienburg creates an atmosphere of courtly high life, making clear that the pleasures of the chase did not always take place outdoors. In the lavishly appointed kennels you'll see that even the dogs lived in luxury. The Pagodenburg was built for slightly informal royal tea parties. Its elegant French exterior conceals an Asian-influenced interior, in which exotic teas from India and China were served. Swimming parties were held in the Badenburg, Europe's first post-Roman heated pool.