Munich, situated in the south of Germany, is the capital of the German Free State of Bavaria. With a population of 1.3 million people, it is the third-largest city of Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. The city is the centre of an urban region with about 2.4 million inhabitants.
The city is located on the river Isar about 50 km north of the northern edge of the Alps. As capital of Bavaria, Munich is an important political centre in Germany and the seat of the Bavarian Landtag (the state parliament), the Staatskanzlei (the state chancellery) and of all Bavarian state departments.
Settlement in the Munich area dates back to Roman times, but the city's official birth date is 1158 when Guelph duke Henry the Lion founded the city next to a settlement of Benedictine monks, called Munichen. Munich was officially granted city status and fortified in 1175. In 1255 it was chosen as the residence of the Wittelsbach family, the dukes of Bavaria who dominated the city right up to the 20th century. The salt-trading monopoly laid the foundations for a wealthy trading city and in 1506 Munich became the capital of the whole of Bavaria. Until the end of the 15th century life in Munich was shaped by the bourgeoisie, however with the Age of Absolutism this situation changed fundamentally. During the 16th century Munich was a centre of the German counter- reformation and the arts and politics became increasingly influenced by the court and Munich’s evolution was increasingly dominated by the Bavarian rulers who made the city into the administrative centre of entire Bavaria. Bavaria emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as the largest German state in central Europe, having been granted the status of a kingdom (1806). Centralisation of the state administration of Munich brought new inhabitants and new functions to the growing city. From that time onwards the design of its urban architecture embodied and enhanced the prestige of the entire kingdom.
Things really took off in the 19th century: Under the kings Ludwig I (1825–48), Maximilian II (1848–64), and Ludwig II (1864–86), Munich became a cultural and artistic centre, and it played a leading role in the development of 19th- and 20th-century German painting.
Many of the city's finest buildings belong to this period: These neoclassical buildings include those on the magnificent Ludwigstraße and the Königsplatz, built by the architects Leo von Klenze and Friedrich von Gärtner. Under King Maximilian II the Maximilianstraße which has developed into one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping miles of Europe was constructed in Perpendicular style.
However, not only the arts flourished at that time. King Ludwig I and (to an even greater degree) his son Maximilian II encouraged also the sciences and consciously invited researchers and inventors to the Bavarian capital. The relocation of the university to Munich and Maximilians II’s founding of the Technische Universität (Technical University) in 1868 were landmarks of this policy. They gave the city an important advantage for the development of its industries and helped it to compensate for its remoteness from raw materials and transportation routes. Numerous inventors and scientists worked in Munich, including Alois Senefelder, Joseph von Fraunhofer, Justus von Liebig, Georg Ohm, Carl von Linde, Rudolf Diesel, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Emil Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer. Munich’s tradition as a centre of research and the applied sciences has its roots in these times.
Industry in Munich was a “latecomer”. It was the railroad (1839) as a new means of transportation which linked Munich with markets throughout Central Europe. And the railroad was the moving force for industrialisation of the plains of Bavaria, which until then had been almost exclusively agricultural. Munich became a European centre for transhipment of merchandise and a transportation junction for southern Germany.
Furthermore, the favourable influence of the Bavarian kings’ patronage of the arts and science created the conditions for the development of quality industries which capitalised on the new technologies and inventions. Munich experienced a second wave of industrialisation during WW I and a third wave after 1945. These were eras of rapid growth for BMW and Siemens, two firms which still strongly influence the city today. So the 19th century tradition of science-oriented industry continues to thrive in the high-tech metropolis of the 21st century.
The 19th century was also the time when Munich’s beer found its way throughout the world. Although brewing beer has been a tradition in Munich since the 14th century – the Hofbräuhaus (the court’s brewery) was founded in 1589 – it was not until the mid-19th century that Munich’s beer first attained its due fame. Here again, the railroad played a decisive role, in that it gave brewers access to German, European, and overseas markets. The breweries also benefited from the invention of artificial cooling machines by Carl von Linde, a researcher and businessman from Munich. His refrigeration machines revolutionised brewing and encouraged the industrialisation of the brewing business.
Industrialisation went along with a massive growth of the population: In 1846 Munich's population was about 100,000, and by the turn of the 20th century the city had more than half a million residents. So this was also the time of severe housing shortage and dissolution of the compact city into the surrounding area.
Munich was not heavily destroyed in WW I, however the economic collapse posed severe problems for the population creating a fertile ground for Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist movement. In 1923, Hitler failed in his attempted Munich “beer-hall putsch”—a coup aimed at the Bavarian government. Despite this fiasco, Hitler made Munich the headquarters of the Nazi party, which in 1933 took control of the German national government.
Munich was heavily bombed in WW II with nearly half the city in ashes by war’s end. After American occupation in 1945, Munich’s city council decided in favour of tradition-oriented reconstruction which preserved its pre-war street grid and meant the reconstruction of the historical city centre. Unlike other German Cities Munich’s cityscape had not been altered a lot by the industrial developments before its destruction in the war. Consequently, the city had preserved its “cosy ambience” of an erstwhile royal residence city. And this is what adds nowadays to its reputation as an art city and its attractiveness for tourists.
Munich’s population reached the one-million mark in the late 1950s. Munich’s post-war development reached its peak with the 1972 Olympic Games – afterward, the oil crises of 1973 put an abrupt end to the “golden years” of steady economic growth. A new phase of growth began in the 1980s. Lower energy costs and the increased use of new technologies animated the economy. Munich evolved into a high-tech metropolis within the framework of Bavaria’s ambitious modernisation and investment policy.
Nowadays, Munich continues to have the lowest unemployment rate among all German cities. Its economic strength is based upon a broad range of growth industries, a highly-skilled workforce, and a well-balanced mixture of global players and adaptable medium-sized businesses. Especially successful sectors and future growth industries in Munich are medical equipment, biotechnology, information and communication technology, the media industry, financial services, the aerospace and automotive sector. Munich is also a German centre for the creative industries: Hardly any other city in Germany has profited more from the media boom during the last few decades. Munich is home to many publishing houses (fewer only than New York City) and also to The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany's largest daily newspapers. There are three media clusters in the Munich region among them the Bavaria Film Studios which are located in the suburb of Grünwald and which are one of Europe's biggest and most famous movie production studios. And contrary to the general trend in the industry and despite the difficult situation in the media industry, the print, multimedia, advertising and information services segments have been growing in recent years.
In addition, the knowledge infrastructure of Munich sounds well with eleven internationally renowned universities, colleges and universities of applied science with nearly 90,000 students in Munich. This makes Munich the second largest university centre in Germany, after Berlin. And again, like in the 1880s this growth of high-tech-sectors has been supported by massive financial funding of the Free State of Bavaria.
Munich is also a cultural centre of international standing, with 45 museums and collections, two opera houses, seven orchestras, 58 theatres and 89 cinemas, and innumerable music pubs and music halls, which all provide plentiful entertainment. However, small cultural businesses have problems due to the tight and expensive real-estate market – so Munich is not really the city for a flourishing subcultural scene.
However, not the whole of the population profits from the successful economic development: Poverty rates have been increasing for years and also the problems of the foreign population are an issue. Since the 1960s the share of foreigners has tripled to over 23 %. As the foreign workers were not able to participate in the employment growth during the 1990s, their unemployment rate is twice as high as that of the German population. Furthermore, young foreigners have substantial education and training deficits which were increasing during the past.
Also the tight housing market is a problem: In the 1980s and 1990s the chronic shortage of sites for new construction began to turn into a surplus: Due to the collapse of the socialist power bloc military bases became unnecessary, the Deutsche Bundesbahn shifted central rail facilities away from the city’s core and Munich’s airport moved from Riem to Erding leaving behind some 550 hectares which offered new opportunities for the tight inner-city real-estate market. Munich’s trade fair was able to move out into more spacious surroundings formally occupied by the old airport in Riem. Because of to this relocations and developments the city was able to develop several new neighbourhoods. Still the situation on the housing market is difficult: there exists not really a housing shortage, but housing is very expensive and cheap housing is difficult to find. Families still leave the city – the suburbanisation trend is not yet stopped.
And although many knowledge intensive firms, research and university institutes are located in the region of Munich, there is virtually no cooperation between the quite strong municipalities of the region and the city of Munich. There only exists the “Munich Regional Planning Association” which is formed by the majority of the nearby communities and districts and has the tasks e.g. to coordinate communities’ plans and integrate them into a regional plan. However, regional planning has only limited options for asserting its policies as it continues to rely on voluntary consensus – which very often – cannot be found.