Munich's Viktualienmarkt, the famous central food market, is a great place to buy fresh food of nearly any kind, but it's also a great place to eat and drink, with a good chunk of the space occupied by a leafy beer garden, lined with kiosks selling hot and cold food and cold beer.
It's not really the kind of market that started a thousand years ago around the corner, when food had to be bought daily because refrigeration was a future dream. Over the past decades, it's become more of a gourmet market, without totally losing its character.
It's also where I always want to start a visit to Munich, with my two guilty pleasures readily available: Wonderful grilled sausages of every type, and the Schmalznudel (literally a lard or fat noodle) that comes from the Frischhut Cafe on one side of the market. No health claims here: Fried dough with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Have one, and eat some kale later, if needed!
Despite its hundreds of years as a market, the Viktualienmarkt is a relative newcomer to its location; until 1807, it was around the corner in Marienplatz, originally known as Marktplatz, or Market Square. As the market grew, and Marienplatz took on other roles, Bavarian King Maximillian I ordered an old almshouse torn down to make room for the market; later another building was sacrificed as well as the market grew. The name, which means Victuals Market, was adopted around mid-century.A view of the Viktualienmarket around its centennial, and again in 1930
As the market grew, the original open-air stalls and umbrellas gradually became more permanent, and a number of halls and permanent spaces were built; the one just below is occupied by butcher shops. Some others are mixed, while some are still specialized.
Among the stalls is that of Kaspar Worle, Munich's only horsemeat butcher, whose customers show up regularly from all over the area. Horsemeat is less widely available in Germany than in Italy or France. Across the way from it is a tiny counter with sixteen seats and a sign proclaiming itself Munich's smallest eatery.
Smoked-fish lovers line up outside Nordsee, actually a national chain of seafood snack and supply places, one of the few chains to be found, although some market vendors have stores elsewhere in the city as well.
Colorful fruit and veg abound, with much of it grown not far from the city; a number of the stands feature 'bio,' or organic produce as well as eggs and egg noodles.
Plants, seedlings and decorative items, as well...
On a wall overlooking the market area; there are a number of other decorations as well. The May Pole, near the market center, shows scenes of peasant dances and medieval trades, as well as a notice about Munich's famous 14th-century beer purity law, which Bavarian brewers still follow.
Dried herbs, spices and mushrooms figure prominently along with the fresh fruit at a number of stalls, and one holds a full-on spice shop.
Especially colorful produce always gets my attention, as well as unusual shapes, such as the Spitzkraut, or pointed cabbage.
The Viktualienmarkt is also home to statues of a number of Munich favorites from the past, including the three below. First is Roider Jackl, popular and famous in the 1950s for his 'Gstanzls,' a type of mocking song sung in Bavarian dialect.
Ida Schumacher began her career as a singer, but lost her voice in 1930 and turned to theatre as a folksy comedian. The statue shows her famous comedy character Ratschkathl, a hopeless gossip.
Karl Valentin was an actor, playwright, filmmaker and comedian sometimes called 'the German Charlie Chaplin.' His greatest fame over many years was as a cabaret performer. The flowers in his hand are real, replaced every day.