As a setting for high-end shopping, it could hardly be better. To begin with, Munich’s Maximilianstrasse is the celebrity hang-out, where national media and paparazzi cruise to catch sight of a Diane Kruger or a Heidi Klum. Secondly, it’s blessed with grand architecture, making a fitting home for grand fashions; the street was designed by Friedrich Bürklein, built from 1852 to 1875 and later populated by striking Jugendstil buildings which underwent an intensive restoration programme in the 1950s. And thirdly, it was one of Munich’s four royal avenues named after a king – Maximilian II of Bavaria – who set out to make sure that the street was suitably regal.
In fact, Maximilianstrasse’s aura of exclusivity came then, as it comes now, from the still-imposing buildings of the the Völkerkundemuseum (museum of ethnology), the Wilhelmsgymnasium – where Carl Jung studied – the Alte Münze (Old Mint Yard), the Bavarian state parliament and many an historic town palace, including that of the bluntly named 16th-century merchant Jakob Fugger the Rich. It also came courtesy of Kaspar von Zumbusch’s sculpture of the king, the Maxmonument, still there keeping an eye on the shoppers and the traffic.
The glossy and the glamorous
Lastly, and probably most importantly to those looking to burn through some Euros, there’s the kilometre-long avenue’s sheer concentration of the glossy and glamorous. If other, larger cities see the big brand names collecting in disparate pockets, in Munich they flock together. On or close to Maximilianstrasse, in the heart of the city, one can find Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Valentino, Ferragamo, Versace, Loro Piana, Gucci and Bottega Veneta, among others – and that’s just the Italians – all in close quarters. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior and Montblanc are here, too. And that’s before moves are made on bags and sunglasses, watches and jewellery, for which Omega, Cartier, Blancpain and Chopard are among the brands with their own stores.
Not for the shopping weary
A decade ago the Maximilianhöfe – an upmarket shopping centre – opened just off Maximilianstrasse, and immediately filled with yet more international designer names. Small wonder even the 32 life-sized figures of the Glockenspiel - the city-hall clock that, with its 43 bells, every day at 11am presents the history of the marriage of the medieval Duke of Bavaria – seem well dressed.
In other words, Maximilianstrasse is not for the shopping weary. But nor is it only for those in pursuit of a logo or label. While Maximilianstrasse has a dizzying number of luxury-brand giants, these giants have to co-exist with second-hand stores such as First + Second, selling past season designer clothing at a fraction of the original cost. Nor is it about tourist mementos – Bavarian beers, wood carvings, pewter tankards, dirndls or lederhosen among them – although they, too, are available in the vicinity.
Rather, along with nearby Gärtnerplatz, Glockenplatz, Haidhausen and Schwabing areas, Maximilianstrasse is also home to top-flight national brands and acclaimed stores that non-Germans (or even non-Münchners) may never have heard of. Yes, there are household German brand names including Hugo Boss, Wempe and Escada, of course. But there are also clothing stores such as Daniel Fendler and Georg et Arend, Rimowa luggage and, on the accessories front, Unützer shoes, Hemmerle, FoFo and Fochtmann – all respected jewellers – and eyewear store Maximilian Optik.
Naturally enough for a Jugendstil hotspot, art and antiques are also well represented: the likes of Telkamp Galerie (specialists in German art deco), Das Gemälde Haus (photography), Galerie Fred Jahn (20th-century American and post-1960s German art) all look the part. Nearby are the city’s theatrical centres, the Kammerspiele, Kleine Komodie and the Nationaltheater, which provide a spot of high-brow cultural relief from the array of shopping opportunities.
The cafés and bars in and around Maximilianstrasse provide another option for weary shoppers, whether they’re sampling local beers in Der Hofbräukeller on Wiener Platz or, more glamorously, a cocktail in the bar of the Grand Hotel Kempinski Vier Jahreszeiten or even a coffee in the Emporio Armani Caffè. Yes, Giorgio may not be there in person. But Maximilianstrasse gives Milan such a good run for its money, one of his immaculately clad fashion army will certainly make you a latte.