Isartor - Munich's eastern city gate

Das Isartor an einem Sommertag, Foto: Read
Foto: Read

The tower of Isartor is home to a unique museum

The Isartor is one of Munich's remaining historic city gates. It hosts the hilarious legacy of famous comedian Karl Valentin, features a back-to-front clock and a giant red wine punch bowl in winter. The Isartor separates the square of the same name from the popular shopping street Tal.

Historical background

The city gate, which is almost completely intact today, was built between 1285 and 1347 by Ludwig of Bavaria as part of a large city expansion project. Restored by Friedrich von Gärtner in 1833, the gate features a fresco showing the triumphal procession of Kaiser Ludwig after the battle of Ampfing. After the gate was badly damaged during the Second World War, renovations were carried out at the start of the 1970s that remained true to the original structure.

Valentin Karlstadt Museum

The two Falkentürme (towers) of the Isartor in Munich today host the Valentin Karlstadt Museum. The rooms inside are dedicated to the legendary Munich comedian Karl Valentin and his partner Liesl Karlstadt. The pair were famous for their quirky humour, so it's hardly surprising that the museum offers an entertaining glimpse into their cosmos. Expect plenty of absurd features to marvel at, such as the nail that Valentin used to hang his carpentry work on (in German "to hang something on a nail" means "to quit"), or the fur-trimmed winter toothpick.


Die spiegelverkehrte Uhr am Isartor, Foto: Katy Spichal
Foto: Katy Spichal

The Isartor tower construction is decorated with two glass clock faces. But if you look closely, you will see that something isn't quite right. While the hands of the tower clock overlooking Isartorplatz function perfectly normally, moving in a clockwise direction, the hands on the western side, in the direction of Tal, move anti-clockwise. And the clock face itself has also been reversed. This was done deliberately, as the clock evokes the humour of Karl Valentin and the people of Bavaria in general. Even the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt once famously stated that "in Bavaria, the clocks run differently".

Red wine punch to keep the cold at bay

Light flames and a huge cauldron of red wine punch in the centre of Munich's inner city: even at the coldest times of the year, the Isartor is still a popular meeting point. Tourists and Munich inhabitants come together at the Munich Feuerzangenbowle event to enjoy a hot glass of red wine punch in the setting of the former city gate. And, of course, there is also plenty to eat. The organisers are culturally engaged too, and display installations and exhibitions focussing on socially relevant topics.




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