The 200 year old Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt) in Munich, Germany, is one of the great market squares of Europe, showcasing local commerce, culture and the diversity of the city – and it is one of the most social marketplaces we know.

Whether you're out for a brisk walk in the winter, picking up fresh ingredients in the summertime, hungry for a bite to eat or just for engaging conversation, the Viktualienmarkt brings it all together in one joyful and historic place.

This mix of a vibrant year around food destinations is a pleasure at any season. But it is the market's unique layout that makes it special. Market vendors occupy large kiosk structures that create smaller courtyards, scaled perfectly for social life right in the center of Munich. These distinct places attract visitors and locals alike and are busy year round, perhaps the busiest just before Christmas.

Why the market works

It is as much a city square as it is a market. When you look at the market as a whole, all the pieces come together to create one of the most dynamic year-round centers of any major city.

Location, location, location. Victualienmarkt is a key anchor in the "Heart of Munich." Saint Peter's church sits atop a podium with stores along the base and a plaza on the deck. The magnificent City Hall is a block away on a pedestrian street. The historic city was walled, and that density has been preserved.

Seamlessly connected. Covering six city blocks, the market draws seamlessly from the rest of Munich. All roads lead to the market. It has good active edge uses and "reaches out like an octopus" with eight separate entranceways. It is clearly one of the, if not the top, destinations in the city.

Products for every taste. The market is renowned for its diversity and size: 140 stalls and shops offering flowers and plants, fruits and vegetables, venison and fowl, eggs, butter, honey, fish, meat, sausages, herbs, spices, wine and tea, all assembled on 22,000 square meters in the heart of the city.

Summer or winter, it's a great place to shop. The Victuals Market is one of the most renowned Christmas markets in Germany, where hot drinks like glühwein and a cozy atmosphere are wintertime mainstays.

Produce and prepared foods are available throughout the year, and the market changes with the seasons. In the springtime, one of the most beloved products is asparagus found along with other produce at the Day Stalls.

There are also two fish markets within the Viktualienmarkt that together act as a key hub for fresh seafood.

Enticing stalls and displays. The stalls are unique, some with 2 or 3 vendors. Most are "inside out" with displays pouring out into the pathways. Many are completely accessible and open inside to outside as well. Corners are especially prominent and vendors are skilled in presenting large quantities of products in a relatively small area.

The displays both inside and out of a market stall is unique to this type of market. This is a near perfect example of what the best look like.

Fountains and art. Meanwhile, playful destinations like sculptures and fountains are peppered throughout the market, creating opportunities for exploration and setting the scene for delightful shared moments.

A small water fountain can also be a place to cool off, quickly becoming a hangout spot for families with children.

Beer! Another distinct type of place within the Viktualienmarkt is the year-round beer garden that occupies the center of the market — one of the largest in Europe and a classic destination for which the city is well-known!

Places to eat and linger. It's easy to appreciate how restaurants and other dining establishments are layered in the market, because outdoor seating there is always lively. The mingling of conversations and aromas lends the space a convivial atmosphere that invites visitors to linger.

The market also hosts smaller, more intimate spaces, Creating what we call, "Social Life of Small Urban Spaces." For example, small-scale stands like this coffee bar are often found tucked in between other vendors, in this case a soup kiosk and a potato vendor. Nonetheless, the coffee bar's space is maximized through the use of small standing tables that provide visitors with a place to set down their coffee and chat.

Key Takeaways

Markets draw people as much for the social experience as for the economic transactions. We've written about "social encounters of 4 kinds" at the Victuals Market before and dissected the various social behaviors you can easily observe.

Social Encounters of 4 Kinds: A Field Guide to Markets
A big reason we enjoy markets are the plentiful opportunities for conversation

But this social life does not happen by chance. There are so many reasons why this particular market – its location, design, vendors, displays, and products – work so well. Simply put, people, products, and the place come together at Viktualienmarkt to create an ever-changing experience that keeps customers (and social life) coming back.

A Simple Bench — Victual Market, Munich, Germany
A creative approach to seating makes this one of the world’s great social places
Squares are the Hearts of Communities, Markets Their Soul: How Cities Put Them Together and Thrive
Exploring the powerful, mutually beneficial connection between market and square in cities around the world
London’s Borough Market: A Public Market Driven by and for Social Life
The Borough Market is woven into the neighborhood. Coming at it from multiple directions one finds themselves suddenly in the market. The intensity increases as you get into the many the hearts of the market.

The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities.

If you are interested in collaborating (articles, presentations, exhibits, projects, and more) or supporting the cause contact us.

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