Driving the Local Food Economy with Social Life: Munich's Victuals Market

The Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt) in Munich, Germany Central "Market Square" is typical of the historic squares around Europe, showcasing the local commerce, culture and diversity in the center of each city.

Driving the Local Food Economy with Social Life: Munich's Victuals Market

The 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 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 markets 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.

These images were taken pre-pandemic and, while the market has necessarily scaled back, we know that it will bounce back soon!

Why the market works

It is as much a city square as it is a market. As 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 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 as you wonder around them. Most are "inside out" with displays pouring out into the pathways. Many have completely accessible and open inside to the outside as well. Corners are especially prominent and vendors are skilled in presenting large quantities products in a relatively small area.

And the inside out of displaces 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 might 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.

Meanwhile, 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 transaction. We've written about "social encounters of 4 kinds" at Victuals Market before, and dissected the various social behaviors you can easily observe.  

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 in an ever-changing experience that keeps customers (and Social Life) coming back.