A prince-archbishop with a wicked sense of humour, Markus Sittikus, built Schloss Hellbrunn in the early 17th century as a summer palace and an escape from his functions at the Residenz. The Italianate villa became a beloved retreat for rulers of state, who flocked here to eat, drink and make merry. It was a Garden of Eden to all who beheld its exotic fauna, citrus trees and trick fountains – designed to sober up the clergy without dampening their spirits.
Domenico Gisberti, poet to the court of Munich, once gushed: ‘I see the epitome of Venice in these waters, Rome reduced to a brief outline.’
While the whimsical palace interior – especially the Oriental-style Chinese Room and frescoed Festsaal – is worth a peek, the eccentric Wasserspiele (trick fountains) are the big draw in summer. Be prepared to get soaked in the mock Roman theatre, the shell-clad Neptune Grotto and the twittering Bird Grotto. No statue here is quite as it seems, including the emblematic tongue-poking-out Germaul mask (Sittikus’ answer to his critics). The tour rounds out at the 18th-century water-powered Mechanical Theatre, where 200 limewood figurines depict life in a baroque city. Tours run every 30 minutes.
Studded with ponds, sculptures and leafy avenues, the palace gardens are free and open until dusk year-round. Here you’ll find the Sound of Music pavilion of 'Sixteen Going on Seventeen' fame.