Munich: The Station as Riot

My Munich transit notes will take a while to settle, but meanwhile, Munich’s U-bahn station Münchner Freiheit is a must-see for all visitors.


U-bahn lines have associated colors that are reflected in both mapping and signage.  (See U-bahn map here).  This station is an interchange between lines 3 (orange) and 6 (blue).  So the architects had a field day exploring all the ways that orange and blue can converse, or clash.   And as if orange weren’t garish enough, they invented a peculiar pea green to dance with it.



This is, by the way, a weaved station:  U3 and U6 northbound on one platform, and both southbound on the other, to maximize cross-platform transfers.  U6 is toward the center of the station in both directions.  To express that, you have the blue pillars down the center, with the curious orange+olive on both outside walls, where the (orange) U3 runs.

A mirrored ceiling festooned with semi-protruding panels of fluorescent light amplifies the dissonance.

Munich-Münchner Freiheit

This may well the the brightest underground station I’ve ever seen, bright not just with brute-force flourescents but with a mirror-intensive design that recycles light.  The photons can bounce around pretty much forever.

Munich has several recent U-bahn stations that show some real architectural panache, but this is the only one that’s truly fun.  Would it get old looking at this every day?  I don’t think so.

13 Responses to Munich: The Station as Riot

  1. ws July 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    It’s very modern and sleek looking but it’s not cold or sterile. Absolutely stunning from those pics.

  2. Cap'n Transit July 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Wow, that’s pretty colorful. New York’s Independent Subway took color-coding to the extreme – even if it was realized in a much subtler way.

  3. rhywun July 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    Wow. Forget the mirrors and neon colors – look how clean it is! As a New Yorker, I can only shake my head in wonder that my stations are characterized not by bright colors and cleanliness, but by paint falling off the ceiling, random puddles of water, and strange smells. Sigh.

  4. Herbie July 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Quibble: Münchner Freiheit is not a weaved station, but merely a station where lines U3 and U6 split from each other. No cross platform advantage. Both northbound lines are on different tracks due to the need for U3 to quickly rise and cross over U6 on its way to the Olympic Park. The station would actually be better served with a single island platform. The stations Innsbrucker Ring and Scheidplatz, however, are weaved stations.
    The architecture of the Munich U-Bahn stations is truly stunning. Wish I could visit again.
    Gallery of every station in the Munich U-Bahn system.

  5. anonymouse July 22, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    NYCT for some reason has a policy of painting the ceiling above the trackways black. Perhaps this has something to do with the American philosophy that the tracks are next to the station, not inside it, so the trackway space has to be excluded from the space of the station.

  6. Tom West July 22, 2010 at 6:27 am #

    1) The gallery Herbie linekd to seems to contain a whole host of useful information. If I knew German and was new to the city, it would make me feel a lot more comfortable about taking the U-Bahn.
    2) Black on the ceiling is terriebl, terrible thing. The (main line) Birmingham New Street station in the UK is mostly underneath a shopping mall (to the extent that legally, it is an underground station), and they painted the space above the tracks black. Granted, the number of diesel trains using that station mean that all white would be a bad plan, but some non-black would help things. Combined with teh lack of lighting, it makes for a station darker and more dreary than any Tube station.

  7. anonymouse July 22, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Tom West, I entirely agree with you. The worst part is, when they re-build the station, they paint the trackway ceiling white first, so the station looks bright and cheerful for a while, until they paint it black. Note though that it’s just the area above the track. There’s actually a line on the ceiling between the space above the track (black) and the space above the platform (usually white).

  8. Jarrett at July 22, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    It sounds like the NYC issue that you're all discussing is related to how low the ceiling is.  Note how high it is in this Munich station.  And of course, non-electric trains never use these tracks.

  9. Ezra July 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I don’t see orange in the architecture there, I just see the pea green. Am I missing something?

  10. anonymouse July 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    Actually, in NYC, some stations have quite high ceilings. Chambers Street on the J comes to mind, as does Utica Avenue on the A/C. Even then, with the 20 foot ceilings, the space above the platform is painted white while the space above the track is painted black. It makes even less sense than the same arrangement in the somewhat more typical (of NYC) low-ceilinged station.

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  12. rhywun July 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    I have very fond memories of a trip to Munich I took as a teenaged exchange student living in Würzburg around 1986. Like many “average” Germans, we drove most everywhere as a rule but never hesitated to take transit when it made sense. It was Oktoberfest, so transit was even more welcome after a long evening of excellent beer and pretzels. Anyway, Munich was perhaps my first “big-city” experience and I was greatly impressed – It remains one of my favorite cities today – more so than other big cities I visited like Berlin or Paris. I found Munich to be more gemütlich than most cities, including my current NYC.

  13. tomtakt August 25, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Well…I missed this post originally, but I rode through this station everyday for a year through most of the construction for the new interior.
    As they were installing panels we tried to give them the benefit of the doubt on the color scheme, but I honestly find the result rather garish. I’m all for bold design, but these colors clash to an extreme. Although…I guess it’s alright to have one station that clashes just for the sake of clashing, but in that case I wish it were at least a bit more adventurous in form.
    A handful of the Munich U-bahn stations are really cool though–I like Königsplatz with the statue replicas from nearby museums, and the grass-covered station entrances at Garchingforschungszentrum (
    And I’m not sure if you saw, but there’s a brand new tram station that complements Münchner Freiheit above ground. (ttp:// Also quite modern!
    And, lastly, I hope you had a chance to ride one of the newly built U-bahn trains. With their unbroken interior space, they are the most incredible trains I’ve ever seen or ridden. ( (
    Ah, Munich…if it were a little more socially progressive, I might never have left!