Bavaria is the largest of the federal states of Germany by area and the second-largest by population. Bavaria has a long history, going back to at least the year 520, when the Bavarian people were first mentioned in written sources. This long history, along with the fact that Bavaria was an independent - and rather powerful - kingdom between 1806 until the end of World War I, is one of the reasons for the strong cultural identity Bavarians share to this day, which is also reflected in the official designation as a “free state” rather than a federal state. However, what is conceived as “typically Bavarian” outside of the state and internationally usually only refers to the Southern part of Bavaria (called “Oberbayern”- “Upper Bavaria”). The Franconia region around Nuremberg, for example, has a distinct set of cultural values, traditions and customs.
Bavaria has a very strong economy and would, if considered an independent country, in fact rank among the 25 most powerful economies in the world. In 2011, the state had a per capita GDP of € 35,545. While there remain a number of areas where agriculture is a major factor, the state is widely known for being home to many large, high-profile companies. Among these, BMW, Allianz, Siemens, Audi and MAN have their headquarters in Munich or in the city’s extended metropolitan area.
Tourism is also an important factor of Bavaria’s economy. Visitors from all over the world mainly come to see the picturesque old cities like Coburg or Regensburg, famous buildings like the Neuschwanstein Castle or the Würzburg Residence or recreational areas like the Lake Chiemsee or Lake Starnberg in the Pre-Alps region south of Munich.