Rev up your summer holiday plans: Germany

Published: 19 May 2011

Mercedes-Benz Museum

Museum website:
Mercedesstr. 100, 70372 Stuttgart, Germany
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9.00am to 6.00pm (Closed Mondays)
Admission: €8.00 (under-15s free)
Tours: Self-tour audio guide handset included
Parking: Pay parking building next to museum

Massive collection of vehicles from the dawn of the automobile to today's road and racing cars, housed over four levels in an ultra-modern museum building. The tour route takes you from Karl Benz's first car through the history of the company, with separate display areas for commercial vehicles, rescue and emergency service vehicles and racing cars. The museum is located at Mercedes-Benz global HQ.

Highlights: The earliest Benz and Daimler cars show how far automotive engineering has progressed in 125 years. Roaring '20s supercharged SSK, '50s 300SL Gullwing, the massive banked oval display of historic racing cars

Road access: A8 motorway to Stuttgart, then take the B10 towards NeckarPark and follow signs to Mercedes-Benz Arena/Mercedes-Benz Museum
Take the train: Nearest station Stuttgart, then take S-bahn to Neckarpark (Mercedes Benz)
Nearest airport: Stuttgart (STR)
Regional tourism sites: Stuttgart Tourism Office

Worth the journey? Absolutely. If you're an M-Benz obsessive check the museum website for tours of the Unterturkheim plant.

Porsche Museum

Museum website:
Address: Porscheplatz 1
D – 70435 Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9.00am to 6.00pm (Closed Mondays)
Admission: €8.00 (under-15s free)
Tours: Self-tour audio guide handset €2.00
Parking: Pay parking in the museum basement

Spectacular architecture houses the history of Porsche, from the Lohner-Porsche hybrid car of 1900 to the latest production machines. Excellent selection of non-911s also, for prospective visitors tired of Porsche's signature model. CAR spent a night here for the September 2009 edition, but you'll have to visit during business hours like everyone else. Check the website for prices and availability if you'd also like to take a tour of the adjacent Zuffenhausen factory.

Highlights: The building, designed by Vienna’s Delugan Meissl Associated Architects. Finding out that the original Porsche Type 64 sports car and 356 prototype were mid-engined! Rear-engined 356 was a packaging and cost decision that has led to generations of Porsche bores championing the engine in the wrong place ever since. The amazing selection of racing cars, including no less than six Porsche 917s.

Road access: A81 motorway to Zuffenhausen, then take the B10 towards Zuffenhausen and follow signs to the Porsche Museum
Take the train: Nearest station Stuttgart, then take S-bahn to Neuwirtshaus
Nearest airport: Stuttgart (STR)
Regional tourism sites: Baden-Wurttemburg State Tourism Office

Worth the journey? Yes. For a company that has become synonymous with one car, seemingly revised on a daily basis, the Porsche Museum is an excellent reminder of the diversity, inventiveness and motorsports heritage of the company and its products, before brand management became paramount.

BMW Museum

Museum website:
Address: Am Olympiapark 1
80809 Munich, Germany
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10.00am to 6.00pm (Closed Mondays)
Admission: €12.00 (under-18s €6.00)
Tours: Self-tour audio guide handset €2.00
Parking: Pay parking in the BMW Welt complex across the street

The BMW Museum is adjacent to the BMW Welt brand showcase and exhibition centre, and in front of the BMW four-cylinder headquarters. Houses a permanent collection of cars, motorcycles and aero engines charting BMW's history, and themed exhibits on engineering, design and motorsports. As of late-2010 the ghost of Chris Bangle could still be heard talking about BMW design from the interactive displays

Highlights: The M car room with its display of wonderful straight-six engines. Classic BMW 328 Mille Miglia car, 3.0CSL 'batmobile' touring car racer, a perfect orange BMW 2002, the BMW Art Cars (usually residing in the temporary exhibition area)

Road access:
 A8 motorway to the Mittlerer Ring, then follow directions to Olympic Park
Take the train: Nearest station Munich, then take S-bahn to Marienplatz, and change to the U-bahn to Olympiazentrum station
Nearest airport: Munich (MUC)
Regional tourism sites: Munich Tourism Office

Worth the journey? Pricey but good museum puts back the JOY you may have lost as the Ultimate Driving Machine became the ever-present Munich Mondeo. You can also book a tour of the adjacent Munich plant 1, but beware - they only build 3-series saloons and estates. M car fanatics can make a pilgrimage to the Garching district of Munich to get a snapshot in front of BMW M headquarters.  

Audi Museum Mobile

Museum website:
Audi Forum Ingolstadt
85045 Ingolstadt
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9.00am to 6.00pm
Admission: €2.00 (Under 18s €1.00, under-6s free)
Tours: Self-tour audio guide handset 
Parking: Pay parking building next to museum

Audi's HQ includes the brand experience, showroom and museum that you find at BMW, Porsche and Mercedes. Compact museum manages to fit in a comprehensive history of the origins of Auto Union and Audi, although you'll be frustrated to find some of the must-see cars on a giant revolving car elevator system. Looks cool but try getting a good photo of your favourite Audi concept car...

Highlights: Michele Mouton's ur-Quattro rally car, Auto Union '30s GP car, Avus and Sport Spyder concept cars, NSU Ro 80.

Road access: A9 motorway to Ingolstadt, then follow the Audi signs to Audi Forum Ingolstadt.
Take the train: Nearest station Ingolstadt, then take bus no.11 to Audi Forum Ingolstadt
Nearest airport: Munich (MUC)
Regional tourism sites: Bavarian Tourism Office

Worth the journey? A smaller museum than the other three, but if you're visiting Munich it's a short drive away for a day-return visit, and a nice reminder that Audis didn't always look like clones of each other.

Other destinations

The four museums featured are conveniently located relatively near to each other in south-west Germany. But if you're in Frankfurt, go out to Russelsheim to visit Opel Live, the museum and brand showcase for GM's German nameplate. Volkswagen Group's Autostadt complex in Wolfsburg includes a museum amongst its brand-building displays and activity areas, but if you're only interested in VW cars then avoid the Piechland themepark and go to the nearby VW Automobile Museum.

If you're interested in the motor industry in what was East Germany, then consider visiting the August Horch Museum in Zwickau, the original home of Audi and the infamous East German Trabant. There is also the Automobilbau Museum Eisenach which covers the town's motor industry history from pre-BMW Dixi cars, through Wartburg and on to Opel post-reunification. Since you're over that side of the country you can also watch the VW Phaeton being built in VW's architecturally-impressive Glass Factory, near Dresden.