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Top five car museums to visit in Germany

France has lots of car museums to visit, with nearly 40 presented in France: The Essential Guide for Car Enthusiasts. But it certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on great transport museums; across the border in Germany there are 60 more sites you can visit, from small private collections to the biggest manufacturers’ museums.

For this month’s blog, therefore, we’ll head across the Rhine and take a look at Germany’s five most important car museums. German car-makers take their heritage very seriously and invest colossal amounts of money in permanent displays of their historic models. These are just part of visitor centres which include temporary exhibits, factory tours, driving experiences and even the chance to pick up your new car fresh from the production line. Even if you don’t own one of their cars, these impressive collections should be on the ‘Must see’ list for every car enthusiast!

Where it all started: Mercedes‘ ‘Patentwagen’ from 1886, on show at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart

With 130 years of continuous automotive history – going right back to the ‘Patentwagen’ of 1886 – Mercedes is the grand-daddy of the world’s car manufacturers. Located right next to its main manufacturing plant in Untertürkheim, Mercedes’ museum is a magnificent building, which more than seven million visitors have enjoyed since it opened in 2006. The museum is laid out around a double helix, so that visitors can follow two different routes through the displays. One, consisting of seven ‘Legend’ rooms, charts Mercedes’ history in chronological sequence; the other, broken out into five ‘Collection’ areas, groups cars thematically, finishing at an awe-inspiring banked track showing the marque’s Silver Arrows race cars.

This summer’s temporary exhibition covers the E-Class saloons, and there are restaurants and a large shop. If you are tempted to buy a classic Mercedes yourself, Mercedes’ own classic sales operation, All Time Stars, is located in the basement. You’ll pay top dollar, but the cars are in exceptional condition.

Further information:

Striking exterior of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Untertürkheim.

Reproduction of Mercedes‘ famous racing transporter, specially designed to carry the 300SLR.

Mercedes‘ vehicles from the 1960s to the 80s, with production and experimental models.

Princess Diana’s 500SL next to a specially adapted G-Wagen used by Pope John Paul II, in the ‘Celebrities’ room.

Not just cars: Milnes Daimler bus from 1907.

Porsche Museum, Stuttgart

Just across town in Zuffenhausen is Stuttgart’s second car museum, devoted to Germany’s greatest sporting marque. It’s easy to combine the two during a weekend, and both can be reached easily by public transport. Porsche’s museum is also housed in a splendid modern building next to the factory, and opened in 2009. More than 80 cars are on show at any time, including production models, prototypes and racing cars. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Porsche’s front-engined transaxle cars (924/944/968/928), which are celebrated in a special exhibition until October.

You can combine your visit to the museum with a factory tour or hire one of Porsche’s newest models for the day. You’ll need to reserve both of these in advance though.

Further information:

Looking down on the display and the original ‘Urprototyp.’

Porsche 356SL Coupé from 1950.

Porsche 924 prototype.

One of many Porsche 917 racers on show.

Cutaway model of 997 generation of 911.

BMW Museum, Munich

Our next stop takes us from Swabia to Bavaria, and to the home of BMW in Munich. BMW’s museum is part of a huge integrated complex, the BMW Welt (or BMW World), with exhibition areas not just for BMW cars, but for its motorbikes, Rolls-Royce and MINI too. You can also see all BMW’s current cars, stock up on branded goodies in a large shop and choose from a range of cafés and restaurants. Children are especially well looked after, with a series of ‘BMW Junior’ activities on offer.

2016 is a great year to visit BMW’s Museum, as the make celebrates its centenary with a special exhibition, ‘100 masterpieces. BMW Group - 100 years of innovation and entrepreneurial courage’.

Further information:

Exterior walkways connect parts of the BMW Welt in the Olympiapark.

Streamlined BMW 328 enjoyed many racing successes before the war.

Charming period brochure illustration for the BMW 503 Coupé.

Very Seventies colours for this display of a BMW 2002Ti.

M49 engine powered the 1974 BMW 3.0 CSL.

Audi: Museum Mobile, Ingolstadt

Audi has now firmly secured its place as one of the big three premium car manufacturers in Germany, with a compelling mix of luxury and technical innovation. No wonder then that the marque should have its own lavish visitor centre, the Audi Forum, in its home town of Ingolstadt, about 80km (50 miles) north of Munich.

At the heart of this complex, the Museum Mobile showcases not just the history of Audi as we know the brand now, but of the other makes which came together to form Auto Union during the 1930s, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, as well as NSU. One of the museum’s most distinctive features is a huge open elevator or ‘paternoster’, giving a constantly changing view of different models from the 20th century.

Further information (in German):

Rally-going quattro (here an A2 model) now synonymous with the Audi brand.

Grandiose Horch 670 Sport Cabriolet.

Rarely seen Sonderklasse F91 part of DKW line-up.

Late-model NSU Ro80.

‘Paternoster’ showing Audi prototypes.

Volkswagen: Autostadt, Wolfsburg

Our final stop this month is further north, in Wolfsburg, home to Germany’s biggest car manufacturer of all, Volkswagen. More than just a car museum or even an automotive visitor centre, Autostadt is really a leisure park all on its own, attracting more than two million visitors every year.

Different pavilions around the park are dedicated to each of the VW Group’s brands, from Seat and Škoda to Lamborghini and Bugatti, as well as Volkswagen itself. The ‘Zeithaus’ is even more varied, with a permanent display from all those manufacturers whose cars marked significant milestones in automotive history. You can eat and drink, shop, take delivery of a new car or even relax watching a circus festival (23 June to 3 July)!

Further information:

Volkswagen’s Autostadt. (Courtesy Volkswagen AG)

The archetypal Beetle, seen here in convertible form at a concours d’élégance in the French resort of La Baule.

Volkswagen-based Porsche race transporter, here on show at Techno Classica Essen.

Golf GTi (here a Pirelli edition) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. (Courtesy Volkswagen AG)

Looking to the future: Volkswagen XL Sport concept, shown at the Paris Motor Show in 2014.

Coming soon…

Let us know if you have enjoyed this blog by liking the post on the Drive Guide page on Facebook or on Twitter, or send us your feedback by mail using the Contact from on this site. There are plenty more great transport museums elsewhere in Germany and in other European countries which are well worth a stop or even a special trip.

And if you are planning to drive anywhere in Europe this summer, don’t forget the latest book from Drive Guide: The Essential Guide to Driving in Europe, available now from Veloce Publishing. You’ll find more details in the dedicated section of this website.

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