While my great-grandfather didn’t pass his mother tongue of German down to his children, I sure wish he had. I might have had an easier time reading parts manuals online—that, or trying to decipher classic-BMW classifieds written entirely in German, a trying feat that certainly wasn’t aided by my Spanish skills. Making up for lost time, I’ve decided now is as good a time as any to get my German up to par, before I (hopefully) find myself in Deutschland in a few years.
Of course, with the current state of the world, it’s highly unlikely that any of us will be embarking on any vacations anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plan them out just for fun. The experience that comes with learning about a new culture and chatting with locals about your common love for cars will have you saying “Ich liebe Deutschland” before long. As an absolute stranger to European travel, here are my top activities to see and do, as a BMW enthusiast in Germany.
BMW On Demand (Munich, Germany)
For those of us who had hopes of taking advantage of BMW’s European Delivery program someday and plucking a Bimmer straight from Germany itself, it seems that we’ll now have to revise our bucket list. While the BMW European Delivery program will no longer exist after this fall, much to the dismay of enthusiasts, there is still a way (albeit temporary) to enjoy your favorite BMWs abroad, through daily excursions, longer driving tours, and complete performance-driving experiences.
Located in Munich, Germany at the BMW Welt, BMW’s On Demand service is an indispensable experience for any BMW nut. Choose any new model bimmer to rent for an hour (or 48), and take to the winding roads of the Bavarian Alps with haste. Or, if you consider yourself more a zealot of vintage German engineering, the On Demand program also allows customers to rent out classic BMWs, running the gamut of four-wheel and two-wheel options from Z1 to 635CSi. While a chauffeur service is also available, you’ll probably enjoy yourself more in the driver’s seat, rowing through gears with the fairy-tale-esque Neuschwanstein castle in the distance.
BMW World: Welt & Museum (Munich, Germany)
The popularity of the BMW Welt and Museum is well deserved. Besides being an obvious enthusiast attraction, the sprawling complex that houses BMW’s finest is also an incredibly poignant destination for those family members who aren’t too keen on the smell of petrol and burnt rubber that a trackside experience would bring. Since it includes the BMW Welt, the BMW Museum, the Munich production plant, and the iconic four-cylinder-shaped BMW headquarters, it is easy to see how the massive campus—not just the incredible BMW Welt building—has earned its title as “BMW World.”
The Welt alone, which displays the technological image of the brand, is as much of an architectural marvel as it is an automotive art gallery full of rich history. The cloud-like, crystalline structure is home to permanent BMW M, i, Individual, and Motorrad exhibits, along with special temporary displays like the recent Harman/Kardon Ultimate Sound Machine exposition.
But regardless of how close these buildings are to each other, I can already foresee my shameful navigation skills luring me off-track. Anyone have a map?
Diagonal to the Welt lies the BMW Museum, aptly designed in the shape of a giant roundel. The circular rotunda envelops 120 total exhibitions that weave a vibrant tapestry of BMW’s history, a place that BMW’s Art Cars, series generations, and historical models call home. Separated into seven specific houses, the BMW Museum puts an emphasis on its defining topics from technology and design to series development and motorsport. In other words, it’s the perfect place to assemble your dream garage, or two—but who’s counting?
Motorworld and The V8 Hotel
When I was younger, I always envied the kids that grew up with those over-priced car beds—those sports-car-shaped pieces of plastic with a sad excuse for a mattress in the middle. If you ever shared the same sentiment, you’re in luck. The V8 Hotel, located in Böblingen, Germany, in addition to other regions, is fittingly named after its motorsport-themed rooms, and more widely known for their real car beds.
If you ever wanted to get your beauty sleep in a hollowed-out Liqui Moly-branded E36, put your coffee on a Michelin-tire side table, and plan out your vacation itinerary behind a desk supported by a motor-oil drum, your oddly specific wish has just come true. While the Liqui Moly-themed room is a choice favorite among BMW enthusiasts for obvious reasons, the Gulf Mini Cooper room could be a close second. Although our childhood race car-driver aspirations will have to wait until the world heals from the pandemic, the V8 Hotel’s 360-degree virtual tour of the premises allows you to pick out your favorite room.
I only lament the fact that an E46 adorned suite doesn’t exist on the Böblingen location’s accommodations list—although there is one at their Köln location.
The V8 Hotel isn’t just a standalone experience, either—it’s part of a larger automotive enthusiast’s paradise. Stuttgart’s Motorworld, which takes up residence on Germany’s former Württemberg airport, provides dining and entertainment to its guests, whether you are looking to talk cars with some locals or learn a thing or two from industry professionals meeting at the neighboring convention center.
Nürburgring – Nordschleife (Nürburg, Germany)
If there’s one place I refuse to miss on my future Germany excursion, it’s the world’s toughest Grand Prix circuit. The Nürburgring—the ‘Ring—is a car enthusiast’s nirvana. Once upon a time, free from their museum displays, many of the very same legendary BMWs lapped the “Green Hell” with ferocity, going on to suffer brutal losses or garner brilliant victories. It’s the rich history embedded in the tarmac itself that makes Germany’s most famous race track such an enticing stop for any car enthusiast.
BMW Motorsport has history with each grandstand and every chicane—nineteen total victories from the 24 Hours race alone define its presence there. Although I’d likely pursue a more interactive, behind-the-wheel track experience with a race-car-spec BMW M rental, you’ll surely find yourself thoroughly entertained watching the menagerie of machines lap the track instead, from personal builds to camouflaged pre-production BMWs.
Travelers might want to do a little studying of local German traffic laws to ensure safe navigation of Germany’s fastest highways. It’s every Californian’s dream come true: to actually drive for once. There’s no more awkward gawking at the commuter next to you eating cereal out of a bowl in nine-to-five traffic when you’re on Germany’s national highway system. Although roughly 40% of the Autobahns in Germany are in fact speed-restricted, the other 60% possess only speed “recommendations”—a concept that continues to bamboozle the world with its seemingly improbable reasoning.
According to Thomas Harloff, contributor to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, the reputation of German engineering prides itself greatly on its performance at speed, something that Harloff says “justifies the Autobahn’s right to exist” as a largely unrestricted means of high-speed travel. Good business sense and efficient travel? Leave it to the Germans to cater to enthusiast’s dreams and buying habits. While it is unlikely that I’ll ever find myself doing upper-triple-digit speeds if I find myself on the Autobahn, due to my fear of hitting a pothole and launching myself into oblivion, it is nice to know that I could, should I ever muster the courage.
As evidenced by my choices and my newbie approach to European travel, I am recommending the more well-known automotive destinations that Germany is known for. If you’re well-traveled, your list will surely look quite a bit different from mine—and I encourage you to share your experiences below with your fellow enthusiasts!—Malia Murphy
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, DPA International, V8 Hotel.]