Opened in 1973 and renovated in 2008, the BMW Museum offers a look inside the history and development of Germany's largest automaker, BMW. The museum is located within walking distance of the Olympiapark, which was the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. The convenience of proximity will allow tourists to visit BMW Museum and BMW Welt, together with the Olympic Observation Tower and Olympiapark, all in a single day.
In December 2015, I visited the BMW Museum and BMW Welt with my sister. While I'm not a car fanatic, the tours were still very interesting. The architecture of both structures, which sit directly next to one another, was something to see. The BMW Museum, pictured to the left, is often referred to as the "salad bowl" or "white cauldron." The circular building expands to a diameter of 40 meters at its top, from a base measuring roughly 20 meters across. The museum's exhibits are spread across multiple floors, accessible via elevators and ramped walkways. The exhibit areas are easily accessed by wheelchair, and I had no issues taking in the exhibits at the museum and the BMW Welt. I will share more information on the Welt later in this post, but will first take a look at the Museum and its exhibits.
The ticket and reception desk is located on the ground floor. Admission is reasonably priced, at €10,00 for adults, and €7,00 for seniors and persons with disabilities. Even if you are in a wheelchair, they may still ask for a disability ID card to honor the reduced rate.
The most popular BMW model line is the 300 series. The exhibit pictured above showcases the evolution of that vehicle. What I noticed was that, compared to other vehicle manufacturers, BMW is great at designing cars that weather time. The 2006 BMW 335i, for example, looks as if it could be a 2016 model.
Many of the museum displays address the history of innovation at BMW. Pictured above is the design prototype for the vehicle that has now become the luxury BMW i8. I was able to see the actual production model, which retails at a starting price of $140,700, in the BMW Welt (more on that later).
BMW has produced a lot of cars, with multiple variants in each model line. This display, one of my favorites in the museum, is a timeline of sorts. The description of this piece is copied below:
Ever since the 1960s, BMW car models have been identifiable from a combination of letters and numbers on the boot lid or tailgate. In the 1970s, a new, universal model numbering principle was adopted. All BMW cars were designated in such a way as to indicate the model line to which they belonged: 3 for midsize cars, 5 for the upper midsize category, 6 for the large coupes and 7 for the large luxury models. This standardised system was developed further and the M, Z and X models added, so that the model designation conveys the character of the BMW car as well as the size of its engine. Additional suffixed letters relate to the type of engine, driveline and body style. BMW intends to retain this characteristic former of model designation for the foreseeable future.
In effect, this display depicts the history of BMW over the past six decades, with each model type emblem hanging from the ceiling, and arranged by decade. As you can see, the number of model types available has increased over time.
Many cars from BMW's history are on display in the museum. I share this one not because it is "funny looking," but because it actually played an important role in the life of the German automaker. From the display caption:
The Isetta "Motocoupe", originally developed by the Italian company Iso, helped BMW to overcome through a difficult commercial phase and avoid dismissing members of its workforce. Various versions of this successful "bubble car" were built, amounting to more than 160,000 by the time production ceased in 1962.
It's a cuttle little bubble car, to be sure!
At the conclusion of the tour, visitors have the opportunity to climb back up through the museum via this ramp that loops around the building. If you're in a manual chair, you might prefer to take the elevator back to the top, where a gift shop awaits.
If you require use of the facilities, this wheelchair accessible bathroom is available. There is plenty of space, even for large powered wheelchairs, and the grab bars can be lifted or folded up to allow for a safe transfer. The sink may be a bit high for some, but it is easy to roll a wheelchair beneath.
The BMW Welt
The BMW Welt is an exhibition facility, located across the street from, and connected by bridge to, the BMW Museum. The Welt showcases the latest BMW car models, allowing customers to experience (and even buy!) the latest vehicles. It is home to multiple BMW brands. Visitors to the museum should definitely make a quick stop at the Welt, to see up close how far BMW innovation has come. The building's architecture, seen in the photograph above, is also worth admiring. Admission to the Welt is free for all, and elevators make all levels of the building wheelchair accessible.
If I could drive, lived in Germany, and was about to take delivery of a BMW I had purchased, I'd do it all at the BMW Welt. The test track pictured above is inside the Welt, and is part of the BMW Delivery Center. While I was at the Welt, no one took delivery of a new vehicle, so I wasn't able to see a shiny vehicle circle the track. It was still a cool photograph anyway!
My travel companion, Ardy the stuffed camel, who I picked up in Dubai, made a new friend in the "M Power" gallery, where the latest in BMW M class vehicles were on display.
The coolest new car on display at the Welt, in my opinion, is the new hybrid i8 sports car. The vehicle can go 0-60 is 4.2 seconds, garners an estimated 76 miles per gallon, and has a range of 330 miles. More from the BMW website:
The BMW i8 is no ordinary sports car. It’s an icon of progress — an extraordinary evolution of The Ultimate Driving Machine®. As a revolutionary plug-in hybrid, this sports car uses eDrive technology to combine the efficiency of an all-electric motor and the power of a TwinPower Turbo engine for an exhilarating driving experience that’s every bit BMW.
Since I had seen the original prototype in the BMW Museum earlier in the day, it was cool to compare how that design had translated into the i8 production model. If I could drive and had $140,000 to spare, this might just be the car for me.
I am embarrassed to admit, I was not aware that BMW is now the parent company of luxury automaker Rolls Royce. While the Rolls Royce display was closed and roped-off during my visit, I was able to get up close to one of the coupes - way too rich for my wallet, but still a beautiful machine!
Mini, first a product of Great Britain, has been owned by BMW since 1994. BMW took over the design and production of the make in 2001. The Mini brand has quite a bit of floor space in the BMW Welt. If you are fascinated by these cars, it's definitely worth a look. One of the original 1959 models is on display in this gallery.
BMW makes motorcycles too, and the motorbike line is afforded quite a bit of space in the BMW Welt. Since I had never been on a motorcycle, except in a video game arcade, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hop on and snap a cool photo. It's not every day that a triple amputee gets on a motorcycle. :p
The BMW Museum and BMW Welt is accessible via public transportation. The nearest U-Bahn station, Olympiazentrum, is 0.5 km away. The station and trains are wheelchair accessible. There are two entrances to the station - only one has an elevator. City bus service is also available from this station, on route number 173.
If you are driving to the museum by car, enter the following address into your GPS:
Am Olympiapark 2
80809 Munich, Germany
Parking is available in a parking garage managed by BMW. The cost of parking is €2,00 for the first hour, and €1,50 for each additional hour, with a maximum fee of €10,00 for the day. More information can be found on the museum website.
BMW has had a major impact on Germany, its history and economy. The BMW Museum does a great job of showcasing the history, development and innovation of the automaker. The connected BMW Welt allows visitors to see how that history has influenced the current line of vehicles. While I'm not a "car guy," I enjoyed the tour and would recommend that visitors to Munich give it a try. The museum exhibits are innovative in themselves, and it is a nice way to slow down the day (or get out of the winter cold, in my case). Pair the BMW Museum and BMW Welt with a tour of the Olympiapark, which is less than 10 minutes away by wheelchair.
For more information, visit the BMW Museum's official website.