BMW invites car lovers to cruise around museum

By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 2008

It may become as much a draw for architects as for car enthusiasts.

One of the newest attractions on the Munich landscape is BMW Welt. It’s an impressive venue that features innovative architecture, the latest wheels, and, as the chief executive stated at the grand opening, “a deeper insight into the world of BMW.”

Munich, which this year is celebrating its 850th birthday, offers a wide variety of things to see, do and experience. The list is long, from royal palaces and historic churches, bars and discotheques to dozens of museums and theaters. BMW Welt, located by the old Olympic Park, west of Englischer Garten, takes a place beside them.

BMW Welt opened to the public in late October. It is in a cluster of buildings with the BMW Munich Plant and the automaker’s museum, which opened in 1973 and is currently closed for redesign and expansion. It is scheduled to reopen in the spring.

The new center has a most unusual appearance. The roof looks like a giant Pringle potato chip — the company prefers “rising cloud” — and special events are held in what is called the “double cone,” a distinctively twisted, glass-plated structure.

“It’s wonderful, so amazing,” Ignacio Pardo, a Spanish exchange student, said as he stood inside the structure, looking across the plaza floor.

“I’m a student, with a rucksack, and I can get close to a BMW650.”

Essentially, the building is a showroom, though not in the conventional sense.

Sure, it has the full display of cars and motorcycles — and customers can pick up their new vehicles there — but the facility also features several unique interactive stations. There, enthusiasts can learn about engines, fuel admissions, car design, and even the yachts BMW builds and sponsors for international competitions.

“I’m a big sports guy, but I like cars, too,” said 21-year-old Chris Neeser, a visiting Canadian. “This is cool stuff. I don’t normally see BMW bikes.”

One of the best things about BMW Welt is that it’s free. Guided tours of the plant cost money — 6 euros for adults — but there’s nothing wrong with just wandering the floor, checking out the goods of one of the most respected and preeminent car makers.

Pardo, who is studying industrial engineering, intends to work for BMW when he graduates. He was impressed by what he saw.

BMW Welt and all that it displays “is an investment by BMW,” Pardo reasoned. Coming here “gives people a positive view of the brand.”

Directions: The complex is near Olympia Park, site of 1972 Summer Games, in the northern part of Munich. From the Mittlerer Ring, B2R, follow signs for Olympic Park, and shortly after the park, turn onto Lerchenauer Strasse. A multi-story parking garage is near BMW Welt. By subway, take U-Bahn 3 to Olympiazentrum.

Times: Main plaza is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; tours end at 4 p.m. Junior Campus, BMW shop, coffee bar and bistro close at 7 p.m. Both restaurants serve until midnight.

Costs: Entrance to plaza is free. Tours cost 7 euros per person. It typically includes the plant and museum. Parking costs 1.50 euros per hour, with a maximum of 10 euros.

Food: Bistro offers snacks, healthy and otherwise. A soda goes for 2.45 euros, cappuccino 2.60 euros, sandwiches 3 euros. Second-floor restaurant has hot food, while a third-floor club/restaurant draws late-night crowd.

Information: BMW Welt’s Web site is www.bmw-welt.com. It includes driving directions, an interactive map and a virtual tour of the grounds. The complex’s telephone number is 0180-211-8822 (costs 6 euro cents per minute).

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