The four-cylindered BMW headquarters is one of Munich’s most distinctive landmarks. Next to it is a monument to four-wheeled (and two-wheeled) driving pleasure in the form of the BMW Museum, covering almost a century in the German automotive company’s history.
From the outside, the museum’s most prominent feature is a futuristic silver “bowl” which houses temporary exhibitions arranged around a ramp (think of a cross between New York’s Guggenheim Museum and a car park on Mars). The permanent display, on the other hand, unfolds in the adjacent building. There, a one-kilometer (1,100-yard) route explores every aspect of the company’s world-famous creations. But rather than dutifully ticking off the chronological milestones, it instead leads visitors through a series of high-tech thematic displays arranged in “houses”. Topics include design, motorcycles, technology, motor sport, the different series, and the company itself.
From its origins in aircraft engine production through the earliest cars produced by the “Bayerische Motoren Werke”, original Formula 1 racing cars and the high-value models presented in the sepulchral “Treasury”, the gamut of BMW products is here. And as well as looking back at the past, the exhibits peer into the future, with prototypical vehicles representing the company’s concern (or guilty conscience) about automotive pollution and energy sustainability.
Displays also show the development of the BMW brand, one of the world’s best-known, which shares its branding colors with its home state of Bavaria. It goes without saying that you’ll need at least a passing interest in cars or bikes, otherwise the BMW Museum will feel like a very loud advertisement you can’t turn off.