Saturday, March 16, 2013

Motoring in Munich, part zwei

The stunning architecture of BMW Welt
(zwei is two, in German)
Now to the good stuff. After refueling at the BMW Museum M1 Cafe with some espresso and ice cream, we finally headed to BMW Welt to spend the rest of the afternoon checking out all the latest and greatest from BMW. And to spend more money in the gift shop (in case the Museum gift shop wasn't enough).

The main floor lobby is dazzling, with soon to be launched cars for you to check out, a luxurious Rolls Royce turning slowly on a pedestal (while attendants lovingly polish off your messy handprints), and comfy white leather couches for you to relax on. Construction was just getting underway for the Mini Cooper exhibit, so I can only imagine all the kid friendly things they've come up with to go with the fun Mini brand.

BMW Welt interior, publicity photo
All throughout the day there are demonstrations with sports cars, motorcycles, or vintage cars vrooming their way across the main floor. You won't want to miss the motorcycle stuntman making his way up and down the two steep staircases leading to the second floor. And wherever you are, it's impossible to miss the roaring engine of the powerful BMW M3 GT4 racing car as it circles the lobby.

The Junior Campus, also on the first floor, offers a play space and all levels of educational programs for kids. We were already overwhelmed with so many things to do that we skipped it. If you're interested in the Junior Campus, register as soon as you get there in the morning, as the English workshops are limited. Registration and schedules are at the information desk in the center of the lobby near the elevators.

We signed up to take a guided tour of the building, and I would highly recommend doing this, especially with the kids. We learned so much about the award winning architecture, and the guide pointed out lots of hidden details we would have missed. We got to go behind the scenes and take a peek inside the massive garage where soon to be delivered cars are stored. The highlight for the little C&Gs was watching a robotic arm retrieve the cars from their slot and putting them onto a conveyer belt. Kind of like a grown up version of the Fisher Price garage. Topics & sights vary on the different tours, so check with the information desk when you first arrive at BWM Welt.

Factory tours are also possible with a little online planning. There are limited English tours, so be sure to email them up to six months in advance. The boys would have loved this, kind of like a Discovery Channel show come to life, but we weren't able to do it. The plant was closed for it's annual two week vacation, which they do every year in early August. All four of us C&Gs were pretty disappointed but I plan on using it as an excuse to plan a return trip to Munich.

If you have any interest in test driving your favorite BMW, there is a registration desk in the lobby where you can do just that for a small fee. When we were there, a few new cars were available that hadn't come out in the US yet. It would have been fun to get behind the wheel of the new X1 SAV before it arrived on our shores, or maybe one of the small sports cars. But we needed to save our Euros for more mini cars from the gift shop.

Motorcycles aren't our thing, although I think the boys might disagree. Outside the building and inside on the second floor there were plenty of motorcycles on display for climbing on and "test driving". Little C&G couldn't resist jumping on and pretending he was making a break for it, with his big brother along for the ride. They would have happily hopped from bike to bike for hours (vroom is the same in German as it is in English), but we were starting to lose steam and it was time to head to the main floor gift shop.

If you need a set of luggage, golf clubs, sailing attire, workout gear, baby clothes, umbrellas, hats, or just a pen, you'll find it in the gift shop with a BMW logo attached. Thankfully we made it out without any of these, but a dozen of the little mini Isetta cars did come home with us. A full selection of BMW history and design books can be found in the second floor gift shop and at the Museum gift shop. The second floor is also where you'll find the elegant restaurant and lounge. We didn't try it, but I certainly would have been happy relaxing with a glass of wine while overlooking all the action down below.

Entrance to BMW Welt is free (cars are extra), and the building is open daily from 7:30am to midnight. A small grab and go food counter offers up drinks and light snacks in the main lobby, and bathrooms are downstairs on the lower level. Spending the day in one spot was a nice break from touring around the city of Munich, and there was plenty to keep us all interested. We even found cocktails. And of course ice cream, which is the next best thing to gelato.

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