Your ultimate automuseum guide – with a map!
Here you will find all the sites I visited, conveniently placed on a single map. This Map includes museums for now, but will be extended with the events I covered so far. Those who scroll down below the map, will find a short summary of the sites.
1. The Riga Motor Museum is the most extraordinary car museum in the continent hands down
The Motor Museum in Riga is an astonishing collection of historical cars in the strictest sense. The collection features many of the official limos of the Soviet Union’s State Secretaries (beast one according to American terminology) that literally made history, along with featured cars from that era.
There are many vehicles that would take the top spot in “western” classic car auctions.
The collection includes many one of a kind vehicles, surrounded by an elegant and neutrally dark environment. The infrastructure I found on par with the most renowned museums, such as Autoworld or Porsche Museum.
This Museum has not been particularly renowned to classic car fans, but after the 2016 refurbishment, it has scaled up a level and is not merely at “Western-level”, but the design and content is on par with the elite centres of premium brands (without their commercial connotations).
The difference is that unlike at the Porsche or the Mercedes factory Museums, most cars in Riga come from the Eastern Block.
2. The Louwman Museum is one of the world’s oldest and most comprehensive car collection
The Louwman Museum is certainly enormous and one of the most comprehensive and balanced exhibitions encompassing all ages and regions of the world.
The Museum experience takes on a ride as if we were sitting on a cultural roller coaster, where the discreet twilight quarters allow to rest our mind until the next breathtaking extravaganza is coming.
The plan of the museum follows a perfect choreography, and the quality (layout, concept, and the “script”) is comparable with the best factory museums, but the Lowman Museum created a warm and colourful ambient of an Art Gallery instead of a cold professionalism that often engulfs the factory museums.
3. Autoworld a revolving door to automotive legends
The Belgian national museum is one of the closest located museums, and gives plenty of reasons to go for a subscription. I am planning to write a more comprehensive post on the permanent exhibition of Autoworld at some stage, but the real deal is the series of guest exhibitions in the annual calendar.
The Museum usually hosts four-six major exhibitions a year, where several dozen cars occupy the main gallery on the first floor.
In between the main exhibitions, two ground floor exposition spaces are available for smaller (sometimes ad hoc) exhibitions encompassing about a dozen cars.
These shows often serve as warm-ups, e.g. before the quite impressive Ferrari 70 exhibition, the ground floor welcomed a surprisingly comprehensive expo about the 50-year-old Dino engine and the short-lived Dino brand.
4. The Spa Francorchamps’ Museum is a worthy detour from the heat of the action
En route to the Spa Classic 2018 race, I finally managed to see the official Museum of the Spa Francorchamps Race Track.
The Museum is located in the cellar of the Monastery of Stavelot, near the administrative focal point of the region, and provides an excellent insight into racing and the long history of this classic race track.
5. Toyota Collection is a must see for every enthusiast of the brand
As the name suggests, the Toyota Collection is not a factory museum, but a private collection of a German Toyota dealer/fan curated by Toyota Germany that brought them to Cologne, following the passing away of the collector. Ad hoc public openings are scheduled to the first Saturday of each month, and it is certainly worth the detour.
The Toyota collection is a must-see for all, who are interested in Toyotas from the past 40 years. Although the styling of the Collection cannot be compared with the leading factory museums from the south of Germany, but the contribution by Toyota Motorsport and the historical value of the collection makes it an interesting programme for those who pass by Cologne.
6. Classic Remise Dusseldorf – Carspotting level 10.000
The Classic Remise Düsseldorf is a service center specializing in classic and luxury cars, set up in a refurbished locomotive garage. I had a quick peek and a memorable lunch there last year, en route to the Techno Classica 2017, and another visit in 2018.
Classic Remise is a comprehensive service center for classic car owners, but for us mortals, it proves to be an impressive museum.
7. Kunstpalast – Art meets Automotive at the PS I Love you exhibition in Düsseldorf
At the Kunstpalast I encountered the most improbable combination of Art and technology. The closest thing that comes to my mind is the recent Grand Basel Exhibition.
The Museum and Gallery in Düsseldorf is a purpose-built cultural event hall, with a parking leading straight to the cloakroom, where you can also ask for portable stools, in case you wish to spend longer time before the artefacts, to let impressions sink in.
The PS I love you exhibition is a small but very impressive special exhibition, gathering about 30 high-class sports cars from the 1950s to the 1970s, with a wide variety of design, origin and purpose. In case you were wondering about the name, PS means HP as Horsepower, hence the name has a double edge.
Nevertheless, when it came to the assembling of the artifacts, they were certainly not kidding. The cars featured in the exhibition set standards in automobile design and technology and today rank among the very icons of the history of automotive design and technology.
8. Motorworld Rheinland – The Schumacher Collection is an emotional journey through the career of the greatest F-1 Legend
The exhibition was set up in Motorworld Rheinland, in a renovated airfield building at the outskirt of Cologne. Motorworld is a network of premium classic and luxury car centres in Germany, offering classic and modern rarities, luxury automobiles and bikes.
In addition to the Schumacher Collection, the Motorworld Köln / Rheinland offers glass boxes for exotic private vehicles, specialized workshops, premium shops for accessories, and a catering. The collection is accessible free of charge, and the opening hours are really generous.
9. Musée de l’Aventure Peugeot – from Art Nouveau to Futurism
The factory museum of the Peugeot brand, is located in Socheaux, at the cradle of Peugeot in the south-east of France, not far away from the French national car museum, which makes it an ideal additional programme for visitors to Mulhouse.
The Museum opened its doors to the public in July 1988, and displays pretty much everything that carried the name Peugeot, not just the collections of automobiles and concept cars but, also race cars, bikes, tools and household goods.
The Peugeot Museum offers enough experience for a good half a day easily, but those who wish to spend an entire day, there is a two-hour factory visit available on reservation.
10. Cité de l’Automobile – the World’s greatest collection of automobiles
The Cité de l’Automobile is often cited as the greatest auto museum in the world. Having seen some of the best Museums in Europe, I always read these claims and statements with a bit of disbelief. Thus, I planned a visit to the Peugeot Museum in Sochaux for the same day, in order to best use the time available, as Mulhouse is about an hour drive from there.
I arrived from Sochaux to the Cité by noon, and left with a completely exhausted body and overloaded mind. I have no doubt now, that the Cité is the greatest car collection in the world.
The motor car experience area is the central area of the former factory complex, converted into a gigantic 17,000 m² hall, lit by 800 art nouveau lampions.
About 250 cars from 1878 through to the present today are parked in this endless hall following a timeline, where each row illustrates a different era. In practice, this results in endless lines of cars reaching so far, that one cannot recognise where the rows end.
But it’s more than being excessively huge, it excels in every area, from interactive and educational sections to children’s corner, race cars from all ages and sports, modern and even some contemporary cars, great design and consistent architecture, all the boxes are checked.
I could find single aspects where the Louwman or Mercedes Museum can beat the Cité, but the credit for overall excellence goes to Mulhouse.
11. The Auto and Technical Museum Sinsheim offers a lot more than cars
The Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim is a versatile technical museum, showcasing all kind of vehicles from bikes to the Concorde supersonic passenger airplane.
It keeps dozens of exciting cars, such as F1 race cars and supercars, but it’s the variety that really strikes out in comparison to many other museums. It takes almost a full day just to browse through hundreds of elegant vintage cars, motorcycles high in horsepower, racy sports cars, colourful dragsters, powerful agricultural machines, Formula-1 legends, nostalgic racing bikes, steam locomotives, and an extensive militaria (tanks of all epochs, fighter planes, helicopters and other vehicles).
In the epicentre of all main European routes, it is easier to pass by than to get around Sinsheim (or at least Heilbronn), wherever your road may lead. It’s impossible to miss the two supersonic passenger planes by the highway chasing each other in take-off angle. Sinsheim delivers that, and much more.
They got historical and modern airliners, trains, and a freakin’ Space Shuttle next door in Speyer (a real one, bought legally from the Russians). And the cars, I mean, its like they were selected specifically to impress even next to a fighter plane.
The Museum is as colourful and thrilling as a theme park, and it also offers a lot of activities for children (of all age between 3 and 99 years), from IMAX movie theatre to a number of playground and activity areas. I simply can not find any good reason to pass, there is a lot for everybody.
12. The Technik Museum Speyer – size does matter
The Speyer site is a bit more hidden than the one in Sinheim, but lies comfortably close. During my automotive road trip, I managed to access it with a slight detour (north of Mannheim, close to the Hockenheim race track) en route from the Cité de l’ Automobile in Mulhouse to the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.
I did like the Sinsheim site, but Speyer outperformed it in many ways. It also proved to be a refreshing change between the French and the German car museums. The Technical Museum can hold its own, and at the same time, it was able to distinguish itself also from every other museum including its sister site.
While I barely managed to run through the site in two hours, I did not spend time anywhere, like walking to the tip of the 747’s wing, or even entering the planes and boats, not to mention enjoying a movie in the IMAX cinema.
Ideally, the two sites can be combined and can offer a full day programme easily, but don’t make the mistake to underestimate the Speyer Museum, because size does matter…
13. The Mercedes Museum is an unrivalled collection of legends
The Mercedes Museum is one of the best factory car museums of the Continent, that could easily make it among the best car museums in the world, and my impressions were confirmed by every visit. It is located at Mercedes’s headquarters in Stuttgart.
It is difficult to say whether the quantity or quality is more astonishing in the Mercedes Museum. It’s not unrivalled in its pursuit of perfection, there are quite a few national museums and private collections that go beyond storing and presenting national cultural heritage.
The National Museum of Italy in Turin or the Dutch Lowman Collection also have a great design, and the museums of many competing brands are also conceived and accented by talented professional designers.
The really impressive ingredient is the history of the brand as Mercedes stormed and often reached the peak and it competed almost everywhere throughout the decades.
Speed record in the ’30s, which remained valid until today, unrivalled racing record, there is hardly any area where the brand did not excel. For me, the most impressive aspect is still what the Museum did not expose, as it shows only a fraction of Mercedes’s past, present and success.
There is no cult built around personalities, even if Mercedes employed legendary engineers and designers such as Ferdinand Porsche, Paul Bracq and Bruno Sacco. There are a number of brilliant concept cars I recall from other occasions. I did not encounter the ground-breaking or category-creating models and there must be at least a dozen more Formula-1 champion cars that were not on display.
I am pretty sure, that any other brand would probably feature them as most cherished trophies. Thus the most impressive aspect of the Mercedes Museum for me is what has not been included in the exhibition, but would steal the show at any other museum.
14. The Porsche Museum was the right place to celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary
When in Stuttgart, the Porsche factory museum is a must see. Last summer, I passed by for the third time, and I always leave speechless. The Porsche paradise is located near Porsche’s main factory site, the address is Porsche Platz 1 (What did you expect? : ) ) 70435 Stuttgart.
The site hosts a flagship dealership with exquisite test drive possibilities (for payment), and offers an unforgettable insight into the brand’s past, present and future.
The Museum is also supported by an extensive warehouse and restoration centre that allows a considerable variation and targeted temporary exhibitions, hence I always try to pass by if possible, usually in combination with the Mercedes Museum.
The Porsche Museum is a compulsory program for all car maniacs who pass by the south of Germany, not just for the brand enthusiasts. It’s a great showcase of the brand’s commitment to motorsports, the variety of production models, but most of all the evolution that the brand has gone through over the past seven decades.
15. Mazda Classic Automobile Museum Frey
I discovered a Mazda Museum halfway between Stuttgart and Munich. The Automobil Museum Frey is a private collection, run by a local German Mazda dealer, Mr. Walter Frey, but it is still able to leave a lasting impression, despite the absence of factory support.
I really don’t want the exaggerate or create false expectations. At the same time, the Mazda Museum is just halfway between Stuttgart and Munich and thus an ideal stopover to see something refreshing.
Although the whole museum thing appears to be far away from the modernist Japanese spirit, I hope that one day the Mazda HQ also start to appreciate such European initiatives and donate from the factory museum a few exotic rarities and unique pieces.
16. The Audi Museum is a must-see for every enthusiast
I was curious how the brand carrying the logo of the historical Auto Union company will present its past. I could also admire the efforts of many brands keeping their history in the limelight on events like the Retromobile and Techno Classica, and I really wondered, what avenues Audi will take, given the brand’s fable for modernism.
The Audi Forum solves this dilemma, by taking on the role of keeping memories for all the brands of the former Auto Union, that no longer exist.
The Audi Museum may not be as overwhelming, like the ones in Stuttgart. It is also true that a lot of cars have been left out of the exhibition from the glorious past of the brand(s) with four rings.
Some of which are probably lurking in the warehouse of the museum, providing dozens of reasons to come back when they will be on stage. Nevertheless, the Museum experience was impeccable, and it has preserved the memories of brands like Horch, Wanderer, NSU, and Auto Union itself.
17. The BMW World showcases design icons, racing legends and a bold vision that nobody asked for
BMW’s headquarters were on my bucket list for a long time. Finally, I had my chance to visit this December, when BMW World was among the few Museums in Central Europe that remained open between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
BMW World is located in the outskirts of Munich, by the headquarters and the factory, recently extended by a classic car centre. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bavaria and regularly hosts events (one of them proved to be fateful to my last visit). Evidently, the focus in on the Bavarian brand’s history, present and future.
BMW World offers a great deal of attractions, programs and lasting memories to everyone that is genuinely worth a full-day programme, not just to spend an hour before picking up a car from the factory.
Strictly speaking, the museum is no match for the best factory museums, like Porsche or Mercedes, the other departments, however, will more than outbalance this. For those who are not specifically interested in old cars, the BMW World can possibly offer the most balanced automotive programme.
18. Porsche Fahrtraum: the private collection of the Porsche Family is the best-kept secret car museum
I discovered one of the best-kept secret of Austria, the private collection of the Porsche family. The Collection is run by Ernst Piech, the eldest grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. The Museum is quite well hidden, located in Mattsee near the city of Salzburg, in a cozy corner of the lake.
Fahrtraum is a perfect addition to the Porsche Museum, I am truly astonished about the novelties I learned in Mattsee.
With a stronger focus on the work of Ferdinand Sr and on Austrian car industry, the exhibition holds its own, and is definitely a must-see for car enthusiasts looking for something beyond the trivial.
19. At Hangar 7 the private collection of the Red Bull founder resurrects the inner child in all of us
A helicopter in front of you, a jet plane behind you, a racing car next to you, and you hear a bell ringing, what’s your next move? – If your guess would be to get off a carousel, you are now wrong…
Because you are at Hangar 7, the Headquarters of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in Salzburg Austria, and the bell signals the elevator to leave behind one of the most versatile and spectacular collections in Europe and to take you to one of Austria’s best restaurants.
The collection is very colourful and versatile, and well illustrates the sense of adventure of Mr. Mateschitz. At the same time, it is not bound by corporate identity to remain cold and technical, like some of the premium luxury brand’s factory museums.
I had the impression that Hangar 7 reflects the success of a man who built his empire from scratch and the brash glamour, with the sharp contrasts and brilliant colours are a testimony of his success.
20. the Italian national Auto Museum in Turin
the Italian National Auto Museum, located in the city of Turin in the heart of the Italian automotive industry and home of FIAT. It might be worth noting, that the museum is not the only automotive attraction in the city of Turin.
The greater area used to host the magnificent Bertone Collection, before it went bankrupt, and the Pininfarina museum can in principle still be visited (even if per rendezvous), but they did not respond to my approaches. In addition,there is a smaller factory museum in Turin, operated by FIAT.
The MAuto in Turin is a special place for automotive pilgrims. Its variety and comprehensive exhibition make it a perfect destination for fans of automotive history, and the neighbouring Pininfarina Museum should dismiss any remaining doubts about the trip (if one can get in).
The area where MAuto excels, is the interactivity and consequently the ability to accommodate children who will follow the exhibition with great interest. It is impossible to be the best in everything, but the interactivity and the magnificent style of the museum allows it beat some of the top contenders for the best museum title.