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Mercedes-Benz can claim the longest history of any automotive brand: It traces its roots back to the three-wheeled Karl Benz Patent Motorwagen of 1886 and Gottlieb Daimler's horseless carriage of the same year.
Today, in the German city where the auto industry was born, DaimlerChrysler is wowing domestic and foreign visitors with the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Museum, which claims to be "the only museum in the world able to present the 120-year history of the automotive industry from day one."
The current building replaces a museum from 1961 that attracted some 500,000 visitors per year. It's a remarkable structure for many reasons, including the techniques that were used to design and build the cloverleaf-inspired building with its complex geometrical shapes, "double helix" interior layout, and 1,800 triangular panes of glass (no two of which are identical).
What you'll see:
When you visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum, you'll enter a large atrium with three elevators that run along exposed tracks on the concrete walls.
During your ride to the top floor, you'll view projected automotive video clips on the atrium's concrete walls. (The images are projected from the elevators, so they ride up with you to the top floor.)
On the ninth or uppermost level, you'll have a choice between two routes: The chronolological or "Legend" route takes you though 120 years of Mercedes-Benz automotive history, while the other, with its "Collection" exhibits, displays passenger cars, buses, and trucks by category or function (such as travel, freight hauling, and emergency services).
The two routes intersect at each level, which means that--for example--you could begin by following the chronological "Legend" route and cross to a "Collection" room on each level as you followed the gently spiraling ramp downhill.
(If this sounds complicated, don't worry; seeing the entire museum is much simpler than it sounds, though you should plan on spending at least two hours, and preferably half a day, to sample the museum's full range of exhibits.)
You needn't be a car buff to enjoy the Mercedes-Benz Museum: The exhibits include interesting tidbits of social and political history, celebrity cars (such as the Jurassic Park "Lost World" sport-utility vehicle and John Paul II's "Popemobile"), and video terminals.
The 33 "Extras" add touches of intrigue, intellectual stimulation, or whimsy. (For example, there's a display for the Wunder Baum pine-tree air freshener, shown at right, which was invented in 1951.)
The Mercedes-Benz Museum's exhibit labels are among the best I've seen in any museum, and audio guides are offered in eight languages, with special children's audio texts available on request.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is part of the Mercedes-Benz campus in Untertürkheim, just across the Neckar River from Stuttgart's city center.
From the Hauptbahnhof or main railroad station in Stuttgart, take the S1 subway train two stops to "Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion." Follow the signs to the museum, which is across Mercedesstrasse and a few meters down the road from the football stadium.
For more detailed instructions on how to reach the museum by car, by train, or from Stuttgart Airport, see our page of directions to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum's hours were in flux the last time we updated this article, so click here for current information.
Ticket prices vary, depending on whether you're an adult, a student, a child, a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club, etc. Guided tours and use of the Simulator ride cost extra.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum was designed to meet or exceed 21st Century accessibility standards.
The shops on the lower level of the museum have souvenirs, auto accessories, car models, logo wear, toys, books, etc. for visitors of all ages.
(If you want to buy a restored classic car as a memento, skip the shops and head directly to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center a few kilometers down the road.)
The museum has a very pleasant bistro, a full-service restaurant, a bar with an outdoor terrace in nice weather, and a café.
The Mercedes-Benz Center
Are you looking for a new car? Do you just want to look at new cars? If so, the (not to be confused with the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center), which is connected to the museum by an 80-meter passage, is worth a peek.
The Mercedes-Benz Center is a cross between a World's Fair pavilion and a car dealership, with 130 examples of current vehicles on display. It also has regularly changing exhibitions on research, car design, safety, etc. If you've picked up a new Mercedes during your trip, you can get it tweaked or tuned in one of the dealership's 16 service bays.
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Allow time for a side trip to the nearby Gottlieb Daimler Memorial, where the inventor of the modern internal-combustion gasoline engine pioneered a "universal motor" for horseless carriages, the world's first motorcycle, and the world's first motorboat.
(The greenhouse-workshop is located in the Kurpark of Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, which you can easily reach by car or public transportation from the city center.)
Stuttgart is also the capital of Baden-Württemberg ("the sunny side of Germany") and is a port of call for cruise vessels on the Neckar River, which runs past the city center.
If you come during Advent, don't miss the Stuttgart Christmas Market, which is said to be one of the largest in Europe.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum opened in May, 2006. Its innovative design uses techniques that were developed for bridge-building.
Elevators climb the concrete walls of the museum's atrium. Automotive movie clips are projected during the ride up, giving you a foretaste of the Mercedes-Benz Museum experience.
From the museum's eighth or top floor, you can walk down ramps that give a choice of two tour routes: the "Legend" route (showing the development of the autombile) and the "Collection Route" (with vehicles and other exhibits grouped by function).
These two vehicles are from the Legend 1 collection, "Pioneers -- The Invention of the Autombile, 1886 to 1900." The two cars in the photo are Karl Benz's "Velo" (1894) and the earlier Benz Patent Motorwagen (1886).
Vehicles on display range from sports and passenger cars to trucks and buses (among them, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland Weltmeisterschaft football-team bus behind the vintage roadster in the picture above).
Mercedes-Benz has a long racing tradition, and race cars from different eras are displayed on a simulated track.
Photos 1,2,3,7,11,14-20 copyright © Mercedes-Benz.
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