BMW Welt – Wonderland of cars
Visit to the Munich BMW Welt takes you on a trip through history of car, technology, world – and through a possible future. All that, with a touch of best gastronomy in Munich, make the BMW Welt the most visited wonder of Bavaria
The birthday boy is one hundred years old and ready for the future. BMW is planning numerous projects for their next one hundred years and we were lucky enough to take a peek at some of them during our recent visit to the Bavarian car kingdom. BMW Welt, the grand cathedral of car building, is the most popular tourist attraction in that German federal state, whose charms lure in more than three million visitors annually. Our visit to the futuristic wonder that is BMW Welt, was organized by Tomić & Co., the brand’s importer for Croatia and we were given the VIP treatment. One look at the BMW Welt is enough to understand the appeal of this complex to both car aficionados and otherwise non-car crazy tourists. The building is an attraction in itself: built in the form of a growing tornado, in mighty metal and glass, it’s the perfect visual representation of the equally powerful brand. Architect Wold D. Prix beat 274 competitors to win the bragging rights for this complex, which was opened in October 2007 to great pomp and under the motto ‘fits the future’. The form of the building proved a real challenge for all those involved – the architectural wonder spans over 16,000 square meters, has 30,000 sq.m. of outside walls, yet curiously, stands on merely eleven structural columns – albeit made from 4,000 tons of steel. The piece de resistance of the complex is the tornado building, the Double Cone, a glass structure 35 meters tall and 45 meters in diameter. German perfectionism on the outside, surprisingly relaxed atmosphere inside. Once you step into the complex, you’ll find yourself doubting every unflattering word ever said about the German coldness: we were welcomed like old friends. Despite the relatively high number of visitors that day, the space was un-cramped, the circulation perfectly oiled. BMW Welt is one giant open space, which is something only believed when seen. With barely any rooms and spaces protected by walls visible, there exist 1,000 rooms for various service employees hidden in the complex – that keep everything running smoothly.
All this perfection aside, what you really notice in the BMW Welt are the cars. Each car brand owned by the BMW Group (MINI, BMW, Rolls-Royce) is represented by their finest model, as are electric cars and motorcycles by BMW Motorrad. Between 80 and 120 cars and bikes are on permanent display and on the day of our visit a Rolls Wraith (632hp) was among them. BMW Welt is the only showroom of this kind for Rolls-Royce outside the UK, access to this area is generally restricted – not for us though, we managed to sit behind the wheel of the elegant monster, the most expensive car in the complex and get to know everything about it. The other English brand, so very different from the so very English Rolls-Royce is the lovable MINI. The MINI’s space in the center (aptly named BeMINI) takes up 800 sq.m., and charms with the feeling of freedom and adventure that has, since forever, been connected with the brand. On those 800 sq.m. we saw a wooden bike, an original 1965 Austin MINI Cooper, the new MINI Cabrio, and listened to music in a showroom designed to look like a MINI cockpit. The BMW Welt’s BMW area is a temple, the most popular part of the complex that houses all the current models of the brand. A significant part of that space is dedicated to the new BMW 7: guests can sit back and relax in the cozy Series 7 lounge, learn about the series and enjoy the Series 7 signature scent. In a typically smart, German move, the Welt has a dedicated space for children. The Junior Campus (probably adored by parents and kids alike) is a fun space where kids can learn about core values of the Group, sustainability and mobility, attend workshops to let their imagination roam and create car-themed works of mini-art, all under the mindful eye of professional child care providers and, curiously, with no BMW logo anywhere in sight. More than 20,000 children visit the Junior Campus each year, leaving behind them 4,500 works of their automotive art. In BMW Welt the logo might not be plastered everywhere, but the brand feeling scents the air, as does the flair of another worldwide present partner brand: Samsung. The mobile technology giant and the car builder joined heads to create the iSmart Home section, where the wonders of technology integration will both leave you in awe and make you think. BMW and Samsung use virtual reality to demonstrate the possibilities – still limited, but already there – of such integration: sitting in your home, you can call the car to come and meet you in the front yard; sitting in your car, you can dial up the house and have it prepare a cup of coffee, hot and ready when you walk through the door. The technology that is still tiptoeing out of the science fiction realm will hopefully soon turn into the new norm.
Future on the left, past on the right: standing proudly next to some of the most modern cars of the present, as well as the obviously futuristic electric cars in the Born Electric section, is the tiny Isetta; a BMW car popular after World war II and sold in over 277,000 units. Car technology has undoubtedly made some great progress in the past fifty years. BMW Welt is more than a giant car salon, or even more than a museum; it really is a world on its own. The complex also houses the Event forum – a multi-functional convention center that has housed over 400 events attended by 45,000 visitors last year – used by the Group’s brands, political parties and rock bands, whose eclectic recent list of stars include Chancellor Angela Merkel and Coldplay. One level up from the Forum is the motorcycle temple and next to it, the food court. Visitors can choose from the Bikers’ lodge, the family-oriented Cooper S restaurant, the local delight Bavaria restaurant and the exclusive 45-place restaurant Ess Zimmer, with the view of the entire Welt and food by the Michelin 2-star chef – Bobby Bräuer with his nine sous-chefs. The restaurant is the latest must-try gastro-heaven in Bavaria, visited by food lovers and car lovers alike. Those who prefer not to drive after dinner can, no surprise there, arrange for a free transfer back home in a BMW. As VIP guests we were allowed into another important part of BMW Welt – the Delivery center, where cars are handed over to their new owners. The owners first meet their car in an almost solemn, museum-like atmosphere, as the cars await them on a raised platform one story up from the general visitors’ area. The client is treated like a VIP, be they Usain Bolt (who came to Bavaria for delivery of his M3), regular families, or members of overseas BMW fan clubs. The small distance between the garage to the delivery center is enough to make up for one million of kilometers each years. Speaking of the garage, it is also out of reach for the ordinary visitor, tucked in the lower levels of the center. It is there that the new cars are spruced up for their new owners; during our guided tour of that area we saw many ‘regular’ models and several exclusive ones, like the 700-piece limited edition M4 GTS. The cars come there straight from the factory, they are washed (with just 1% of the water lost in the process, as most of it recycled), their systems go through a wake-up cycle and are thoroughly tested, upon which the cars are temporarily stored in a climate-control room with low oxygen atmosphere, to minimize the risk of fire. The process, which gets 160 cars ready for delivery a day, is so well automated that it only requires assistance of twenty employees. One thing that needs to be said about BMW Welt is that the visit to it requires physical fitness – there is so much to see and try that it’s a real shame to miss anything due to fatigue. The final piece of the BMW Welt puzzle is visually the most recognized: the Double Cone. This alien-looking glass and metal structure houses the future of the brand. Visitors can take photos with the virtual BMW of the future, learn about the revolutionary gyro system that will one day make motorcycles perfectly stable and fall-resistant, or find out what BMW has in store for the future of mobility. After that trip into the future, they can go back in time – roughly one hundred years back – and visit the BMW museum, set up in an adjacent building. The glorious past of the brand that – as we’ve learned in the museum – owes a lot to the development of airplane engines is presented in a memorable, interesting way, in the form of a journey through the most important moments of the past century, automotive and historical.
Those who can still stand, walk and breathe after visiting BMW Welt can continue learning about the brand in the nearby main BMW plant and visit famous Four-cylinder administrative building. Visitors can take organized tours for BMW Welt, the BMW Compact Tour tells visitors all they need to know about the building and its special architecture and sheds light on how it was built, as well as the complex logistics of automobile delivery, while the BMW Welt Architecture Tour puts the building and its interior and exterior design in the spotlight. Guided tours of the BMW Museum and the BMW plant are also available. BMW Welt is a curious and delightful automotive temple, a multi-brand technology theme park, an architectural wonder of the modern world, a food-lover’s dream, and a car-salon par excellence. Equally interesting to tourists visiting Bavaria, BMW owners, or those only dreaming of joining their ranks, BMW Welt is a perfectly German creation – just another step toward being the best. We came, we learned, we had endless fun – and we’ve seen the future.