STUTTGART – MERCEDES OR PORSCHE MUSEUM?
Mercedes-Benz. Porsche. Two of the most iconic names in automobile production. Brands that have become symbols of status and speed. Stuttgart serves as the spiritual home of both Mercedes and Porsche and subsequently you will find fascinating museums dedicated to both. For any keen car enthusiast, the city of Stuttgart in Germany’s southwest is essential with both museums on the agenda. But what can you expect from each? And which is more like your kind of car museum? The Mercedes and Porsche Museums of Stuttgart are both a first class exhibition of automotive production history. Read below for a summary that gives a taster of what to expect.
PRACTICALITIES – GETTING THERE
Prior to visiting Stuttgart, I thought of visiting both in one day. Very tempting in principle but is it a good idea? My honest answer is NO. The Mercedes-Benz Museum (on the eastern side of Stuttgart) and Porsche Museum (on the northwestern outskirts) are on different sides of the city. Even with efficient tram and S-Bahn services it would take approximately 40 minutes to go from one to the other. Take into consideration as well the need to change at different stops. Unless you are the early bird who does not plan to spend more than two hours at either. But to get a proper appreciation of two fascinating museums without being in a hurry, I do recommend you dedicate separate days to each. This for maximum experience. Again, especially if you are the automobile expert as both museums will fascinate.
WHAT KIND OF CAR PERSON ARE YOU?
It is notable to take into consideration both companies and their histories. Porsche has always been synonymous with fast racing cars and the world of auto sports. Mercedes, as the pioneer of the automobile today as we know it, does cover a broad spectrum. The Mercedes-Benz Museum definitely does feel like a journey through time following the car’s evolution. An exhibition of how different makes of vehicle (be it for personal or recreational use) fits in with the times with accompanying newsreels and soundbites for authenticity. Also here there is a bit of focus on the technical construction aspects of the vehicles, so certainly great for those looking to learn something from the engineering aspect. You will see here the vehicles that came in various shapes and sizes.
In comparison, the Porsche Museum is not as big but this also gives an informative timeline of the company’s development and the different makes. However, here the focus is much more on sports cars more than anything, as evidenced by the past victories in Le Mans and the Daytona rally.
Both museums do have a fair share of interactive features that provide you with the opportunity to test your knowledge and skills. Stuttgart is not Stuttgart without Porsche or Mercedes!
The nearest S-Bahn station Mercedesstrasse) is approximately a ten-minute walk away from the museum. Bus nos. 45 and 56 can also take you to the arena immediately opposite the museum. The Mercedes-Benz Arena (Neckarstadion to use its traditional proper name) is the home of VfB Stuttgart and has also hosted many athletics events as well as football. It is worth visiting the club shop there as an extra if you’d like to stock up on any merchandise and pick an interesting team to support!
The museum itself has been in its present location since 2006 having moved (along with all the antique vehicles). Outside you may see on display some very old vintage cars that hark back to the post-WW2 economic recovery period of new prosperity. I could even smell the oil! Inside the museum is quite vast. There are lockers (no charge for use) to put your bags and other belongings in and downstairs a sizeable café area next to the official souvenir store.
Entrance to the museum was €10 that included a highly informative interactive guide that told the story of almost literally every single vehicle you see.
WHAT TO EXPECT
What I liked most about the Mercedes-Benz Museum was how everything was arranged chronologically. And that the route through the museum for visitors does follow this. Before entering the first room it is interesting to see a model horse. A reflection of how until the late 19th Century, this was the pinnacle of transport.
As well as biographical information on Daimler and Benz you see model replicas of the first ever vehicles. Essentially, looking like a horse-drawn carriage but without the horse. As well as this, a reconstruction of the first ever generator used to power the original test car. Like I mentioned earlier, each room is laid out with a timeline of historical events in tandem with whichever period of time is being focused on. That was a very clever touch putting into perspective the way the Mercedes brand fitted in with the times.
Some focus on the early racing vehicles popular at events on the French Riviera in the early 20th Century. This when ownership of these exciting new automobiles was something of the privileged elite. As times change we see further development such as the very futuristic looking gullwing doors introduced in the 1950s. Looking beyond at the development of passenger coaches around the early 1970s and the role of Mercedes-Benz at the forefront of this.
Included for visitors is an interactive audio guide. This works by holding the device next to a symbol by each vehicle (that looks like a wi-fi sign) and pressing a button down. Here, you can get all the detailed information about each model. The exact name and year of production as well as a short descriptive film.
What was beneficial to the interactive device was the “children’s version” option. For those of us not too technically minded who will find some of the engineering jargon a bit too advanced to absorb, this provided a far more straightforward description. This way, funnily enough, I felt I could learn more without losing focus. Therefore, in principle there’s a detailed description or a more simple (and easier to follow!) alternative. Different levels are taken nicely into consideration.
Of course you cannot touch or go inside these prestigious autos but there is one exception. The special team bus for the 1974 World Cup that took place in West Germany still painted in its original livery. Sit exactly where the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Mueller sat on their way to being crowned world champions.
There are indeed side-rooms that showcase Mercedes’ development of ambulances and police cars as well as passenger coaches. Even some of the cars drive by the very famous. Such as Lady Di’s preference for a Merc that seemed to break royal protocol!
There is an S-Bahn stop immediately next to the museum. Neuwirtshaus, or Porscheplatz, is very clearly signposted. This museum lies on the northwest of Stuttgart and is located next to a grand Porsche showroom and production plant. A quirky stature of what looks like three Porsches driving up to the sky stands next to the gleaming white chrome building of the museum.
This is the newest of the two, having opened in 2009.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Comparatively the cheaper of the two, entry costs €5 but was free with a valid Stuttgart S-Bahn card. Befitting the almost space age looking white building, going up the escalator to the first exhibition floor almost felt like entering a spaceship. First impressions are of the early Porsche prototypes such as this aluminium steel exterior that really felt ahead of its time.
As a brand associated with racing cars and the very high end of the market, as opposed to the average person’s car, the vehicles on display to have an element of the out-of-this-world to them. An aura of the exclusive and the unattainable. The influence on the early days of Formula One and other racing championships is clear as cheerful and colourful designs lead the way. From the start the intention was obvious to create those single-seated cars capable of breaking speed records. Deep, wide exhaust pipes and gigantic tail fins that generate so much noise on the road highlight that here we are looking at some serious names in the world of motor racing. This is the sport. You’ll even see a gleaming trophy cabinet reminding you of Porsche’s dominance.
It is clear the late 60s and early 70s was Porsche’s real heyday, their most fecund period of production. The time of motor racing growing in popularity backed by some colourful constructions whilst the Porsche brand further enhanced itself as a luxury status symbol. If you are a self-confessed speed freak you have certainly come to the right place.
Again, you get an interactive audio guide showing further pictures as well as information on a select number of cars. There’s no “simplified” version but in all honesty no need to. A few fun interactive features for the kids too. Got to love the special Sally Carerra inspired car from the Pixar Cars animated movie!
The Porsche Museum does also play host to special exhibitions every so often. When I visited (Spring 2019), there was a display of the legendary and groundbreaking Porsche 917 models. These unmistakably bright painted vehicles also came at the advent of Technicolor film and television. With such colourful liveries also displaying the earliest commercial sponsors of motor racing, the Porsche triumphs at the Le Mans rallies in 1970 and 1971 really did herald the dawn of a new motor racing age in so many ways.
At the time of writing this exhibit is still on display until September 15th 2019, so if you are reading this before then that will add an extra incentive to your visit. Otherwise check the Porsche Museum website regularly for updates on future exhibits.
Popular with visitors, especially families, is the racing simulator game. Reminiscent of your legendary video games of the golden age (think Outrun or Chase HQ), you can see why there are going to be queues to have a go at these. Of course, please be considerate to others and don’t hog the pod for too long! I know these things can be addictive but, time and place for everything.
STUTTGART SUMMARY – MERCEDES OR PORSCHE? OR BOTH
To sum up both Porsche and Mercedes museums in Stuttgart were very interesting and informative and I’m not your typical Top Gear motor expert! These are two essential places for any keen petrolhead to visit.
Really, to get maximum experience I do emphasise that you should dedicate separate days for each. Once you’ve been round the museum it is tempting to treat yourself to an encore visit. Make the most of your entry pass!
If you only have time to visit one, then depends what would appeal more. The Porsche Museum is for sure aimed at the more fast and furious side of racing. Also the smaller of the two, so could be more ideal to visitors in the company of those with a shorter attention span. The colourful designs will certainly grab your attention.
Mercedes-Benz Museum being much larger will appeal to the more technically minded. Certainly essential for those with a more mechanical engineering mind on things. Also, putting the development of das Auto into a sociology-cultural perspective.