It was here, in the Germany city of Stuttgart, that the first modern automobile was created.
It’s almost unrecognisable by today’s standards but the patent that Carl Benz submitted in 1886 for a vehicle with a gas engine and three wheels is generally considered to be the “birth certificate” of today’s cars.
How that legacy that he created more than a century ago has grown!
Not only does the world respect the Mercedes-Benz like almost no other car brand – but here in the Baden-Wurttemberg region of Germany, its parent company, Daimler, is industrial royalty.
“What are you doing here in Stuttgart,” a guy asks me and some other bloggers at a bar on the first night in town.
Without getting into specifics, we tell him that we’re here for work.
“Oh, don’t tell me,” he says. “You work for Daimler, right?”
We don’t. Obviously. But it shows you the reputation the motoring giant has in Stuttgart when that’s the first and the obvious assumption people make.
In this region, about 150,000 people are employed by Daimler – the majority working directly on the Mercedes-Benz brand.
What is the Mercedes-Benz Museum?
The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart presents the history of car company Mercedes-Benz and associated brands, including the entire story of the development of the modern car. The museum is in a large modern building that opened in 2006.
What can you see at the Mercedes-Benz Museum?
There are more than 160 vehicles on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, including buses, trucks, and some cars from more than a century ago. In total, there are more than 1500 exhibits at the museum, about topics like Carl Benz’s life and the development of the engine, right up to hydrogen and electric versions.
When was Mercedes-Benz founded?
Mercedes-Benz was formed in 1926 as a merger between two other brands. They were Mercedes (owned by Daimler) which was first released in 1901, and the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, which was invented by Carl Benz in 1886.
Not everything happens behind the scenes, though. The company has weaved its way into the community fabric of Stuttgart.
Apart from the fact that a lot of people seem to drive a Mercedes-Benz, the main sporting arena is called the Mercedes-Benz Arena… and then there’s the Mercedes-Benz Museum, definitely one of the best things to do in Stuttgart.
When you come to Stuttgart, even if you’re not here to work for Daimler, I recommend making the pilgrimage to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
It’s an incredible complex and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. But even beyond the actual exhibits, just seeing the scale of the museum will give you a sense of how important one brand is to the culture of the Baden-Württemberg region.
History of Mercedes-Benz
You’ll see the history of Mercedes-Benz laid out in front of you as you explore the museum, starting with the Benz Patent Motorwagen, which is claimed to be the first motorcar.
It was invented by Carl Benz and patented in 1886 – giving Mercedes-Benz the right to claim that its history began with the very first car, through the ‘Benz’ part of its name.
Interestingly, the other half of the brand, ‘Mercedes’ came from the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler, who was independently working on a motorcar called the Daimler Motor Carriage in 1885, so the company has a long narrative however you look at it.
Both Benz and Daimler continued to innovate and develop their motorcars and their respective companies quickly became leading players in the early automobile industry.
Daimler’s company (Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft) introduced the first car to be called a Mercedes (the 35 PS) in 1901. Meanwhile, both companies were continuing to innovate and grow.
It was in 1926 that DMG merged with Benz & Cie, to form a new company called Daimler-Benz AG, creating one of the largest and most powerful automotive companies in the world.
It was at this point that the Mercedes-Benz brand was born and would go on to become a symbol of luxury.
As well as upping the stakes in design and engine performance, Mercedes-Benz was also an innovator in safety, introduced the first airbag system in 1981, and also one of the first anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control systems.
It now sells its cars in over 180 countries and employs over 260,000 people.
Things to see at the Mercedes-Benz Museum
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is just one of the ways to see Stuttgart’s motor history, but I think it’s the most impressive.
The museum tells the history of 130-something years of the car company. The building itself, though, represents more of the future than the past.
It’s a modern structure with a design based on a double-helix. When you arrive, you are whisked up in a glass elevator to the seventh floor where you begin the spiral journey downwards past more than 150 vehicles.
“Welcome to the museum,” the voice comes through my headphones.
“Our audio guide will accompany you on your tour. Once you’ve started the sound recording, as you did just now, you can walk wherever you like…”
There’s more information than you can reasonably take in during one visit. The audio guide has a general introduction to each section and then each display has even more facts and figures you can listen to if something takes your particular interest.
I feel like I’m missing out if I race through too quickly – but I’m also worried I will never get out if I try to listen to everything. I stop at just one or two vehicles in each section.
“This 40 horsepower Mercedes Simplex belonged to the American billionaire William K Vanderbilt,” the voice in my ear tells me.
“Delivered in March 1902, it is today the world’s oldest surviving Mercedes…”
If this was all you ever knew about cars, you would be forgiven for thinking that Mercedes-Benz ruled the roads. I suppose it’s natural that a company wants to promote its own image but there is little (if any) context of how the brand fits into the broader automotive industry.
In a city that is so reliant and intertwined with one particular manufacturer, perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Vroom. The sound of a car racing moves from left to right across the large hall displaying more than a dozen racing models.
The exhibition is as modern as the building containing it. Lightshows, sound effects, impressive display designs.
Amongst the 160 vehicles (and 1500 exhibits) there are far too many highlights to name them all. But a few things of interest to look out for include:
- The world’s first motorcycle, called the ‘Reitwagen’, invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1885.
- There are two vehicles you can sit in: the Mercedes-Benz Econic NGT 2628 garbage truck and the Mercedes-Benz O 302 World Cup team bus used by the 1974 German national squad.
- The world’s most valuable car: The 300 SLR ‘Uhlenhaut’ coupé. (Only two were made and the other was sold for €135 million.)
- The only Mercedes-Benz racing car to be painted red, the 1924 ‘Targa Florio’ – the colour was used to trick Italian fans in a race in Sicily.
The museum is clearly trying to capture the style and sophistication of the cars that bear its name. It makes for an experience beyond the purely informative and often I find myself admiring the way things have been laid out more than the actual cars.
Still, if you accept that the “birth certificate” of the modern car was created here, this is a fitting tribute to its life. One that clearly has many years and miles still to run.
Visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart
It’s easy to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum but I would recommend leaving enough time to do it properly. You could easily spend all day if you wanted to take in all the information, but most visitors will need at least two hours just to have a good look at the basics.
The museum is out of the city centre, near the Daimler factory, but it’s easy to reach by public transport or car. If you’re driving, there is parking on site for €2 an hour.
There’s no need to book and you can just turn up – however, you can also buy your ticket in advance to save time.
There are a lot of information signs explaining what you’re seeing, but you’ll also get a free audioguide included (it comes in eight languages). I found this useful for getting a general overview of what I was seeing – but there’s also a lot of detail for car enthusiasts.
The museum is accessible, with ramps or satellite lifts facilitating access for wheelchair users. The exhibition’s Legend rooms are also equipped with DIN-standard ramps with intermediate platforms and handrails at wheelchair height.
And, if you get hungry, there’s a café bar on Level 1 with food and beverages. Or Bertha’s Restaurant is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12:00 – 16:00.
Where is the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart?
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is located about five kilometres to the east of the Stuttgart city centre.
The address is Mercedesstraße 100, 70372 Stuttgart, Germany.
You can find it on a map here.
How do you get to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart?
From Stuttgart ‘Hauptbahnhof’ (main station) take the S-Bahn line S1 heading for Kirchheim (Teck) to ‘Neckarpark (Mercedes-Benz)’ and then it’s just a short walk.
By bus, number 45 runs from Bad Cannstatt station to the “Mercedes-Benz Welt” stop. You can reach Bad Cannstatt station on the S-Bahn lines S1, S2 and S3 and on regional and Regional-Express trains.
When is the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart open?
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is open at the following times:
Tuesday to Sunday: 09:00 – 18:00
The museum is closed on Monday.
What is the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart entrance fee?
The entrance fee for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is €12 for a standard ticket and €6 for concession during the day. After 16:30, there’s a reduced rate of €6 for a standard ticket, and €3 for concession.
Are there tours to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart?
Unfortunately there are no tours that visit Mercedes-Benz Museum, but you may be interested in this hop-on hop-off bus tour that stops at the museum.
You can see more information at the official website of the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
There’s quite a lot of motor history in this part of Germany, so you might want to take a look at some of the other car museums in Stuttgart or perhaps hit the (smaller) track at Kart-o-Mania Stuttgart.
And, although I’ve got some general accommodation tips for Stuttgart below, if you’re really into your cars, you may want to stay at the V8 Hotel for a pretty cool experience.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN STUTTGART
You might find it convenient to get accommodation that’s walking distance from the main train station so you can easily explore the region.
If you’re looking for a budget option, the Youth Hostel Stuttgart International is one of Germany’s best.
For a basic but comfortable and cheap hotel, I would suggest Hotel Astoria.
A good modern hotel in Stuttgart that’s a great option is Jaz Stuttgart.
And I think the best luxury hotel in Stuttgart is the Le Meridien, which also has a perfect location.