If you like cars, then SouthWest Germany is the place to be.
- Drive round the circuit in your own car: 15 minutes, €15.
- On a tour, drive one lap of the track in your own car, stand on the podium, visit the museum. 11am daily; 90 minutes; adults €12.
- Drive 3 high-speed laps of the Grand Prix circuit with a professional driver in a Porsche GT3, Mercedes SLK 350 or Audi R8 for €249.
And don’t miss the museum, with its Formula 1 cars (Williams, Benetton, Minardi), as well as Europe’s largest collection of racing motorbikes (€6).
For anyone who loves automobiles, Stuttgart is a must. It is the home of two of the world's most famous brands, both manufactured in the city, and each has its own world-class car museum. The Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Porsche Museum are set in dramatic contemporary buildings; both feature the sleek machines that are part of the romance of the road.
Committed gearheads also want to see the Gottlieb Daimler Memorial Site in the Stuttgart suburb of Bad Canstatt. Here, in a glasshouse, Daimler and his fellow inventor Wilhelm Maybach worked in secret on the single-cylinder horizontal engine that they launched in 1883. Now a museum, the Daimler Birthplace is in the charming half-timbered town of Schorndorf, 20 miles east of Stuttgart.
Also on the gearhead list is Motorworld Stuttgart (free entry) with its classic cars, restoration workshops and the chance to rent a classic car for a dream drive. Not forgetting the Motorworld’s V8 Hotel, a four-star property with 10 special and funky car-themed bedrooms!
When it comes to speed, you can’t do better than supersonic planes. And the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim has two of them: a French Concorde and a Russian Tupolev Tu-144. Go aboard, then check out Europe’s largest permanent Formula 1 exhibition. In all, there are 300 classic cars, 200 motorcycles, 40 racing cars and 60 airplanes! One hour north-west of Stuttgart.
History for Gearheads
What was once the small Benz factory is now the Dr Carl Benz Auto Museum. The star attraction is the 1888 Model III Motorwagen, the world’s oldest car in its original condition. Some of the immaculately-maintained models regularly participate in veteran and classic car rallies around the world. 15 minutes from Mannheim.
The World's Number 1 Woman Driver
Back in 1888, the wife of Carl Benz was fed up with her inventor husband's lack of progress with his latest patent: the automobile. No-one had ordered his new-fangled horseless carriage. So, Bertha gave it a proper test drive along 60 miles of country lanes to Pforzheim. The first real driver in history was a woman – and she completed her “tour” of SouthWest Germany safely. 126 years later, you can still follow in her tire tracks on the 120-mile/215-km Bertha Benz Memorial Route.