Go behind the scenes of Germany’s most famous exports and find out how German cars, chocolate, and beer are made. Many factories in Germany open their doors to curious visitors and offer them a look on how their products are built, brewed, and sewed from start to finish.
Before you go on one of these factory tours in Germany, make sure to call ahead and ask about reservations and tours in English. And don’t forget to check out the factory stores afterwards, where you can get great deals.
The Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, 1 hour away from Berlin, prides itself in being the largest auto plant in the world. Its adjacent “Autostadt” (car city) is a theme park dedicated to the automobile and offers everything car enthusiasts of all ages dream about.
There is a huge car museum, several pavilions dedicated to the various VW cars, driving courses for adults and kids, restaurants, a hotel, and of course the factory itself, which you can tour. Another highlight: Embark on a glass elevator which takes you to the top of the 160 feet high glass Car Tower; they hold up to 800 custom-ordered cars, which are picked up by their buyers fresh from the factory.
Stadtbrücke, 38440 Wolfsburg
For BMW fans, Munich offers no less than three points of interest, all in walking distance from each other: The BMW Museum, which traces back the history of the famous car; the architectural masterpiece BMW World, which is the delivery center for BMWs and also houses exhibition halls, design ateliers, and workshops for kids; and of course the BMW plant itself, which offers fascinating tours: Put on your safety goggles and factory coats and watch how giant conveyors lift the 3-series BMW to be welded by computer-controlled robots.
Petuelring 130, 80809 Munich
300 years ago, Europe’s first porcelain was discovered in Meissen, close to Dresden. Today, Meissen porcelain (Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen) with its signature trademark, the crossed swords, is one of the most famous china manufacturers in the world. You can tour various workshops that demonstrate the process of making the fine Meissen china by hand, from the modeling to the painting. There is also a museum, which holds a collection of 20,000 pieces from all periods, and an outlet store where you can hunt for some bargains.
Talstraße 9, 01662 Meissen
The world's largest brewer of wheat beer is located close to Munich and combines tradition and modern technology. At the Erdinger Brewery, the purest ingredients with age-old recipes make their way through a high-tech bottling plant. On your tour, you will watch the brewing process from start to finish, explore the fermentation and filtration cellars, visit the computer-controlled warehouse, and learn how the beer is loaded and shipped around the world. More than one million bottles leave this brewery every day, but you can enjoy your fresh Hefeweizen in the brewery's beer garden.
Franz-Brombach-Str. 1-20, 85435 Erding
Cologne’s Chocolate Museum is home to a small glass chocolate factory, where visitors of all ages can see how the coca bean turns into a chocolate bar. The machines in the small chocolate factory all have viewing windows, so you can get a detailed look at the individual production steps.
The exhibition tells you all about the rich history of chocolate, from the Mayan’s chocolate “drink of the gods” to today's commercials. If all this talk about chocolate made your mouth water, head to the 10-feet high chocolate fountain; the museum staff will be happy to dip waffles into the warm chocolate to give you a try.
Kids and collectors all over the world love the German Steiff plush toys with their signature “button in ear”. Created in 1880 by the German seamstress Margarete Steiff, the plush animals are made only out of the finest materials, such as felt, mohair, or alpaca. You can visit the birthplace of the famous toys, Giengen, 90 miles west of Munich; after stopping by the largest Steiff shop in the world, make sure to check out the interactive toy museum and the workshops, were the plush toys are still created by hand.
Margarete-Steiff Platz 1, 89537 Giengen an der Brenz
The most famous gummy bears in the world come form Germany: Haribo “Goldbaeren” (gold bears) were born in 1920 in Bonn, in the west of Germany. Today, Haribo is the largest manufacturer of gummy sweets on the globe. Although you can’t enter the factory itself, you can visit the Haribo factory store, close to the original factory, which features an exhibition about Haribo and offers a wonderful variety of gummy bears for sweet prices.
Friesdorfer Str. 121, 53175 Bonn