Though art and history museums get us excited, few things rev our motors like a good car museum. Now, the five places mentioned here aren’t your typical collections of vintage cars. This fine assembly of rare automobiles has a way of turning grown men, women and our editors into giddy children. Besides merely listing the gawk-worthy garages, though, we also give you luxurious hotels near the attractions. Start planning your trip to one of these luxe car museums.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
This stunning 177,600-square-foot institution, designed by the Dutch firm UNStudio, does justice to Stuttgart’s reputation as the cradle of the automobile. Reminiscent of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, the concrete-cladspace spirals nine levels, beginning with the top-floor “Legend” room, which showcases a single white horse that represents one horsepower. As you wind your way down, you’ll view 160 cars—everything from the historic 1886 Daimler motorized carriage and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (the super sports car of the 1950s) to more modern designs, such as the Mercedes-Benz B F-Cell (B-Class), which is famed for its 125-day, around-the-world trip with zero emissions. Checking out these cars is fun, but for an adrenaline-pumping experience, don’t miss riding in one of the two futuristic racing simulators, which span 120 years of racing history.
Check in here: Sitting in the center of Stuttgart, Althoff Hotel Am Schlossgarten is a great place to call home base while exploring the city. The 106 elegant guest rooms and suites are bathed in red and brown hues—some even boast views of the historic Schlossgarten park.
National Corvette Museum, Bowling Green, Ky.
The American icon marks its 60th anniversary this year, and what better way to celebrate the classic muscle car than visiting the National Corvette Museum? Located about two hours south of Louisville near Corvette’s only assembly plant in the world in Bowling Green, Ky., the 115,000-square-foot museum houses seven permanent exhibit areas arranged by theme (like performance and engineering). But the crowning glory of its collection is the 1953 Corvette, harking back to the first year the sports car was produced; there were only 300 made, all built by hand at the original plant in Flint, Mich. Plan your trip for June 27-28 to see even more cars on display, sit in the new seventh-generation model and take part in the unveiling of the museum’s motorsports park that will include a multi-configuration road course and autocross course.
Check in here: Your best bet is to stay in Louisville, which is two hours north of Bowling Green—you’re here to celebrate cars, after all. Book a room at the chic 21c Museum Hotel, which is a museum in itself that’s complete with a 9,000-square-foot art gallery.
The Lamborghini Museum, Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy
Both vintage and concept cars—many plucked from Lamborghini founder Ferruccio Lamborghini’s personal collection, including the first production model he ever made back in 1964—get star treatment at this two-level museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy (it’s about 30 minutes north of Bologna and an hour and a half north of Florence). You’ll find the Reventón (one of only 20 ever built) in all of its gray-green glory; the Italian Polizia Stradale, one of the world’s fastest police cars; and the Aventador, which appeared in the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not all about racing, though—the LM002 (1986-1992) and the 2008 Estoque sedan are also on display, as well as historic models such as the 350 GT, Miura and Countach. But perhaps even more thrilling is the window that overlooks the factory yard; book a private tour and you’ll get a glimpse of the experts hand stitching the leather interiors and mounting those famed V10 and V12 engines.
Check in here: Just 40 minutes from the museum in the center of Bologna, the historic Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglionioffers a Lamborghini package that includes a two-night stay and a chauffeured trip to the museum.
Enzo Ferrari Museum (Modena) and the Ferrari Museum (Maranello), Italy
Also just north of Florence, Italy, is the $20 million Enzo Ferrari Museum, which opened last year adjacent to founder Enzo Ferrari’s childhood home in Modena. The Great Challenges Ferrari-Maserati, an exhibit on display through May 3, examines the two supercars and their undeniable hometown rivalry. Only 20 minutes south in Maranello (there’s a shuttle between the two museums), the Ferrari Museum carries an extensive collection of cars with gems such as the first Ferrari, the 125 S (1947), and a replica of the Enzo Ferrari’s first office at the Scuderia Ferrari headquarters in Modena, complete with original furniture and a wax likeness of the man himself.
Check in here: Surrounded by manicured gardens and once the home of Italian nobility, Modena’s Hotel Castello features 26 streamlined rooms in a historic mansion with 12 more in a newer annex.
Porsche Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
According to some Stuttgart locals, Porsche got a little competitive when Mercedes-Benz opened its museum to much praise, and soon after decided to build its own—very good news for enthusiasts of the trend-setting brand and architecture buffs alike. The resulting $100 million building, designed by the Viennese firm Delugan Meissl, is futuristic and supported on three V-shaped columns with no right angles. Inside, there’s an excellent rotating collection of about 80 cars on display, including the first Porsche ever made, the slick 356. While there’s no racing simulator, you are allowed to sit in one of the cars. Plan your visit around one of these three upcoming exhibits: Architecture and Construction of the Porsche Museum (March 5-May 26), 50 Years of the Porsche 911 (June 4-Sept. 29) or the Porsche Super Racecars (Oct. 15-early 2014).
Check in here: Retreat to Le Meridien Stuttgart, where you’ll find sleek interiors, a large indoor pool and a French restaurant, Le Cassoulet. You’ll have easy access to Stuttgart’s cultural attractions and shopping, not to mention a relaxing spa on-site.
Photos Courtesy of National Corvette Museum, Ferrari S.P.A., Automobili Lamborghini, Dr. Ing.h.c.F. Porsche AG