BMW Welt, Munich
Carl Benz invented the first gas-powered car in 1886 called the Benz Patentwagen. He was a genius except when it came to marketing, so his wife Bertha drove herself and her two teenage boys 66 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim—without telling Mr. Benz. Thus, she became the first person ever to drive a vehicle any considerable distance, and the resulting fanfare spurred a global demand for automotive travel.
Germany is in the business of exporting intelligence and innovation.
“In a crowded European market, we feel our competitive advantage is our vast infrastructure of knowledge-based companies in key industries such as transportation, finance, energy and high-tech,” says Laura d’Elsa, regional director US/Canada of the German Convention Bureau. “And all of that is supplemented with our amazing cultural experiences.”
MUNICH’S CAR CULTURE
I’m learning about Carl Benz and the missus at Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum in Munich—one of three Deutsches Museum venues that make up the world’s largest facility dedicated to science and technology. Opened in 2006, the Verkehrszentrum focuses on the history of transportation inside three huge halls built in 1907, which originally established the city’s reputation as Messestadt München (Exhibition Center Munich).
The Patentwagen is just one of thousands of vintage cars and other automotive exhibits inside the museum, and there’s something here that will turn anyone’s head. I loved the 1925 BMW R32, the first motorcycle produced by BMW. Others fawned over the elegant Great Gatsby-style 1928 Bugatti Coupe Type 40. Reception capacity is 700 pax in Hall 1; 200 in Hall 3.
Next up, BMW’s global corporate headquarters includes the BMW Museum and the futuristic swirling steel BMW Welt welcome center. The inside of the Welt is the size of a small sports stadium filled with high-tech engineering exhibits and numerous function spaces like the 5,000-sf auditorium and space-age Double Cone. The Cone is where BMW last year launched its slick all-electric “BMW i” series vehicles, like those with the heads-up display in Mission Impossible 3. The venue has a Highlight Wall with 36 seamless plasma screens and a spiraling staircase with 60 similar screens. Capacity is 400 pax.
The BMW Museum alone is worth booking Munich, and planners can create a pre/post group driving experience either on BMW’s racetrack or through Bavaria’s Black Forest.
HOTEL BAYERISCHER HOF
The grande dame of Munich dating back to 1841, the 345-room Hotel Bayerischer Hof is one of Bavaria’s most luxurious hotels. Uncanny for this room count, the property encompasses five restaurants and six lounges including the grandiose Falk’s Bar dimmed in purple light and rimmed by ornate gilt framed mirrors below an elaborate Rococo white plaster ceiling. The Michelin star Atelier serves Penedescenca chicken with Perigord truffle, and this was my first ever visit to Trader Vic’s. How fun are those?
The Hof is undergoing a comprehensive room renovation with six different decor styles, like my “Graf Pilati” room with pearl gray/champagne hues and trim modish furnishings.
Serious group facilities here with 40 meeting rooms, a 570-seat theater and 18,000-sf ballroom. The 14,000-sf Blue Spa spans four levels, but the best part is the airy dachgarten (roof garden) breakfast room with gorgeous views of the city.
FRANKFURT + THE NEW WORK CITY
The 2011 book Aerotropolis portends the future when the world’s most advanced cities will have the most well integrated airports in a highly globalized, knowledge-based economy. That falls under the study of logistics, and it’s the basis for HOLM: House of Logistics & Mobility at Frankfurt International Airport, which serves the most international destinations in the world.
With the growth of the big UAE carriers shifting flight patterns over the continent, HOLM is designed to become a logistics think-tank and leading incubator for expertise development in the field.
Professor Dr. Stefan Walter, managing director, spoke to us about the new HOLM facility opening one mile away from the airport in October 2013 in the new Gateway Gardens complex, just 10 minutes from Frankfurt’s city center. The new $125 million campus will offer venue rentals where groups can interact with thought leaders like Dr. Walter.
“The city of the future is an interdisciplinary, international knowledge transfer machine,” he says. “This is about finding the strengths of our strengths, our core competencies, and for Germany that’s knowledge and infrastructure. It’s also about connecting ideas, about experts having coffee together and fostering innovation that you can’t do via a Blackberry. We call it Globalization 3.0.”
For now, HOLM is housed in THE SQUAIRE, a super sleek hotel/conference center located above the airport’s train station.
Its tagline is “New Work City,” positioning itself as the zenith of collaborative networking and business services. Open since March 2011, THE SQUAIRE is 1/3 of a mile long with a shimmering steel and glass façade resembling a big bar of metallic soap. The towering roof through the entire expanse is glass and every office and meeting room has a window, so there’s natural light streaming everywhere. The 140,000 sf of meeting and function space includes 28 rooms up to 2,500 sf.
Anchoring the building, the new 249-room Hilton Frankfurt Airport welcomes attendees with a towering glass lobby. Itself a model of efficiency, the large lounge and restaurant are parked on each side of the lobby, while the 5,600-sf ballroom with fiber optic Swarovski crystal lighting sits at the end.
Guestrooms have a soothing earth tone palette with views of the outlying green forest on the opposite side from the airport. Work desks come with U.S. outlets and the thick windows block out air traffic. All this is just 10 minutes to the Lufthansa terminal.
“This is a city under one roof,” says Marc Snijders, Hilton’s director of business development. “We’re the best connected location in all of Europe.”
Frankfurt is the banking capital of, well, a lot of Europe these days, with an immaculate and modern urban core bordering the Main River. It ranks #7 on the Mercer liveability index, and the Museumsufer (museum riverbank) is its most impressive cultural attraction. There are 20 museums facing the river, themed around everything from architecture to communications.
A couple minutes away, Rocco Forte’s ultra charming, 163-room Villa Kennedy Frankfurt consists of a 1904 estate house and three new buildings wrapping around a landscaped courtyard and fountain pool. This is the most comfortable luxury urban hotel you can imagine with lots of dark wood and colorful local art throughout. The Italian Restaurant Gusto and adjoining JFK’s Bar open out into the courtyard in warmer months, which provides an entirely satisfying place for easy networking.
Try to book your VIPs into the second floor suites that open out to the wraparound terraces overlooking the courtyard. The furnishings are residential befitting the familial ambience.
There are seven meeting rooms and a 3,700-sf ballroom. The Villa Spa is a stunner with eight treatment rooms and a 50-foot pool, yoga room, hi-tech gym and leafy spa garden.
BERLIN’S BEST MUSEUMS
The UNESCO World Heritage Museum Island encompasses five magnificent museums rebuilt since World War II. The last to reopen in 2009, Neues Museum is home to the priceless 3,300 year-old bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. English architect Sir David Chipperfield melded new sandstone interiors with the WWII ruins—bomb scars and all—and the result is exquisite in its restraint. Book the Foyer Grand Stair Hall, which shows off the old and new architecture best, for receptions up to 50. Outside Neues, artists are painting the river scenes along the colonnade plaza, available for outdoor private events for 200 attendees.
“This is the most beautiful square in Berlin, facing one of the most important cultural landmarks in all of Europe,” says Katrin Hansch, our liaison with Museum&Location. The company is your direct link for booking events at Berlin’s major museums.
Next door, Bode Museum has the most dramatic grand foyer of the bunch, suitable for 300-pax events. And lastly, the striking Pergamon Altar in Pergamon Museum was built in Greece in the 2nd century B.C. and shipped here in pieces in the 1870s. The 110-foot grand staircase and terrace are used as a backdrop for non-F&B events for 350 people. Dinner for 140 is popular at Pergamon’s Ishtar Gate, a recreated version of the grand entryway into the legendary city of Babylonia, once the world’s largest city located outside present day Baghdad.
I’m curious about the modern art scene so Hansch directs me to her favorite museum, Hamburger Bahnhof. Located near the Bahnhof train station, this is a must for culture lovers. The Erich Marx Collection of large Warhols and top Rauschenbergs make a great icebreaker for groups up to 200 pax booking either the event hall or restaurant. The front square hosts 800.
The most popular place to view remnants of the Berlin Wall is Checkpoint Charlie. The walls covered with life-size photos depicting pre-1990 street scenes positioned where they were photographed is fascinating. There are also several museums nearby such as STASI if you want to learn more of the history.
Bordering the huge and centrally located Tiergarten urban park, the 558-room InterContinental Berlin is a straight-forward conference hotel with 37 meeting and function rooms totaling 62,000 sf. There’s also a 600-pax glass pavilion directly off the port cochere with dedicated access.
Next to the lobby, the Marlene Bar seems to be incredibly popular with locals. Just off to the side, there’s a great private English-style library bar for pre-dinner drinks for about 50 people. Upstairs on the 14th floor, the 1-Michelin star HUGOS Restaurant features great views and four large private dining rooms, the largest seating 150 diners. Chef Thomas Kammeier prepared the best meal of the trip, including Canadian lobster and sea urchin served with a mango and orange aioli.
CITYCUBE + BERLIN
With 80 halls hosting 20-9,100 delegates, the huge International Congress Center Berlin (ICC) hosts the world’s largest travel trade show, ITB Berlin. The new CityCube Berlin will add additional capacity for 10,000 more delegates, opening in 2014.
The new Berlin Brandenberg Airport (BER) is scheduled to open in March 2013 following the closing of the existing Schoenfeld and Tegel airports, signaling the final phase of Berlin’s reunification. For flight information, check out airberlin, which joined the oneworld alliance in March. The carrier is launching 27 new routes in 2012.