Factory Tours and Brand Museums

A factory tour group stand listening to a young woman explaining the workings of a micro-brewery
Factory tour

This is a list of industrial and commercial companies with brand museums, visitor centres or factory tours open to the public (that I’m aware of).

These places tend to come and go fairly quickly, depending on their role within the brand’s core business. Eg, motor vehicle factory tours are likely to be suspended when new products or models are introduced; brand museums can be moved or closed when brands get bought or HQs & factories move. I try to keep up, but there’s regular ‘churn’ on this list!

Airbus Toulouse & St. Nazaire, France Airbus aircraft are built in factories all over Europe but in France there are two that can be visited – in St. Nazaire and Toulouse. Tours of the St Nazaire facilities can be organised by St. Nazaire Tourism.

In Toulouse, a local company, Manatour operate a tour of the Airbus A380 super jumbo assembly plant.

Airstream Jackson Center, Ohio, USA A chance to see the style icon of the caravan world in production. Daily tours Mon – Fri.
Anheuser-Busch Various, USA The Budweiser brewer has complimentary tours at five of its 12 U.S. Breweries.
BMW Motorcycles Berlin Daily tours of the BMW motorcycle factory, Monday – Friday.
Boeing Seattle Boeing offer the hugely popular tour of their Everett assembly plant (the largest building in the world by volume) where they assemble Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 airliners. They also have an Aerospace History exhibit in St. Louis.
Bushmills County Antrim, N. Ireland The Old Bushmills Distillery is open to visitors 7 days a week, who get a guided tour of the 400-yr-old distillery, a sample of their whiskey, and a chance to buy some.
Cadbury World Birmingham Visitor centre for chocolate-lovers.
Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Carlsberg are redeveloping their visitor centre and brewery tour. They expect to re-open it in 2020..
Chantiers Atlantique St. Nazaire, France STX Europe (formerly STX Europe, formerly Aker Yards) in St Nazaire is a massive shipyard where they build cruise ships. Past liners include Normandie (1935), France (1962), and Queen Mary II for Cunard. Tours organised through St. Nazaire Tourism.
Chevrolet Corvette Bowling Green, Kentucky There’s a Corvette Museum AND a factory tour at the nearby General Motors Corvette assembly plant. Note: There’s a new Corvette on the way and they have announced the factory tours will be stopped between 16 June 2017 & Jan 2019 while they ‘tool up’ for it.
Cornings Museum of Glass New York State Cornings are probably best known in the UK for glass cookware. The Corning Museum of Glass traces the 3500 year-old history of glass and glass blowing through its thousands of exhibits (from ancient glass beads to fibre-optics), interactive displays and factory floor glass blowing demonstrations.
Crayola Factory Easton, Pennsylvania Not really the factory where the actual crayons get made in their billions, but a family visitor centre where the process is explained with lots of hands-on opportunities for kids.
Christian Dior museum Normandy, France The museum in Granville, Normandy, is housed in Christian Dior’s childhood home overlooking the sea and features 60 years of the Dior fashion house.
Dartington Crystal Great Torrington, North Devon Watch the glassblowers in action at the visitors centre.
Ducati Bologna Ducati offer free guided tours of their museum and factory lasting approx 1 hour and 15 minutes to groups who have booked in advance (email) – and they added their Fisika in Moto laboratory (Motorcycle Physics) to the tour in Apr 2018. Fisika in Moto has been teaching students how the equations of physics they learn at school are applied in motorcycle design. There is one morning, and one afternoon slot each weekday for groups up to 10 people. On Saturday mornings there are slots for groups of up to 40 people.
Fendt Tractors Marktoberdorf, Germany Fendt do have a brand museum/shop and they do operate factory tours, although “participation in a factory tour is primarily limited to customers and active farmers”, but there’s always a chance! Fendt have nine manufacturing plants around Europe. The brand museum and tours are at their main production plant at Marktoberdorf in Bavaria, but some of the other plants, like Breganze, appear to offer tours to end users or “enthusiasts” organised through dealers.
Ferrari Museums Maranello & Modena, Italy The Galleria Ferrari was opened in 1992 next to the Ferrari factory in Maranello near Moderna. It contains cars and engines from 55 years of Ferrari history starting with the very first car to have the prancing horse logo. Many of Ferraris most famous Formula One cars are in the collection. They also operate factory and test track tours, that need to be pre-booked, and there are strict rules about photography! Meanwhile, the Enzo Ferrari Museum opened March 2014 on the site of the house where driver/car-maker, Enzo Ferrari was born in 1898. The original dwelling has been preserved together with the workshop and it has been merged with the futuristic new gallery (5,000 sq m / €18m) exhibiting the history of Enzo Ferrari and Italian racing car design in Modena.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi A Ferrari theme park that opened in 2010 with a range of displays and driving experiences, plus the world’s fastest roller coaster reaching speeds of 125mph (200kph). More info
Ford Michigan, USA There are several Ford experiences: The Henry Ford Museum is his collection of Americana. There are tours of the assembly line at the vast Baton Rouge plant, which dates back to 1917 and was once the largest industrial facility in the world. And there is Greenfield village… Henry Ford’s birthplace which he saved from destruction when a new road was built through the location by moving it to a new site and preserving the original buildings!
Grupo Cimbali Binasco, Italy The famous manufacturer of Espresso Coffee machines has a stylish brand museum, MUMAC (Museo della Macchina per Caffe). It is attached to the Cimbali factory in Binasco just outside Milan. The museum houses a collection of over 300 professional coffee machines spanning 100 years of innovation.
Guinness Brewery Dublin A tour of the old Guinness brewery which has been converted into an exhibition of Guinness history with films and exhibits of old posters, bottles, beer cans and brewery equipment. There’s a rather impressive bar on the roof (The Gravity Bar) with views over Dublin and a souvenir shop.
Harley-Davidson Factory Tour Pennsylvania There are actually three factory tours. You can visit the Powertrain engine plant in Wisconsin and the Sportster bike assembly plant in Kansas City, but the most popular is the ‘Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations’ plant in York County, Pensylvannia where roughly half the company’s production workforce assemble the Touring, Softail® and custom motorbikes. (Click on the USA region website to find the Factory Tours.) And there’s a brand museum in Milwaukee.
Heineken Experience Amsterdam The Heineken Experience is located in the original brewery building in Amsterdam and opened in 2001. Visitors take a 45-min tour through malt silos, mash tuns and learn how the brewing process works. There are AV experiences, exhibits and a bar at the end.
IMZ – Irbit Motorcycle Works Urals, Russia Visits to the famous Ural motorcycle & sidecar company plant are offered by Ural Expeditions & Tours who also operate motorbike tours in the Ural Mountains.
Jack Daniels Lynchburg, Tennessee Visitors centre and continuous guided tours of the historic distillery.
Jaguar Cars Solihull/Castle Bromwich, UK A choice. You can see the new Jaguar XE being built in their state-of-the-art production plant in Solihull, and/or the main plant at Castle Bromwich.
John Deere Pavilion Moline, Illinois The famous American tractor, plant & agricultural equipment manufacturer has a brand museum with exhibits from the company’s past. Also some of the company’s other plants are open to the public for tours, including the combine harvester factory in Waterloo, Iowa, and the seeding equipment facility in Davenport. There is also the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour just outside Moline where visitors can see a replica of the blacksmith shop where Deere first fashioned a self-scouring plow.
KFC Corbyn, Kentucky Colonel Sanders’ original cafe and birthplace of the worldwide Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. There’s a small museum there too. (He was never a military colonel by the way. Kentucky Colonel is an honorary titled awarded to cafe-owner, Sanders by the State Governor for ‘services to cuisine’.) The cafe/museum doesn’t have dedicated website.
Michelin Clermont-Ferrand, France Learn about the history of Michelin tyres in L’Aventure Michelin.
Morgan Malvern, Worcestershire, UK Pre-booked, guided tours of the classic hand-built sports car factory are available daily Monday – Friday.
Louisville Slugger Louisville, Kentucky, USA Baseball fans can see historic memorabilia and how bats are made.
Mack Trucks Historical Museum Allentown, Pennsylvania Brand museum of the iconic American trucks, dating back to the early 1900s.
Maerklin Museum Goeppingen, Germany The world-famous model railway manufacturer has a museum in Goeppingen (nr Stuttgart) of over a 1,000 products including historic toy trains, steam engines, dolls houses and sheet metal toys dating back to 1859 when Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Maerklin and his wife Caroline set up the company. Model railway enthusiasts were horrified in Jan 05 when robbers got away with a significant and valuable part of the collection, but the stolen exhibits have since been recovered.
Mercedes Benz Museum Stuttgart, Germany A stylish museum stuffed with stunningly elegant historic cars (and other exhibits such as engines) laid out in chronological order, starting with a replica of the very first car that Carl Daimler built and which his wife promptly took for a spin! (Course, there weren’t any garages in 1881 so she had to fill up with ether from chemists.) Guides will periodically spin the huge flywheel and start her up.
Mercedes-Benz USA Tuscaloosa County, Alabama The giant Mercedes plant, the only one in the USA, has a visitor centre, museum and daily factory tours (from time to time temporarily closed when they have plant refits for new model assembly).
Mercedes Benz World Brooklands, UK MBW opened in Oct 06 at the historic Brooklands racing circuit in Surrey with a selection of driving courses from serious racetrack and off-road instruction to driving experiences for young children (over 1.5m). There are 100+ Mercedes cars on exhibition in the centre (in addition to the historic vehicles in the adjacent Brooklands museum), family activities & learning zones, simulators & a cinema, restaurants & shops….and future plans include a 5-star hotel & spa.
Monaco Coach Corporation Indiana & Oregon, USA Not a well-known brand in the UK, but these guys make luxury RVs (motorhomes) and they allow the public to come and watch them doing it at their plants in Indiana and Oregon.
Moreno Glass Factory Venice, Italy Daily tours for large & small groups to watch glass-blowing in the furnace room.
Outhwaite & Son Ropemakers Hawes, Yorkshire From the stuff mountaineers dangle from and boats tie-up with, to dog leads and bell rope – you can watch them making metres of rope in the traditional way.
Pagani Moderna, Italy Something for the ‘petrol-heads’; a chance to see some of Pagani’s supercars, such as Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite, the Zonda, or the Huayra, in production and their new factory & showroom.
Plymouth Gin Plymouth, England Plymouth Gin is the only gin distillery in Britain that runs visitor tours. They opened a visitor centre in Aug 04 in their historic distillery building (a former monastery dating back to 1431, and the building where in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night in England) in the centre of Plymouth.
Porsche Stuttgart, Germany Porsche have a museum with 80+ vehicles from the early years to the present day.
RNLI Poole, Dorset, UK The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has had a state-of-the-art training and lifeboat construction complex at its headquarters in Poole, Dorset, since 2015. They offer 90-min tours of the training facilities 6 days a week, and 60-min tours of their engineering, production and maintenance facilities on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They even have a hotel (for their crews during training) where you can stay! And… they also have a facility on the Isle of Wight where they build and maintain their inflatable Inshore Rescue Boats (IRBs), which you can visit by appointment.
Steinway Pianos New York, USA Steinway have a 2½hr tour of the factory where grand pianos are still handmade by craftsmen.
Swarovski Crystal Worlds Innsbruck, Austria Swarovski, the costume jewelry & glass collectables manufacturer, have an underground crystal cave which doubles up as an art installation and visitor centre/shop.
Triumph Motorcycles Hinckley, Leicestershire

Triumph opened its £4 million Triumph visitor experience and factory tour in Nov 2017. The museum collection (free) is open Weds – Sun each week and features some famous Triumph bikes ridden by the likes of David Beckham and Tom Cruise, plus land speed record holders from the 1960s and… THE actual bike – a fully restored 650cc Triumph TR6R – ridden by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape!

The 90 minute factory tours cost £15 and are led by experts including members of the manufacturing teams.

U.S. Mint Philadelphia and Denver, USA The United States Mint offers tours in its Philadelphia and Denver locations. They stopped for security reasons after ‘911’ but started again in May 05. At both facilities the tours are free and are operated on a ‘first come first served’ basis. You’ll need photo ID, and, along with cameras, there are a number of banned items such as penknives, etc. Tours cover the history of the Mint and present day manufacturing.
Volkswagen Autostadt & Factory Tour Wolfsburg, Germany Wolfsburg is the headquarters of the VW group which includes Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW itself.
The Autostadt is an automobile theme park, which opened in June 2000. It includes the VW Auto Museum and numerous attractions for adults and children including various marque pavilions (Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi, Seat, & Skoda) and lernpark where kids aged 5-11 can drive mini-beetles at 4km/h. Visitors can combine a tour of the VW Wolfsburg factory (8 KmSq, the largest plant under one roof in the world) with a visit to the autostadt. The 2-hours factory tours are available every working day from Tuesday to Friday.
Walt Disney Family Museum San Francisco, USA Not so much a brand museum as a ‘man behind the brand’ museum. Opened Oct 2009 with exhibits from Disney’s life from obscure childhood to global fame.
Waterford Crystal Waterford, Ireland The old Waterford factory was closed in Feb 09 and a new factory and state-of-the-art visitor centre opened in June 2010. The House of Waterford Crystal is on the Mall in Waterford City, Ireland and employs up to 130 staff at peak periods, including highly skilled craftsmen at the new Waterford Crystal Prestige Manufacturing Facility. Here, approximately 40,000 hand-crafted high end pieces are produced using traditional methods for customers and tourists.
Wild Turkey Distillery Kentucky, USA The Wild Turkey bourbon distillery has had a visitor centre since Apr 2014, where visitors can gather before & after the hourly distillery tours.
Zildjian Norwell, Massachusetts The world’s most famous cymbal brand offers 90-min factory tours on the third Thursday of each month.

Notes

    • Ferrari Tours operate tailor-made supercar tours for individuals and private groups including visits to the Ferrari collection in Maranello, Italy.
    • The Rolls-Royce Museum in Dornbirn, Austria, is not Rolls-Royce’s official brand museum… but it’s stuffed full of them, and some with historic/famous “careful owners”!
    • York County in Pennsylvania (where Harley-Davidsons are made) bills itself as the ‘Factory Tour Capital of the World’ because there are a number of well-known American brands manufactured there. Most of the brands (such as Glatfelter and Martin’s Potato Chips) will be meaningless to British travellers, but if you like visiting factories…. this is a good place to go!
    • Sadly Bugatti don’t have a factory tour (they should!) but the local Molsheim-Mutzig tourist office has a discovery trail map of the various historic Bugatti family & factory sites around the town of Molsheim in Alsace.
    • Spaceport America, the new USA home for Branson & Rutan’s Virgin Galactica in New Mexico is offering tours of the site, mostly aimed at school groups.
    • Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airlines (ANA) offer “factory tours” of their maintenance facilities at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, but the tours are conducted in Japanese only. Details here

 

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