Archive: Cool Factory Tours
Throughout Europe, factories welcome visitors with tours and even free samples. If you're into pianos, chocolate, beer, champagne, or glass, there are plenty of places to actually see it made. Which factory tours have you enjoyed, and why? Here's what you thought:
Good: BMW & Glenlivet, Bad: Guinness
Best by far is the BMW factory in Munich. BMW's museum at the factory is very bad and worth skipping if you can't get into the tour. The tour, however, is exceptional. You wear safety glasses and a factory coat. We actually got hit with sparks from the welding robots!! You go right on to the production floor. Forklifts had to wait for our group at times. The explanation was excellent...very interesting and very high quality. Not flashy or commercial at all, just excellent information. They don't try to put on a show for you, you see how it really is, complete with beer drinking employees! Well worth a visit. It is free but i would have paid.
The Glenlivet in Scotland was also interesting. I think that was free too. Not quite as memorable as BMW but very interesting and well done, even if you are not a whisky snob.
Finally, the very popular Guinness "factory" tour in Dublin. It is clear that the objective is to position this tour as some kind of pilgrimage for Guinness fans. It is fairly well done but you certainly won't miss anything if you skip it. Don't expect anything great. Overall, it was a little disappointing considering the hype and the cost but still somewhat entertaining. I have to say that the only seriously disappointing part of it was at the end when I claimed my long-awaited pint. The pint is far from lovingly poured as I had experienced at many nice pubs around the world. No, at the home of Guinness, it is prepoured and handed to you. You are asked if you want traditional or extra cold but they were all mixed in anyway and I got extra-cold after ordering traditional. Not just a forgivable mistake but a mix up resulting from the workers who didn't seem to care and probably jaded from having to throw out all the un-drunk pints. A lot of the other visitors seemed to not like Guinness at all but were just there because it is a "must-see".
If you love china you need to make the trip to Stoke-on-Trent in England. The Wedgewood tour is the best and you see every step in the amazing process of creating fine bone china. Also worth visiting is Spode. Both have excellent dining facilities and gift shops for purchasing items at far below US prices. There is also a Wedgewood outlet type shop full of bargains — but not at the main center. Stoke is comprised of 5 or so small towns and driving is very confusing! It is all there — from Doulton to Aynsley and I came home with a suitcase full of china. Having it shipped is one way to go. It would be $40 at least and each pottery place would mean a separate shipment. It was worth it to load the luggage — and England was not our last place to visit. Not one item was broken.
Roswell, Ga USA 02/06/04
Champagne tours in Reims
We took a day trip to Reims in the Champagne region of France and were able to visit two factories. The Taittinger people are a little uppity, but the tour (available in several languages, including English) was fascinating. The chalk caves went on forever, and because their estate is built on the former monastery of St. Nicaise, there are plenty of archaeological highlights along the way. (Including some Roman stuff.) We also got to see the bottles get "popped" to extract the yeast and then recorked by the machinery. Cool! And you get a sample at the end with very little pressure to buy. The only other facility we could tour in low season with no reservations was owned by Martel/Maxim. Their actual factory is in Epernay but they have a facility in Reims to give tours and sell bottles. While we saw antique equipment and went down into some caves, it wasn't nearly as cool as Taittinger. You do get three tastings instead of one, though. (Also, we thought it was amusing to learn that Roederer, the maker of Cristal, only offers tours by appointment and upon referral. So you'd better contact your CEO or rap star friends before you leave.)
South Pasadena, CA USA 01/21/04
My parents visited Venice and the Nuova Venier factory in September of 2003. They purchased a glass vase to the value of £800.00 and a chandelier to the value of £1500.00. These were paid for using a Mastercard. They were promised delivery in three weeks and assured that the chandelier would be completely assembled on arrival. The purchases actually took seven weeks to arrive after many phone calls chasing the delivery, and upon arrival, the chandelier was found to be delivered in hundreds of pieces and not wired together, with no instructions, and a small cable and chain when a five metre drop of cable and chain had been promised. Upon complaining, my Parents have received pieces of cable which they are supposed to piece together themselves along with pieces of chain, and instructions that are so poor they are laughable. The credit card company are not particulary helpful as they say that my Parents have no proof that the chandelier was to be delivered in one piece, and the factory tells them that they NEVER deliver their chandeliers pieced together. Beware of Nuova Venier. It's a lot of money to waste.
Chester, UK 01/14/04
Murano Glass purchase at Nuova Venier was a scam. I made a purchase with my Mastercard, got my invoice and a promise to ship the goods in 3 months. They ran my American Express card through for more than $8,300 and I've never received any products. They won't respond to any registered correspondance, and American Express said they can do nothing. It's fraud but my lawyer doesn't think much if anything can be done. Be careful, they are very pushy salespersons. This happened in June 2003.
Victoria, BC canada 11/20/03
If I had to chose between the Guiness factory tour and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery tour, I would definitely choose Jameson! You are led through the facility by a charming crew, whereas the Guiness tour is self led. Dublin is great! Also, the open air bus is well worth the money!
Murano is an island near Venice. The waterbus takes about 40 minutes to get there. The glass tour was pretty interesting. I was there during the winter so crowds were not an issue but we were told that during the summer it is crazy. Despite what people say, the glass shop prices are not much lower in Murano.
When in Amesterdam,go to the Heineken tour. I dont think they still make beer there, but they show you the process and take you on a trippy ride where you see an assembly line as if you're a beer bottle. At the end, you get 3 glasses of Heineken plus the glass. It only costs 5 euro, which is worth it for the 3 beers alone.
dETROIT, MI USA 11/05/03
German Car Factory tours
The Porsche factory tour in Stuttgart was incredible. Making reservations involved some paperwork via your local Porsche dealer. The adjoining musuem is not real great, but it is right there. The Mercedes factory tour in Stuttgart (singelfinden) is also good, and making reservations only takes a phone call. The mercedes museum in stuttgart is very good, went twice....
Rochester, mn USA 10/24/03
Porsche plant in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen
Last march, my wife, myself and her German intern toured the Porsche plant. I don't know if you can just walk up and take a tour, her former intern lives in Germany and got us an invite to go on the English tour and it was well worth it. I don't own a Porsche but have always loved them and needed to see this "holy grail" of Porsche lovers. The tour was excellent. It was amazing how the cars were built. I was amazed on how small the factory was, but also how many cars were being made at the small plant. We arrived during a break and the workers were hanging out, having a beer and talking. Then the bell rang and the line started up again. When you are taking the tour, you are feet away from the workers doing their work and you had to watch out for the robot parts truck on the line. My manager at work has a 911 and I called him and said I could have got you spare parts, that's how close to the line I was. If you're going to Germany, contact the factory in advance to get a tour. They have a cool display of old cars too. You can get some cool Porsche shirts and mugs at the store. Next time, I'll have to take the VW tour, since it's the only real German car that I own right now.
PA USA 10/08/03
Drove to Waterford from Dublin for a factory tour in August. Was somewhat apprehensive because it was a Sunday, but tours run all day and the plant was operated by a small crew. Very interesting tour and for collectors, factory store has many limited distribution items. The factory has a very good cafeteria for lunch/snacks.
Went back to Dublin through Kilkenny- interesting town with a castle.
One word of advice, Irish roads, even major highways, very slow going.
A lot of traffic even on Sunday. Average speed around 30 mph. Also, make
sure you take a good map and compass.
Newport Beach, Ca USA 09/29/03
I love to go to potteries. I've been to the great Wedgewood extravaganza twice, which is great fun and always being updated. You can try your hand at throwing, painting and there are always artisans at work. The most all around educational is the Gladstone Museum which is the last of the coke-fired kilns that was turned into an "all potteries" museum, also with much hands-on and artisans at work. In a different area, however, and very great fun, on our last trip we went to Bovey-Tracey, in Devon UK, to visit the Cardew Teapottery. Paul Cardew has the contract for all the Disney teapots so you will recognize his work when you see it. It is smaller, very kid friendly, great seconds shop, and when we were there in March, we saw Mr. Cardew himself strolling through the place - very exciting to us. (You know it's the boss when he's in scrubby clothes and everyone looks else like they are ready to perform surgery! We recognized him from his pictures.) They have all sorts of things you can paint/fire, take home to do yourself. All these places have very reasonable cafes for the employees and tourists as well. My favorite was the one at Spode, but Royal Doulton is the most beautiful with displays of famous china, Toby mug characters and statues.
Pottstown, PA USA 09/24/03
bmw tour in germany
On a recent trip to Bavaria we made reservations at the BMW factory in Dingledorf. My twin 13 year old boys were traveling with me and this was the highlight of the trip. Very well organized. One note when making a reservation is to clearly state you would like the tour in English. We did this in advance and had our own private tour with an older gentleman who came in just for us speaking excellent english. One note...store is closed the month of August for vacation. Boys were disappointed in this but everything else was great!
northfield, mn USA 09/18/03
Perugina factory tour! Our schedule couldn't accomodate it, but here is the phone number for the perugina chocolate factory. you must call and get a reservation for the tour: 07552761.
arlington, va USA 09/15/03
Skip this diamond tour in Amsterdam
When in Amsterdam I visited the Gasson Diamond Factory. While there was no cost or pressure to buy the tour was mediocre at best. Your approx 2 hours are better spent elsewhere in this beautiful city.
Walut Creek, CA USA 09/08/03
Famous Grouse Experience in Scotland
We spent a fun afternoon at the Famous Grouse Experience (Scotland's oldest distillery) near Crieff, Scotland, this summer. Very entertaining and interactive, bring the kids, we learned a lot about scotch and they have a tasting room afer the tour if you want to partake. Their website alone is worth a visit also: http://www.famousgrouse.co.uk/experience/
CO USA 08/29/03
Airbus factory in France
I toured the factory where Airbus planes are assembled in Toulouse, France and I think it was the coolest sightseeing thing I have ever done. Don't miss it! They offer tours in English at least once a day. If you're planning on passing through Toulouse, look in a Lonely Planet guidebook for the phone number and register AT LEAST two weeks in advance- you'll need to provide first and last names, birth dates, and nationalities for everyone in your party when making the reservation, and a passport is required in order to get in.
Rochester, NY USA 07/24/03
Crystal near Innsbruck, Austria
In addition to the Swarovski factory mentioned below, there is also a Swarovski Crystal Museum and maze outside of Innsbruck which is great fun. We have been twice and enjoyed the unique and unusual displays. The cost was small, but the items in the store were more than U.S. prices (Find the ones you like and come home and search Ebay).
San Diego, CA United States 07/18/03
Florence's Leather School
Italian leather goods are world famous for their craftsmanship and quality, and while in italy, the place to go shopping for leather goods is Florence. There is a leather school (Scuola del Cuoio) in the convent of Santa Croce church in Florence where you can see some limited work of gold leaf applied to leather (as in belts and book covers). While fine leather pants and jackets are not cheap in such places, they are still cheaper than comparable ones sold in major U.S stores There are many leather outlets in Florence, but this one is certified. The internet website for this school is: www.leatherschool.it
Santa Rosa, CA USA 06/06/03
Wool & Beer (& Crystal)
The Blarney Woolen Mills in Ireland is full of souvenirs and Irish products. The Guinness tour in Dublin is great. The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam is the BEST! The Waterford tour was really neat but I found the staff rude.
houston, tx USA 04/14/03
Aalsmeer Flower Auction, near Amsterdam
Don't miss the fascinating flower auction in Aalsmeer, on the outskirts of Amsterdam (see p.214 of Rick's new Amsterdam 2003 city guide). Opened in 1968 and expanded several times over the years, the building covers an area the size of 125 football fields. It's the largest building on earth under one roof.
Every day, 20 million flowers and plants follow a carefully choreographed dance through the auction halls. Bidding begins at 6:30 in the morning and is finished by 10:30 or 11 o'clock so you should arrive EARLY. Pallets are wheeled onto tracks in the floor where they form a train. There's constant movement on the floor as the trains weave in and out and new pallets jostle for position. It's like being inside a giant kaleidoscope.
Watch the action from an open catwalk suspended from the ceiling. At intervals along the catwalk there are information loudspeakers in English. Big observation windows afford visitors a view of the auctions. Each room holds 400 to 600 buyers who sit at desks set up amphitheater-style. I was surprised by how young so many of the buyers were, given the amount of money changing hands and the quick decision-making required.
Packaged flowers are transferred to trucks waiting at the loading dock
for delivery. Plants bought in Aalsmeer this morning will be in flower
shops around the world this evening or tomorrow morning.
Tucson, Arizona USA 02/14/03
Volkswagen Autostadt and Tour
Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, a day trip from Berlin, has a very good factory tour that is part of its Autostadt theme park. The two-year-old automobile theme park is a beautifully landscaped area, modern buildings with hands-on exhibits, films, museum, childcare area, gift shops, restaurants, etc. Very professionally done and tourist friendly. You can purchase either a one-day or two-day ticket which covers everything. There are tours in English, but we were there late in the day and we took one in German, since it was the only one left. The tour guide, who also spoke English, aware of our lack of German, took every opportunity he could to speak to us, the only non-German speakers, in English. If you go here you will not be disappointed.
Camarillo, CA USA 12/14/02
The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam was certainly an experience. It's very slick, almost Disney (with "rides" and everything), and pretty much uninformative. Heineken uses a certain strain of yeast ("Strain A") that gives it its distinctive flavor — there, that's pretty much all I learned. On the other hand, 7.50 is a decent price for three "free" glasses of beer and a free beer glass at the end of the tour. Plus, you get some entertainment value from laughing at all the silly exhibits and the attempts at brainwashing you into liking Heineken. And you get to send a video e-mail to two people for free (although my parents said it didn't work for them). It was silly but fun.
Studying in London, UK 11/25/02
Waterford Crystal Tour
One more recommendation for the Waterford Crystal factory tour. It was great! You get to go through the main work areas and are standing 5 feet from the workers. They talk to you and one person in our group got to help. The best part was in the giftshop, they had a master engraver who would engrave your purchases for FREE. Literally, as many letters and whatever and however many items you wanted. The engraver was wonderful and very friendly. As an FYI, the tour costs 6 Euros per person, but we got a 2-for-1 coupon from our B&B hostess.
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA USA 11/21/02
I stumbled onto this website because I'm trying to reach Nuova Venier by email. We were there on October 21, 2002 & weren't at all surprized at the aggressive sales. After all, for a free taxi ride to the factory, we expected it . . . it's not a museum, it's a business. We enjoyed the glass blowing demo and wandering through the collection rooms. We received our purchases November 1 and they were just fine. My husband has a question and wanted to email NV - the email address is useless. I'd recommend the tour. If you don't like the sales pitch, wait outside and admire the scenery. Or you can take their free taxi to Venice. Good luck.
Colorado Springs, CO USA 11/14/02
I recently visited the Nuova Venier factory and was very disappointed. There was no factory tour - just 10 mins of watching glass making which, although fascinating, was still only 10 mins and demonstrated only 1 glass making technique. There was no explanation of other glass making techniques; no history of the craft; our questions on colours, styles, history, techniques etc. were met with very vague answers. We asked if it would be possible to see some other glass making processes and were told that it might be possible after the rest of the tour. However, the sole purpose of the "rest of the tour" seemed to be to sell us glass which was completey out of our price-range. The salesperson was extremely pushy and we did not dare to touch anything or comment on how much we liked something as she immediately tried to sell it to us. Several times we asked to see some smaller, less expensive items, but this just did not happen. Had they been less pushy we may well have bought something as some of the items were incredibly beautiful. However, all that happened was we left the factory feeling hassled and disgruntled and with very little insight into the glass industry in Murano. Needless to say, the demonstration of other glass making techniques did not materialise!
London, UK 11/06/02
I was recently in Venice and visited Nuova Venier glass factory. True, the salesmen were a bit pushy, overall I found them to be knowledgable and helpful in making a decision to buy glass. I have not received the merchadise yet, for I am yet to send them the balance. Once I do, i will inform you all on how soon I received it, I can't wait, it is a beautiful water goblet and 6 glasses,hopefully I will have for Thanksgiving!
Alhambra, Ca USA 10/23/02
I bought a glass plate at Nuova Venier in late September 2002. They said it would arrive in about 3 weeks. I asked for a tracking # after 2 weeks. They replied the next day and it arrived in perfect shape 1 week later. The salesman was polite and not aggressive. We went to another showroom 9 years ago and they were very pushy.
Joppa, MD USA 10/22/02
Deruta Pottery in Italy
While in Tuscany in August 2002 I shopped in Deruta for italian pottery. There are factories everywhere and easily found just of the autostrade. A car is a must. However be aware the prices are still high on items rarely found in US stores. The common items can be less than half off US prices. The more unusual items are approx one third off. For me it wasn't worth going out of my way to visit these factories.
Walnut Creek, , Ca USA 09/25/02
Took the Meissen porcelain factory tour a couple of weeks ago. This is truly a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in porcelain manufacturing/painting. The prices were also a must-see and the seconds aren't much better, unless you know what you are looking for. The exhibition hall upstairs is astonishing! Whether you consider yourself an artist or not (I'm not), the talent and techique involved in this craft is awesome. There were no long waits, due to the floods, from which Meissen received extensive damage.
Huntington Beach, CA USA 09/25/02
Although it's not a factory, the town of Kalmar has some artists who demonstrate glass blowing (Westholms Glas Studio, Tel. 0480-257-70) and pottery making in small rooms under the old city gates. It's a nice way to spend some time up close and personal with people who carry on the "tradition". If you are in town in the summer they often have festivals and open air markets which make it a fun atmosphere to spend some time in. I'd also recommend spending some time at Skansen, an outdoor cultural museum in Stockholm, Sweden where there are many artists demonstrating their crafts as well.
KS USA 07/19/02
I need to write in defense of Nuova Venier in Venice. True, I live in the UK but I cannot see that this would make any difference to the service we received when we visited in May. There were no high pressure sales, though staff were courteous and helpful. We purchased some glass and arranged shipment in July as that's when it suited us. When we needed it to be delivered earlier, I rang and all the glass arrived beautifully packaged within 24 hours of my call. We have been very impressed and would certainly go back.
London, UK 07/09/02
Hummel Factory - add'l info
I found a web page with the travel directions to the Hummel factory and all sorts of particulars. When you see the directional signs, they have the little traveler figurine depicted on them, and they say "Hummel Fabrik" underneath. (Fabrik means factory.) The signs are brown, if I recall correctly — a 50/50 prospect at best.
If your traveling party includes children, be aware that all the tours seem to include pushy old ladies whose lives center around Hummel figurines. Once the kids start to fizzle, cheer them up with a game or two in the parking lot. Or the employee cafeteria is beneath the mega gift shop, and is an interesting place to take a break, while the old lady component of your group finishes up.
The website's URL is: http://www.mihummel.com/heritage/heritage_visit.html
One last thing: if you or a member of your party are a member of the
Hummel Figurine Collector's Club, bring the card with you! You get treated
especially nicely, and you get a small, cool gift to comemmorate the occasion.
Have a wonderful time!
Boston, MA USA 07/05/02
The Osborne bodega and bull billboards
Greetings, A week ago I was in El Puerto de Santa Maria in southern Spain, and had the opportunity to visit the Osborne Bodega where they make sherry and brandy. For only 3 Euros, a person could have an hourlong tour of the bodega and to see many of their large barrels and distillery tanks, and we were encouraged to smell the not-quite-ready sherry, and to notice the sediment of the yeast in a glass-bottomed barrel. Afterwards we were invited to try the fine, regular and cream sherries with green olives called "acetunas", and as a gift, the tourguide gave us a small bottle of Osborne brandy.
Regarding the black bull billboards, these are property of Osborne bodegas, and have always been. They just aren't allowed to put the "Osborne" name on the bulls so as not to be a distraction. I even have a T-Shirt of the bull that changes colors in sunlight, and at night the bull's outline glows in the dark.
PS the sherry triangle includes Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlucar de
la Barromeda. Other bodegas include the "Terry" and "Sandeman" as well
as "Tio Pepe".
Foster City, CA USA 06/09/02
Bushmills distillery is well worth a visit. The smell of the whiskey alone is worth going for. Informative, interesting tour, and yet another reason to visit lovely Northern ireland
Dublin, Ireland 05/23/02
Leyk handmade German buildings
For a real treat, stop in at the LEYK lichthauser (German illuminated house factory). Located in the small village of Woernitz, the small factory is located just off A7 autobahn a few miles south of Rothenburg. WARNING!! This may start a collection of the beautiful, handmade historical houses and buildings of Germany. Workmanship is exquisite, and they make a stunning holiday exhibit (all lit by candles or white Christmas lights). Ask any ex-GI who was stationed in Germany, and they will rave about the LEYK houses. Look them up at www.leyk-shop.com. Jinx Hoover
Austin, Tx USA 05/12/02
If ever you are in Naples, there is a cameo "factory" near the Torre di Greca. It is not really a factory, but you can watch artisans hand carve cameos. They have an outstanding selection of cameos to purchase, and prices are reasonable. This factory is near the Cappo di Monte ceramic factory which is known for their ceramic flowers. Of course, while on the Amalfi coast, there are a lot of ceramic factories, notably at Vietri sul Mare.
Philadelphia, PA USA 04/17/02
Guinness tour in Dublin-forget it-its just a very long ad-no beer is made there
mi USA 04/11/02
You really ought to visit the trombone factory in Peterlee County Durham, England. Its a blast!!
New Orleans, USA 04/02/02
So far, I give this museum the worst marks of all. Very dated, as if Monsanto Plastics built it for Disney 20 years ago and didn't maintain it. For a company with so much history, ther were very few cars and motorcycles on display. At this point they should pay you. Save the cab fare and just go to new car dealer and kick some tires.
Sierra Madre, CA USA 04/01/02
Three letters: DHL!! Ship anything you buy overseas home via DHL and it will arrive safely and within reasonable time. Trust vendors or other shippers at your ow-high — risk. DHL is great for sending some things ahead, too, to save lots of timechecking in at the airport and risk of lost luggage.
CA USA 03/23/02
Rick's missing the boat
Rick made his way through as a piano teacher, and his dad was a piano importer. So why doesn't he clue us musical types in on where the best piano factory tours are? I'd love to see Bosendorfers being made! That being said, if you are a drum junkie, you can get a tour of Paiste's cymbal plant in Switzerland. Probably not that interesting to non-drummers.
New Orleans, USA 03/22/02
Hummel Factory Tours
The Hummel Figurine factory is near Coberg, off the beaten path from anywhere. Getting there was hot, crowded with LKW's (big nasty trucks with lots of exhaust) and confusing. But it was well worth it. We happened to arrive on a Friday in the summer, when no tours are scheduled. But some sweet talking, and the promise that no one would have to translate for us (I speak German) got us in the door. We aren't huge Hummel fans, but the place was great. The craftspeople couldn't have been nicer, and they even let my 8 year old daughter construct a Hummel from clay. While there, consider having a Hummel made with your own message and the date. It was not cheap, but my Mother In Law treasured the Hummel that we brought home to her. Because she is a member of the Hummel Collector's Club, we were given a little Hummel Ornament to bring to her. The tour is free, but call ahead for hours. Lastly, make sure you visit the factory itself, across the street from the huge gift shop. We saw endless numbers of tour buses stopping to disgorge their passengers at the gift shop, and not one of the people ever saw the factory itself. The gift shop is okay, but the prices are no better than anywhere else in Germany, and the factory is really neat.
Boston, MA USA 03/15/02
Let me add my voice to the condemnations of Nuova Venier. AVOID THIS PLACE! We purchased sconces and one arrived in pieces. A year later we are still waiting for a replacement. They completely refuse to even consider refunding our money.
Atlanta, GA USA 02/28/02
Nuova Venier Glass Factory - Second Opinion
I read someone else's opinion of this place and disagree. True, it is designed to get you to buy lots of glass but we never felt pressured. We ended up buying a chandelier and a wine set for a good price. The chandelier arrived flawless a month later and the wine set we brought back with us. The wiring on the chandelier wasn't done too well, but that was an easy fix. But I agree — buyer beware.
Redondo Beach, CA USA 02/21/02
If in Engelberg, Switzerland make sure to go see the tour of the only cheese factory in a monastery in Europe. It is located in a 12th century monastery which is still active today. Wonderful cheese, wonderful town.
Tampa, FL USA 02/21/02
Nuova Venier Glass Factory
Avoid this factory when in Venice. You may become a victim like us. From the moment you step into this factory you are approached by high pressure sales people. We ended up spending 1500 USD and never received the merchandise. Three times we have complained and three times we were assured of a delivery date. Still waiting after three months. Buyer beware!
Ferrari Museum - Modena
Not really a factory, but interesting nonetheless. If you are a Ferrari fan, rent a car for the day and drive up to the Ferarri museum in Modena (just a tad north of Bologna). If you are lucky, like we were, you can eat lunch with the Ferarri factory workers on their lunch break...you can't miss them, they all dress in red Ferarri shirts and jackets. Not only is the museum amazing, if you drive out of town at the right time, listen for that whining noise of an F1 engine, stop along the chain link fence and watch them test driving the F1 cars. We rented a car in Florence and drove there in a less than two hours. It was nice to get out of the crowds of Florence for a short while and experience a small Italian town in which all residents work at the Ferarri factory!
Seattle, WA USA 12/01/01
Meissen China Factory
Great tour! The factory is located in the small town of Meissen a short distance from Dresden. They present the history of the factory, which has been located in the same place since the mid 1700's, and take you through the production process in small rooms that allow close-up inspection of the process from beginning to end. Small fee for the tour is well worth the price. The factory shop at the end shows all the various editions of Meissen china, and is very educational and informative. They do have seconds for sale in some of their editions that are less expensive than the first line stuff.
Gainesville, USA 11/05/01
The Waterford Factory tour outside the town of Waterford is the best tour I've been on. You are right down on the workroom floor and can talk to the artisans. A big plus — the special sales room downstairs where I bought for $99 USD bowls that do for about 300 here!!! They were heavy to carry home but well worth the effort!!!
Chicago, IL USA 10/02/01
In Copenhagen, Denmark, I visited the Carlsberg Brewery. There's a free self-guided tour, which also includes 2 tickets for free drinks (beer or soda) at the end of the tour. Well worthwhile, especially on a hot day.
Santa Clara, CA USA 09/17/01
I have just seen a video of Kolmar in Alsace. It also showed other
places in France. I would like to obtain copies of the video , but it is
not listed on the site. Please contact me if it is available.
betty murphy bireley
Victoria, tx USA 08/19/01
No tour, but a lovely day spent on isle of Burano (not Murano) outside
of Venice. Beautiful village, nice people. Fun to watch such an old craft
still be practiced so close to the big city.
orinda, ca USA 07/10/01
Not a factory tour per se, but The State Automobile Collection/Museum
in Mulhouse, France is wonderful. It's a short bus ride away from the
train station. The collection has over 100 Bugattis among other wonderful
cars and cameras are welcome. All cars are described in French and English.
A great way to spend a day when you want to do the Wine Road but a TORRENTIAL
DOWNPOUR puts a big damper on that idea. Great gift shop too.
Denver, CO USA 06/28/01
Regarding the Normandy town of Villedieu, not only does it have copper, but it also has one of the 4 remaining bell foundries in France. The actual location is in the center of town, across from the church. The little tourist information office can distribute a map to the location.
The tour is very interesting & many workers speak English. On the days that they fire the bell (pour the molds), they allow access to the public. The last tour is at 1730. The town itself is wonderful. We did our dinner shopping at the wine store, the pattiserie, & the boucherie with wonderful results.
We were staying at the logis Relais de la Foret near Bayeux. Villedieu
made an excellent stop on the return from our morning at Mt. St. Michel.
In Tuscany, we spent an afternoon visiting a town called Scarperia north
of Lucca. The main industry of this small town is knives and cutlery.
We found a number of shops and small factories which will let you look
around. This is well off the tourist track. Don't go on a Sunday or Monday
- most of the shops are closed.
Victoria, bc Canada 06/14/01
I toured one of the Murano glass factories in Venice. I was a bit leary
at first, but overall it was very interesting, with very little pressure
to buy anything. The showroom has some fabulous glass art created there.
Castro Valley, CA USA 06/06/01
If you want beer, there are various tours throughout Europe that are excellent.
In Amsterdam, Holland you must visit the Heineken brewery — it tastes much better in Holland than in the U.S. It is a 1-hour tour with about a 1.5-hour tasting afterwards.
In Belgium, just north of Brussels is Duvel, a "must" tour. It also takes about 1 hour, with a 2-hour tasting afterwards.
In Germany, there are many breweries that will have tastings if you
call ahead, or you can always stay at a brewery guesthouse.
Wayne, PA USA 06/06/01
It's not exactly a factory, but the Ceramiche Rampini workshop in Chianti is a must for those who like Italian ceramics and majolica. It's in a pretty house in the countryside, the staff speaks English (many of the sales professionals *are* English), and the ceramics are beautiful and unique. You can buy firsts as well as discounted wares in the shop, and they also take special orders and ship to the US for a reasonable fee.
I carried a pitcher home and ordered a set of canisters. They seemed
expensive at the time, but I got them for a fraction of what you'd pay
here - if you could ever find such well-painted and pretty pieces, that
is. I wish I'd bought more.
New York, NY USA 06/05/01
The Cadbury Factory in Birmingham is very interesting and you get to taste
all along the way. When you finish there is a gift shop and the best buy
are bags of seconds. I've even gone by just to pick up the candy without
Spring, Tx USA 02/26/01
Car lovers won't want to miss the BMW factory tour! Just outside of
Munich, it's a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Sewell, NJ USA 02/24/01
Hadeland Glass Factory in Norway is off the beaten path and you will
need to rent a car to get there. Norway does not have the equivalent of
OSHA — you can go on a self-guided tour through the factory and can get
extremely close to the action. One of the options on the tour is blowing
your own glass. We decided to purchase the real thing in an on-site gift
shop. It's a great place to buy factory seconds.
Sioux City, IA USA 02/20/01
If you like beer, then a trip to Burton-on-Trent, England is a definite tour destination. The city is ALL brewery!
Bass Ale is the primary brewer. Their red triangle symbol was the first official trademark of England. Tours are given in two forms: museum and brewery, or museum only. Be prepared to walk and climb steps. The day we took the tour, we climbed 300 steps, which was great because it afforded us views of the city from 3rd and 4th floors of the factory. Bass brews a number of different beers. On the day you visit, you may be treated to a different brew than previously visited on former tours. There is a cost to the tour/museum but well worth it. Be prepared to spend about 3 hours+ for both.
Tucker's Maltings in Newton Abbot, Devon, England claims to be England's only traditional working malthouse which is open to the public. Malt is a vital ingredient in many foods (not just beer). If you enjoy Victorian history, you must see this site.
The House of Marbles and Teign Valley Glass in Bovey Tracey, Devon,
England offers a museum with two unique marble runs, and also sells glass
items. Walk beyond the museum doors and you can see crafters blowing and
shaping glass plus making marbles! If you are a Peter Pan fan, you will
understand the English fascination with "marbles."
Jo Anne VG
Huntington Beach, CA USA 02/19/01
One of the most surprising places we found in the Lakes District of England was the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick. This location was the first to manufacture pencils in the world, due to the discovery of graphite in the area. You don't actually see the pencils being made, but a video and the items in the museum paint the story perfectly. The gift shop has something for every artist, and there is a children's area for little Picassos.
This museum's admission is minimal. You can see it all within an hour
and a half or less. It makes a nice change of pace from all of the outdoorsy
things the Lakes District has to offer, and a fun rainy day activity.
Montgomery, AL USA 02/08/01
In the Loire region, we followed signs to a "champignon" cave for a tour. With my rusty French, I thought that we would be tasting French champagne, only to discover we carried flashlights through dark caves with a French tour guide to thousands of mushrooms! We laughed so much that we cried. It was a great experience.
On another trip, we tagged along with a grade-school group in caves outside Chambery and saw the most unbelievable stalagtites, and rode down a steep hill through the clouds back to the road.
Do not be too rigid with a schedule, and follow signs to local attractions.
Nashua, NH USA 01/14/01
Peter Stevens (below) describes his pleasurable stroll through the Real Fabrica de Tapies in Madrid, where they weave and repair tapestries. On my first day in Paris, without speaking a word of French, I set out to see the Aubusson Tapestry Factory. I had read about their beautiful tapestries, and had seen pictures of the magnificent weavings creating during the reigns of the Louis.
After first getting lost as I left the subway station, and then walking past the factory, because I didn't realize the wonderful, terracotta sculpted building was a factory; I was allowed to join the tour, which had just begun. Of course, to my surprise, but delight, the two-hour tour was conducted in French.
We wandered from top floor to bottom, seeing the old original patterns and techiques and then the new, computer-driven looms. Women wove beautiful colored wall-hangings from sketches and water-colored paintings.
It was a wonderful way to spend my first afternoon; a triumph to find the factory; and then to realize that there was enough "explanation" and demonstration of techniques that I really had no "language barrier" at all.
The tours are offered Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and would be enjoyed
by anyone interested in weaving, patterns, textures and a little history
of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Renton, WA USA 12/12/00
Whilst visiting Stoke-On-Trent, England, I toured the various potteries,
including Wegdwood, Royal Doulton and smaller manufacturers I never knew
existed. It was really good being in the capital of pottery manufacturing
and being able to take in most of the big names in one day. I used an
excellent driver who provided the tour at — see www.around-n-about.co.uk
Worcester, USA 12/10/00
The Red October Confectionery Factory in Moscow, Russia offers an excellent
tour and traditional Russian Chocolates with formulae virtually unchanged
in the last 75 years. These include such standards as "Pigeon-Toed Bear,"
"Tilting doll," "Hunchback Horse," "Crayfish Necks," and the ever-popular
"Pushkin's Fairy Tales." The classic favorites also include "The Little
Red Riding Hood." Are we really so different?
Long Beach, CA USA 11/02/00
In July we went to Reims, France & visited the Mumms Champagne Factory.
For $4 USD, we saw a film in English, & had a guided tour underground
in the champagne caves where 8 million bottles of Mumms are getting ready
for our consumption. It was so interesting, well done, and to end it all,
a free glass of their champagne, with a choice of 3 kinds. There's no
pressure to buy. It's a nice walk from the rail station if you don't take
OAKLAND PARK, FL USA 09/21/00
In Amsterdam, make sure you hit the Heineken brewery for the tour. When
I went in 1995, the cost of the tour was 2 guilders (at the time about
$1.25). For your buck and a quarter, you get a pretty cool tour of the
facility, narrated by a funny and sarcastic host ("make sure you spend
a lot of money on the FINE merchandise in the gift shop!"), which lasts
roughly 45 minutes. Then comes the good part. For another 45 minutes,
you get to power down as much free Heineken as the waiters will bring
you, which in my case was a LOT. Absolutely make sure you stop off for
a couple of hours; it's well worth your time.
Houston, TX USA 08/28/00
My cheap Swiss heritage must tell you this: Avoid the Gruyere Factory
tour. Cost is 5 Swiss Francs to see pictures, narrated by a cow. Oh, plus
a couple of places to watch through glass. At the end of the tour you
get a plastic-encased "free" sample and a stop at the gift shop. The "caves"
where the cheese is aged are free — try that. (Better yet, skip it all
and go to the free tour in Tillamook, Oregon — with real free samples.)
Boring, OR USA 08/27/00
Whilst in Belgium, namely in Spa, we visited the Spa Natural Mineral
Water Factory. You can see the actual production line, seeing the process
from start to finish. Afterwards you can buy from the Spa Shop. An interesting
diversion on a rainy day, in the Ardenne region of Belgium.
I visited the Fuller's brewery in Chiswick, West London a few years ago. It's about halfway between Central London and the airport. I believe reservations are required. The Griffin Brewery in Chiswick is where Fuller's makes its Chiswick Bitter, London Pride, and Fuller's ESB beers...all very good.
I had the good fortune to show up for the last tour on a Friday afternoon
when a large group had cancelled, so I was the only person on the tour.
My guide was a former brewery employee who told great stories of working
there as a kid during WWII and for decades afterwards. Very interesting
stuff, and you can learn about where Marmite comes from (the used yeast
scrapings) and why cask-conditioned beer is so much better than the pasteurized
stuff. The tour includes a pint at the pub on premises, but since it was
the end of the week and neither of us had anywhere to be, the guide and
I hung out, told stories, and got schnockered together. One of the most
enjoyable afternoons I've spent.
Atlanta, GA USA 07/08/00
The Waterford Crystal factory tour in Waterford, Ireland is great. You
get to see how beautiful crystal is made from start to finish with a well-informed
guide, and you get to hold the crystal from stage to stage. Imagine holding
a crystal prize bowl that's worth $6000! There is a gorgeous showroom
at the end of the tour, of course, but for the best prices on Waterford,
go to Blarney Woolen Mills in the actual town of Blarney. They have an
exclusive contract with Waterford to provide Waterford crystal cheaper
than anywhere in the world — the factory included!
Missouri City, TX USA 06/24/00
In Normandy, just south of St. Lo, look for Villedieu. The town has a
major factory that makes copper cooking wear. We hit it on Sunday when
it was closed, but the stores along the main street were open. Yes, we
carried home a beautiful locally-made skillet — and it works very well.
I think the tour would have been as interesting as the town.
Lawrence, KS USA 05/18/00
Two suggestions for families travelling in England: The Cadbury factory
tour (near Birmingham) is very well done, giving a history of chocolate
and the company, and samples of various stages of chocolate production.
The Body Shop factory tour (near Arundel), while a little heavy on the
hero-worship of its founder, is a fascinating insight into how cosmetic/bath
products are made.
london, UK 04/02/00
While touring Bavaria, we found out the Swarovski factory was only about
an hour's drive away in Wattens, Austria, just east of Innsbruck. It was
very unusual with rooms with different uses of crystals. There were walls
of crystals, a large horse made with crystals, the largest crystal, etc.
and at the end was a shop with everything made by Swarovski. The tour
was free and the end was as expensive as you wanted.
Auburn, CA USA 02/28/00
For student travelers on a budget, the Heineken Brewery is your answer!
They run inexpensive tours throughout the day, but get in line early.
The tour is not very long, but pretty cool. At least you can say you've
been there! Plus — what more can you ask for than 45 minutes of free beer
at the end? They also have a nice gift shop on the premises.
My husband said he would go to Europe if he could tour a car factory.
Ducati's home page said they only offered tours by reservation, and didn't
offer them on the day we would be in Bologna. However, the customer relations
manager — a very sweet kid of about 24 — allowed us to tour the plant anyhow.
It was very interesting to see the women building the motors, and the
full-blown bar in the cafeteria (my kind of work environment). The customer
relations manager even gave us complimentry T-shirts. It was a wonderful
morning and a real eye-opener to life away from home.
El Dorado Hills , CA USA 08/20/99
Steiff Bear outlet is near Munich on A7 in Geingen. You can buy firsts
or discounted seconds as well as see their museum. They take VAT forms.
Hanau, HE GE 08/16/99
Those who do the Guinness Tour in Dublin just for the "free" beer at the
end, or who want a real in-depth look at the brew being made, are likely
to be disappointed. I didn't major in communications nor work in marketing,
but I found the advertising displays interesting — and still influencing
Madison Ave. today (e.g. the Coca-Cola polar bears are a direct ripoff!).
And yes, the closer you get to St. James Gate, the fresher and creamier
the brew tastes. Ireland made me a convert to what I used to call motor
Susan "Pour me a Pint" Swinehart
Campbell, CA USA 07/16/99
In Cologne visit the chocolate factory/museum. It is a modern-looking building on the river which says Imhoff Stollwerk Museum on the outside. It has exhibits on the history of chocolate, the company's history and a working factory floor. You see the whole process from the cocoa beans to wrapping the bars to making hollow figures and truffles. One of the best sights in Cologne in my opinion (after the cathedral!).
I've heard lots of people talk about the Birkenstock factory but unless
you are terribly interested in Birkenstocks, skip it. The Birks are no
less expensive at the factory than elsewhere in Germany.
Bad Kreuznach, Germany 07/01/99
My husband has been a Volkswagen owner for years so our tour of the
Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany (1 hour from Berlin by train)
was like going to Mecca for him. Much to my surprise I enjoyed it as much
as he did. The tours are Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. for groups, 1:15
p.m. for individuals. The guided tour lasts about two hours, as you are
seated in a very comfortable "train" of cars and driven through the factory.
It is very professionally done. Although reservations are not required,
the tours are very popular and it is suggested that you reserve a spot
by calling Volkswagen AG, Visitors' Service, at (+49) (5361) 9-24270.
Children under 10 may not participate.
Reseda, CA USA 06/25/99
The Heineken Brewery tour in Amsterdam is great fun. Purchase tickets
early in the day — they sell out sometimes, especially in Summer. Get there
early to be in the first group through. You get to drink while waiting
for the others. We went with our 21-year-old daughter on my husband's
51st birthday. Birthday folk with ID chug a special birthday mug, and
get to keep it. There were 3 of them that day and he did a good job keeping
up with the 20-somethings. Then they also have a store to purchase memorabilia.
Farmington Hills,, Mi USA 06/23/99
About the Guinness tour....Feeling the need to defend my views, I graduated
Uni with a degree in Communications, which biased my like of the tour.
I find effective and succesful advertising fascinating as well as somewhat
historical, telling a cultural tale through suggestion, manipulation,
and technique. Ok, so I wouldn't suggest flying to Dublin just to visit
it, but if you enjoy a good advertising exhibit, I would still recommend
Chicago, IL USA 06/22/99
I disagree wholeheartedly with the recommendation below for Guiness Brewing tour in Dublin. Granted, you were given 2 stubs for free beer (which could be redeemed for 2 half pints or both for one full pint at the end). The tour was as drab and unremarkable as Dublin is itself (sorry, even Rick agrees with me on this). Unless you like looking at 40-year-old posters which mean absolutely nothing, a historic progression of dilapidated beer cans, lowbrow exhibits and old TV commercials which bring back zero memories, or a cheesy mannequin show that makes Madame Toussaud's seem like like a ride at Disneyland, then you might be in for a good time.
If you are willing to get drunk at their factory bar and order some
food, then you are probably going for the right reasons. For my money,
I'd rather venture out to a local pub, meet the citizens, and lunch in
a true Irish environment to really experience a Guiness in all its glory.
It'll be much more interesting, and the locals will give their own little
humorous spin on "how" and "why" Guiness is made the way it "is." Forget
the drab, antiseptic tour with souvenirs waiting at the end.
Los Angeles, CA USA 06/02/99
Regarding the previous message about the glass factory tour, we found
the same thing: interesting with no pressure. As an alternative after
the tour, instead of returning to Venice, take the vaporetto on to the
islands of Burano to see lace being made, and then to Torcello to see
the frescoes in the old church (and also buy the same lace creations you
find on Burano, but for less money). Then have a long, lingering lunch
at the Locanda Cipriani restaurant there (you probably should make reservations
the preceding day). The food and atmosphere are outstanding; the cannelloni
is the best I have ever had, anywhere! Lunch for two will be about $100.00,
but it's worth it, and you'll need only a light dinner that evening. Then
take the vaporetto back to Venice, and you will have had a full, pressure-free
Bryn Athyn, PA USA 05/26/99
In Venice we stayed at Rick's recommended Hotel Locando Sturion, which
offered a free water taxi to Murano Island to visit a glass factory. Well,
we figured it was going to be some sort of high pressure rip off, but
hey, we were on vacation so what the heck. We had a nice taxi ride to
Murano (the hotel told me that I did not need to tip the driver, and even
though I tried he refused it!), and were taken to one of the factories,
where we were given a very pleasant and NO-pressure tour. Our guide explained
everything about the glassmaking process, and the only hint of any requests
for money were some small tip jars at the area where the glass blowers
worked, but no pressure to put any Lire in them. Then we visited the factory
shop, where again there was no pressure to buy anything. After our tour
we wandered around Murano for a while and then rather than wait for the
taxi to return later in the day, took one of the local water buses back
to Venice. All in all a very enjoyable and — much to my surprise — totally
hassle-free and cost-free morning (except for the nominal bus fee).
A tour of the Straffe Hendrick brewery in Bruges, Belgium is well worth
the time and money. A cheerful guide shares brewing technology and former
techniques with her guests in as many languages as can listen. Gives insight
also into the Belgian love of beer, and its influence. And to top it off,
free beer at the end. Careful, though, Straffe Hendrick means "Strong
Henry", and they aren't kidding!
Conyers, GA USA 05/08/99
There are many companies producing pottery and porcelain in GB, but
the Wedgewood factory tour is the best. And best of all it's FREE! You
need to call ahead, or while there going thru the Wedgewood museum, make
arrangements for the next day. They take only 6 people at a time, twice
a day (tour lasts 2-1/2 hours). My husband, who never understood my love
of porcelain, was amazed by the work that goes into each piece. You will
learn about the artists who produce the beautiful porcelain and how most
of the positions are passed down in each family — and not only the position
but the tools themselves used to create these masterpieces. Have fun!
Chattanooga, Tn USA 04/30/99
ditto on the comments below about the Waterford glass factory in Waterford,
Ireland. Ask to see the Super Bowl trophy that had been dropped just before
finishing and has a huge crack in it (no problem - they make two of the
specials). Plus, one can learn how to order Waterford pieces direct from
the factory from anywhere in the world and save a lot compared to US prices
here at home.
Sun Prairie, WI USA 03/30/99
In Madrid, the Real Fabrica de Tapices lets you see how tapestries are
created and repaired. You can wander through the small building on your
own, or take part in a tour. It's not crowded, and quite interesting.
A half hour is enough time, and you can then walk to the Centro de Arte
Reina Sofia nearby.
Bryn Athyn, PA USA 03/24/99
My husband and I enjoyed the Moorcroft and Royal Doulton tours in Stoke-on-Trent,
England. We detoured from the 2-22 day plan and were glad we did. Moorcroft
we would buy in a heartbeat; Royal Doulton never again now that we've
seen the mass production!
San Jose, CA USA 03/15/99
The town of Nove, Italy in the Veneto is a collection of dozens of ceramics
factories. Favorites are Ancora, Larry's and Union. Ancora creates items
for all of the pricey catalogues in the States and you can get things
at a fraction of the cost. Example: White woven 12" ceramic baskets for
20,000 lire, about $12. Nove is 20 minutes north of Vicenza, the home
of 1500 italian goldsmiths.
Verona, Italy, USA 02/20/99
My teens were burned out on palaces and museums. The salt mine tour in
Salzburg completely revitalized the trip.
Seattle, WA USA 02/16/99
The Avoca Handweavers factory in Avoca, Co. Wicklow is very interesting.
(Don't confuse it with the other outlets around the country). This is
where they actually weave the fabric on handlooms and power looms. The
tours are no charge, and self-guided - you just walk right into the workrooms!
There is also a shop on the premises with beautiful scarves, jackets,
etc. If you rummage around a bit, you can find some great deals on closeouts
or seconds. Getting there is half the fun...it's in one of the most beautiful
areas of Ireland.
Milwaukee, WI USA 02/14/99
Last summer a friend and I spent three weeks in Italy. While we were
in Perugia, a great hill town, we were able to tour the Perugina chocolate
factory. They only give pre-arranged tours but we just took a bus to that
part of town and walked into the main office. They couldn't have been
nicer. We were able to join a private tour that afternoon and got a complete
tour of the factory and the museum plus a variety of Baci and other delicious
chocolates and several small posters. It was an experience worthy of Willie
Phoenix, OR USA 02/10/99
While they're not exactly factory tours, the salt mine tours in Germany
and Austria are an absolutely fascinating experience. It's not every day
that you get to fly down a wooden slide, glide across an underground lake,
and hear about the production of salt. Try the Berchtesgaden area for
a unique experience. You'll have a new appreciation for the expression
"the salt mines."
Glendale, AZ USA 02/09/99
One of the best-kept secrets in England is the tour of the Morgan car
factory in Malvern Link. It's a small, family-run operation that produces
these beautiful, pricey sports cars. Tours are informal - not guided.
We were there in May and were the only ones touring. Check out their web
site. If we'd stop traveling, we could afford a Morgan!
Shoreline, WA USA 01/19/99
Visit Worcester in England to get great bargains on Evesham Porcelain.
We did not visit the factory or the gift shop - the seconds shop was the
place for us. I got deals like you wouldn't believe and saw pieces that
are not available here in the US. Luckily we were traveling by car and
found that it was cheaper to hand carry our purchases home. If we had
had to pay to send the stuff home, poof, there would have gone the savings.
Oakton, VA USA 01/18/99
We went to Roedental, where the Hummel Figurines are made and found the
Goetz factory, where the "American Girl" dolls are made. Since they don't
have regular tours, they gave us a private tour, along with souvenir T-shirts
for our two kids. The kids were thrilled to see "Kirsten", "Samantha",
and all of the others in various stages of production.
Joan Romig Reed
Lafayette, CO USA 01/06/99
When in The Netherlands, visit the De Delftse Pauw factory in Delft. If
you are not familar with their merchandise, they are the manufacturer
of completely hand-painted ceramic ware. They provide a tour whether you
are alone (which I was) or with a group. The merchandise is fairly priced
and you know it is authentic, versus the copies you would normally buy
in a souvenir shop.
TX USA 01/02/99
There is a perfume factory in Grasse, France near Nice. It is a very
beautiful, 1/2 hour bus ride from Nice. They give a very interesting tour
with an explanation of the entire perfume making process. While you are
able to buy perfume at the end of the tour, they are not pushy.
St. Paul, MN USA 12/18/98
When in Paris -go to the Gobelin Tapestry factory 2PM on Thursdays.
Pretend you are Louis XIV choosing some new wall coverings!
Independence, OH USA 12/18/98
Tour of Mercedes factory in Seidlingen Germany is interesting and free.
In September '97 we didn't need advance reservations. Also very highly
recommend Wedgewood factory in England. When we were in Shanghai, China
we toured a silk rug factory - can't remember the name (we were taken
there by our government-controlled tour) Maybe check Lonely Planet or
other guidebooks - silk rugs quite a good deal if you haggle enough.
St. Louis, MO USA 12/10/98
A few years ago my wife and I toured the Waterford Crystal Factory in
Waterford, Ireland. It was much more interesting than I imagined. We were
on a guided tour of the factory which took us through the process of making
crystal from start to finish. The glass blowers were particularly fun
to watch. Some of the larger works of crystal were truly works of art.
Chicago, IL USA 12/07/98
Visiting the glass works on Murano Island at Venice can be interesting
even though they will try to get you to buy buy buy.
On various trips to Europe, I have had the opportunity to participate in some of the factory/product tours available. Also, I heard of many other which I didn't get to do. The tours were always a fun break in the usaual sightseeing schedule (cathedrals, castles, museums, etc.). I'm only going to briefly describe some of the options. For more details check local tourist info and/or e-mail me and I look up what details I have in my journals.
In Amsterdam, the Heineken Brewery was great, with an unlimited supply of beer at the end of the tour, within a limited amount of time.
Likewise, in Copenhagen, visit the Turborg and Carlsberg breweries. While in Denmark, you can vist the Lego factory (but it's not in Copenhagen) and relive your childhood.
In Champagne, particularly Rheims and Epernay, there are the famous champagne producers and their underground "caves", some with free sampling.
In the Dijon, Burgundy area, you can ride down the "Rue des Grandes Crus" (Road of Greta Vintages) on bike or by car, stopping in the towns and visiting the wine merchants for a "degustacion" (wine tasting). Usually the small fee is waived if you buy some of their excellent product (1/4 the price you'll pay in a restaurant for the same vintage wine).
In Lyon, I recall a special, antique silk factory. One of the very few in the world where the White House can send their drapes to be redone, or a Chateau can have a silk tapestry repaired.
In addition, Waterford, Ireland has the crystal, Venice has exquisite
glassmakers, Spain for figurines, etc. Basically, check out what European
products you enjoy, and undoubtedly there will be a tour of the production
facility. They see it as a great promotional tool.
FL USA 11/30/98
The Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland is real cool. Actually, you
don't get to tour the brewery itself, but are treated rather to the evolution
of it's advertising, a short 10 minute movie on the company and it's history,
and an introduction to how the ale is processed. It's about $9 to get
in, and we spent about 1 1/2 hours there. You get a completmentary pint
of Guinness at the end of your visit, and they have the best gift store
(though overpriced, much of the same stuff you can find in Dublin for
cheaper at the souvenir shops).
MP, IL USA 11/29/98
We visited the Meissen Porcelain in Miessen Germany this past June and really enjoyed it. It was one of the few tours in eastern Germany that was available in English. The tour is set up in a rather unique manner. Visitors walk through different rooms and an employee sort of "mimes" the work that is being described by the taped narration. If you didn't speak German, they simply provided you with a tape in your language and you were able to move along with the rest of the crowd and enjoy and follow what was being said and demonstated.
Much different from our tour of the Opera House in Dresden where no
English tours were available and I had to leave a 5 mark ransom on the
only English booklet available. It was a beautiful building, but I know
I missed 75% of it.
Loomis, CA USA 11/28/98