If there's one European city that has a surplus of museums then it's Berlin. Berlin has history seeping from its brickwork – literally - and not all of it good, but all of it remembered.
In Berlin, you'll find museums that cover almost every subject under the sun. From ancient history to modern art, espionage to technology, life in East Germany when the Berlin Wall was in place, and museums dedicated to the devastation and atrocities suffered by the city's Jewish community at the hands of the Nazis.
You’ll find the museums in the city have strict rules about entering with bags. To save yourself the disappointment of being turned away at the door, leave your bags at one of our luggage storage facilities in Berlin where they’ll be safe and you’ll have access to them whenever you want.
Museum Island, Berlin
Five of the best museums in Berlin are housed on Spree Island in the very heart of the city. Spree, or Museum Island as it's now often referred to, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's no entrance fee as such to the island itself. Each of the museums has a separate entrance price, or you can purchase a discounted multiple entrance ticket that will give you entry to all five of the museums plus the James Simon Gallery, which is also housed on the island.
What Museums Are On Museum Island In Berlin?
When you want to browse around a museum with exhibits that aren't all about the history of Germany, but covers subjects and cultures much more diverse then you should go to the Neues Museum. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and Nubians, so is full of classical antiquities. There are more than six thousand unique artifacts on display at the Neues Museum, the most famous of which is the bust of Nefertiti and the extensive papyrus collection housed in the documentation center. Should you visit the Neues Museum when you're in Berlin? The answer to that is a resounding yes.
The Bode Museum is a superb German museum that has mixed collections centered around the Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. The exhibits at the Bode Museum are mainly comprised of sculptures, mosaics, and immense coin and medal collections which are spread over four entire floors of the early 20th-century structure built at the request of the then emperor.
The Pergamon Museum, or Pergamonmuseum in German, on Museum Island is an unusual Berlin museum in that what it houses are in fact replicas of monuments and structures from Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as several collections of interesting Islamic art. One of the most outstanding ancient artifacts of the exhibits housed here is the piece after which the museum is named, the Pergamon Altar which, if it were original, would date back to around 160BC.
Note: Due to extensive renovations in progress there, parts of the museum, including the wing where the Pergamon Altar is, won't be reopening for visitors until approximately 2025.
The Altes Museum, like the Neuse Museum, is one of the five located on Museum Island. The 19th-century building of Neoclassical design housing the Altes Museum contains vast collections of classical antiquities. The lower floor of the two-story structure houses the main collections of Greek artifacts consisting of sculptures, jewelry, pottery, and craftwork. In another wing, known as the blue chamber, there are coin collections from the ancient world dating from 7BC to the days of the Roman Empire. The higher level of the museum is focused on art from Roman times and objects of interest from the Italian Etruscan civilization.
The Altes National Gallery or Nationalgalerie is another Neoclassical 19th century structure on Museum Island and one of the best art museums in Berlin. While the art museum may resemble a Roman temple with its columned entrance, what is worshipped inside is contemporary art. Here you'll find superb Romantic and Expressionist works from Europe that were created in the same era as the building as well as paintings by well-known French and German Impressionists like Monet and Liebermann.
Other Museums In Berlin
If you purchase the Berlin Museum Pass then you'll already know there are a lot more than five museums in Berlin. With that pass, you'll have admission to thirty museums, and that's still not all of them. Listed below are some of the best museums in Berlin that you really shouldn't miss, so make the most of your pass and visit as many as you can. You'll probably find yourself eating on the go to make sure you get enough time to fit them all in, but don't worry, Berlin's street food scene is great so you won't be going hungry.
Jewish Museum Berlin
In the Jewish Museum Berlin you can explore more than three and a half thousand square meters of exhibition space dedicated to the history of the Jewish culture in Germany over the millennia. You may find this museum different from your expectations as it approaches subjects like the Holocaust from very unusual angles that provoke strong emotional reactions in most visitors.
The Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror is as much a place of remembrance as it is a museum. The structure housing the exhibitions is located on what was the site of the main Gestapo headquarters in Berlin during the time of major Jewish persecution in the country. There are permanent exhibitions in the museum demonstrating the atrocities suffered by the people of the Jewish religion in Germany during that era and a document center with papers detailing the history of the Nazi's racist and anti-religious acts.
If you want to know what life was like behind the Berlin Wall in East Berlin in the 1970s then visiting the DDR Museum is a must-do. At the DDR Museum, you can have an almost real time warp experience with the interactive exhibits that will allow you to drive through the city streets and explore a typical tower block apartment. You'll also learn about the darker side of life in East Berlin and how the Stasi conducted surveillance and interrogations.
German Museum of Technology
The German Museum of Technology will take you on a fascinating journey through the development of technology in Germany. The museum houses interactive exhibits on technology related to transport, communication, space, and robotics through the years as well as the birth of the current digital age.
Museum of Photography
The Museum of Photography is a must-visit for anyone interested in the photographic arts. Part of the museum is dedicated to the life works of controversial German photographer, Helmut Newton. The rest of the museum's two-thousand square meters of gallery space is used to house temporary exhibitions on the history of film and photography.
German Spy Museum
If you're curious about the world of espionage then you're bound to find yourself at the door of the German Spy Museum in Berlin. Once you're inside you'll be able to listen to accounts of actual spying missions recorded by real agents, learn about advanced spying techniques and even see if you'd make the grade as a spy by participating in the interactive exhibits. Going around this museum can turn out to be quite time-consuming as there are over a thousand different exhibits and several fascinating themed areas to work your way through.
If you love the weird and wonderful then the DesignPanopticon is the Berlin museum for you. The DesignPanopticon houses more than three thousand unique objects that will make you wonder why they were made in the first place and if they actually served the purpose they were created for. Be prepared to be amazed and on occasion just a little bit grossed out by what you see. It's a century's worth of oddities, so be prepared as you never know what you're going to come across next.
The Berggruen Museum is one of Berlin's main art galleries and houses what was the personal modern art collection of a German-born art dealer. The collection, which can easily compete with any housed in art galleries worldwide, includes a prolific number of paintings by international artists, Picasso, Klee, and Matisse as well as many more renowned masters.
Are There Cheap Museums in Berlin?
Museums in Berlin do not have high admission charges, but what can make visiting museums and art galleries in Berlin expensive is the sheer quantity of them that you'll want to see. You can keep the cost of your museum visits down by going to the free museums or by making the most of special admission tickets and museum free days.
Best Free Museums In Berlin
If you want to visit a free museum in Berlin then you should put the Jewish Museum Berlin at the top of your list. ANOHA – the Children's World of the Jewish Museum of Berlin is also one of the best things to do with kids in Berlin. While entries to both are free, it doesn't include special temporary exhibits that might be taking place and even though admission is free you should reserve a time slot for your visit on the official website before going.
Museum Sunday In Berlin
Many of the museums in Berlin offer free entry once a week or once a month on specific days. The free entrance days vary from museum to museum. You can find out each museum's free days on their websites. Many of the city museums, but not all, also participate in a special program called Museum Sunday when they allow free admission on the first Sunday of the month.
3-Day Berlin Museums Pass
If you're on Museum Island then the five museums may seem like a lot to pay out for in one day and it is, especially if you want to do some of the amazing free things there are to do in Berlin while you're there. If you want to spread your visits out over several days the admission tickets to buy are ones that are valid for three consecutive days.
If you plan on doing more than the five museums on Museum Island then it's wise to invest in a three-day Berlin Museum Pass which, for a relatively small fee, will give you entry to thirty different Berlin museums. To avoid wasting your viewing time or spending half a day queuing to get in somewhere, the best thing to do is book a time slot for each of your visits on the museum’s official websites.
There really are so many interesting and enlightening museums in Berlin that it's difficult to choose which to visit. It's well worth spending an hour or two deciding on the best ones for you before you go or you may find yourself wandering around Berlin in indecisive circles. Whichever of the Berlin museums you visit, you'll come away wiser and more informed than when you went in. In some cases, you'll also leave feeling sadder and maybe even confused about the way human beings work, but you'll be glad you went.