The How To Guide to Berlin's Museums
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Museum Island, is without a doubt the jewel in Berlin's cultural crown, with people travelling from all over the globe to see its precious treasures and stunning architecture. However, it's not until after arriving that many people discover the OTHER museums of Berlin.
There are literally hundreds of them: the Ramones, computer games, windmills, architectural drawings, homosexuality, puppets, fire engines, musical instruments, greek and roman plaster casts, marijuana, gas lanterns and more - the list is enormous and fascinating.
Of course nobody has the time or the budget to see them all, so we have put together this guide for our guests, offering some inside tips on Berlin's museums that will help you navigate through your choices.
The National Museums
This collection of museums, officially the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - is federally funded and contains the most historically important collections in the country. Run by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the museums are all housed in historical buildings and their focus is on preservation and education as well as research, with the collections including objects and artifacts dating back to the beginning of human history. The five stars of Museum island - Alte Nationalgalerie, Altes Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum - are all included under the National Museums umbrella, as are the Gemäldegalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, the Museum for Photography and the Museum for Asian Art, to name a few. The museums are ticketed of course and can be visited at your leisure but for a more comprehensive experience guided tours, workshops and conferences are also held.
* The hot local tip for these museums is the annual pass. Starting at €25 the basic membership gives you year long access to all permanent exhibitions in the National Museums in off peak times. Even if you only visit Berlin once, this is still great value for money and the best bit - off peak means you avoid the crowds!
The Museumsportal is all of your museum dreams come true, online. It beautifully organises all of Berlin's museums, historical sites, palaces and memorials and allows you to search by category, by exhibition or by museum quarter. Featured and current exhibitions are shown on the home page along with handy information like special opening times and there is even an interactive map showing where they all are. Almost every Museum in Berlin is listed, apart from maybe a few smaller privately/volunteer run museums.
* The hot local tip for the Museumsportal is the 'Smart Lists'. Many museums in Berlin are closed on Mondays and if that's the day you plan to venture out it can be a disappointment to get there and find the doors shut. The Musuemsportal allows you to bring up filtered lists such as those open on Mondays, and the list of those gems that offer free admission on special days, (for example the Märkisches Museum is free on the first Wednesday of every month). Finally there is the fabulous selection of museums and historical sites or places of interest that are just free entry all the time and the list of things that are free for young people under 18. Yes 18. Whenever you want. Oh Berlin.
If you're here just for a few days and really want the full experience the Museum Pass Berlin is an ideal choice. The pass is €24 and gives you access to 50 museums over 3 consecutive days. Of course you won't get to all of them but even just getting to one each day would make it worth the investment, For example for the best of contemporary art, Hamburger Bahnhof has a wonderful collection of works from 1960 onwards and entry is €14.00. One of Berlin's most acclaimed exhibits is the Egyptian Collection at the Neues Museum with €12 entry. Entry to just those two will set you back €26 and you still have a day or more spare!
Of course the great unspoken thing about many museums is that nobody REALLY wants to see everything one museum has to offer, right? The Museum Pass means you can see the Ishtar Gate of Babylon in the morning (Pergamon Museum), the bust of Queen Nefertiti (Neues Museum) before lunch and then have the afternoon free to stroll through the masters with works by Caravaggio, Dürer and Rembrandt awaiting you at the Gemäldegalerie. The next day you can brush up on your Cold War history, see the city's great churches or take in some photography. The entire list of museums is yours for the asking.
Berlin Welcome Card
If you plan to be using a lot of public transport, eating out and shopping as well as seeing museums, then the Berlin Welcome Card is definitely for you. It's not necessarily the best option for pure museum junkees, however it does offer great discounts and flexibility based on your stay in Berlin and what you plan to do. The card can be bought in 2, 3 or 5 day options and offers discounts of up to 50% with almost 200 different partners, including the German History Museum, the DDR museum, the Bauhaus Archive and the Jewish Museum.