Berlin is full of culture and history. It’s almost impossible to walk down a street without seeing some bit of history on every corner. Likewise, Berlin is full of museums on everything from ancient history to WWII to the Cold War. The museums here are world famous, and the museum island at the heart of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can find some of the best museums in Berlin.
Best Museums in Berlin
Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum)
The museum covers everything from medieval history up to the present day, with extensive coverage of WWI and WWII, as well as the Cold War and separation of Germany into two countries. The museum covers history from both the political and cultural points of view. Collections of documents, photos, art, military equipment and uniforms, and more all on display here. You can catch a sneak peak of the collections online.
Sitting on the museum island, the Pergamon Museum is one of the most popular and best museums in Berlin. It contains what are essentially three museums on their own: the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum and the museum of Islamic art. The Pergamon has an extensive collection and features from of the most famous architectural features of ancient history including the Ishtar Gate, a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Market Gate of Miletus and of course, the Pergamon Alter.
The Neues Museum, originally build in the 1840s, was reopened in 2009 after a massive reconstruction project. The museum contains an extensive archaeological and antiquities collection with collections from Egypt taking center stage. The most famous object on display is the bust of Queen Nefertiti, which has an entire room in the museum to itself.
Built between the 1820s and 1830s, the Altes Museum was originally constructed to house the art collection of the Prussian royal family. Eventually the museum became a public under a decree that it would be a sanctuary for art and science. The museum currently houses a collection of Greek and Roman art as well as an impressive numismatics collection. The museum is famous for having the largest collection of Etruscan art outside of Italy.
The Bode Museum, named after its original curator, features a wide variety of art and coins from around the world. It’s known for its Byzantine art collection and sculpture. The inside of the museum is cathedral-like, and a good place to visit if you’re seeking a place of quiet contemplation with the art and one of the best museums in Berlin to spend a rainy day.
Jewish Museum Berlin
Opened in 2001, the Jewish Museum features the architecture of Daniel Libeskind. Featuring a wide array of exhibits that follow history from the Middle Ages to the modern day, the museum focuses on the Jewish experience in German history. Telling stories of how Jewish culture and life are tightly tied with German history. The museum also features temporary exhibits and contemporary art.
The Alte or Old National Gallery, features art collections from the 19th centruy. The museum was the first museum in the world to purchase Impressionist art, and exhibits work by Manet and Monet. Also featured at the museum are works by Lovis Corinth and Johann Gottfried Shadow. The museum is a must-visit for fans of 19th century art.
Topography of Terror Museum
The Topography of Terror Museum is an indoor/outdoor museum built on the site of the Nazi SS Reich Main Security office which served as the headquarters for the Gestappo, Einsatzgruppen and others. The museum’s main exhibit gives visitors a look at Berlin between 1933 and 1945, focusing on the propaganda and terror the Nazis used against their own people. While not an easy visit, it provides context and history necessary for truly understanding German and Berlin history.
The DDR, also known as Deutsche Demokratische Republik or East Germany, existed from 1949 to 1990 and was established in the Soviet Zone after WWII. The DDR Museum takes visitors back in time, with an experiential visit to the former DDR through exhibits and interactives. Visitors get a sense of everyday lief under the rule of the DDR and are encouraged to touch and interact with objects in the museum.
The museum focuses on State Security and the dictatorship of the SED as well as the Statsi, or secret state police that spied on, interrogated and tortured DDR citizens into compliance with the state’s will. The museum takes a look into Berlin’s dark history and the tactics used by police to track down anti-communists before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Other Notes about Berlin Museums:
To find current information on exhibits and events at the best museums in Berlin check here: https://www.museumsportal-berlin.de/en/
You can purchase a three day pass that gets you entrance to over 30 state owned museums for much cheaper than individual entry to each museum. You can find it here: http://www.smb.museum/en/plan-your-visit/3-days-museum-pass-berlin.html