If you went to a different museum in Berlin each week, it would take you more than three and a half years to visit them all! With 180 museums and 400 galleries in Germany’s capital city, it can be daunting to prioritize your cultural sightseeing. We spoke with Berlin expats and locals to find the eight museums you have to put on your itinerary.
This historic museum was erected in the mid 1800s and was heavily damaged during the World War II bombing of Berlin. Its reconstruction was delayed until the late 1990s, when architects David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap took on the project. Located on Museum Island, the structure blends an old architectural aesthetic with the new and includes exhibits on Egyptian, Greek and Roman history. Don’t miss viewing the famous bust of Nefertiti.
As one of the youngest attractions on the list, the Berlinische Galerie features art created in Berlin from 1870 to the present day. With its focus on classic to contemporary, the collection offers an up-to-date read on the city’s vibrant art scene. Standout pieces include those surrounding Dada Berlin and the Eastern European avant-garde.
What was daily life like behind the Iron Curtain? At this museum, topic-specific galleries — travel, holidays, prison and family — educate audiences curious to know. Learn about the Stasi spy network or take a virtual ride in an East German car.
Museum of Photography / Helmut Newton Foundation
For the photography enthusiast, the Museum of Photography is a must-see. Not only can you view the world’s largest collection of Helmut Newton photography (including Newton’s “tall nudes” that occupy the two lower floors), there are also rotating exhibitions that explore the medium in all forms. Modern photography exhibits are another part of the museum’s lineup.
Jewish Museum Berlin
As one of the city’s most striking examples of modern architecture, the museum’s all-black, imposing exterior, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, is certainly worth a photo op by itself.
The permanent exhibition focuses on 2,000 years of Jewish-German History. The temporary showings, contemporary installations and seasonal presentations only enhance and develop that theme.
Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
If you have kids or are a science nut yourself, this natural history museum has not just one of the best dinosaur exhibitions in Europe but all the world. The interactive multimedia display and Tristan the T-Rex, the tallest mounted dinosaur in the world, are the main events. Beyond the popular dinosaur hall, go for the fossils, fine taxidermy and the solar system displays. Expect to lose track of time as you travel back into the past; it’s just one of those places you can easily fall down the rabbit hole exploring.
The Alte Nationalgalerie, located on Museum Island, houses one of Germany’s most important collections of 19th-century paintings. Masterpieces by Auguste Renoir, Caspar David Friedrich, Adolph von Menzel, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and more are on display.
Berlin Wall Memorial Site
Skip the Berlin Wall exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie and head here instead. Although both are major tourist attractions, the Berlin Wall Memorial is less crowded and offers a real-life portrayal of the recent history that many Berliners lived through.
Another Berlin Wall attraction is the Gate Berlin, opened Spring 2016. It features an incredible, 180-degree multisensory visual look at the history of Germany through the fall of the wall and beyond.
WHERE TO STAY
Depending on what neighborhood you want to be in after you’ve perused the grand halls, here are a few options.
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Das Stue is the city’s first luxury boutique hotel. Located in the diplomat district of West Berlin, the property is designed for those who like sleek, modern sophistication.
Patrick Hellmann Schlosshotel
Located in the forested Grunewald district of West Berlin, this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel’s interiors were designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The former palace will appeal to the royalty within you.
Westin Grand Berlin
Located in East Berlin’s Berlin Centre near high-end shopping, this elegant, business-oriented address has historical roots dating back to 1873.