The capital city of Germany, Berlin, is the largest and most populated city in the country with the best of Berlin museums helping to understand its historical past. The lovely city straddles the river banks of the Spree. The many lakes formed on the south-eastern and western boroughs of the river. It has a seasonal temperate climate and is a city composed of forests gardens, parks, canals, and rivers. This natural beauty makes it one of the most visited cities in Germany, romantic and utterly gorgeous to discover. However, Berlin is known for things other than its natural beauty too. A history overwrought with war and bloodshed comes to mind, as does the infamous Berlin Wall. It was certainly a historic day with plentiful celebration when the Berlin Wall fell on 9th November 1989. This war-torn and tumultuous past has left Berlin with many an artefact that is worth being preserved. Hence there are several museums in the city, and most of them are definitely worth spending quality time touring.
Table of Contents
Memorial to The Murdered Jews Of Europe
Mauermuseum- Checkpoint Charlie
An unconventional array of architectural splendours also make for incredible sights while you go around exploring the city. The Rotes Rathaus, Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, Gendarmenmarkt, and Charlottenburg Palace are all iconic architectural structures that certainly add to Berlin’s history and culture. Here are a list of some of the most iconic Berlin museums that must be checked out while you are in the city:
The Schloss Charlottenburg or Charlottenburg Palace is a Baroque palace situated in Charlottenburg, Berlin. The 17th-century palace and one of the Berlin Museums includes lavish and extravagant rococo and baroque styles. This highly eloquent and theatrical style architecture that is remnant of the Catholic churches has scrolling curves, pastel colours, sculpted mouldings, and frescoes that create surprise and illusion. Formal gardens and woodlands with a mausoleum, a belvedere, pavilion and a theatre were included behind the palace.
Flemish artist Jan Anthonie Coxie was commissioned to paint the walls and ceilings. He painted altarpieces in the palace chapel as well as murals in the Porcelain room and the Gobelin Gallery. Aurora, the Goddess of Dawn, has been represented in her seven-horse drawn chariot chasing the night away to bring in Apollo, the Sun God. A blaze of light announces the arrival of Apollo, with Mercury and Saturn heralding the arrival of the Golden-age with a scythe.
The Amber room in the palace is heralded as the ‘8th wonder of the world’, with its decorative amber walls backed with golden leaves and mirrors. South of its Orangery wing, the palace has stables that were built for the personal guard company of Fredrich II. The upper floor has grand decoration and includes the banqueting halls, the Throne room, the White Hall, and the Golden Gallery. An equestrian statue of Fredrich Wilhelm I is the central piece of the palace courtyard
The palace was damaged extensively during the World War II and was restored to former condition with an elaborate effort by Margarete Kuhn, who was the Director of the ‘States Palace sand Gardens’. It is considered among the top Berlin Museums of today.
The belvedere on the grounds was used as a viewing tower and a teahouse during the reign of Wilhelm II, while the theatre too was built in the same period. A mausoleum was built between 1810-1812 to as a tomb to Queen Luise and was extended twice to include the graves of Fredrich Wilhelm III, Wilhelm I and his spouse Augusta.
The old palace, the new wing, the Neue Pavilion, belvedere, and mausoleum are all open to visitors for a fee. The Orangery now houses a café and restaurant for visitors. The palace entrance is a sight to see during the nights when it is lit up and attractive.
A solemn reminder of the unpleasant Nazi regime, this memorial is one of the Belin Museums that honours the memories of Jews who were slain across Europe. Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the site was designed by engineer Buro Happold and architect Peter Eisenman. It is a 200,000 square feet site that is covered with concrete ‘stelae’ or slabs. The arrangement is a grid pattern on a slanting field. Stelae are built in varying heights with 7 feet 10 inches length and 3 feet 1-inch width. The inauguration was held on May 10th, 2005, sixty years subsequent to the end of the Second World War. The Memorial is adjacent to the Tiergarten in the Friedrichstadt district of Berlin. The grid formation of the rectangular stelae create narrow alleys along undulated grounds between them. This is meant to bring about a confusing and uneasy atmosphere, shedding light on an ordained system with little human tough or reason. This, however, is open to interpretation as many see the ground as a cemetery like installation. Still others have interpreted the space to be symbolic of the ghettoed and closed existence or the loss of identity of the Jews in concentration camps.
There is an information centre that is located at the eastern edge of the memorial. It shares the timelines and history of the ‘Final Solution’ and the murder of over 500,000 Jews in 1941. Personal aspects of the tragedy, including letters thrown from trains, are housed in four rooms. The ‘Room of Families’ is dedicated to 15 specific families that were victims. The ‘Room of Names’ has a list of all known names of victims of the Holocaust. Concise and provocative displays also display important moments and memories of the Holocaust.
One of the more popular and different of Berlin museums is the Schwules Museum in the Tiergarten district of Berlin. At the behest of three museum guards at the former Berlin Museum, activist Manfred Herzer proposed an exhibition based on homosexuals women and men of Berlin, in 1984. This exhibition held in the Berlin Museum saw 40,000 visitors and this successful and controversial exhibit was the spark that led to the opening of the Schwules Museum. The first exhibition was-90 years of Homo Press that was held in 1988. During the commemoration of the 750th anniversary of Berlin, the Schwules Museum had its own intervention with 750 Warm Berliners.
The ‘Love AT First Sight’ exhibits Queer Movements in Germany since the Stonewall while HIV Stories talks about the lives of people with AIDS. Events like Queer Theater, Surviving Voices and Artcharities bring together protest performers, artists who support the LGBTQ community and interviews of activists in forms throughout the year.
The exhibition are and café are open on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 2pm to 6 pm. On Thursdays, it is open from 2pm to 7pm and on Saturdays between 2pm to 8pm. The Exhibitions and café are closed on Tuesday. The library and archive room are open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 2pm and 6pm, and on Thursday from 2pm to 8pm. It remains closed on Tuesdays, bank holidays, and weekends. The entrance is charged at 7.50euros but reduced to 5 euros for groups of more than 10 members. Guided tours are available on Thursdays at 6pm and on Saturdays at 4pm. The whole museum is accessible by wheelchair and has friendly staff all around.
Bode Museum is one of the Berlin Museums located on Museum Island. It was initially called the Kaiser-Fredrich Museum and traces its origin to Crown-Princess ‘Victoria of Prussia’. She published her ideas in a clear memorandum in 1883, and Wilhelm Von Bode gave life to these ideas in a renaissance museum that was built at the northern end of the island. Sculptures and painting of ‘high art value’ were displayed side by side on an equal footing with one another. This was a presentation idea which was radical for its times. Having been extensively damaged during the World War, it was restored between 1948-1986 in several stages. Unlike the original display, the museum now houses a collection of sculptures and Byzantine Art. It has sculptures by Gemaldegalerie. It also has the Munzkabinett, a collection of coins and medals that presents a chronicle of history forged in metal. A relief featuring the ‘Besieged City of Egypt’, a mosaic icon with ‘Christ the Merciful’ from Constantinople, The mAster of Wolfgang Thenn, ‘Luke the Evangelist’ by Tilman Riemenschneider, and ‘Mary with The Child’ by Donatello are some of the exceptional artwork that can be viewed at the Bode Museum.
Sculptures, paintings, African Art, coins and antique collections make the Bode museum one of the most sought after tourist destinations amongst Berlin Museums.
The Karl Friedrich Schinke’s Altes Museum also known as Altes Museum is a building that stands out with its regal architecture, comprehensive staircases and roomy atrium. The name in German stands for ‘old museum’ and the building stands on Museum island. It was built in the early 1800s to house the art collection of the Prussian royal family. The neoclassic style of architecture has eighteen ionic fluted columns on the frontage of the building that take your breath away from afar. Entering the building, visitors are drawn in by the rotunda bedecked with sculptures. This outstanding Berlin museum is dedicated to exhibiting permanent displays of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan cultures. Completed in 1830, it houses a tasteful Antikensammlung or house of antiques that has amazing architectural elements, vases, inscriptions, mosaics, bronzes, inscriptions, and jewellery. Over 350 years’ worth of culture and heritage are preserved with the main floor dedicated to an inspiring panorama of art from ancient Greece. The ‘Berlin Goddess’, ‘Praying Boy’, ‘The Throned Goddess from Taranto’, and ‘Amphora of the Berlin Painter’, are some of the highlights at this museum. The Etruscan display is one of the widest collections existent anywhere in the world. Glorious work such as the clay tablets of Capua and the housed shaped urns of Chiusi. Portraits of Cleopatra and Caesar finish add a touch of Roman to the exhibits and give the museum a well-rounded assemblage of art and antiques.
Among important Berlin Museums, the Checkpoint Charlie or Mauermuseum stand out because of its name. Deriving its name from the famed crossing point on the grim Berlin Wall, this private museum is an ode to ‘the best border security system’ in the world. The museum displays documents, photographs and artefacts related to successful escapes from East Germany. Apparatus such as getaway cars, hot-air balloons, chairlifts, and even a mini U-boat are available for viewing. The museum also maintains a well-researched list of ‘deaths at the Berlin Wall’. Exhibits include writings and objects of the Wall until its fall, historical events that took place at Checkpoint Charlie, and non-violent struggles around the world like Gandhi and Walesa as compared to similar struggles in Germany.
It is considered a place of experiences and is one of the most frequently visited of the Berlin Museums.
Jewish Museum Berlin
The Jewish Museum is a place for dynamic reflections on Europe’s Jewish culture and history. It is one of the important Berlin Museums since its inception in 2001 and has joined the league of important and iconic places in Europe’s museums, ever since. The museum’s focus is the diversity of Jewish perspective, relationships with non-Jews, and their coexistence in present-day society. The building is an architectural musing by Daniel Libeskind and its zinc-panelled façade is clearly a recognisable landmark in Berlin. The inspirational building has been dubbed-Between the Lines, by its creator, and is meant to be reflective of the twisted history between the Germans and the Jews in the country.
The museum has wonderful temporary exhibits, contemporary artistic instillations and singular displays. Kenneth C Gorbey and Nigel Cox designed and arranged the permanent exhibits and the museum attracts nearly 2000 visitors every day. An Academy Of The Jewish Museum Berlin was inaugurated in 2012, and the academy programs consist of thematic issued related to diversity and migration.
Coupled with the Glass Courtyard, and the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy, the Jewish Museum Berlin leaves a distinctive mark on Berlin’s landscape. The compound also houses a baroque palace with a garden that has been declare da protected landmark from the 1980s.
The Reichstag is an epochal edifice that was once meant to be the ‘Imperial Diet’ of the German empire. The term Reichstag connotes ‘Diet’ (a formal deliberative assembly). The name, however, was retained and now denotes only the building while Bundestag refers to the actual institution or parliament. Built-in 1894, the building was severely damaged after being set on fire in 1933. Originally, it was built by Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot who came up with a brilliant Neo-Baroque project idea that was executed with inscriptions and sculptures by Otto Lessing. The foundation for the building was laid in 1884 by Wilhelm I on the east side of the Konigsplatz (Platz De Republik). The building was acclaimed for the construction of the original cupola of glass and steel, which at the time was considered a major feat of engineering. The mixed styles of architecture, however, received some flak.
The Reichstag building was set on fire on 27th February 1933, under circumstances that are still unclear. This led to further suspension of rights during the Nazi regime. It went through further degradation during the air raids. The Battle of Berlin saw it degraded further as it was the main target for the Red Army to capture.
Reconstruction of this parliament building and one of the important Berlin Museums began in 1995 with the wrapping of the building, by artists Christo Jeanne-Claude. A beautiful glass dome was erected on top of the building to commemorate the cupola of 1894. The dome gives a 360-degree view of the city and the skylights. A large sun shield blocks direct sunlight and creates solar gains while dazzling views below. Visitors today can see Soviet graffiti and smoky walls in some sections inside the building which were retained during the reconstruction.
Built between 1843 to 1855, the Neues Museum, like all else in Germany, suffered massive damage during the World War. Restoration and hard work went into bringing the museum back into operation with war scars and original interiors being worked into the restoration to maintain the character and the history of the building. The focus of this Berlin museum remains antique art and collections from the Egyptians. Comprehensive insights into the lives of Egyptians over four millennia are on display, with paintings, portrait heads, and sculptures giving visitors a better understanding of life back then. Over 6000 permanent exhibits even include paintings of Nordic Mythology, artefacts from Troy, and Cyprus.
This exemplary inclusion in Berlin museums best is located at Museum Island and took a whopping twenty years to construct. It has monumental structures such as the Ishtar Gates of Babylon, the Pergamon Altar, and the Mshatta Façade. Divided into Middle East Museum, Museum for Islamic Art, and the antiquity collection, this Berlin Museum is one of the largest in the country. Collections include items from excavations conducted in Pergamon, Miletus, Priene, Cyprus, Didyma, Olympia, Magnesia, and Samos.
Although some of the best of Berlin Museums have been covered in brief, there is much to explore with each of these museums. Insights into the life and times of several empires, horrors of war, and remnants of the holocaust will leave you feeling touched and enthused to only discover more. So, go explore the beautiful city of Berlin and venture into the architectural wonders in-store at Berlin Museums.