Berlin has over 170 museums covering anything and everything, and they continue to attract both local Berliners and foreign visitors. It’s almost impossible to see everything, and especially if you’re only in Berlin for a short time, it’s worth planning ahead and getting a taste of everything. This list of the five of the best museums in Berlin covers ancient and modern history, happy and sad moments in Berlin’s past, and more.
Berlin’s Jewish Museum is one of the few museums in the world which gets more visitors each year. Image courtesy
Located on Museum Island, this is the most visited museum in the whole of Germany. The Pergamon collects grand structures from classical civilizations, and transports the entire ancient structure from its original location to the museum in Berlin. The most famous exhibit is probably the 2200-year old Pergamon Altar, which gives the museum its name, brought over complete from the ancient Pergamon acropolis. Don’t miss the enormous Ishtar Gate from the walls of Babylon, or the extensive Islamic Art museum, housed inside the Pergamon Museum.
Entrance fee: 12 euro (18 euro for all the Museum Island collections). Free for children under 18. 10am – 6pm, closed on Mondays. Museum Island, Am Lustgarten. Save with the Museum Island Welcome Card
Topography of Terror
Germany doesn’t cover up or shun responsibility for the darker periods of its past, and the Topography of Terror is an extensive and uncomfortable display of the crimes of the Nazi regime. The exhibitions include Nazi persecution of Jews and other minorities, the concentration camps and other execution methods, the secret police’s institutions of terror, and the postwar years. There is also a long section of the original Berlin Wall, and lots of photographs with detailed text. This is not a pleasant or fun museum, but highly recommended for understanding the one of the ugliest periods of modern history.
Free entry. 10am – 10pm. Niederkirchnerstrasse 8
Lots of museums and memorials in Berlin focus on the wall which divided Berlin during the Cold War years, but what was life in East Berlin like? The DDR Museum uses interactive exhibits and technology to recreate life in socialist East Germany, and gives visitors the chance to experience life surrounded by propaganda, or spying on neighbors, or even just day-to-day aspects of communal life. You can listen to prisoner interrogations or drive in a Trabi, the iconic East German car. The DDR Museum is great for both those who grew up with stories of communist life, and those born after the Cold War, to understand what East Germany was really like.
The Jewish Museum doesn’t only focus on the millions killed in the Holocaust (the information center under the Holocaust Memorial is the place for that), but rather presents two thousand years of Jewish life in Germany, with cycles of persecution and expulsions, and periods of prosperity and inclusion, such as the Jewish Enlightenment movement which started in Berlin. The jarring modernist building is controversial but memorable, and the exhibitions give a sense of what was lost in the Holocaust, as well as an overview of Jewish life in Germany today.
7 Euro. Daily, 10am to 8pm (until 10pm on Monday). Lindenstrasse 9.
A slightly different, lighthearted museum on the most popular streetfood in Berlin. You can find currywurst on every corner in the city, and the Currywurst Museum documents the history of the currywurst, its contribution to TV and film, different sauces and varieties. There are sniffing stations and a virtual currywurst maker, and of course a snack bar at the end of the exhibition. This is probably not the first museum you should visit in Berlin, but if you feel museumed out after a while, this is a nice, lighthearted and tasty relief.
11 Euro (20% off on Monday). Daily, 10am – 8pm. Schützenstrasse 70