In my opinion, only two European cities (London and Paris) have museums the equal of the 170 museums and galleries we have right here in Berlin. But trying to take in all 170 of them will leave you no opportunity to do anything else for about three or four months...
So, I put together a list of my "top twenty" to make sure you spend your Gallery- and Museum-viewing time here at the best ones! ;-)
The State Museums here in Berlin are located in compounds known as Kulturforums. Because the museums are grouped together, you don't have to waste time wandering across the city to visit museums devoted to the things that interest you.
I love having the opportunity to view several different periods of artistic treasures or artifacts in several small or medium-sized museums just a short distance apart.
The most famous of Berlin's Kulturforums is Museum Island (Mueuminsel), located on a River Spree island in the Mitte district.
Here's what you'll find on the huge Museum Island in Berlin...
Built during the 19th century to house the archeological treasures discovered by such great names as Heinrich Schliemann, the Pergamon Museum is named for the Turkish city from which the 2300-year old Altar of Zeus was taken. Some of the Pergamon's artifacts date back more than 3000 years! I was blown away by its Processional Way of Babylon with the blue Babylonian Ishtar Gate, and the model of the Tower of Babel.
I think that the dignified architecture of the Old Museum is a perfect setting for its ancient Etruscan pottery, as well as Greco-Roman bronze statues and tools, silver, gold, and gemstone jewelry, and wood and stone sarcophagi. The entire Egyptian collection will be moved to the newly-restored Neues Museum on its re-opening in the autumn of 2009.
I recommend the Alte Nationalgalerie to anyone who is either a fan of 19th century art, or is impressed with the Impressionists. You may also love that the museum has the world's largest collection of works by Germany's master, Adolph von Menzel.
On the northern tip of Museum Island, the Bode Museum contains not only an enormous coin collection, but a remarkable collection of Italian and German sculptures dating back to the Middle Ages, as well as the Museum of Byzantine Art.
Located close to the Potsdamer Platz at the eastern end of the Tiergarten, this museum complex is a magnet for art lovers. Here you'll find...
I agree wholeheartedly the Picture Gallery deserves its reputation as one of Germany's finest museums. I have yet to make my way through the entire collection of more than twenty-seven hundred masterpieces dating between the 15th and 18th centuries. I'm still amazed at the museums' twenty (!!) Rembrandts, and its Dürer, Bruegel,and Rubens works.
You will love the glass entry hall which is typical of this museum's minimalist architecture. Within the entry hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie and in the museum's downstairs rooms are temporary exhibits of contemporary art which will keep you returning again and again!
Don't get lost in the examples of more than ten centuries of the applied arts, including furniture, porcelain, and religious reliquaries. You won't see anything else quite like priceless gold and silver medieval religious artifacts of the Guelph Treasure. The museum's lower level is devoted to contemporary design.
Just west of the Tiergarten is the Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin's largest palace. The Palace has the largest collection of 17th-century French fresco painting anywhere outside France. But my favorite attraction on the palace grounds (but a million artistic light years away from the palace!) is a museum containing the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection, revealing the bizarrely beautiful worlds of Dali and Klee. (I love Dali!)
I love this museum's collection of work by the impressionist Karl Hagemeister, and wouldn't mind having one of its twelve Art Deco or Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) style living rooms in my own house!
Not all of Berlin's must-see museums, however, are State museums. Here are my choices for the best independent ones...
The Deutsches Historisches Museum is where folks come when they want to get lost in the period artwork and artifacts of Germany's history from the Stone Age through the Second World War.
I admit that my love of cinema is a big reason why this museum is on my top twenty list! Here you'll get a glimpse into the illustrious history of German filmmaking, with exhibits focusing on film greats of yesteryear including Marlene Dietrich, and the continuing evolution of the industry.
While I have to warn you that this choice is not for the faint of heart, I still think you need to visit it to get a real appreciation of Berlin's history. This museum is located in what once were torture bunkers beneath the Nazi Gestapo headquarters. The museum explores both the rise of the Nazi party and its war atrocities. Located along the museum's exterior is a 200 m (656 foot) section of the Berlin Wall.
I recommend a visit to the Hemp Museum especially for people from the US, where it's illegal to grow hemp (a member, like marijuana, of the cannabis family).
I think this is one of the best places to experience how it felt to live in Berlin during the "Wall" years. Close to the location of the infamous guard station between East and West Berlin, this museum presents moving tributes to those who attempted escapes.
Here is another of my favorite places to appreciate what the Wall meant to Berliners. There is a preserved city-block length of the Berlin wall, with two of its concrete barriers on either side of the notorious "death strip." It's a heartbreaking Memorial to everyone who died trying to escape from East Berlin.
The museum has sound bites, films, and photos as well as a staircase from the top of which you'll get a view of what faced those attempting to escape.
I love the interactive exhibits at this zinc-plated museum, with its three symbolic hallways (Holocaust, Exile, and Continuity) and its misaligned walls. Folks leave with a feeling of complete dislocation, similar to what Jewish people have experienced throughout history (and that, I'm sure, is the point!).
Both gays and straights, in my humble opinion, will benefit from a visit to this museum. There are displays revealing the German history of homosexuality, including 18th century drag apparel and an art exhibit tracking the growing social acceptance of homosexuals among Germans.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin (DTMB) really appeals to my technological side, with the airplane affixed to its roof; its life-sized ship an airplane replicas; and my favorite, its look at the evolution of film technology. Exhibits in a second building explore optical illusions and other scientific oddities.
This Italian Renaissance Museum, built by Walter Gropius' uncle in 1881, was intended as a tribute to Germany's industrial arts. Today it's the site of a series of changing art, architectural, and photographic exhibits, so there's always something new to see!
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