Discover a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Germany
Travelling to Berlin without visiting the Museum Island almost seems impossible. Located right in the center of modern-day Berlin, this island within the river Spree came a long way from being a sister city called Cölln to the center of the arts in the early 19th century. After severe damage during the war and years of neglect behind the wall of Berlin, finally since 2009 all museums on the Museum Island are accessible to the public again.
- This UNESCO site includes five historic museums, right in the center of Berlin, Germany.
- The museums were built between 1823 and 1930, the UNESCO inscription happened in 1999.
- Included are the Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum.
- The museums are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm and 8pm on Thursdays. Only Neues Museum and Pergamon Museum are open on Mondays from 10am to 6pm as well.
- The cost for one museum is 12 euros, while a full day ticket for all five costs 18 euros.
The Five Museums
Why this is a UNESCO Site
All five buildings on the museum island represent the evolution of museum architecture during one entire century. The density of the museums and their prominent location in the center of the city also underlines the importance the arts were developing throughout the 19th century. This importance is also supported by the fact that only the most prominent architect of its time was contracted to develop a building that fully incorporated and embraced the artworks that it was housing.
Thoughts and Observations
UNESCO or not, for me personally the Museumsinsel is a special place in Berlin and I always make sure to stop by when in town. Thinking back, I used to walk across the Museum Island to get to work, had my lunch in the Lustgarten, sat underneath the crumbling colonnades at the Alte Nationalgallerie, watched outdoor movies in the grass before it became a manicured garden, had a beer in the sands of the once existing beach by the Bode Museum and climbed through the ruins of the Neues Museum. By now, much of the Museum Island has changed and it continues to do so until 2025 when a new entrance, the James Simon Galerie and an underground passage will be finished. This entrance and passage system will link all museums, especially the cut off Bode Museum and fully turn the UNESCO inscribed island into a state-of-the-art museum quarter.
Despite all the renovations, my personal favorite remains the Neues Museum which after having been in ruins for about 70 years finally reopened its gates to the public 2009. Luckily the renovation of this great museum has been done with a minimalistic approach, leaving most of the former damage exposed and new construction materials clearly distinguishable. The resulting interior spaces are not only unique in their appearance, but they also allow studying the exposed historic ceiling constructions with their specially created hollow clay pots. In this way the building of the Neues Museum actually becomes a site in itself and beautifully continues to display the approach to museum architecture up to the present day.
Impressions of Neues Museum
Tips and Recommendations
- If you don’t feel like spending 18 euros to see the museums, simply walk around the exterior and sit in the Lustgarten.
- Also if five museums in one day sound a bit much, come on a Thursday and take breaks in-between.
- Or even better, time your visit with a Long Night of the Museums, when an 18 euro ticket opens the doors of some 80 museums, including free shuttle buses. Best of all, this ticket is even valid on the following day, clearly making it the best museum deal in town! For more information check out the official website of the Long Night of Museums in Berlin.
- Go right now
- Definitely go soon!
- Go if you are around
- Stop by if you are bored
- Consider missing it
Technically the UNESCO enlisted Museum Island is a must visit sight, but since seeing all five museums takes quite some determination, the bottom line is that you definitely should definitely go as soon as possible!
Since the Museum Island is so centrally located, there are many options of reaching it. The easiest is probably to take the S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt and taking a 5 minute walk. Unfortunately the bridge is currently under renovation so walking around might take a few minutes longer or walking from S-Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse is also a good option.
Have you visited Berlin and the Museum Island? Which museum was your favorite?