With its multi-faceted history and significant influences on many aspects of classic and contemporary arts, it should be no surprise that Berlin is one of the world’s cultural powerhouses, boasting a plethora of museums that rivals those of other famous culture cities across the globe. It would take numerous return visits to Berlin to experience everything the city has to offer, but if you’re only visiting for a short period and eager to get an overview of the best of Berlin, you’ll find that many of the city’s best-known museums can be visited in just a few days.
Berlin is home to 17 Staatliche Museen (or national museums), in addition to numerous smaller institutions covering a wide range of topics. Most of the prominent museums are located in the city’s four major cultural centres – Museumsinsel (Museum Island), the Kulturforum (Cultural Forum), Charlottenburg and Dahlem.
The museums housed in the UNESCO-listed Museumsinsel are arguably the most essential for any cultural itinerary of Berlin, easily reached in the city centre. Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is located here, home to substantial collections including the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Museum of Islamic Art, as is the famous Alte Nationalgalerie, with its impressive collection of 19th century European artworks.
Visitors to the Museumsinsel district can also enjoy mixing old with new by dividing their day between the Altes Museum (Old Museum) and Neues Museum (New Museum). Both contain a number of exquisite cultural gems, including the famed Egyptian Museum which ranks among the best in the world.
Head south of Tiergarten after arriving on Berlin flights to visit the Kulturforum, just across from the Berlin Philharmonie. This region contains some of the city’s finest art galleries, including the Neue Nationgallerie (New National Gallery), Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) and Kunstbibliothek (Art Library).
Those looking to sample some of Berlin’s lesser known gems could consider heading to those in Charlottenburg, formerly the most prestigious in West Berlin prior to reunification but increasingly being relocated to Museumsinsel. Making the trip to Museen Dahlem building is also a great way to visit a number of widely diverse museums all under the same roof – from the Museum of Ethnology to the Museum of Asian Art and Museum of European Cultures – if you feel pushed for time on your Berlin city break.
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