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Museumsinsel (Museum Island) Review

On the site of one of Berlin's two original settlements, this unique complex of five state museums, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an absolute must.

The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery, entrance on Bodestrasse) houses an outstanding collection of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century paintings and sculptures. Works by Cézanne, Rodin, Degas, and one of Germany's most famous portrait artists, Max Liebermann, are part of the permanent exhibition. Its Galerie der Romantik (Gallery of Romanticism) collection has masterpieces from such 19th-century German painters as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Caspar David Friedrich, the leading members of the German Romantic school. The Altes Museum (Old Museum), a red-marble, neoclassical building abutting the green Lustgarten, was Prussia's first structure purpose-built to serve as a museum. Designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, it was completed in 1830. The permanent collection of the Altes Museum consists of everyday utensils from ancient Greece as well as vases and sculptures from the 6th to 4th century BC. Etruscan art is its highlight, and there are a few examples of Roman art. Antique sculptures, clay figurines, and bronze art of the Antikensammlung (Antiquities Collection) are also housed here; the other part of the collection is in the Pergamonmuseum. At the northern tip of Museum Island is the Bode-Museum, a somber-looking gray edifice graced with elegant columns. The museum presents the state museums' stunning collection of German and Italian sculptures since the Middle Ages, the Museum of Byzantine Art, and a huge coin collection. Even if you think you aren't interested in the ancient world, make an exception for the Pergamonmuseum (entrance on Am Kupfergraben), one of the world's greatest museums. The museum's name is derived from its principal display, the Pergamon Altar, a monumental Greek temple discovered in what is now Turkey and dating from 180 BC. The altar was shipped to Berlin in the late 19th century. Equally impressive are the gateway to the Roman town of Miletus and the Babylonian processional way. Museum Island's new shining star, however, is the Neues Museum (New Museum), which reopened in 2009. Originally designed by Friedrich August Stüler in 1843–55, the building was badly damaged in World War II and has only now been elaborately redeveloped by British star architect David Chipperfield, who has been overseeing the complete restoration of Museum Island. Instead of completely restoring the Neues Museum, the architect decided to integrate modern elements into the historic landmark, while leaving many of its heavily bombed and dilapidated areas untouched. The result is a stunning experience, considered by many to be one of the world's greatest museums. Home to the Egyptian Museum, including the famous bust of Nefertiti (who, after some 70 years, has returned to her first museum location in Berlin), it also features the Papyrus Collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. If you get tired of antiques and paintings, drop by any of the museums' cafés.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Museumsinsel, Mitte, Berlin, 10178 | Map It
  • Phone: 030/2664–24242
  • Cost: All Museum Island museums: €18
  • Hours: Pergamonmuseum: Fri.–Wed. 10–6, Thurs. 10–8. Alte Nationalgalerie: Tues., Wed., and Fri.–Sun. 10–6; Thurs. 10–8. Altes Museum: Tues., Wed., and Fri.–Sun. 10–6; Thurs. 10–8. Neues Museum: Fri.–Wed. 10–6, Thurs. 10–8. Bode-Museum: Tues., Wed., and Fri.–Sun. 10–6; Thurs. 10–8
  • Website:
  • Metro Hackescher Markt (S-bahn).
  • Location: Mitte: Unter den Linden to Alexanderplatz
Updated: 11-26-2013

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