This unique ensemble of museums, galleries, and the Philharmonic Hall was long in the making. The first designs were submitted in the 1960s and the last building completed in 1998. Now it forms a welcome modern counterpoint to the thoroughly restored Prussian splendor of Museum Island, although Berliners and tourists alike hold drastically differing opinions on the area's architectural aesthetics. Whatever your opinion, Kulturforum's artistic holdings are unparalleled and worth at least a day of your time, if not more. The Kulturforum includes the Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery), the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), the Kupferstichkabinett (Print Cabinet), the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts), which is closed until at least 2014 for renovations, the Philharmonie, the Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Musical Instruments Museum), and the Staatsbibliothek (National Library).
Gemäldegalerie. The Kulturforum's Gemäldegalerie
reunites formerly separated collections from East and West Berlin. It's one of Germany's finest art galleries, and has an extensive selection of European paintings from the 13th to 18th century. Seven rooms are reserved for paintings by German masters, among them Dürer, Cranach the Elder, and Holbein. A special collection has works of the Italian masters—Botticelli, Titian, Giotto, Lippi, and Raphael—as well as paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 15th and 16th centuries: Van Eyck, Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, and van der Weyden. The museum also holds the world's second-largest Rembrandt collection. Kulturforum, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785. 030/2664–24242. www.smb.museum. €10. Tues., Wed., and Fri.–Sun. 10–6; Thurs. 10–8. Potsdamer Platz [U-bahn and S-bahn].
Kunstbibliothek. With more than 400,000 volumes on the history of European art, the Kunstbibliothek (art library), in the Kulturforum, is one of Germany's most important institutions on the subject. It contains art posters and advertisements, examples of graphic design and book design, ornamental engravings, prints and drawings, and a costume library. Visitors can view items in the reading rooms, but many samples from the collections are also shown in rotating special exhibitions. Kulturforum, Matthäikirchpl., 10785. 030/2664–24242. www.smb.museum. Varies according to exhibition. Tues.–Fri. 10–6, weekends 11-6; reading room weekdays 9–8.
Kupferstichkabinett. One of the Kulturforum's smaller museums, Kupferstichkabinett has occasional exhibits, which include European woodcuts, engravings, and illustrated books from the 15th century to the present (highlights of its holdings are pen-and-ink drawings by Dürer and drawings by Rembrandt). You can request to see one or two drawings in the study room. Another building displays paintings dating from the late Middle Ages to 1800. Kulturforum, Matthäikirchpl. 4, 10785. 030/2664–24242. www.smb.museum. €6. Tues.–Fri. 10–6, weekends 11–6.
Musikinstrumenten-Museum. Across the parking lot from the Philharmonie, the Kulturforum's Musikinstrumenten-Museum has a fascinating collection of keyboard, string, wind, and percussion instruments. These are demonstrated during an 11 am tour on Saturday, which closes with a 20-minute Wurlitzer organ concert for an extra €2. Kulturforum, Ben-Gurion-Str. 1, 10785. 030/2548–1178. www.sim.spk-berlin.de/. €6. Tues., Wed., and Fri. 9–5; Thurs. 9–8; weekends 10–5.
Staatsbibliothek. The Kulturforum's Staatsbibliothek is one of the largest libraries in Europe, and was one of the Berlin settings in Wim Wenders's 1987 film Wings of Desire. Kulturforum, Potsdamer Str. 33, 10785. 030/2664-32333. staatsbibliothek-berlin.de. Weekdays 9–9, Sat. 10–7.
Berlin, Berlin, Germany