My Top Berlin Museum Recommendations

May 11, 2012

Germany

We’ve only been in Berlin a couple of months (well, coming up for 9 months actually, how time flies!), but already I’ve had at least half a dozen requests from international friends and colleagues for must see museum recommendations. So I don’t need to compile them anew every time someone asks, I thought I’d write a blog post about them and then I can just point people to that! (why didn’t I think of this before?)

Please note that I’m only recommending museums I have already visited myself, as I don’t feel I can be an honest advocate for ones that are unfamiliar to me, and rather than recommend every museum I’ve ever visited in Berlin I’m going to pick my favourites (that is, after all, the whole point of recommendations, isn’t it?). Therefore,  any exclusions from my list does not imply other museums are not worth visiting.

So, here are my recommendations (in no particular order):

Museum für Naturkunde

Dinosaurs are always a winner, and Berlin’s Natural History Museum has plenty of them, including the world’s biggest mounted dinosaur skeleton, and the “Jurascopes” that bring the dinosaurs to life. But there’s plenty else to see too. I particularly enjoyed the wet collections and the permanent exhibition on preparation techniques, which both gave a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a natural history museum.  Admission is free for ICOM members. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

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Jüdisches Museum Berlin

Some people seem to be confused about this museum. One friend, when I suggested it, said she didn’t want to visit because it was “too depressing”. Yes, it does include a section on the Holocaust, but it also includes 2000 fascinating years of German Jewish history presented in an engaging, interactive way. The architecture of the building, designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is an attraction in itself, including the Glass Courtyard where you can enjoy food from the café or bring your own. Admission is free for ICOM members, though anyone can visit the Glass Courtyard and the museum gardens for free. Note that you need to go through a security check to enter the building.

Gardens at the Jüdishes/ Jewish Museum Berlin

Currywurst Museum

If you’re looking for a museum experience that’s a little unusual, look no further. Despite what some sceptics think, the museum dedicated to Germany’s favourite fast food is very educational. Visitors can find out not only learn everything there is to know about the currywurst, but also about the history of fast food culture in general, in a fun and multi-sensory way by looking, listening, touching, playing, smelling and even tasting! Admission price includes a portion of currywurst, and there’s an option for vegetarians too.

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Museum für Kommunikation

So far, this is my museum of choice to take 18 month old #MuseumBaby too. He’s still a bit scared of the robots that greet visitors in the main hall, but older children would probably enjoy them (I think they’re really cool). The Kommunikationsgalerie offers plenty of hands-on activities for inquisitive toddlers to explore and you can check in your pram at the cloakroom, leaving both hands free to play with your kids. Admission is free for ICOM Members. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

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DDR Museum

If all you know about the German Democratic Republic is the political side portrayed in movies (think Russian occupation, Stasi observation, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall), then I suggest heading over to the DDR Museum, which includes an extensive insight into everyday life in the former East Germany. The museum also prides itself on being “one of the most interactive museums in the world”, and there is indeed an abundance of fun activities to take part in. Admission is free for ICOM members.

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Deutsches Technikmuseum

I’ve only explored a fraction of this museum, but it too is full of interactive things to explore. Most impressive so far was the Engine Shed with a collection of no fewer than 40 life size rail vehicles! But the museum also covers other types of transport, shipping and air and space travel, as well as a vast diversity of other technical related topics and industries such as textile, paper, printing, photography, film, computing, pharmaceutical, news, and brewing. I suspect it will take several more visits to see everything. Admission is free for ICOM members. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

Unbenannt-1 Kopie

Medizinhistorisches Museum

The medical history museum is situated on the campus of the Charité hospital, and has a most fascinating history. The pathological and anatomical specimens are at the heart of the collections, but the museum also covers the history of medicine from the 1700s until today. The building itself includes the bombed out ruins of the former lecture theatre, which is now a unique event space. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

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Museums Insel/ Pergamon Museum

One of Berlin’s star museum attractions is the Museum Island, where several of the collections and buildings from the National Museums in Berlin congregate. My favourite so far is the Pergamon Museum, which actually accommodates three separate museums: the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of the Ancient Near East and the Museum of Islamic Art. Highlights include the monumental Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate. The special exhibition ‘Pergamon: Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis’, which includes a 360° panorama by Berlin-based artist Yadegar Asisi, is showing until September this year. Admission is free for ICOM members (except to the Panorama).

Pergamon Altar

 Zucker Museum

As an ‘unsung hero of the museum world’ featured in Adopt-a-Museum, I have to include the Sugar Museum in my list, which tells the story of sugar, from its early colonial history, through its agriculture and processing procedures, to its rise from a luxury item to a mass product. The chemistry behind sugar, and its central role in alcohol production, complete the story. There is no admission fee, and the museum is closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Note that wheelchair users are asked to phone in advance, as disabled access to the building is only via a staff operated lift.

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One Response to “My Top Berlin Museum Recommendations”

  1. Joern B. Says:

    Also worth a visit: Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt >> http://www.museum-blindenwerkstatt.de/

    Small, but very impressing

    Reply

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