How to survive a Long Night of Museums

August 24, 2012


Tomorrow the 31st Lange Nacht der Museen – Long Night of Museums – is taking place here in Berlin. Although I’ve only been in Berlin for a year, this is actually my third time, as it happens twice a year, on the last Saturday in January and August, and my first one was just a week after we’d arrived. I remember back then asking for advice on how to ‘tackle’ the night, and got all kinds of advice, some useful, some not so much. And, of course, I’ve since made my own experiences. For anyone in Berlin taking part in the Lange Nacht der Museen for the first time, I thought I’d share some of my tips with you:

Study the programme & pick some favourites

With over 100 museums taking part, it’s worthwhile studying the programme in advance to save time on the night (it’s available on the Lange Nacht website, or you can pick up a paper copy at one of the ticket booths or participating museums). Also, you don’t want to discover afterwards that there was something you absolutely wanted to see and be gutted you missed it. On my first time, I read the programe cover to cover and ended up with a list over 30 things, which was way too long of course. I then narrowed it down to 3 ‘must dos’ plus a couple more ‘would be nice’. By the way, the programme for the night also includes a section specifically recommending events that are suitable for non German speakers.

Remember, Berlin is BIG

When choosing what to go to, remember that Berlin is BIG! Well, I guess it depends on where you come from. I’d just arrived from Edinburgh, which is kind of ‘put in your pocket’ in comparison, and totally underestimated the distances between places. Some of the things I’d initially considered going to were completely unrealistic to all get to in one night, even with using transport. So, if you want to see as much as possible, consider going to museums that are in the same part of town and don’t pick ones that are an hour at a time away from each other, even if they are on your favourites list.

Get ahead of time

At my first Lange Nacht der Museen, I went along to the opening at 6pm (which this year is taking place on the front steps of the Altes Museum), with singing and dancing performances, speeches, and the mayor of Berlin sounding a big gong. By the time I’d reached my first museum, which was a bit of a distance away from where the opening was, it was getting close to 7pm. The second time we weren’t that bothered about the opening, and set out in advance to be at our first museum, half way across town, for the 6pm start. That way we could get more museums into the time available. Also, another way to save time is to buy your ticket in advance and avoid the Qs. You can buy them at a number of places, including Berlin tourist infos, public transport ticket machines, and of course the participating museums.

Don’t expect to see everything

Of course, you’re not going to expect to see all 100+ museums, but what I actually mean is don’t expect to see everything at the museums you end up going to. When I first asked for advice on how to tackle the Lange Nacht, someone suggested I ‘find a nice pub to sit in and wait till it’s all over’. That may sound a bit cynical, but he did have a point in that you often don’t get a chance to see the museums properly because it’s so busy. This is not the night to go an see that exhibition you’ve always wanted to see. I tend to pick museums that have special events happening for the night, i.e. something that I wouldn’t get to see there on a ‘normal’ day, like concerts, performances or workshops, rather than because of exhibitions they are showing.

Make the most of your ticket

Although many more museums here than in the UK charge admission, there are also several that have free entry. Unless there is a ‘must see’ special event happening at a free museum that you absolutely want to go to, you’ll get most value for your ticket if you choose museums that have an admission charge. This is your opportunity to see as many of them as you can for just the one price. This may sound contradictory to what I just told you about not using the night to go and see that exhibition you’ve always wanted to see, but it’s actually a really good opportunity to have a taster  of several museums and decide which ones are worth your while paying to see the exhibitions properly another time.

Go with the flow

Planning is good, but don’t overplan (people who know me well are probably gasping in shock at me just having said that^^). Leave yourself some space to go with the flow. On my first Lange Nacht, I ended up popping into an additional museum that hadn’t even registered on my radar but happened to be on the way to my bus stop. On my second Lange Nacht we were enjoying ourselves so much at the Natural History Museum that we decided to stay a bit longer and drop one of the other museums we’d planned to go to. Going with the flow and discovering unexpected things and museums is all part of the fun!

Consider alternative routes

The majority of participating museums are all set along a number of shuttle bus routes, which you can use for free with your ticket. The programme tells you which museums are on the same routes, which is really helpful when trying to pick out museums that are close to each other. However, remember that you can also use your ticket on Berlin’s public transport, not just the shuttle buses. As I said before, on my first Lange Nacht I’d only just arrived in Berlin and didn’t know the public transport system at all, so I decided to stick to the shuttle bus service. I ended up waiting 20 minutes for a shuttle which was running late, only to afterwards discovered that if I’d walked 5 minutes to the nearest subway station, I would have reached my destination in half the time I spent waiting for the bus! So, if you’re also not familiar with Berlin, grab yourself a copy of an U-Bahn map to take along on the night.

Don’t get stranded

Remember, Berlin is BIG! You really don’t want to find yourself in one of the more far flung museums at 1am on Sunday morning having just missed the last shuttle bus back to town. Especially if you don’t know where the nearest U-Bahn is. Or you do know, and it’s no where near you. This hasn’t actually happened to me, but only because we ran really fast to catch the last shuttle bus…By the way, your ticket is valid on Berlin’s public transport until 5am on Sunday morning.

Take a friend

My first Lange Nacht I spent on my own. We’d just arrived in town, there was no one to babysit, so one of us had to stay at home. My second time, the husband was still at home babysitting, but my brother had come to visit especially so we could go to the Lange Nacht together. On my own I actually managed to see more museums, but with my brother I actually had more fun. I also stayed out longer, because I felt safer so late at night than on my own – and because we could keep each other awake^^ You can also connect with other people on Twitter via the hashtag #LNBerlin.

Wear comfy shoes & keep hydrated

Finally, just a few more practical tips to finish off with:

  • Wear comfy shoes. You may be out all night, but you’re not going to a night club. Leave your high heels at home, you’re going to cover a lot of ground.
  • Bring a sweater. It may be summer temperatures when the night starts out, but you don’t want to be caught out shivering in the small hours once it has cooled down (of course, for the January Lange Nacht you’ll probably want more than just a sweater^^).
  • If it looks like rain, bring a plastic bag to wrap your umbrella in. This happened on my first Lange Nacht. I smugly stuck my plastic wrapped wet umbrella in my bag, whilst others were made to leave theirs in a pile with dozens of others at the entrance. Good luck finding it again when you leave!
  • Keep hydrated. Whether it’s the summer or the winter Lange Nacht, walking around town all night and visiting museums is tiring and thirsty work. Remember to drink lots (and not just at the cocktail bars!).
  • On the same subject, don’t forget to eat. Some museums offer food, but many not all. Don’t get caught out with a rumbling stomach. Plan in a food stop along the way, or pack some snacks.
  • Make sure you have enough cash on you. Don’t get me started on German ATMs – there’s never one near you when you need one, and if you do find one it’s probably the wrong one. And you wouldn’t want to get caught short when there’s a chance to enjoy a cocktail at the foot of the world’s tallest dinosaur skeleton, would you? Also keep in mind that many places add a deposit on to cups and glasses. Luckily my brother had some extra cash ;-)

And, most importantly, enjoy yourselves!!


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5 Responses to “How to survive a Long Night of Museums”

  1. museumsandstuff Says:

    Twice a year? You are lucky!

    I don’t know if it applies to Berlin too, but in Vienna a top tip would be to start at the smaller, more unusual/obscure museums. They will much less busy than the nationals and you will be able to enjoy the larger (often more central) museums when all the other people who don’t train so rigorously throughout the year have fallen by the wayside!


  2. RadioBerlino Says:

    Thank you, this is a really cool article! Tonight will be the 32nd edition of the Long Night of Museums in Berlin.



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