Museum City Guide: My Top 5 in Berlin

July 8, 2013

Germany

As we are now in the full swings of summer – a popular time for going on holiday – I thought I’d run a little series of museum city guides during July and August. Perhaps they’ll prove useful for your summer holiday. So, for some of the cities whose museum landscapes I know quite well, I will be choosing my top 5 favourites, and I also have a couple of guest authors lined up for you. And since an update to my top Berlin recommendations is long overdue, we’ll start right here.

BTor

There are so many wonderful museums in Berlin, it was really hard to choose my favourites. And then to narrow it down to my #1 – almost impossible! In the end, the dinosaurs won out – as they usually do (except, you know, when they went extinct and all that. Really didn’t win that time).

1. Museum für Naturkunde Berlin/ Natural History Museum Berlin

MfN.jpg

A little while back, I had an exchange with the Jewish Museum Berlin on Twitter which went something like this: @jennifuchs “My favourite museum in Berlin is the Natural History Museum” / @jmberlin “What about us?” / @jennifuchs “You can’t argue with dinosaurs!” / @jmberlin “Fair point!” The exchange was made in good humour, and my next door neighbours know how much I love them too, but topic wise, natural history museums have always fascinated me. Including, of course, dinosaurs, of which the Museum für Naturkunde has plenty – such as the world’s biggest mounted dinosaur skeleton (which I recently learned is named “Oskar”), and the “Jurascopes” that bring the dinosaurs to life. But there are lots of other amazing things to see too. My particular favourites include “The Cosmos and the Solar System”, with its multimedia installation; the Wet Collections – see if you can find the row of snakes choking on various small animals! – and the exhibition on Preparation Techniques, which give an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse of a natural history museum. Just be aware that the entrance for wheelchairs and prams is at the side of the building, via the basement, and sometimes you need to persevere a little for them to let you in. Also note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

See all blog posts about the Museum für Naturkunde.

2. Jüdisches Museum Berlin/ Jewish Museum Berlin

JMBerlin

While the Museum für Naturkunde wins first place for me in terms of subject matter, first place for overall museum experience definitely goes to our next door neighbours, the Jüdisches Museum Berlin. From the warm welcome and the friendly banter of the staff with #MuseumBaby, to the interesting 2000 years of German Jewish history displayed in its permanent exhibition, not to mention the ever changing excellent temporary exhibitions. And architecture fans will enjoy the building itself, designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. There’s so much to see at the museum, I still haven’t taken it all in after several dozen visits. But thanks to the engaging, interactive way it’s presented, with something in each gallery to hold #MuseumBaby’s attention – whether that’s a tunnel to run through or a table to draw at, objects to touch or a vintage cartoon to watch – I can visit again and again to look at the next little bit each time, without him getting bored. And sometimes we just sit in the glass courtyard filling up on yummy cheesecake, or enjoy the lovely museum gardens – chasing around the fountain, lounging in the deck chairs or listening to the free summer jazz concerts. Both the courtyard and gardens are free to visit. However, note that you need to go through a security check to enter the building, so sometimes there can be a bit of a queue.

See all blog posts about the Jüdisches Museum Berlin.

3. Deutsches Currywurst Museum

Qwoo

Another museum that’s always really welcoming to us and #MuseumBaby, is the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, devoted to Germany’s favourite fast food dish. Some people take a sceptical view of it, but you’ll find it’s actually very educational and you learn a lot about fast food culture and its history in general. If you are looking for a museum experience that’s a little unusual, then you definitely need look no further. And not only that, it’s really fun, engaging and multi-sensory too,  inviting visitors to look, listen, touch, play, smell and even taste! Challenge yourself to serve the fastest Currywurst in town, role play at being the owner of a Currywurst kiosk, see if you can sniff out the different spices or just relax on the sausage sofa – a visit to the Currywurst Museum is never boring. Admission price includes a portion of Currywurst, and there’s an option for vegetarians too.

See all blog posts about the Deutsches Currywurst Museum.

4. Deutsches Technikmuseum/ Museum of Technology

Technik

Another big family favourite is the Deutsches Technikmuseum. Although he’s starting to appreciate dinosaurs, it’s planes, trains and – most of all – automobiles that capture #MuseumBaby’s heart. From the Engine Shed, with a collection of no fewer than 40 life size rail vehicles, to the exhibition on road traffic with its coveted Trabant car that #MuseumBaby could (and does, given the chance) sit in for hours, this vast museum is another one that takes several visits to explore. As well as all types of transport, shipping and air and space travel, the diversity of other technical related topics and industries includes textile, paper, printing, photography, film, computing, pharmaceutical, news, and brewing! The adjacent museum park, with its windmills, water mill, smithy and brewery, offers a green oasis to explore on sunny days, and the museum cafe has an excellent lunch time menu. The Spectrum Science Centre, also located on site, is re-opening in August 2013 followed next year by the relocated Sugar Museum. Note that the Museum of Technology is closed on Mondays.

See all blog posts about the Deutsches Technikmuseum.

5. DDR Museum

DDR

Finally, my last choice for my top 5 goes to the 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 there with a couple of hours to spare, as the museum includes an extensive insight into everyday life in the former East Germany. It 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, from riding in a Trabant car (yes, another one!) or watching old East German TV clips, to being cross examined in a Stasi interrogation room or trying to vote ‘no’ in the government elections (not an easy feat to accomplish!). Offering something for both those interested in social history and those interested in political history, it’s a museum I’d definitely recommend anyone visiting Berlin to include in their itinerary.

See all blog posts about the DDR Museum.

Other museums

As I said at the beginning, it was really difficult to narrow my choices down to just five museums. Other favourites that didn’t quite make it in to the top 5 include the wonderfully geeky Computerspielemuseum (Computer Games Museum), the Medizinhistorisches Museum (Medical History Museum) with its pathological and anatomical specimens, the Museum für Kommunikation – which I would recommend foremost for their excellent temporary exhibitions and their great hands on gallery for kids – and, of course, Museum Island with the renowned art and antiquity collections of the Staatliche Museen Berlin, including the Pergamonmuseum with its famous Pergamon Altar and the Neues Museum with its equally famous bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

Edit: As someone quite rightly pointed out in the comments, I have not included any art museums here. This is not because Berlin does not have any excellent art museums, but because my personal preference is for museums with “things” – and since these recommendations are personal favourites, the museums with things made it on to the list ahead of the museums with art. But there are plenty of art museums in Berlin I enjoy, so perhaps I need to write a separate post about those :)

All that museum visiting making you hungry?

As much as I love visiting museums, I admit that it can sometimes be tiring so it’s important to refuel. Luckily, you often don’t need to look further than the museums themselves! Here are some of my favourite culinary museum tips:

Food

As I mentioned, the Deutsches Technikmuseum has an excellent lunch menu in its cafe, including a couple of options that are naturally wheat and gluten free, so we’ve stopped off there during weekend visits quite a few times. The husband likes the hearty sausage, potato and salad combos whilst my favourite are the sweet potato wedges with sour cream and avocado dips. #MuseumBaby enjoys ordering the free “robber’s plate” and then stealing whatever he pleases from us :)

If you visit the Currywurst Museum, then obviously you have to eat some Currywurst. The basic admission ticket comes with a taster portion of “Currywurst in a cup”, or you can upgrade to the luxury “Snack Ticket” which comes with a menu of three different types of Currwurst along with a roll and a drink of mineral water.

Of course, it’s not always lunch you’re after. Sometimes a great big slab of cake is all that will do, and the Jüdisches Museum Berlin offers a variety of mouth watering choices. None of them are wheat or gluten free, but what better excuse to just eat the tasty topping off the cheesecake?! Washed down with a big glass of hot chocolate…you can see why this is often our destination of choice for afternoon tea at the weekend ;)

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5 Responses to “Museum City Guide: My Top 5 in Berlin”

  1. QWoo Says:

    We are honored to be part of this fine selection of museums in Berlin!

    Thank you!
    Currydank! :)

    Reply

  2. Liebling nicht jetzt Says:

    Thanks Jenni!
    I like your selection and I agree with No. 1, 2 and 4 (haven’t seen No. 3 and 5 so far). But I’m also surprised, that you do not mention any art museums. My top 5 museums in Berlin would probably include both national galleries as well as Martin Gropius Bau and Hamburger Bahnhof.

    Reply

    • Jenni Fuchs Says:

      Yes, you are right. The reason is not that I don’t like art museums, just that I prefer museums with “things” so those made it on the list ahead of the others. Perhaps I need to write a separate post on my top art museums in Berlin :)

      Reply

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