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Jüdisches Museum Berlin
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/glasseyes viewJüdisches Museum Berlin

The 10 absolute best museums in Berlin

You’ve got to get that East Side snap, but where next? The best museums in Berlin are perfect for culture vultures

Huw Oliver
Nathan Ma
Written by
Huw Oliver
&
Nathan Ma
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Berlin is a lot of things to a lot of people. Truth be told, it is often all of the things to all of the people, as curious visitors flock to the German capital in search of iconic attractions and thrilling nightlife. Berlin is every bit as infectious as its reputation suggests, maybe even more so. The German capital is a beacon for hedonists and foodies alike, and the museums of the city do the same for the curious and cultural.

The best museums in Berlin do a fantastic job of capturing the intangible essence of the city. This place has a history as rich and complicated as it is occasionally harrowing, with plenty of art mixed in for good measure. Culture vultures are in for a real treat here.

Best museums in Berlin

Hamburger Bahnhof
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Garrett Ziegler

1. Hamburger Bahnhof

What is it? Berlin’s foremost contemporary art museum, Hamburger Bahnhof is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue. A rich collection of works from Beuys, Twombly, and Warhol is complemented by travelling exhibitions and temporary showcases of cutting-edge talent and household names.

Why go? As well as the world-class collection of artworks, the space itself is not to be missed: the museum takes its name from the former Berlin–Hamburg rail station, and the echoes of grandeur can still be heard in the airy halls under high ceilings.

Puppentheater Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Nikolaus H.

2. Puppentheater Museum

What is it? Equal parts creepy and cute, the Puppentheater Museum in Neukölln is home to more than 300 puppets and marionettes.

Why go? Their cheerful and cherubic faces are the thing of nightmares for some, but others might be interested in the dolls’ personal histories and cultural heritage. For those who dare, readings are scheduled regularly for both children and adults.

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Reichstag

3. Reichstag

What is it? There are few more recognisable parts of the city’s skyline than Berlin’s Reichstag. The historic parliamentary building has changed hands countless times since its construction in 1871 and is now the city’s calling card.

Why go? As one of the most visited attractions in all of Germany, book a tour ahead of time for an opportunity to see the city from the 360-degree glass dome at the top of the building.

Jüdisches Museum Berlin
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/glasseyes view

4. Jüdisches Museum Berlin

What is it? Dive deep into the history of Jewish people at the world-famous Jewish Museum. It’s a vibrant celebration of Jewish history and culture housed in a dazzling building designed by Daniel Libeskind.

Why go? You could easily spend a few hours here: the exhibitions are extensively researched and thoughtfully presented. Fully untangling stories of the migration, diversity and persecution of Jews in Germany may take some time but is well worth the effort.

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Schwules Museum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Assenmacher

5. Schwules Museum

What is it? Since 1985, the Schwules Museum has presented a survey of contemporary and historical records of the lives and times of queer and trans people in Germany. Spread across four exhibition spaces, the museum has an invaluable and internationally renowned collection.

Why go? The museum’s developed an on-the-pulse reputation in the past few years: recent events have included special series on gay comic book heroes and queer-feminist futurism.

East Side Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Lorenzo Giardi

6. East Side Gallery

What is it? What was once the Berlin Wall is now a 1.3km gallery remembering the city divided. Located just off Warschauer Strasse on the border of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, the East Side Gallery is flush with tourists looking to experience the size and stature of the wall that split the city in two.

Why go? The most iconic murals remain on the walls, so grab a beer and take a walk through Berlin’s turbulent recent history – it’s a popular spot for a summertime beer on the riverbanks, so you won’t be alone.

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Designpanoptikum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ross Edwin Thompson

7. Designpanoptikum

What is it? In the sleepy streets of up-and-coming neighbourhood Moabit, the Design Panoptikon remembers visions of the future taken from the past. The collection is half designer furniture and half grotesque drafts that were tossed back on the drawing board.

Why go? Browse a carnival of mid-industrial wonders like cyborg-mannequin prototypes and space-age lanterns. The owner Vlad is happy to give tours of the many wonders in his emporium on the hour.

Modellpark Berlin
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sebastian Niedlich

8. Modellpark Berlin

What is it? If you don’t have time to explore the surrounding region of Brandenburg, hop on a tram to Modell Park Berlin for an overview of all the local attractions on a pint-sized scale.

Why go? From the Siegessäule to the Reichstag, the model park is home to dozens of miniature buildings, along with insightful texts on why we should know about them. It’s a short train ride outside of the city centre, but bring a picnic and enjoy the outer-city ease.

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Museum für Naturkunde
Photograph: Thomas Rosenthal

9. Museum für Naturkunde

What is it? Though not known for its exotic wildlife, Germany is home to one of the most extensive collections of zoological and paleontological specimens in the world.

Why go? From preserved sharks to fossilised plants and the skeleton of Bobby the Gorilla from the Berlin Zoo, the Museum für Naturkunde is a hotspot for scientists and tourists from around the globe. Be sure not to miss the Giraffatitan skeleton – it’s the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world.

Neues Museum
Berlin Neues Museum

10. Neues Museum

What is it? It’s hard to argue with the impressive collection of ancient artefacts housed at Berlin’s Neues Museum. The building itself is a work of art: extensive damage incurred during the Second World War left the structure crumbling, but an in-depth architectural revival led to the museum reopening in 2009 to much acclaim.

Why go? The Neues Museum hosts several immediately recognisable pieces. The standout? Don’t miss the original bust of Nefertiti.

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