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The 11 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

Nathan Ma
Kate Bettes
Written by
Nathan Ma
&
Kate Bettes
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Culture vultures, listen up: Berlin is one of the best cities in Europe for culture. It’s got everything from fascinating history to immersive exhibitions – the only hard thing is choosing which ones to visit. On our list, the highest ranked museums are those that truly capture the essence of Berlin, but if you’re returning to the city or you’ve got the full week, you should simply work your way down it.

Some of it will be harrowing, much of it inspiring, but we’ve made sure to look behind the most famous museums and monuments, to include those that are the most interesting and unique. Our top tip? Get your culture fix on a Sunday, when most of Berlin's museums are completely free to enter. Here are the best museums in Berlin right now. 

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This guide was recently updated by Berlin-based writer Kate Bettes. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Best museums in Berlin

  • Museums
  • History
  • Kreuzberg

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.

  • Museums
  • Specialist interest
  • Kreuzberg

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.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Mitte

What is it? Set out on a Communist blast from the past at this unusual museum, which is the largest, most interactive and diverse exhibition on the fallen German/Deutschland Democratic Republic – better known to you as East Germany. It was founded as a way to teach younger generations to understand this influential chunk of German history through immersion into East German everyday life.

Why go? The GDR Museum is generally super fun and offers a different approach to history than ‘regular’ museums. Rifle through the draws and cupboards of a GDR-era prefabricated apartment, take a spin in the Trabi car driving simulation and look at memorials of those persecuted by the menacing Stasi secret police. 

Neues Museum
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. 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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East Side Gallery
Photograph: Astra Pentaxia for Time Out

5. 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.

Designpanoptikum
Photograph: Anagoria via Wikimedia Commons

6. Designpanoptikum

What is it? In the sleepy streets of the Moabit neighbourhood, 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.

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Modellpark Berlin
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. 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.

Hamburger Bahnhof
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Garrett Ziegler

8. 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.

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9. 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.

Reichstag
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. 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.

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Museum für Naturkunde
Photograph: Thomas Rosenthal

11. 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, the Museum für Naturkunde.

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.

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