Despite the fact that to you I’m just a faceless writer of hoppa blogs, I am also an avid traveller myself! One of my personal favourite cities to visit is Berlin, as it’s bustling with culture and things to do. When I last visited, I got a tourist-exclusive 1-week ticket for all routes on the U-Bahn, which is their underground subway. This ticket also came with free entry to a large portion of museums in Berlin. Because of this, I spent most of my time visiting museums all around the city, to make the most of my free pass. I thought it would only take me a day or two, but I was very, very wrong. Museum Island, Berlin Museum Island, Berlin Berlin actually has an entire island in the middle of Spree river called Museum Island (Museumsinsel), which is dedicated to five internationally significant museums (they’re so significant that they’ve been on the list on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999). I’ve never been to any other place so mad on museums that they’d dedicate so much space to them. Across the whole city, I found more and more museums dotted about, and I came no-where near close to visiting them all myself. It’s possibly one of the best places in the world for highly respected museums as well as highly unusual ones. As there are so many museums to cover, I won’t be doing a top ten list, or anything fully comprehensive. Instead, I’ll cover the places I went to myself, as a personal recommendations list. So, let’s have a look at what’s on offer:

The Museum Island Five

To start with, let’s talk about the big ones – the five treasured museums of Museum Island. Immediately, I must confess something: I didn’t get to visit them all. I only actually went into two of the five. It turns out that the most popular museums in Germany had quite long queues and wait lists – who would’ve known! The two I did manage to weasel my way into were great experiences, however. First off, there’s the Pergamon Museum, which is the most visited in all of Germany. It’s a grand building that essentially exists to house other grand buildings. The Pergamon Altar of Zeus, the Processional Way and Ishtar Gate of Babylon, and the Roman Market Gate of Miletus can all be found in full scale reconstructed forms, based on the original ruins, and they are truly spectacular. If you’d told me the pure original forms had been transported from back in time to present day Berlin, I’d be hard-pressed to find a way to dispute it. These incredibly important locations have been brought back to life with priceless artefacts scattered around that give context to the structures, acting as a window into the rich history of the Middle East and Turkey. There’s also an entire exhibit of Islamic Art, which is preceded by a vast antiquity collection, both very unique in the volume and scale of their offerings. The Aleppo Room and Mshatta facade in particular are some of the most stunning pieces I’ve seen displayed in any museum of this kind. The Neues Museum offers another deep dive into history, although for the most part it goes even further back. Part of this building is focused on pre-history and early history, utilising the long cavernous rooms as a gigantic timeline of humanity’s beginnings and the creation of culture. Thousands of years’ worth of history from all over the continents of the old world are collected here, and will allow you to see mankind from a fresh perspective. The other part of the building is entirely centred around the treasures of Ancient Egypt. From my visit, the most striking item on display was the bust of Nefertiti, which even the uninformed newcomers to Egyptology revered – it’s subtly majestic in its design, and fascinating to see up-close. Other highlights from this section include the vast array of sarcophaguses and the extensive papyrus collection.

The Highly Respected

Berlin has countless museums dedicated to art (by which I mean I lost interest in counting because it took so long), and it got overwhelming as someone who was only there for a week. I do not profess to be the biggest connoisseur of modern or renaissance art, so I chose to forego most of these. My interests were better suited to the scientific and the historical. Dinosaur Hall, Berlin Dinosaur Hall, Berlin On the scientific side, we have Berlin’s natural history museum, Museum fur Naturkunde, the largest of its kind in the country. The exhibits here range from gigantic dinosaur skeletons to celestial projections. The dinosaurs are a big attraction to most, as this museum not only contains the largest mounted dinosaur in the world, but also has one of the very best preserved fossils of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx. The composition of the Earth, formation of the solar system, and an exhaustive display of evolution are all shown in well though-out and informative ways. It’s a great place to bring kids for something both educational and fun, but my rag-tag group of twenty-somethings had an equally great time. Laying down together in a circle as the universe’s creation and expansion was shown on the sky-high ceiling was certainly a highlight. The wet collections, on the other end of the spectrum, was fascinating but oddly disturbing. One million animal specimens of all varieties are preserved in giant jars across 12.6km of shelf space. The creepy lighting of the room and bizarre-looking contents of the jars gives an unsettling feeling, but it’s certainly worth witnessing as an impressive feat of conservation. Moving away from science and onto history, I’m going to cheat a bit here. This next place is not strictly a museum, but as it’s listed on http://www.visitberlin.de/en in the Museum A-Z category, I’m going to allow myself a free pass. The place I want to briefly talk about is the sombre concrete pillars of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The name is blunt and bleak, which is as it should be considering the subject matter. The memorial is not a standard statue or small display, but is instead a grid of 2,711 raised rectangular concrete monoliths, that go taller and taller as you get deeper, becoming more imposing as you walk through. The sound of the surrounding city begins to fade as you walk through, dampened by the concrete. It’s a quiet and reflective experience, effective in its message. Certainly, it was a far more palatable reminder of the horrors of war than the harrowing journey through the Dachau concentration camp I’d made the previous year. Underground the memorial, there’s also a large information centre, allowing it to serve an educational function.

The Highly Unusual

Now that we have the somewhat serious bit covered, let’s dive deep into the fun to balance things out. One of the great things about German museums is that there’s seemingly no topic they won’t touch. The Lipstick Museum, Berlin Hemp Museum, and German Spy Museum are all unusual treats. Beyond that, there’s museums focused on typography (Buchstabenmuseum), general bizarre objects (DesignPanopticon), and even the city’s favourite street food (Deutsches Currywurst Museum). Unfortunately, I did not get to visit any the ones listed above, despite my insistence to my group that they were all essential. Turns out they preferred to go drinking and shopping, which was fairly predictable. However, I did manage to drag them along to a couple of idiosyncratic museums, and they wound up being some of the best parts of our stay. Berlin Museum of Film and Television Berlin Museum of Film and Television The Museum of Film and Television (Museum fur Film und Fernsehen), does not sound that unusual at first, but it is the presentation that makes it unique. Part of the Deutsche Kinemathek archives, the museum is a perfect example of how to blend historical works in a modern way. The first room you step into is an experience unto itself. A winding walkway leads you through a large space of mirrors and screens, giving the impression of being high up, and taking a psychedelic trip through a portal into another world. Once you’ve reached the door on the other end, you’ll start to make your way through the long thin corridors that snake around eachother. Screens of all shapes and sizes protrude from the walls at jaunty angles, flanked by glass shelves covered in items from the golden age of cinema. The fun here lies in seeing all the old clips of film and TV that have been preserved, and cannot be found anywhere else. All of them are displayed differently, with some making you sit inside small retro-future booths, whilst others are projected onto walls as you stand on a balcony part-way up. Out of everything on this list, this museum had the best conversation starters and was the most saddening to leave. The last place I want to talk about it is the Music Instrument Museum (Musikinstrumenten-Museum). It’s a weird experience. Somehow more quiet than all the fancy art galleries, and the most likely to split a group up for the duration of a visit. The fairly large open area here spans two floors, with every square inch of space utilised to show off 400 years of musical history. You just go up to whatever old or interesting instrument takes your fancy, pop on some headphones, and listen to it being played. Watching so many people of all different ages staring into space, sitting cross-legged on the floor, or swaying in a trance is incredibly strange, but certainly amusing. Some instruments are so odd they defy description, but some have historical significance like Bach’s harpsichord or Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica. There’s also the spectacle of a behemoth Gray and Davidson church organ, which you can actually climb up using the built-in staircases, putting your head into the chamber inside. The most advertised piece is the four-manual Mighty Wurlitzer, and oh my is it mighty. It’s the largest cinema and theatre organ in Europe, and we were lucky enough to go on a Sunday to see a live performance - the bellowing melodies that reverberated through us all was a stark contrast to the previous air of tranquillity.

More to discover

The museums I’ve listed today do not even scratch the surface of how many Berlin has to offer. There’s so many, that I intend to go back to Berlin someday for another round! On my last trip, I wanted more than anything to go to the Computerspielemuseum (the world’s first computer games museum) to try the interactive exhibits and see the multi-media art installations, but we were too strapped for time, so that’s the first place on my list. No matter your interests, I guarantee you that there’ll be something for you - if none of the museums I visited caught your attention, then go see if you can find out about one that does! If you find anything good, just keep in mind that I’m still looking for recommendations for my next trip. You know where to find me!

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