Take a stroll through the Brandenburg Gate, down Unter den Linden, to the banks of the River Spree. There you’ll find some of the world’s most intriguing and important cultural treasures—the Ishtar Gate, the bust of Nefertiti and so many extraordinary antiquities, classical sculpture and masterworks, it is impossible to imagine they could all be in one place—but they are—Berlin’s Museum Island.
Museumsinsel http://www.smb.museum is home to five separate historical museum buildings, each designed by a well-regarded architect of the time and now part of a UNESCO world heritage site. Here you will find the Pergamonmuseum, Altes (Old) Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum, and the Neues (New) Museum.
According to Visit Berlin, more than 3 million people come each year to view the collections that range from prehistory to 20th century art. Savvy travelers will want to purchase a Museum Pass, which provides entry to 50 major and lesser-known museums, including the five on Museum Island, over three consecutive days for one low fee. The price was 24 Euro when we visited in November. Passes are available at Berlin Tourist Info points, in the museums, and online at Shop.visitberlin.com.
The long lines and crowded galleries attest to the fact that the Pergamon Museum is on nearly every visitor’s short list of places to visit in Germany’s capitol city. It should be. The magnificent Pergamon Altar, Ishtar Gate, and marvelous sculpture and other works from ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria, and modern day Iraq, Turkey and Syria are all on display here. Restoration is underway on the Ishtar Gate, but it remains open for viewing. The Pergamon Altar was closed for restoration during our recent visit and will reopen in 2019. We were fortunate to see it several years ago.
We practically had the galleries to ourselves when we visited the Bode-Museum in November. This beautiful museum boasts art from the Byzantine and Roman Empires, a spectacular sculpture collection spanning from the early Middle Ages to the late 18th century, and one of the most extensive numismatic collections in the world. We could not understand why the Bode wasn’t full of people enjoying these art treasures.
The Bode also has a lovely café where we enjoyed a delicious and very reasonably priced lunch along with views over the Spree. The cafe balcony overlooks the museum’s grand entrance below.
If Impressionist works are more to your liking, visit the Alte Nationalgalerie, home to 19th century works by Renoir, Manet, Monet, and Cezanne, Adolph von Menzel and other well regarded artists of that time period. The Alte Nationalgalerie was the third museum to open on Museum Island.
Housed in one of Berlin’s most impressive neoclassical buildings, the Altes Museum was dedicated in 1828 by Friedrich Wilhelm III for “the study all antiquities and the free arts”. The museum’s permanent collection centers on classic antiquities covering Etruscan, Roman and Greek art and includes urns, vases, sarcophagi, friezes, pottery and sculpture.
The 3300 year-old bust of Nefertiti is among the highlights at the Neues Museum, or New Museum. After sustaining significant damage during World War II, the building, which was designed by Friedrich August Stuler and constructed between 1843 and 1855, was abandoned. In 2003, extensive restoration began and the museum opened in 2009 with three main collections—Egyptian art from the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, prehistoric objects from the Museum for Prehistory and Early History, and classical antiquities. Visitors will find works from around the globe including the Middle East, North Africa, and Northern Europe at the Neues Museum.
For updated information on each of the museums on Berlin’s Museum Island and details on permanent collections, temporary exhibitions, admission, hours and directions, please visit http://www.smb.museum.
Note: The banner image is the Cathedral of Berlin known also as Berlin Dom, located on Museum Island. In addition to church services, the Berlin Dom is open for tours. Numerous concerts and other events are also held there throughout the year. To the right is the Berlin TV Tower, constructed by the Soviets during the Cold War and now a popular tourist destination.