Art, Berlin, Dining, Family Fun, Germany, History, Museums

Treasures of Berlin’s Museum Island

February 26, 2016

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 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.


The museums on Berlin’s Museumsinsel are a treasure trove of important paintings, sculpture, and antiquities from around the globe.

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


The magnificent Ishtar Gate, believed to date from 170 AD, was dedicated to Zeus and Athena. It was brought to Berlin from Western Turkey in 1903.

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.


Detail from the Processional Way, which leads to the Ishtar Gate, at the Pergamon.


Stunning Roman mosaics cover the floor in the gallery that contains the Market Gate of Miletus, built in the 2nd century AD in Turkey and excavated and brought to Berlin in the early 1900s.


The stunning Aleppo Room at the Pergamon, seen through protective glass walls.


Facade of the Caliph Palace Mshatta from Amman/Jordan from the 8th century. The 33 meter long, 5 meter high facade was brought to Berlin in 1903 to the Bode Museum. In 1932 it was reconstructed in the Pergamon.

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.


Pedro Roldan’s Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Delorosa) at the Bode-Museum.


The Bode-Museum is known for it’s sculpture collection. Friezes, sacred art and other cultural treasures are also on display.


Don’t miss the extensive numismatic collection at the Bode. It’s one of the most comprehensive in the world.

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.



The comfortable cafe at the Bode was perfect for a light lunch.


Save room for dessert!

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.


The Alte Nationalgalerie is home to a fine collection of 19th century paintings– part of Berlin’s State Art Collection.

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 Altes Museum is a popular destination for student and tour groups.

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

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.


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1 Comment

  • Reply June 4, 2017 at 1:42 am

    In summer, the opposite shore on the Spree is a popular meeting place for Berliners and visitors alike for the breath-taking views it offers of the northern tip of Museum Island.

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