With so many excellent museums in Berlin, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. But you can’t go wrong with Berlin’s Museum Island, the most famous collection of museums in the city and one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Berlin. Visiting Museum Island takes you to some of the best museums in Berlin.
These five museums cover art, history, and culture, and Museum Island has been a Berlin UNESCO site since 1999. They were built between 1824 and 1930 by accomplished architects with the goal of linking the ensemble as well as connecting each museum building to its collections.
This guide to Museum Island in Berlin will tell you about each of the museums, their history, and details for visiting. Plus you’ll find tips for more great things to do on Museum Island and nearby.
Where to stay in Berlin
Berlin has lots of great neighborhoods for you to stay in and explore. If you’re visiting Berlin for the first time, it might be best for you stay somewhere central.
Many of the attractions are in Mitte or easily connected to Mitte by Berlin’s public transport, so you should stay somewhere in that region. Here are a few hotels we recommend.
For a more detailed look at the different neighborhoods and our hotel recommendations, check out our guide to where to stay in Berlin.
How to Get to Museum Island
Getting to Museum Island is simple whether you’re on foot or using public transport.
One of the best ways to see this area of Mitte (central district) is to walk from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburg Gate (or vice versa) along a street called Unter den Linden. It’s called Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse between Alexanderplatz and Museum Island, but it’s the same street.
When you’re on foot, you can’t really miss it. Museum Island is an island, so you’ll cross a bridge coming from either direction. And the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is the biggest and most recognizable building there.
For reference, the Berliner Dom is pictured below.
If you’re visiting Museum Island using public transport, there are a couple of options depending on where you’re coming from.
The Ubahn line U5 has a stop called Museumsinsel. Exit here and you’ll be just a few steps away from the UNESCO ensemble of museums.
Otherwise if you’re using the Sbahns, take the S3, S5, S7, or S9 to Hackescher Markt. A few trams lines stop here, too.
From there, walk south on Burgstr. for a few minutes and cross the river using the Friedrichsbrücke. Again you’ll see the Berliner Dom easily from here.
Visiting Berlin’s UNESCO Museum Island
With five world class museums, there’s a lot to see here. Unless you’re really ambitious or really focused on museums above all else, you probably can’t see exhibits at all five museums.
This guide to visiting Museum Island in Berlin will help you make the most of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and understand what types of exhibits each museum has.
I’ve listed the ticket prices for each museum, which is what you’d pay if you visit them separately. But if you plan on visiting a few, it’s really worth getting a combo ticket.
The Museum Island Welcome Card gives you a 72 hour transport pass, free entry to all museums and collections on Berlin’s Museum Island (Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Altes Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, and Neues Museum), and discounts at many other museums and attractions.
Another option is the normal Welcome Card which gives you discounted entrance to the museums on Museum Island plus discounts at many other museums and attractions. It also includes a transport pass with an option for either 48 hours, 72 hours, 4 day, 5 day, or 6 day.
Knowing what kinds of collections each museum has will help you decide where you want to spend your time. Here’s a look at each museum.
The Altes Museum is a museum focused on classical antiquity. Here you’ll find exhibits dedicated to the art and culture of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans.
On the main floor, you’ll see exhibits on art from ancient Greece from 10th to 1st century BC. This includes vases, jewelry, stone sculptures, and crafts.
In the blue chamber, more than 1,300 ancient coins are on display. These coins range from 7th century BC all the way up to the Roman Empire in the late 3rd century AD.
Finally on the upper level, you can see art and archaeology of the Etruscans and the Roman Empire. The Etruscan collection is one of the largest in the world outside of Italy, and the Roman collection includes portraits of Caesar and Cleopatra.
The building that houses the Altes Museum was completed in 1830. With its stately columns and sweeping staircase, the building was clearly designed with its collections in mind.
The Altes Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 10 euros per person.
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The Neues Museum contains collections of prehistoric objects, classical antiquities, and Egyptian art. The two permanent exhibitions are the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, and the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory.
In the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, you can explore four millennia of ancient Egyptian and Nubian cultures. There are portraits, sculptures, literary works, and more.
In the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory, there are 6,000 exhibits ranging from the Stone Age up to the Middle Ages. They include archeological findings from Europe and parts of Asia.
The Neues Museum building was heavily damaged during World War II. Decades after the war it was finally restored, and many of its scars were incorporated into the building’s facade.
The Neues Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 12 euros per person.
The Alte Nationalgalerie houses impressive collections of Romantic, Impressionist & early Modernist art. The museum was actually the first in the world to purchase Impressionist art.
Today there are around 1,800 paintings and 1,500 sculptures at the Alte Nationalgalerie. The 19th and 20th century art is displayed chronologically throughout three different floors, and the museum’s collection is rarely expanded.
The building itself was designed to look like a temple with motifs from antiquity. It was the third museum on the island to open.
The Alte Nationalgalerie is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 12 euros per person.
The Bode Museum houses two main collections: the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art, and the Münzkabinett, which is a collection of coins and medals that show human history through coins and other metals.
The Sculpture Collection has pieces mostly from German and Italian artists, including Donatello. It is considered one of the largest collections of ancient sculpture in the world. In the Byzantine Art section, you’ll find works dating from the 3rd to 15th centuries.
In the Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) there are over half a million objects including coins, seals, tokens, minting tools, and more. Here you can view the history of humankind through metal starting with coins from the 7th century BC to present day coins such as the euro coin.
The building that houses the Bode Museum is at the northern end of Museum Island. The view of it jutting out into the Spree River is quite impressive.
The Bode Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 10 euros per person.
The Pergamon Museum houses antiquities and collections of ancient art. The collections are divided into three main groups: Collection of Antiquities, Museum of the Ancient Near East, and Museum of Islamic Art. This is the most visited museum in Germany.
The Collection of Classical Antiquities can actually be found at the Pergamon Museum as well as the Altes Museum and the Neues Museum. The exhibits at the Pergamon include full-scale reconstructions of architectural monuments from Greek and Roman antiquity, and the most famous piece is the Pergamon Alter.
Unfortunately the wing of the museum that contains the Pergamon Alter is currently undergoing renovations and is inaccessible until at least 2025.
The Museum of the Ancient Near East collection includes 270,000 artifacts from the regions of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia over a 6,000 year time period. Some of the highlights include reconstructions of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way of Babylon, which date back to the 6th century BC.
The Museum of Islamic Art contains a wide range of artistic and archeological pieces, considered to be one of the best outside of the Islamic world. Some of the most well known sections are decorated stone facade of the caliph’s palace of Mshatta and the famous Aleppo Room with its brightly painted wood paneling.
Unfortunately the Mshatta Room is closed for renovations starting 21 February 2022.
The Pergamonmuseum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 12 euros per person.
Pergamonmuseum: Das Panorama
This is a building across from Museum Island on a street called Am Kupfergraben which holds a temporary exhibit running in connection with the Pergamon Museum until 2024. The exhibition is called “PERGAMON. Masterpieces from the Ancient Metropolis with a 360° Panorama by Yadegar Asisi” and it focuses on the city of Pergamon in Roman times, around 129 AD.
The Pergamonmuseum: Das Panorama is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays. Holiday hours may differ. Tickets are 12 euros per person.
The Kolonnadenhof (Colonnade Courtyard) is also listed as part of the Museum Island UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the 12,900 square-meter (138,854 square feet) large garden and courtyard framed by an impressive colonnade and sits in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie.
The James-Simon-Galerie serves as the Museum Island Visitor Center with ticket counters and information for all of the museums on Museum Island. It also has a gift shop, cafe, lecture auditorium, and spaces for special exhibitions.
Museum Island Welcome Card
If you’re interested in museums, a Berlin Welcome Card could really be worthwhile.
Don’t forget, the Museum Island Welcome Card gives you a 72 hour transport pass, free entry to all museums and collections on Berlin’s Museum Island, and discounts at many other museums and attractions.
Which museum on Museum Island should you visit?
In an ideal world, it would be great to visit all five museums on Museum Island. But most people visiting Museum Island probably don’t have time for all of them.
So if you only have time for one Museum Island museum, which one should it be? These are some of the best museums in Berlin, so it can be hard to choose.
Which one you visit is really a judgement call. The museums are really different, so it depends on your interests.
Are you really interested in ancient Greece and Rome? Then visit the Altes Museum.
Maybe you’re more excited to learn about ancient Egypt? Then check out the Neues Museum.
If art, especially Impressionists and sculptures, is more up your alley, you should visit the Alte Nationalgalerie.
For ancient sculptures, Byzantine Art, and an impressive history of coins, the Bode Museum is for you.
To see impressive exhibits on antiquities and ancient art, perhaps you should visit the Pergamon Museum. This is also the most visited museum in Germany, and for good reasons, so you really can’t go wrong here.
What else can you do near Museum Island?
As fantastic as UNESCO Museum Island is, you might be interested in other attractions in the area. Here are a few that are just a few minutes walking from this ensemble of world class museums.
The Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral, is a Protestant cathedral located on Museum Island. It’s one of the most well known attractions in the city.
This landmark serves as a tourist attraction and museum, as well as a religious institution. Touristic visits are not permitted during services.
Tours are available and included with the admission fee if you are interested in hearing about the history of the cathedral. You can also climb 270 stairs for lovely panoramic views of Berlin from above.
Lustgarten is the grassy park in front of the Altes Museum and the Berliner Dom. With its big fountain and gorgeous views, it’s one of the most popular parks in Berlin.
The Humboldt Forum is a museum in the former Berlin Palace that only just opened in July 2021 after the building was completely rebuilt. a museum of world culture and art. Even if you don’t go inside, the building and the courtyard are gorgeous.
German History Museum
Although the permanent exhibition in the Zeughaus is currently closed for renovations for a few years, you can still enjoy temporary exhibits at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in the Pei Building. These temporary exhibits focus on historical events and periods of time.
The DDR Museum focuses on life in East Germany. It’s an interactive museum, so it’s fun and interesting while being educational. Learn about the Stasi, the Berlin Wall, and even what everyday life was like in East Germany.
>>Check out our list of places where you can see the Berlin Wall.
So much of Berlin was damaged during WWII and later had to be repaired or rebuilt. Nikolaiviertel is Berlin’s old medieval quarter, which was in ruins for decades after the war and finally restored in the 1980s. It’s a cute neighborhood for a wander.
Not far from Museum Island is Palais Populaire, an art museum with changing exhibits. It’s also one of many free attractions in Berlin!
Berlin State Opera House
The Berlin State Opera House is a great place to go for opera and musical shows. The classical facade makes it a gorgeous building to check out even if you aren’t seeing a show.
Bebelplatz and Book Burning Memorial
Bebelplatz is a big open square on Unter den Linden next to the Berlin State Opera House. Not only is it a lovely spot for admiring architecture, but it’s also home to the simple yet moving Memorial to the Nazi Book Burning. Look down or you might miss it.
Another great place to visit near Museum Island, Neue Wache is a small building that serves as the Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship. It contains the well known statue Mother with her Dead Son by Käthe Kollwitz.
Berlin Art Market
A flea market of sorts, the Berlin Art Market (Berliner Kunstmarkt in German) has stalls from local artists set up along the river across from Museum Island. They sell their art here on Saturdays and Sundays, and you can find some pretty interesting things from paintings to crafts and more.
Berlin Travel Resources
I want you to have the best trip to Berlin, and hopefully this guide to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Museum Island in Berlin helps. But there are lots more tips on the site!
- 101 Best Things to do in Berlin
- 23 Impressive Castles in Berlin (And Nearby)
- 27 Best World War II & Cold War Sights in Berlin
- 27 Fun Day Trips From Berlin
- 75 Things to Know Before Visiting Berlin: Essential Berlin Travel Tips
- What to Wear & What to Pack for Berlin, Germany: Your Ultimate Berlin Packing List
- How to Get Around in Berlin: An Easy Guide to Berlin Public Transportation
- Where to Stay in Berlin: A Local’s Guide
Visiting Berlin? Don’t forget travel insurance!
It’s always a good idea to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here is reasonably safe, but you never know when something could happen. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or become a victim to theft.
We recommend World Nomads insurance for travel. Travel insurance helps you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.