Berlin art guide: Exploring the Museum Island

The Museum Island, situated right in the heart of Berlin-Mitte, is actually the name of the upper half of the island formed by two branches of Spree river. Five of the city's most popular museums can be found here:
Aerial view of the Museum Island. Blick auf die Museumsinsel und das Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. © bpk / DOM Publishers
The Museum houses the impressive collection of European sculptures with masterpieces such as Donatello’s ‘Pazzi Madonna’ and Antonio Canova’s ‘Dancer’. It is always the exhibitions space of the Museum of Byzantine Art with first-class holdings of late antique and Byzantine works of art ranging from the 3rd to 15th century. Collections highlight: the exquisite pre-Christian and Christian sarcophagi from Rome! Additionally, Bode-Museum is home to the Berlin’s Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) with over half a million objects, one of the most important numismatic collections in the world.
Bode-Museum. Museumsinsel Berlin, Am Kupfergraben. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Bernd Weingart
View of collection display © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker.

Pergamon Museum
This is the newest museum on the island and houses Classical Antiquities, Ancient Near East artefacts and the Islamic Art Collection. The museum is world renowned for exhibiting architectural works in their entirety such as the world-famous Pergamon Altar, which is currently under extensive renovation and will be non-accessible until 2019. Don't be disappointed, though, as there are the many more monumental exhibits to see such as the market gate of Miletus (a bustling ancient city of Minor-Asia), the Orpheus mosaic (also from Miletus), the Gate of Ishtar and the Processional Way of Babylon, the stone façade of the caliph’s palace of Mshatta in Jordan and the famous Aleppo Room with its brightly painted wood panelling (Syria).
The Gate of Ishtar/ Blick auf das Ischtar-Tor © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker
The Miletus Market Gate / Blick auf das rekonstruierte Markttor von Milet © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Foto: Johannes Laurentius; CC NC-BY-SA

Alte Nationalgalerie
The Old National Gallery's collection consists of 800 paintings and 1500 sculptures of European Art of the 19th century, including Romantic, Impressionist and Expressionistic masterpieces from iconic artists such as Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Franz Marc as well as a world-class collection of works by Adolph Menzel.
Alte Nationalgalerie. Museumsinsel Berlin, Bodestraße. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Maximilian Meisse
Edouard Manet: Im Wintergarten, 1878/1879 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Jörg P. Anders.

Neues Museum
The Neues (New) Museum, which was completely destroyed in WWII, was rebuilt and opened in 2009 as the exhibition space for the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities' Collection as well as the Prehistoric and Ancient Collection (archaeological finds from Europe and parts of Asia, from the Stone Age up to the Middle Ages). The museum's most famous artefact is the 3300-year-old wooden bust of Queen Nefertiti from Amarna. Heinrich Schliemann’s collection of artefacts from Troy, the Berlin Gold Hat and the Neanderthal skull from Le Moustier are only some of the museum's impressive exhibits.
Neues Museum, Ostseite, Eingang. Museumsinsel Berlin, Bodestraße. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker
The bust of Queen Nefertiti / Büste der Königin Nofretete im Raum "Nofretete" (Nordkuppelsaal) © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker.

Altes Museum
Although parts of the classical antiquities collection can be found in other museums in the Island, the Altes Museum is entirely dedicated to classical Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Hellenistic archaeological findings. The collection of Etruscan art, in particular, is one of the largest anywhere in the world outside Italy, containing famous works such as the house-shaped urns from Chiusi. At the Roman Art section, look for the stunning portraits of Caesar and Cleopatra!
Altes Museum. Museumsinsel Berlin, Am Lustgarten. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Maximilian Meisse
The Rotonda of the Altes Museum / Die Rotunde im Alten Museum © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Achim Kleuker.
Evidently, there are hundreds of artworks to see in the permanent collections of the five museums mentioned and it is practically impossible to cover them all in a single day but you should also know that there are several remarkable exhibitions going on at the moment that can make your day at the museum island! You can even get a Museum Insel Pass for 18,00 € which will grant you access to all the current exhibitions on the island. Have fun!


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