You’ll never guess what awaits you on this small sandy island in the centre of Berlin. Well… ok, the name is a bit of a spoiler, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. Because this is not just any island of museums we’re dealing with, Those who enter the light flooded interiors of this UNESCO world heritage site discover wonders which span 6,000 years of human history. From long lost cities to classic works of art, precious jewellery to Paleolithic tools the objects on display here offer an unparalleled treasure trove which has to be seen to be believed. Our In the Know Museum Island guide will help you get your bearings, and let you know what not to miss so you can get all Indiana Jones.

Remember: all the museums on the island are closed on Mondays.

In the Know: If you just have one day you can buy a Bereichskarte which gives you access to all five museums for one day. The price is €19 or €9.50 with student i.d. 

Every first Sunday of the month is Museum Sunday, which means free entrance to over 60 museums in Berlin including all 5 on Museum Island. More info here.

Altes Musuem

Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan Art

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Entrance                 €10

Reduced (student)  €5

0-18 years               €0

Built in 1830, the first and thus oldest museum on museum island is called (wait for it…) old museum. Designed by 19th century starchitect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the trend-setting design is considered one of the most important examples of Neo Classical architecture anywhere. Although impressive from the outside, the true splendour of Schinkel’s design becomes apparent only on entering.

After being greeted by a soaring Pantheon-inspired cupola the visitor is then treated to an outstanding collection covering a millenia of ancient artistry. Today the Altes Museum contains the bulk of Berlin’s collection of Classical Antiquities. On the ground floor you will find artefacts from Ancient Greece – the oldest dating back to around 1000 BC. Upstairs the focus shifts to Roman and Etruscan art. Collected over a period of about 350 years, the collection is one of the largest and most impressive of its kind on the planet. Overall you can expect a lot of handsome marble statues, beautifully decorated vases and a plethora of ancient bling uncovered by German archaeologists.

Look out for the Praying Boy. Created around 300 BC and discovered on the island of Rhodes, this pious young fellow has passed under the patronage of the Sun King Louis XIV, Frederick the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte before finally finding his home in Berlin.

Neues Museum

Pre & Early History Museum, Egyptian Museum

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Entrance                 €12

Reduced (student)  €6

0-18 years               €0

In 1841, with the royal collections outgrowing Schinkels original museum, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV ordered the entire northern half of the island  “be transformed into a sanctuary of art and science”. Thus the Neues Museum (new museum) was born. Completed in 1855 the structure was severely damaged during World War Two and many exhibits were destroyed. Finally in 2009 the Neues Museum was the last of the five buildings on the island to be reopened. The reconstruction, undertaken by David Chipperfield’s firm, masterfully preserves the history of the structure while also giving it a modern flair.

Within the battle-scarred interior, visitors are treated to two museums in one. With a vast array of archaeological findings, the Museum of Pre and Early History traces the development of art and culture in Europe and the Mediterranean from the Paleolithic age to medieval times. As if that wasn’t enough, the world renowned Egyptian Museum illuminates the lives of the Pharaohs and their subjects through a stunning collection spanning three millennia. Admiring the many sarcophagi,  mummies, hieroglyphs and sphinx you almost feel the shifting desert sands beneath your feet. 

Look out for: the bust of Nefertiti. Arguably the most beautiful and iconic piece of Egyptian art ever discovered, the queens regal cheek bones and perfect skin tone belie her 3,000 years. To protect her from damage during WW2 she was unceremoniously packed in a crate and carted from bank cellar to flak tower to salt mine, before finally being uncovered by the American “monument men” and women. Nefertiti made her glorious return to Berlin in ….

Alte National Galerie

Romantic, Impressionist and Secessionist Art (19th and 20th century)

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Entrance                 €12

Reduced (student)  €6

0-18 years               €0

Continuing with the grand Neoclassical architecture, the third addition to Museum Island was opened to the public in 1867. The design is based on a sketch provided by the then King of Prussia himself, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. A statue of the plump, balding monarch can be seen at the apex of the grand double stair case astride his horse. What acts today as the centre piece of the entire five museum ensemble is based on the roman style and is quite literally a temple to art. 

The entire collection of the Nationalgalerie is now spread over half a dozen galleries throughout the city. The Alte Nationalgalerie focusses specifically on the 19th and early 20th century. Through a series of light flooded rooms set over three floors, the visitor is treated to a myriad of works covering the romantic ideals of the age of Goethe, as well as German realism through finally to the advent of impressionism. Notable artists include Adolph Menzel, Arnold Böcklin, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Max Liebermann.

Look out for: ‘Monk by the Sea’ by Caspar David Friedrich. As the most important painter of the early romantic period in Germany, Friedrich redefined the genre of landscape painting. Friedrich worked on this, one of his most notable works, for two years before exhibiting it in 1810 alongside another of his famous pieces ‘The Abbey in the Oakwood’. Today the two paintings are displayed side by side.

Bode Museum

Sculpture from antiquity to 18th C, Byzantine art collection, Old Masters, Coin collection

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Entrance                 €10

Reduced (student)  €5

0-18 years               €0

Bearing the brunt of the often bitter northern winds, at the very tip of the island, is the Bode Museum. Although often overshadowed by its southern neighbours, the contents within this renaissance inspired structure are as varied as they are fascinating. The triangular shaped structure, completed in 1904 was designed by Ernst von Ihne. It was built in honour of Kaiser Friedrich III, the second German emperor who ruled for just 99 days before his untimely death in the “Year of the Three Emperors” 1888.

Within the beautifully designed interior a spellbinding array of paintings and sculpture awaits. The Skulpturensammlung diplays one of the largest collections of ancient sculpture in the world and contains astounding work from the hands of master craftsmen from throughout Europe. Whether ivory, marble or wood the quality of the artistry and meticulous attention to detail on display is humbling.

The Museum für Byzantinische Kunst brings artworks and cultural artefacts from all corners of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire: from Italy to North Africa, Turkey to Russia – the collection shouldn’t be missed. Finally, within the vault of the Münzkabinett you will find a vast collection of coins and medals which by all rights deserves its own museum. Suffice to say, in the face of such a bewilderingly rich collection many an hour could be whiled away discovering the joys concealed within the Bode Museum.

Pergamon

Architecture of Antiquity, Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Islamic Art

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Entrance                 €12

Reduced (student)  €6

0-18 years               €0A

Last, but definitely not least, the final piece of the puzzle is the world renowned Pergamon Museum which opened during the death throes of the democratic Weimar Republic in 1930. Conceived in 1900, construction began in 1910 but war, revolution and economic calamity delayed the opening for two decades. Consisting of three wings this one of a kind collection of from the near and middle east not only traverses thousands of kilometres but also thousands of years.

The most impressive exhibits are the Pergamon Altar (closed for renovation until 2025), the Market Gate of Miletus, the Mshatta Facade and the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way of Babylon. These ancient artifices, uncovered by German led archaeological expeditions, have been meticulously reconstructed within the museum. Complimenting these massive structures is an outstanding collection of monuments, art and artefacts representing six millennia of skilled craftsmanship from around the world.

Look out for: the Processional Way and Ishtar Gate c.575 BC. Built during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzer II (the chap from the Bible), this was the primary entrance into the ancient city of Babylon – the largest city in the world at the time. One of the most famous structures of ancient times, it has been described by some as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This magnificent work of art has been reconstructed from over 300,000 fragments, passing through the Ishtar gate