Explore Berlin's Museum Island from Home

For nearly 200 years, this island has held treasures from across all of history

By Google Arts & Culture

Museum Island

Welcome to Berlin's Museumsinsel, or Museum Island. Since 1830, this island in the middle of the River Spree has been home to some of the most important museums and galleries in Germany, covering almost every era of history. There's lots to see here, so let's start the tour.

Altes Museum

The first on our journey is the Altes Museum, built from 1825 to 1830 by order of King Frederick William III of Prussia. This neoclassical building was intended only for the 'High Art' of the royal collection: paints and prints by the Old Masters, and Classical sculptures.

In 1904, the museum switched to holding Classical antiquities such as Greek vases, Roman glass, and ancient arms and armour.

Neues Museum

The Neues Museum (New Museum) was built shortly after the Altes Museum (Old Museum), to house the increasingly large collection, as well as the new Egyptian artefacts and ethnographic collection. Upstairs were the Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance rooms.

During the Second World War, the museum was almost totally destroyed, and it lay in ruin for decades afterwards. It reopened in 2009, and today you can see objects dating from the stone age and Ancient Egyptian, like the bust of Nefertiti.

Bode Museum

Named after it's first curator, William Bode, who believed in mixing exhibits, rather than neatly categorising them, the Bode Museum holds a dizzying collection of artefacts from Coptic Egypt, the Byzantine Empire, and Gothic Italy.

In 2006, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said, "It is no exaggeration to say that in the new Bode Museum, Europe will be able for the first time to read its history - aesthetic and religious, intellectual and political - in a three-dimensional form."

Pergamon Museum

One of the marvels of Museum Island, The Pergamon Museum exists essentially to house this enormous ancient monument, the ancient Greek Pergamon Altar from the city of Pergamon, in modern-day Turkey. A masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.

Besides the altar, the museum holds the Market Gate of Miletus. Built in the 2nd Century CE and destroyed in an earthquake in the 10th or 11th Century. It was then brought in pieces to Berlin, where it was painstakingly reassembled.

Vorderasiatisches Museum

Within the Pergamon is the Vorderasiatisches Museum, dedicated to the archaeology of south-east Asia and north-west Africa, including ancient Babylon, Uruk, Assur, Miletus, Priene and Egypt - some of the oldest civilisations in the world.

The centrepiece of this institution is the Ishtar Gate, which once stood in the inner-city walls of ancient Babylon. The enormous glazed-brick gate was constructed by King Nebuchadnezzar II and named in honour of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar.

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Technically the Deutsches Historisches Museum isn't on the island, but it is on the western bank of the Spree, and as Germany's national historical museum, and as a piece of outstanding Baroque architecture, we simply couldn't miss it.

Through 7000 objects, the permanent exhibition of the museum traces the history of Germany from the medieval era to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in 1990.

Ground level view of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

Want to learn more about Berlin? Discover the Tumultuous History of the Brandenburg Gate

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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