As I visit World Heritage Sites around the world, I find there’s quite often a museum attached to them.
That makes sense – it’s a good way to enhance the experience for visitors and give information or present items that have been discovered within it.
Never before, though, have I been to a World Heritage Site that is on the list because it is a museum.
It’s what makes Museum Island in Berlin so unique. This collection of museums in the middle of the German capital is a symbol of the Age of Enlightenment.
While the exhibits inside are significant in themselves and are inseparable from the buildings that house them, it’s the idea behind the creation of this island that is so special.
The five museums were built during a period between 1824 and 1930. Individually the architecture of each is spectacular and shows a beautiful organic connection with its collection.
Look at them together, though, and you can see a true vision from the Prussian rulers who sponsored the project. It was all about creating a cultural hub in the centre of the city.
UNESCO compares it to The Acropolis as an urban public forum. It certainly helps that each building is so grand.
In modern terms, I can compare it in my mind to the Smithsonian buildings along the National Mall in the US capital, Washington DC.
Architecturally, the American museums are not as impressive, but they serve the same purpose of bringing education, culture and history into one accessible and planned public space. (There are quite a few other examples of museum quarters in modern cities too.)
The big difference between the two from a visitor’s perspective is that all the Smithsonian museums are free, while all the museums on Berlin’s Museum Island have an admission cost.
Personally, I think that’s a bit of a pity. There is something socially liberating about opening up national cultural institutions for free to the public. Especially when you consider why this area was developed in the first place.
That being said, there are ways to save money when you visit Museum Island – by not getting individual tickets for each museum, for instance. Let’s have a look at some of the details.
Museum Island Berlin tickets
You may be interested in just one museum… and there’s certainly enough in each one to spend a whole day.
The Pergamon Museum, for instance, isn’t somewhere you want to rush through. And the Neues Museum seems to go on forever when you start exploring it!
So, even if you’ve never visited Museum Island before, don’t be afraid just to choose one museum and focus on that. If you’re interested in that approach, then here are the ticket prices for each of the Museum Island points of interest.
The Altes Museum
Standard ticket: €10
The Neues Museum
Standard ticket: €12
The Alte Nationalgalerie
Standard ticket: €10
The Bode Museum
Standard ticket: €10
The Pergamon Museum
Standard ticket: €19
Be warned that some of the museums can have queues to get into them, particularly the Pergamon Museum, which is notorious for its long lines. I’ve got tips below on how to buy your ticket in advance, which I highly recommend.
Museum Island pass
If you would like to see more than just one museum on Berlin’s Museum Island, there are some options that can save you a lot of money.
The first one I will mention is the Museum Island Pass, which is the official pass that gives you access to all the museums in a single day.
It is €18 for a standard ticket and €9 for a concession. It will also let you skip the line for all the museums except the Pergamon, where you need to go and register for a time slot.
Since they put up the price of the Pergamon Museum, the Museum Island Pass is actually cheaper than entry just to that single museum (because the single entry ticket lets you skip the line). So, definitely, if you’re planning to visit more than one museum in a single day, buy the Museum Island Pass in advance.
Keep in mind, though, that each of the collections is enormous. You won’t be able to properly see them all in just one day, and you may want to look at some options that let you visit Museum Island over several days.
Museum Pass Berlin
Another card you could consider getting is the Museum Pass Berlin. It is not just for Museum Island and actually offers free entry to 30 museums in Berlin.
What is good about the Museum Pass Berlin is that it lasts for 3 days and it includes all of the Museum Island points of interest. So it is good value even if you just want to spend your time on the island.
But it’s also good value if you just want to spend one day at Museum Island but then want to see other museums on your other days.
I would suggest buying the Museum Pass Berlin in advance. Make sure you look at the details on how to collect it.
Berlin Welcome Card: Museum Island
The next pass I want to tell you about is the Berlin Welcome Card: Museum Island.
This card is valid for 3 days and lets you go into each museum once a day. So if you are really keen to explore all the museums properly, you’ll get the most flexibility and access with this one.
It also includes free public transport for those three days, and you’ll get discounts and other offers for about 200 other places in Berlin.
And, just a note, there is also a standard Berlin Welcome Card which just has the public transport and discounts, not the Museum Island access, so make sure you get the right one.
To make things easier for yourself, you can buy the Berlin Welcome Card: Museum Island in advance.
The Berlin Pass
Just when you think that’s enough, there’s another card to mention. (Each of these passes is done by another company, which is why they are each a bit different).
You might also want to consider the Berlin Pass, which offers free access to 60 attractions in Berlin, including the five museums on Museum Island.
It is the most expensive of all the options but it does offer you the most, including entry to sights like Checkpoint Charlie and Berliner Dom. (Although I doubt you’ll be able to fit everything into three days, so keep that in mind.)
If you think this is the best option for your circumstances, you can buy the Berlin Pass in advance.
Museums on Museum Island Berlin
Anyway, now we have all of that out of the way, let’s have a look at what all the fuss is about.
The museums on Museum Island are not just significant because of their architecture or because they are symbols of a public appreciation of cultural heritage. They obviously also house impressive collections.
The Altes Museum
The Altes Museum (meaning Old Museum) was the first museum to be built on the island. It now houses the antique collection, which mainly consists of Ancient Greek items. There are also quite a few Roman and Etruscan artefacts on display.
It is one of the smallest museums and does not take too long to visit. Architecturally, the highlight is the rotunda in the middle of the building with its statues, columns and skylight.
The Altes Museum is open from 10:00 on Tuesday – Sunday. It closes at 18:00, except on Thursday when it is open late until 20:00. It is closed on Monday.
Entrance to the Altes Museum costs €10 for an adult and €5 for a concession.
To skip the line, you can buy an Altes Museum ticket in advance.
The Neues Museum
The Neues Museum (meaning New Museum) offers a fascinating journey through prehistory and early civilisations. It has items that range from a Neanderthal skull to antiquities from Troy.
The collection covers thousands of years and from all over the world. The most important part of the museum, though, is the Ancient Egyptian section.
The Neues Museum has a very impressive selection of artefacts – the most famous being an iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.
The Neues Museum is open from 10:00 every day. It closes at 18:00, except on Thursday when it is open late until 20:00.
Entrance to the Neues Museum costs €12 for an adult and €6 for a concession.
To skip the line, you can buy a Neues Museum ticket in advance.
The Alte Nationalgalerie
The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) is one of the most striking museums on the island from an architectural perspective. The design incorporates elements of a church, a temple and a theatre as a way of symbolising its purpose.
It now holds a large collection of paintings and sculptures – most from the 19th century. The artworks are spread over several levels and it takes quite a long time to see everything on display.
The Alte Nationalgalerie is open from 10:00 on Tuesday – Sunday. It closes at 18:00, except on Thursday when it is open late until 20:00. It is closed on Monday.
Entrance to the Alte Nationalgalerie costs €10 for an adult and €5 for a concession.
The Bode Museum
The Bode Museum is slightly different from the other museums in that it houses a few unrelated collections under the same roof.
The architecture (probably unintentionally) reflects that and breaks the layout into different distinct sections.
There is a large collection of European sculptures, of Byzantine art, of coins and of medals. Although I personally found the items on display to be less interesting than some of the other museums, the interior of the building is stunning and worth seeing in itself.
The Bode Museum is open from 10:00 on Tuesday – Sunday. It closes at 18:00, except on Thursday when it is open late until 20:00. It is closed on Monday.
Entrance to the Bode Museum costs €10 for an adult and €5 for a concession.
The Pergamon Museum
The Pergamon Museum is my favourite on Museum Island because it has such a unique and impressive way of displaying its collection.
Inside the building are several large reconstructions of massive archaeological structures. These include the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Processional Way from Babylon.
It is no surprise that this is the most visited museum in the whole of Germany. Plan your visit wisely to avoid the crowds.
The Pergamon Museum is open from 10:00 every day. It closes at 18:00, except on Thursday when it is open late until 20:00.
Entrance to the Pergamon Museum costs €12 for an adult and €6 for a concession.
To skip the line, you can buy a Pergamon Museum ticket in advance.
Tours of Museum Island
We owe a lot to the Age of Enlightenment that swept through Europe in the 18th century and was the genesis for the idea of Berlin’s Museum Island.
We take it for granted now that museums are a social and public phenomenon, but previously most had been private collections. That all of this is available to us is quite remarkable.
It is easy to get overwhelmed on Museum Island with so much to see, so the last thing I want to suggest is that you consider taking a tour of one (or more) of the museums. Expert guides will take you to the best items and answer all of your questions.
There are a few good options here to have a look at:
There is a lot to see in Berlin and it’s a city where even a week is not enough to see the main sights, let alone getting a deeper appreciation.
But Museum Island is a highlight because it doesn’t just give you an insight into Berlin, it opens a door to the whole world.
Where is Museum Island?
Museum Island is halfway between the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz.
How do you get to Museum Island?
The easiest way to get to Berlin’s Museum Island is to catch the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz or Hackescher Market and then walk from there.
When is Museum Island open?
All five of the museums are open at the following times:
Tuesday – Wednesday: 1000 – 1800
Thursday: 1000 – 2000
Friday – Sunday: 1000 – 1800.
Additionally, the New Museum and Pergamon Museum are open on Mondays, 1000 – 1800. The others are closed on Mondays.
How much does it cost to visit Museum Island?
A day ticket to all five museums of Museum Island costs €18 for an adult and €9 for a concession. You can buy it here.
Individual tickets cost the following:
The Old Museum: €10/€5
The New Museum: €12/€6
The Old National Gallery: €10/€5
The Bode Museum: €10/€5
The Pergamon Museum: €19/€9.50
You might also want to consider one of the other passes or the individual skip-the-line tickets that I’ve mentioned above.
Are there tours of Museum Island?
If you have limited time, then a tour of a couple of the museums can be the best way to see the highlights. I would definitely recommend this tour of the Pergamon and Neues Museums.
If you just want to focus on one museum with a guide, you could do this tour of the Pergamon Museum. And there’s also this tour of the Neues Museum.
You can find out more information at the official website for Museum Island.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BERLIN
Berlin is obviously an enormous cities with lots of districts to choose from… but here are a few top accommodation suggestions.
For a really cool modern hostel, I would recommend Generator Berlin Mitte.
If you are looking for a nice budget hotel, one of my top tips in the centre of Berlin is Arte Luise Kunsthotel.
The city has some cool design hotels and Das Stue is one of the best.
And if you would like luxury, I would suggest the beautiful and modern Mandala Hotel.
Time Travel Turtle was supported by DB Bahn, the German National Tourist Board and Youth Hostels in Germany but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.
3 thoughts on “The best way to see Museum Island”
I spent a whole two days there! Could have spent more time, but I got museum related burn out. 🙂
If you wanted to see each of the items on display, I imagine it would take even more than two days! But I found that a day was enough time to get a good sense of each of them and see the important parts of the collections. If I lived in Berlin (and if they were free) I would probably go back to them all the time!
Great post! We’re heading to Berlin in a few weeks and this was really helpful! 🙂