9 Best Museums in Berlin

The German capital is awash in amazing museums and you should carve out some time to visit these nine spots.

Berlin is the capital of the 20th century. And nothing better captures that than its museums, which are deep in Nazi and Cold War history. But beyond that, there are incredible museums dedicated to antiquity and priceless art too. You could spend a week here just going to museums every day. But let us save you some time. Here are the nine best.

Click here to view an interactive Google Maps list of the best museums in Berlin, Germany.

Berlinische Galerie

Berliners love this place but it's a bit of a sleeper hit with visitors as they are pummeled with such great museums that this Kreuzberg art museum gets lost in the Berlin shuffle. The Berlinische features the work of Berlin artists, from avant-garde painters to sculptures to architects, and some of the striking work here will knock you off your feet.

Alte Jakob Strasse 124-128

Berlinische Galerie
Inside the Berlinische Galerie. Christian Marquardt/Getty

Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité

Ever since you arrived in Berlin you were hoping to see a real cyclops baby in a jar and perhaps long worm-like parasites that were pulled out of some unfortunate soul. Well, okay, maybe not. But once you ensconce yourself in this museum of medical oddities, you'll wonder what took you so long.

Charité Platz 1

Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité
This museum offers insights into the fascinating history of medicine over the last four centuries. Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité

DDR Museum

Set on the Spree River between Museum Island and Alexanderplatz, the museum dedicated to the nation formerly known as East Germany makes the history of East Germany's role in the Cold War very accessible to everyone. It helps that it's extremely interactive. You can sit in a Trabant and pretend you're driving through the streets of East Berlin via a TV screen in front of you. You can get a better sense of why East Germans were (and in some ways, still are) so fond of nudism (Pssst! it was the one thing the government couldn't regulate). You can see what a typical home kitchen was like under communism. And then you can eat East German specialties – if you dare – at the in-house eatery.

Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 1

DDR Museum
There are several museums like the DDR Museum which document the separation of East and West Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty

East Side Gallery

Located in Friedrichshain, the free open-air "gallery" is really just the longest extant section of the Berlin Wall. Many iconic images are still here: Brezhnev and Honecker locking lips and the Trabant breaking through the wall, among others.

Mühlen Strasse 3-100

Eastside gallery
The "gallery" is the largest section of the former Berlin Wall still standing. JOHANNES EISELE/Getty

Hamburger Bahnhof

One of the great art spaces in Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof is set in the old railway station dedicated to the train line that went between Berlin and Hamburg. Today it houses a splendid collection of art since 1960, right where the Neue Nationalgalerie leaves off. View works here by Warhol, Beuys, and Rauschenberg, among many others.

Invaliden Strasse 50-51

Hamburger Bahnhof
Emil Nolde, Paradise Lost, 1921, Oil on rough canvas (sackcloth) © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll / Fotowerkstatt Elke Walford and Dirk Dunkelberg. Hamburger Bahnhof

Jewish Museum

The largest Jewish museum in Europe, this intriguing spot opened in 2001 to great fanfare. Some of the permanent exhibition, which takes visitors through 2,000 years of German-Jewish history, is under renovation until 2020, but going into this building is worth the price of admission. Designed by "starchitect" Daniel Libeskind, the structure is at times intentionally disorientating the museum-goer to give the feeling of unease, perhaps to instill some fear into the visitor so they can empathize in some way with the plight of being a Jew in Europe in more uncertain times.

Linden Strasse 9-14

Jewish Museum
Wooden marionettes of 16th-century Prague Rabbi Loew (L), Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II (C) and the Golem inspired by the marionette artistry of Prague hang on display during a press preview of the exhibition: "Golem" at the Jewish Museum Berlin on September 22, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty

Museum Island

There are too many awesome museums – five, in fact – in this small swath of the German capital to list them individually, so here they are in one paragraph: the Alte Nationalgalerie, showcasing the work of the Neo-Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, and Modernist movements; the Altes Museum, exhibiting cultural and artistic relics from the Greek and Roman periods; the Neues Museum, showing Egyptian art and artifacts; the Bode Museum, displaying sculpture from medieval times until the 18th century; and, finally, the wonderful Pergamom Museum, whose pièce de résistance is the Pergamom Altar, a monumental second-century BC structure taken from the eastern Mediterranean.

Museum Island
A woman walks at the entrance to the James Simon Gallery, a new centrally located visitor centre between the reconstructed Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum, on Museum Island in Berlin, during a press presentation on July 1, 2019 TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Stasi Museum

A museum dedicated to the nefarious work of the Staatssicherheitsdienst, or the "Stasi," because, let's face it, that word is a mouthful. The Stasi were the ruthless East German secret police and their job was to make everyone's lives as miserable as possible. They succeeded. This fascinating museum does an excellent job of revealing just how they did their jobs, spying on ordinary citizens to make sure they were not defying the daily rules of the autocratic communist regime or partaking in any activity that would be considered bourgeois. It's housed in the former headquarters of the Stasi, giving you an even better sense of this important, if unfortunate, aspect of East German history.

Rusche Strasse 103

Stasi Museum
The State Security Service or Staatssicherheitsdienst, of the German Democratic Republic arrested and interrogated thousands of East Germans at the Hohenschoenhausen prison until the collapse of communist government and German reunification. Michele Tantussi/Getty

Topography of Terror

Known as the Topographie des Terrors in German, this indoor/outdoor museum is set on the site of the former Gestapo, or Nazi secret state police, and the SS headquarters. This photo- and text-heavy museum is an extremely well-done exhibition showing how the rise of the Nazi party came to dominate Germany and then most of Europe, causing epic death and destruction in its wake.

Niederkirchner Strasse 8

Topography of Terror
Visitors look at a photograph of a synagogue burning in 1938 at an outdoor exhibition related to the Kristallnacht pogroms at the Topography of Terror museum. Sean Gallup/Getty
9 Best Museums in Berlin | Culture