I Know A Little Place in… Berlin.
Berlin’s Museum Island needs little explaining – it is an island. Of museums.
The Museumsinsel – as it is known to Berliners – does, though, deserve a visit when you are holidaying in Berlin. The complex of five museums takes up the northern half of an island in Berlin’s River Spree, close to the central and popular Mitte district of the city. The area has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 and is very popular with tourists, for obvious reasons!
The island’s most famous and popular museum is without doubt the Pergamon Museum from Alfred Mussel. Completed in 1930 to make more space for the German archaeological excavations of the time, the Pergamon still attracts over one million visitors every year with its exhibitions of Islamic art and antiques from Italy, Greece and Turkey. Some of these antiques are the subject of controversy, however, with many questioning the legitimacy of the collection’s acquisition.
The Neues Museum translates in German as the “New Museum.” That can be misleading though, given that it opened in 1855! The building was reconstructed, however, and reopened as recently as 2009. It houses the Egyptian museum and Papyrus Collection, as well as the Museum of Prehistory and Early History.
You can already get the sense that there is something for everyone on Museum Island. And that includes those arty types, who will want to head over to the Alte Nationalgalerie. It boasts a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic and Impressionist artwork that is not to be missed.
To see the official antiques collection of the Berlin State Museums, the Altes Museum is the place to go. The museum was built in the 1820s by renowned Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel who is behind several neoclassical buildings in the Berlin area.
The last of the five museums that make up the Museumsinsel is the Bode Museum. Named after its first curator Wilhelm von Bode, this museum can be found at the very northern tip of the island, almost within touching distance of Mitte and houses a collection of sculptures, coins and medals. Perhaps most famous for its purchase of what von Bode had thought was an original Da Vinci sculpture – but which was actually that of Englishman Richard Lucas – the museum is actually an interesting place to explore and should not be forgotten amongst the other more famous museums in the complex.
So when you visit Berlin, as every person should do at some point on their travels, be sure to take a short trip over the bridge to the Museumsinsel. A whole day can be passed moving from museum to museum and as you leave to go home, you may just catch one of the most beautiful sunsets there is to see in the German capital!