Top 8 Museums and Historical Sights in Berlin that You Should Not Miss14 August, 2018
Berlin has been through quite a bit of history from the devastation of the Second World War to almost 40 years of divided East and West Berlin by the construction of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Although it has been about 30 years since the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR) and reunification of West and East Germany, you can still visit historical landmarks associated with the Berlin Wall era. Besides these historical sights, Berlin is also known for its excellent museums – almost 170 of them and there is even an island of museums called Museum Island (Museumsinsel). During my short 5D4N trip in Berlin with Scoot (yes! Scoot now flies direct from Singapore to Berlin!), besides trying 11 different interesting dining experiences in Berlin, I had also checked out over 8 historical sights and museums in Berlin.
If you like to visit museums, then this is the post for you as I will provide you with a quick overview of what you can see in these 8 historical sights and museums around Berlin. To get started, I strongly recommend that you buy the Berlin WelcomeCard which gives you access to all public transport (buses and U-bahn and S-bahn) as well as discounts on selected tours and museum. If you are going to visit a number of museums, I also recommend that you buy the 3-day Berlin Museum Pass (29 Euros) which provides you with free admission to over 30 museums for 3 consecutive days – see this link for the list of museums covered by the Berlin Museum pass.
1 – Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie is Berlin’s most famous border crossing during the time of the Berlin Wall and it was where the USA and Soviet tanks will point at each time during times of tension. Today, Checkpoint Charlie is the middle of a busy street with souvenir shops and cafes. There are also actors who are dressed up as US soldiers at the checkpoint building – you will need to pay them to take photos with them so do ask ahead how much it will cost. Just behind Checkpoint Charlie, there is the Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie, a museum dedicated to documenting the history of the checkpoint and it is full of artifacts, photographs and explains why the wall was built and the various escape attempts.
2 – Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial)
If you want to see what the wall looks like when it was up back in the days, you should visit the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) where there is a section of the Berlin wall with both inner and outer walls and even a watchtower from the time when the wall was up. The wall nearer the watchtower was the inner wall – anyone who is not authorised to go near this area could be shot by the border guards. Between the inner wall and the outer wall, there is a “killing field” which is mined and brightly illuminated with clear line of sight from the watchtower. If you want to know more about the history of the Wall, you can cross the road to the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre where there are artifacts from the Berlin Wall era as well as audio and visual stories of families who lived through that era.
3 – East Side Gallery
The East Side Galley is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall at almost 1.3 kilometres long and it is a huge open air art gallery (likely one of the largest in the world). Running along Mühlenstraße between the Oberbaumbrücke bridge and the Ostbahnhof rail station (formerly East Berlin’s main railway station), the East Side Gallery was created in 1990 when an international gathering of artists used this section of the Wall as their canvas. The gallery is home to roughly 106 different murals, each painted by a different artist. Two of the most famous murals are the Trabant mural (with the infamous East German car smashing through the wall) and the “Kiss of Death” mural (with Soviet premier Leonoid Brezhnev and East German leader Eric Honecker in a lip locked embrace).
4 – DDR Museum
If you want to experience what daily life was like for the East Germans back then, you should check out the DDR Museum (located at Karl-Liebnecht-Straße 1 facing the back of the Berliner Dom cathedral is the DDR Museum). DDR stands for Deutsche Demokratische Republik which was what East Germany was called back then. The DDR Museum truly lives up to its slogan – “History You Can Touch”. It is the only museum dedicated to life in the former DDR, from everyday life in the Socialist state to the impact of living with the Stasi and the Berlin Wall. Here in the DDR Museum, there are lots of interactive displays – you can touch pretty much everything e.g. the toys that the East German children used to play with back then, and even drive a classic East German car – Trabant virtually! There is even a mock up of a typical East Berlin apartment and Stasi (East Germany secret police) interrogation room and prison. As you go through the exhibits, you will notice that the East Germans are subject to propaganda messages about how good the East is and how bad the West is and indoctrination starts very early – even with children.
Entrance fee to the DDR Museum is 8.50 Euros for adults and 5.50 Euros for children. The museum is not very big but it may take you some time to go through the museum if you like to see the level of details of the mock-up apartment and the large number of interesting East German artifacts.
5 – Pergamon Museum
The Pergamon Museum is one of the museums on the Museum Island. It is known for the huge Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Roman Market Gate of Miletus that was reconstructed from the original ruins. There is also a dedicated section on Islamic Art and showcases the beautiful Aleppo Room. Entrance is free with the Museum Pass.
The Pergamon Museum is a very popular museum and you can expect queues of up to 2 hours to get in. To skip the queue (I am among the first few to get into the Pergamom Museum when it opened and I did not queue at all), you will have to book a timed ticket. You can do so even if you have a Museum Pass. This is how you can secure a timed ticket if you have a Museum Pass:
Step 1: Go to https://shop.smb.museum/#/tickets/list?museum_id=14 to buy the tickets for the Pergamon Museum
Step 2: Choose the date of your visit. On the right side you have to choose your tickets. “Pergamonmuseum frei: übrige” is the time slot ticket for visitor with a Museumspass or an area ticket for the museums island. It is $0 for the above option.
Step 3: Select how many tickets you wish to purchase. At the bottom on the right side, click on “In den Einkaufswagen” to go to the next side.
Step 4: Select your preferred entrance time for the Pergamon museum. Click on “In den Einkaufswagen” again, you will reach your cart. Here you can see a summary of your booking and the total price. Click on “Kostenpflichtig bestellen” to reach the next page.
Step 5: Click on “Als Gast fortfahren” to reach the site where you have to fill in your personal data. By clicking on the button down to the right you will purchase the tickets. You will then receive an email from Pergamon Museum with the attached tickets, which you have to present in the museum with your MuseumsPass or the area ticket for the museums island.
Please note that the website may require you to create an account with them in order to make a “purchase”. If you get a prompt for that, then just create an account with them and confirm your email address and you can go back to step 5 to continue to secure the timed ticket.
Ishtar Gate of Babylon
Roman Market Gate of Miletus
6 – Neues Museum (New Museum)
The Neues Museum is just beside Pergamon Museum – you do not need to queue or get a timed ticket to get into Neues Museum. The main attraction of the Neues Museum is the Nefertiti Bust which is showcased alone in the domed hall in the north of the building. No photography is allowed and there are many museum staff there to ensure you don’t take photos of the Nefertiti Bust (no even photography without flash). The Nefertiti Bust is one part of the museum’s extensive collection of Egyptian antiquities, which comprises of sculpture, a huge collection of papyrus texts and literary works. In this museum, you can also find artifaccts from Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, where the standout exhibit is the famous Berlin Gold Hat — an elaborate golden headdress thought to be around 3,000 years old. Entrance is free with the Museum Pass.
7 – Natural History Museum
If you or your kids are into dinosaurs, then you must not miss the Natural History Museum (Museum fur Naturkunde). In this museum, you can find exhibits ranging from gigantic dinosaur skeletons to celestial projections. The dinosaurs are a big attraction to most, as this museum not only contains the largest mounted dinosaur in the world, but also has one of the very best preserved fossils of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx. Don’t miss the large T-rex display in the museum. Entrance is free with the Museum Pass.
8 – Spy Museum
We wrapped out our museum-hopping trip with a visit to the Spy Museum – Entrance is free with the Museum Pass. As the name suggests, you can learn about the history of spying in this museum and there are lots of spy gadgets and interesting spy stories you can check out. The most interesting part of this museum is its interactive elements – here you can get to do a classic ‘Mission Impossible’ scene – moving above and crawling below laser beams to avoid detection! This is perhaps not really a spy thing but it seems fun!
And this concludes our museum-hopping experience across Berlin. Check out these links for our experiences with in-flight meals during the flight from Singapore to Berlin and back with Scoot and our other interesting dining experiences in Berlin as well as our day trip to Potsdam.
Scoot flies from Singapore to Berlin on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, departing Singapore at 12.25am and arriving at Berlin Tegel airport at 7.20am, and from Berlin to Singapore on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, departing Berlin at 9.40am and arriving at Singapore at 3.45am (one day later). The best part about landing at Berlin Tegel Airport is the airport’s proximity to the Berlin city centre. After clearing immigrations and collecting your baggage, you can be at your hotel in the city centre within 20 minutes
The Singapore to Berlin (and return) flight is on the spacious 787 Dreamliners which offer several amenities and services suited to long-haul travel e.g. inflight Wi-Fi, in-seat power and inflight ScooTV entertainment streamed to guests’ own devices (paid services). Promotional fares from Singapore to Berlin start as low as SGD 239 one way for Economy FLY option.