Willkommen in Berlin! This unique museum guide will show the top 5 most unique museums of the German capital. Visiting these museums will spice up your city trip and will give you cool stories to tell your friends and family back home. In these articles we will highlight the most important and practical information, fun facts and history of the museums. If you are planning on visiting to more than one museum you will like the last section too, in which we will give extra tips that might become handy!
1. Museum der Dinge
Our first unique museum in Berlin is the Museum der Dinge. As you may already understand is this a museum for things, showcasing objects that are part of our daily lives that are connected to our modern material and product culture. The collection is enormous, with over 35,000 documents and 25,000 objects mainly collected from the 20th century.
The museum is founded in 1970 and had as goal to enable interdisciplinary research between the cultural technical and functional history fields with the focus on the design philosophy of the Deutsche Werkbund. Showcasing all kind of artefacts over more than 500 square meters this museum is definitely worth a visit. Tip, the museum is child friendly!
Why a Museum for Things?
The Deutsche Werkbund is the German institution of the German Work Federation. The institution is founded in 1907 and is a collection of artists, architects, designers and industrialists and politicians. The institution has as main goal to integrate the traditional crafts and the industrial mass-production techniques.
They opened the museum der Dinge in 1970 in former factory building for two reasons: to store and explore the objects connected to the Deutsch Werkbund and to stimulate the interpretation and reflection. By showcasing and running a program of events and temporary exhibitions, they try to educate the younger public and to stimulate interdisciplinary research.
The museum has a lot of interesting objects and artifacts but one thing there, stands head and shoulders above the rest. We are talking about the Frankfurt Kitchen designed in 1926 by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky.
You may be asking yourself why this kitchen is so special. Well, this kitchen represents the integration of the industrial, rationalized work processes in the daily life. This kitchen is the prototype from which various types were made. It stands for efficiency in the household, keeping it simple, easy and cheap to produce. Nowadays, our kitchens still contain elements from this Frankfurt Kitchen.
The museum has one shelf with only reproductions of the Mona Lisa, with some amazing pre-Photoshop face substitutions. Do you know that the Mona Lisa itself was painted several times to restore the painting, and that some people believe that is the reason why she doesn’t have eyebrows and eyelashes? While others think Leonardo Da Vinci never finished the painting and some believe that she did it herself because it was fashion in the 16th century to remove all of your facial hair.
Do you know the precise definition of mass production? Mass production is the system of producing units on large-scale using interchangeable parts, within a high-volume assembly line with a low cost per unit.
A lot of people think that the discovery of the steam engine what cost the industrial revolution was the beginning of mass production. This is partly true, the steam engine made the work faster, but it was Henry Ford, the founder of the car brand, that started the mass production for real with his ideas on how to produce fast, efficient and with low cost.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Friday until Monday||12.00-19.00|
2. Deutsches Currywurst Museum
Among all the serious art museums in Berlin, you will find a museum that makes you smile and hungry. We are talking about the Deutsches Currywurst Museum on the Schützenstraße in the Mitte District. A museum completely devoted to the typical German snack, the Currywurst!
The museum is very interactive with games, displays, a seasoning room, and much more. Also the interior fits the topic, with a huge sausage sofa, and curry ceiling and a real selling stand. Are you already hungry? With your regular entrance ticket comes a cup that you can fill with any Currywurst you like and for the real gourmands can buy a ticket including a Currywurst menu!
What Is the Story behind the Museum?
Currywurst is after the German Bratwurst the most famous sausage of Germany. On every busy square, street or touristic spot, you can buy the sausage. The Currywurst is being grilled and cut and is served on a paper plate with curry sauce and curry powder.
The dish is invented in 1949 after WWII, when a woman called Herta Heuwer was experimenting with exotic ingredients and German food because lots of ingredients where hard to get. She owned a small store on the corner of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße in the British part of Berlin where she could import the curry powder from England.
Within 10 years the Currywurst became so popular that she had to move to a bigger store. She even asked for a patent for the snack. Nowadays Berlin is even recognized worldwide as the “capital of the curry sausage”. So it makes sense that Martin Löwer, the museum founder, opened a museum in 2000 devoted to the Currywurst as “cult status” in Germany.
The museum has lots of videos connected to the Currywurst. In the rise of the Currywurst there were a couple of film clips important, like the famous film clips of the German TV series ‘Drei Damen vom Grill’ which it was all about the selling of the sausage.
Another highlight is the Currywurst game. You will fight against your opponent to be the fasted in making various orders of Currywurst. Who is the fastest? The game is very funny to play with your friends or family.
In this room you will find out what kind of curry type you are. You can try and smell everything! There is much information offered even about the ecological aspects. And you can finally try the sausage, with all kinds of curry, spicy or sweet and different sausages.
Like the Fisher Price Kitchen toy that many children had to play and imitate mom and dad, the museum as a replica of an Imbiss, a Currywurst stand, in which you can empathize with the life of a vendor.
Do you know that the abbreviation CMP that you sometimes hear people saying when you are standing in line for your Currywurst, means Currywurst with mayonnaise? And the word curry is derived from the Indian word “Kary”, which means sauce.
Still until know it is not clear if the first Currywurst is served in Berlin by Herta Heuwer or that Lena Brücker served it first in Hamburg. The writer Uwe Timm wrote a book about it which is displayed in the museum.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Monday until Friday||10.00-18.00|
3. DDR Museum
This museum might be one of the most popular museums in Berlin, but it is very unique! We are talking about the only museum that reflects and showcases the dark era of East German regime, we are talking about the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) Museum, also known as the GDR (German Democratic Republic) Museum.
Interaction stands central in this museum. They challenge and trigger all senses while you are exploring and discovering the stories and history of the other side of the former Berlin wall
What Is the Story behind the Museum?
After the Second World War in 1949 Eastern Germany was directed to the Soviet-Union and separated and isolated from the Western European countries. It was called the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the DDR. From 1945 the Soviet-Union was ruling the DDR and the other countries with a communistic dictatorship.
The division between Eastern and Western Germany was clearly visible in Berlin, with a wall dividing the city into two completely different worlds. One was the western world where people had the freedom to earn, see, eat, say, learn, and go and stay wherever they wanted. While in the other part the people had to drive all in the same car, where not free to earn more than others, they couldn’t import food from other countries, where most of the time not even allowed watching Western TV programs, and much more restrictions that lead to delay in development.
On 3 October 1990 the bomb burst people on the eastern side got their freedom back, Germany was reunited and the walls were torn down. The museum is founded in 2006 to keep the history alive, tell true stories, and share the emotions the people whom had been living in the DDR. They have as goal to preserve an important aspect of German history and want to pass it on to the new generations, to expand their knowledge and thoughts.
One of the highlights is the Trabi car simulation that takes you on a virtual tour through the streets of eastern Berlin when it was still owned by the Soviet-Union. With Trabi car the people mean the Trabant car, a car produced as rival to the West German Beetle and was used mostly in the unfree countries. The tour is completed with 3D images and the original sounds of the Trabant P 601.
The museum has set up a typical DDR Kitchen. In this kitchen you will get the feeling of how it used to be living in a house on the eastern side of Berlin. Everything can be checked out, even the smell hanging here are the original smells of back then.
The last but definitely not least highlight that we want to mention is the monumental mural that the museum has. The mural is called “In praise of Communism” and with its nine meters length it is quite impressive!
Unlike most museums, the DDR museum is completely financed by entrance fees. Because of their popularity they do not need donations or gifts from third-parties or the government. They even extended the museum with a political themed room which was nominated for the European Museum of the Year prize in 2012.
The museum has a game in which you have start as an ordinary worker and you have to work yourself up to Secretary General. It is invented by Martin Böttger already in 1983, but because of the provocative content it was not obtainable for the bigger public. The museum even won in 2014 a history award with the game!
The Trabi car was not the most powerful car, the first edition only had an output of 18 horsepower! The new editions were better but still not booming, for example the Trabant 600, produced in 1963, had 23 horsepower compared to the BMW 1800 made in that same year that had 90 horsepower.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Monday until Sunday||10.00-20.00|
4. The Gemäldegalerie
Close to Potsdamer Platz you will find a museum that will make the heart of an art lover pound faster, The Gemäldegalerie in Berlin! Not without reason called the Old Masters Museum, with works of Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Jan Vermeer van Delft it has world´s largest and most important collection of the 13th until the 18th century!
Unique is this museum for sure! Nowhere will you find so many masterpieces of all epochs hanging in one gallery. Do the audio tour or walk and explore the museum by yourself, with over 2,700 pieces you can have your day filled with Gothic, Baroque, Late Baroque and Renaissance. Children are also catered with the painter´s workshop in the “Kinder-Reich” they can be little masters.
What Is the Story Behind the Museum?
1830: The Gemäldegalerie was founded and it was a public institution collecting art from the Renaissance. It was housed in the Altes Museum designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The collection consisted out of pieces from the 17th and 18th century.
1904: The collection was getting bigger and bigger so that had to move it to a new building specially build for it, which was known as the Kaiser Friederich Museum this was made possible with the donations of wealthy Prussian citizens.
1939: The Second World War started, dark ages for the museum because the building suffered from an aerial bombardment and collections where ruined, pieces were missing, and no new art was added.
1998: After WWII, the Cold war led to a division of the collection and the losses suffered from the war remained. There were two exhibitions one in the western side of Berlin, in Dahlem and one in East Berlin, in Mitte. In 1997 these collection got reunited with the fall of the Soviet Regime. And the whole restored collection got exhibited at the Kulturforum in 1998 where it still is located.
With all these famous master pieces, it is hard to choose which one we should highlight, but there are two paintings from the Dutch master, Vermeer, “The Wine Glass and the “Woman with a Pearl Necklace”. These two oil paintings are two popular and beautiful pieces from the Dutch Golden Age.
Another incredible piece or actually they are two pieces, are Caravaggio’s “Amor Victorious” and Giovanni Baglione’s “Sacred Love Versus Profane Love”. The two paintings are historically connected because “Sacred Love Versus Profane Love” is a reaction on Caravaggio’s piece.
The building itself; the Kulturforum, is a very special building designed by Hilmer& Sattler und Albrecht. The building is built to have lots of natural light and that when the lights are on there will be no shadow, very useful when you are looking at a masterpiece!
The most important man, that was responsible for a big part of the collection of the late middle ages and Renaissance, is Wilhelm von Bode. He was the director of the museum from 1890 until 1929 and was big fan of the Dutch master, Rembrandt, most known from “The Night Watch”(Located in the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, the Netherlands).
The historical connection between the painting of Caravaggio’s “Amor Victorious” and Giovanni Baglione’s “Sacred Love Versus Profane Love”: When Caravaggio finished his provocative piece, the cardinal Benedetto Giustaniani heard about it and thought of it as very scandalous so he let the young Giovanni Baglione paint “Sacred Love Versus Profane Love” as a response copying Caravaggio’s style. Caravaggio thought of it as plagiarism declared war by making another painting as reaction on the painting, and Giovanni send another one back and so forth.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday||10.00-18.00|
|Saturday and Sunday||11.00-18.00|
Letters are used to tell a story, but the Buchstabenmuseum, the Museum of Rescued Letters is telling the story behind the letters. By collecting letters used in signs on facades, logo’s, commercials and other 3-dimensional signs, the museum is showing their rich collection of stories. With their individual designs and materials they all present an own identity and history.
The letters are from all over the world the Buchstabenmuseum is definitely unique! Besides showcasing letters the museum also recycles and archives letters and signs. If you are a graphic lover or not, this museum has some intriguing stories to tell!
Why a Museum for Letters?
In 2005, the Austrian Barbara Dechant and Anja Schulze opened the Museum of Rescued Letters. Both are graphic design lovers since their childhoods. Barbara for example, was fascinated by metal and neon signs on buildings as a child when going on holidays to different countries.
Their goal is to rescue, restore, archive and showcase letters but also to do research and documentation of the stories behind the signs. With over 200 pieces the museum has a fascinating permanent collection called “The Signs of the City”.
In 2008 they opened for public and which become so popular that the museum had to move to a different location after 2 years. Now you can find them in an old supermarket. With the industrial atmosphere the letters really stand out. After a tour through the museum your view of how you see signs will change.
One of the highlights is the huge neon sign from the Zierfische Aquarium supply store. The Zierfische Aquarium Supply Store was a former pet shop specialised in water animals. The sign is very bright and the name of the store is supported by a smiling fish. For the locals this sign brings up memories, for the tourist it gives you a sneak peak in the history of the Berlin locals.
Another highlight would be the old yellow building marking of the popular restaurant “Tegeler Seeterrassen”. This restaurant is loved because of its bright and luminous space in which you can have a delightful lunch.
Last but not least is the “E” from the well-known movie set from “The Inglorious Basterds”. The movie about France during World War II, where a group of Jewish U.S. Soldiers want to get revenge on Nazi Leaders, with Quentin Tarantino starring.
The museum is just like the DDR Museum financed by ticket sales and does not receives support of the government or other third party. All the people working in the museum are graphic lovers and work there on voluntary basis.
Did you know that typography is the craftsmanship of arranging letters and make written language or words readable and appealing. The people who do this are called typographers, but also graphic designers and compositors deal with it. Did you know that for one of the most used fonts, Helvetica there are 111 style options!
The word character is derived from the Latin word character with means a symbol or imprint on the soul.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Tuesday until Sunday||13.00-17.00|
Tips for the Museum Lovers
Berlin Museum Pass
For the people who are visiting Berlin on their city trip and want to visit more than one museum, we recommend the 3-day Berlin Museum Pass. This pass can be bought by the Berlin Tourism office or online. For three days the pass gives you free admission for almost all of the museums and the main palaces in Berlin. It comes with a useful brochure in which practical information is given.
The Berlin Welcome Card is an initiative of the Berlin Tourism Office. The card will give you free transport for a several amount of days of your own choice. Besides free transport the Berlin Welcome Card gives you discount to more than 190 partners up to 50%.
The card comes with a small book with information about the discount partners, recommended tours, the transport system and a map. For more information on the transport systems of Berlin you should check out our transport guide. This guide is offered in 6 languages, can be downloaded, and contains some useful tips.
Districts that we can recommend to stay are Berlin-Mitte and Kreuzberg. The Mitte district used to be part of the Prussian part of Germany and has a raw appearance. It is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods of Berlin with trendy shops, cafés, and restaurants and it has the highest concentration of art galleries in Europe!
The other recommended district; Kreuzberg, was partly eastern and partly western Germany and still has remains of the Berlin wall. The district is had a large mix of nationalities and different kind of people. In Kreuzberg you will find the Gemäldegalerie and the Museum der Dinge.