Berlin is a museum-lovers dream. Not only does the city boast unique, small museums like the Bauhaus Archive, the Currywurst Museum and the Museum of Things – it also home to some of the largest, most well-respected institutions in Germany, many of them located on the world renowned Museum Island.
Museum Island’s sheer scale can be overwhelming. Many people head straight for its most famous collection, the Pergamon Museum, and miss out on the four other fantastic museums on site. The Neues Museum houses two collections, and is my top pick for anyone fascinated by Egyptology and/or Stone Age and Prehistoric artifacts.
The “New Museum” was built between 1843-55 to house the surplus of artifacts and classical art then housed in the “Old Museum” (Altes Museum), also on Museum Island. A grand, neoclassical architectural design was chosen, in order to reflect the common nineteenth century belief that museums and other educational institutions were the bastion of the elite, on par with churches and monuments in their significance. It was the first building in Berlin to utilize newly industrialized iron construction methods, and engineers examining the history of architecture often study its foundations.
During World War Two, this impressive structure was destroyed by Allied bombs, leaving a hulking wreck on Museum Island throughout the Soviet period. The Neues Museum was so badly damaged that its only purpose from 1945-1997 was as a storehouse for the other museums nearby. Sadly, during the 1980s, a proposed reconstruction project was halted, but not before significant further demolition occurred. The designers had plans to restore and recreate original details such as an 1850-era Egyptian garden, but during the confusion of the fall of the Berlin War, the original components were lost. In 1997, British architect David Chipperfield commenced the restoration project, and the New Neues Museum was opened to the public in 2009.
You can expect to have your breath taken away by the beauty of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, once again displayed in the Neues Museum. Objects are featured from a vast time span, from 4000 BCE all the way until Roman rule in the third century CE. The most famous is a stunning, vividly-coloured bust of Nefertiti in exquisite condition. Scarabs, mummified human remains, intricately designed sarcophagi and the ever-popular mummified cats are all on display, and an audio guide will describe in detail their provenance, significance and meaning.
The other collection housed in the Neues Museum is the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, spanning thousands of years and home to over 200,000 objects mainly excavated from the European continent. Most famous are its replicas of the 2500 BCE Troy horde (the originals relocated to Russia during Soviet rule), the Berlin Golden hat (a 9th century BCE elaborately filigreed gold ornament) and the Stichna Cuirass, a piece of a 7th century BCE suit of armour.
A visit to the museum can take an hour, a day or a week – there is so much to marvel at inside, and the building itself is an important symbol of modern technology and modern history. When you visit Museum Island, be sure not to miss the Neues Museum!
- Bodestraße 1-3
- UBahn U6 (Friedrichstraße)
- For the Neues Museum alone: 12 Euros, Concessions 6 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
- For a Museum Island one-day ticket: 18 Euros, Concessions 9 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
- 7 days a week from 10am-6pm (Thursdays open until 8pm)
+++Don't forget to check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Berlin!+++