Explore Museum Island in Berlin

Europe - Editor - 04 May 2012

Explore Museum Island in Berlin

Named for the five museums located on it, Museum Island lies in the River Spree in Berlin's central Mitte district. These world-class museums – Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum and Pergamon Museum - are each unique in their architectural structure, as well as in their contents and themes. Museum Island was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1999, being described as a social phenomenon owing its origins to the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.

The first exhibition hall was built in 1797, prompted by German archaeologist and art historian Aloys Hirt, and the area soon became established as a venue dedicated to the arts and science. This designation was confirmed by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841. The Altes Museum was completed in 1830 under the direction of Prussian architect and city planner, Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It houses the antique collection of the Berlin State Museums – one of the world's most comprehensive and important collections of classical art, including thousands of ancient Roman, Greek, Cypriot and Etruscan artifacts. Fittingly the architecture of the building has clear ancient Greek influences with a classical portico.

The Neues Museum was completed in 1859 based on plans by one of Schinkel's students, Friedrich August Stüler. The original building was destroyed in World War II, but was eventually rebuilt and re-opened in 2009. The highlight of the Neues Museum collection is undoubtedly the Egyptian papyrus collection, a bust of Queen Nefertiti and works of art from the era of Eqyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten.

The Alte Nationalgalerie, also designed by Stüler, was completed in 1876 and currently houses a collection of artwork belonging to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. This extensive collection includes superb examples of Romantic, Classical, Biedermeier, Impressionist and Modernist artwork. The Bode Museum on Museum Island was completed in 1904, having been designed by German architect Ernst von Ihne. Visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to see examples of Byzantine art, as well as coins, medals and sculptures.

The Pergamon Museum is particularly interesting in that it contains the original Pergamon Altar, shipped from Turkey and reconstructed at the museum, as well as the original Market Gate of Miletus dating back to around 120 AD. The museum also contains part of the Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities, with the balance of the collection being displayed in the Altes Museum.

Germany's city of Berlin is a fascinating destination to explore, and visitors to Museum Island will find a wealth of culture and history waiting to be discovered.


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