Expatica’s selection of top museums in Berlin, Frankfurt, Weimar, Munich, Leipzig and Fussen, which reflect Germany’s rich culture and history, should be on the visiting list for all expats in Germany.
MACHmit Children’s Museum
The MACHmit Museum in Berlin offers children and adults heaps of fun, exciting experiences and fascinating discoveries. There is lots of exhibition space in which to play, climb, join in with hands-on activities, experiment, try things out and look at the exhibits. Permanent attractions include a 7-metre high climbing labyrinth, a hall of mirrors and a print workshop (visitors make up texts and do hot-metal typesetting), an art laboratory (combining microscopes, micro-organisms and art), a 1920s soap shop and a play area with sensory experiences for very young children.
The museum also offers English through play, workshops and a varied accompanying programme.
Closed on Mondays. Guided tours on request.
Airforce Museum of the German Federal Armed Forces
The Airforce Museum of the German Federal Armed Forces is located in Gatow at the former military airfield. It presents an exhibition of German military aviation and the air force, from its beginnings to the present day. Runways, hangars and the barracks to the south were constructed in 1934/35 as part of an elite training centre for officers and general staff officers. On the former Gatow airfield, in hangars and around the control tower which now houses a museum, many military vehicles and air defence systems from the First World War onwards are on display. There is considerable emphasis on the history of the West German Federal Armed Forces and the East German National People’s Army and their alliances, from the period of confrontation to the reunification of Germany in 1990.
Closed on Mondays. Guided tours on request.
Botanical garden and museum
The botanical garden created between 1897 and 1910, covers an area of 43 hectares, and boasts around 22,000 different plant species, which makes it one of the largest and most important botanical gardens in the world. It also includes the Botanical Museum which has models of flowers and vegetation, ancient Egyptian burial objects, etc. The botanical garden’s cathedral-like greenhouses contain some of Germany’s largest collections. The 25-metre-high tropical house is the tallest greenhouse in the world. The giant Victoria water lilies are also well worth admiring.
Facilities for the disabled, guided tours on request.
The Story of Berlin
This interactive exhibition takes you on a spectacular journey through the history of the German capital, from the first documented reference to the city in 1237 to the present day. Multimedia displays tell visitors about people, places and stories in 20 themed rooms over four floors. The highlight is a guided tour of a nuclear bunker beneath the Ku’damm Karree shopping arcade, which was built to accommodate 3,600 people. It still has its original interiors and is ready for use, giving a realistic impression of the Cold War period. Guided tours on request.
Museum Island – museum complex
Situated in the heart of the city, the famous Berlin Museum Island is one of the most important museum complexes in the world. The complex comprises five museums of international prominence, archaeological collections and 19th century art. This collection of museums was designated a site of UNESCO World Heritage in 1999.
Berlin Museum Island is a unique educational infrastructure, representing 100 years of museum architecture in the centre of Berlin. Between 1830 and 1930, a “temple city of the arts” was created on an area less than one square kilometre, spanning more than 6,000 years of cultural and human history. The starting point for the “island of treasures” was the completion in 1830 of the Old Museum designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. This is the oldest of Berlin’s museum buildings and the place where King Friedrich Wilhelm III made art treasures available for public viewing for the first time. Berlin Museum Island and its five large exhibition buildings have evolved over time to become a synthesis of the arts.
Information about current exhibitions and opening hours can be found at www.smb.museum
Städel Institute of Art and Municipal Art Gallery – Art
The Städel Institute of Art is one of Germany’s most important and well known art museums. This highlight at the heart of Frankfurt’s museum mile is a must for any visitor to Frankfurt.
The Städel Institute of Art was founded in 1816 by the Frankfurt banker and tradesman Johann Friedrich Städel as a public gallery and art school. It also incorporates the Municipal Art Gallery, which was founded by the city of Frankfurt in 1907. Today, the Städel houses significant European works of art covering 700 years including illustrious paintings from various periods from the early 14th century, late Gothic, Renaissance and baroque to Goethe’s time, and from the 19th century through to the present day. With its incredible diversity, the collection is a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of art. In addition to the well-known favourites, there’s always something new to discover.
Goethe National Museum – famous people
The establishment of the Goethe National Museums in 1885 originated from a request in the will of the last of Goethe’s grandchildren transferring ownership of his estate – Goethe’s house and garden and the writer’s collections – to the grand ducal family.
Goethe’s house takes pride of place in the museum ensemble put together by Carl Alexander. The whole group comprises 22 public museums perpetuating the memory of the great German author. The main component is Goethe’s house and garden on Frauenplan which documents his literary and scientific achievements. Goethe lived here from 1792 until his death in 1832 with his wife Christiane Vulpius and his son August. The house remained in the possession of the family after Goethe’s death until his grandson Walter opened it as the Goethe National Museum in 1885.
Deutsches Museum – Technological History
The Deutsches Museum in Munich is a Mecca for anyone interested in science and technology. It was founded on the initiative of Oscar von Miller (1855-1934) at the beginning of the 20th century and is one of the world’s most important technology museums.
Covering a total area of almost 60,000m², the Deutsches Museum has an extensive and fascinating collection of exhibits from the worlds of science and technology: from experiments that visitors can start themselves at the push of a button and presentations about cars, aeroplanes or space travel to a replica mine and much more besides. The children’s world also has plenty to keep budding young scientists occupied. The museum covers everything from a prehistoric stone axe to an Intercity Express train (transport), and from a pocket sun dial (astronomical instruments) to the scanning tunnel microscope (nanotechnology).
Museum of Fine Arts – Modern Art
The Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig is one of the oldest and foremost civil collections in Germany. It is also a vibrant centre for contemporary art.
A large part of the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts is made up of items that have been donated or bequeathed by art-loving citizens, many of whom were merchants or intellectuals. Due to their commitment, Leipzig now has a wealth of art treasures that are in a class of their own. During a guided tour of the museum, visitors also find out about the families whose former collections they are admiring. The collection of paintings and sculptures covers an exhibition space of around 5,000m² across four floors. There is also an area for temporary exhibitions.
Neuschwanstein Castle – castles and places
Legendary Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairytale castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, is perched on a steep cliff with the Bavarian, Lechtal and Allgäu Alps as a panoramic backdrop. Its architecture and interior furnishings are a prime example of the romantic historicism and eclecticism of the 19th century.
A legend set against a scenic mountain backdrop
King Ludwig II (1845-1886), King of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886, commissioned the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein with its scenic mountain backdrop in 1869. He ordered it to be built “in the true style of the old German knights’ castles”. The architects Eduard Riedel and Georg Dollmann built the castle according to the King’s wishes; the plans were based on stage sets designed by the Munich scene painter Christian Jank. However, Ludwig was only able to reside in the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic fantasy castle with its battlements, gables, turrets, drawbridges and snow-white walls for a short period after 1880. When seeing the king’s castle for the first time, it feels like you are being transported into a magical fairytale world. Today, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most frequently visited castles in Europe.