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Top 15 German museums that everyone should visit

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A visit to one of the top Germany museums is the perfect bad weather program in a vacation home in Germany. 

German museums have long since shed their dusty image and present themselves fresh, modern and contemporary with exhibits you can touch, interactive multimedia applications and impressive architecture. Technology, art and history are the dominant topics.

Germany can adorn itself with many first-class museums. Below are 15 top German museums that you have to at least visit once since you are now living in Germany! They offer the perfect program for gray days!

1. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

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The Pergamon Museum is considered to be one of the most important museums of culture and human history. The museum has been enthroned on Berlin’s Museum Island since 1930 and houses Oriental and Near Eastern sculptures and works of art from 6000 years of history. The Pergamon Museum achieved worldwide fame especially for the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus. From the end of the 19th century in Asia and the Orient, the structures were excavated, demolished and brought to Berlin. The Pergamon Museum has been renovated in sections since 2013. Both the altar room with the legendary Pergamon Altar and the Hellenistic Hall are affected by the construction work and will remain closed to the public until at least 2023.

2. House of History, Bonn

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In the House of History, visitors travel through Germany. They start in the post-war period and end in the present. Interactive media stations explain the complex background and context of German history, film and sound documents as well as numerous exhibits make everyday life from 1945 tangible. The museum’s popular permanent exhibition includes, for example, Konrad Adenauer‘s service Mercedes, seats for representatives from the old Bonn plenary hall and an original cinema from the 1950s.

3. Pinakotheken, Munich

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Munich’s Maxvorstadt is the top address for art lovers in the Bavarian state capital – and has been since 1836. That is when the Pinakothek (today: Alte Pinakothek) built on behalf of King Ludwig I opened its doors. Masterpieces of European painting from Renaissance to Rococo are shown here, including important works by Peter Paul Rubens and Albrecht Dürer. 

Thematically, the Neue Pinakothek begins where the Alte Pinakothek leaves off: It shows around 400 paintings and sculptures from the 19th century. But be careful: if you want to visit the museum, you have to hurry. The Neue Pinakothek has been closed since the end of 2018 due to extensive renovation measures. A selection of masterpieces are shown in the Alte Pinakothek and the Schack Collection. If that’s not enough,

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A visit to the Semper building in the Dresden Zwinger is a must for art lovers: This is where the “Old Masters” picture gallery is housed, one of the most renowned collections of paintings in the world. The “Who’s Who” of painting meets on the three floors: Over 300 paintings from the 15th to 18th centuries, including Vermeer’s “Bei der Kupplerin” or the “Sistine Madonna” by Raffael, are in the high rooms of the Gallery exhibited. 

The collections of pastels by Rosalba Carriera and paintings by Lucas Cranach are also unique worldwide. Here, too, is being renovated. The 1st and 2nd floors are closed until January 2020 due to renovation work, but the special exhibition “Highlights of the Old Masters Picture Gallery” with 55 paintings will take place on the ground floor.

5. German Emigration Center, Bremerhaven

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The German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven is located exactly where, up to 1890, almost 7.2 million people set out for the New World to start a new life in the USA. In the adventure museum, visitors embark on a journey through 300 years of German migration history based on 33 real family stories. 

When you walk through the large museum you follow the story of a German emigrant and go through all the stations – from the waiting hall in the emigration port of Bremerhaven to the ship accommodation on board the ocean liner to the arrival on Ellis Island in New York. A new building will expand the museum in 2021.

6. Mercedes Benz Museum, Stuttgart

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With its glass facade and elevators reminiscent of Star Trek, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart appears futuristic both inside and out. The exhibition in the Mercedes-Benz world looks back on 130 years of automotive history – from Carl Benz to e-mobility. Anyone who has always wanted to see Pope John Paul II’s legendary “Popemobile” or marvel at the Silver Arrow by Lewis Hamilton will be delighted in this automobile museum.

7. Deutsches Museum, Munich

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The bad news is: If you want to take a closer look at all the exhibits in the Deutsches Museum, you have to spend days on Munich’s Museum Island. The good news: A trip to the Deutsches Museum is therefore always worthwhile. Our tip for the first visit: Make a plan in advance which highlights of the history of technology and science you definitely don’t want to miss. Are you more interested in the Wright brothers’ first powered aircraft or Konrad Zuse’s Z3? Or would you prefer to indulge in the lightning show on the high-voltage system? There should be something for every taste in the Deutsches Museum.

8. Museum Ludwig, Cologne

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Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns: If you want to marvel at the greats of American Pop Art outside of the USA, the Ludwig Museum is the place for you. The Cologne Museum has dedicated itself entirely to the art of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to Warhol and Co., you will find one of the largest Picasso collections in the world as well as important works of abstract expressionism – from Mark Rothko to Jackson Pollock. The Haubrich Collection, a gift from the Cologne lawyer Josef Haubrich, shows key works of German Expressionism and New Objectivity.

9. LWL open-air museum, Detmold

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Whether painting flour, plowing fields, roasting coffee or simply going to the toilet – the largest open-air museum in Germany offers exciting insights into rural life of previous generations. The museum follows the principle of showing original historical buildings. That means: The historic houses were dismantled at their original location with great effort and rebuilt on the 90 hectare exhibition area at the foot of the Teutoburg Forest. One exception is the tallest building of the Detmold Open-Air Museum, with which tourism itself has been a theme since 2017: The “observation tower on the Königsberg” is a reconstruction based on the historical model of earlier tourist observation towers that appeared at the beginning of the 20th century.

10. Folkwang Museum, Essen

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The Museum Folkwang, which has been located in Essen since 1922, is one of the most renowned art museums in Germany. A particular focus of the exhibition is on German and French painting of the 19th century. Classic modernism, painting after 1945 and photography as well as objects from the arts and crafts also enjoy a high priority. Entry to the permanent collection is free of charge. 

A visit to Folkwang takes time, after all, the museum’s collection now amounts to around 280 sculptures, around 600 paintings, around 12,000 drawings and graphics, more than 60,000 photographs, thousands of handicrafts from all over the world and almost 350,000 posters. Of course, they are not exhibited at the same time.

11. Pfahlbaumuseum, Unteruhldingen

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The structure of the Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen stretches along the north-eastern shore of Lake Constance. The archaeological open-air museum shows finds and replicas of pile villages from the Stone and Bronze Ages. It has existed since 1922 and is now one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. 

In the reconstructed houses you can understand what life could have looked like in such a settlement, which at the time was typical of the large foothills of the Alps. The multimedia show “ARCHAEORAMA” is new. The special exhibition “The legacy of the pile dwellers” presents over 1,000 original finds from the former pile dwellings on Lake Constance. The “Unteruhldingen-Seewiesen” pile-dwelling field, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011, is located south of the pile dwelling museum.

12. Museum of Natural History, Berlin

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The dinosaur world is the crowd puller of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. The Giraffatitan, originally classified as Brachiosaurus brancai, is the museum’s central exhibit and, at 13.27 meters high, it is the largest assembled dinosaur skeleton in the world. In addition to the outstanding exhibits, the dinosaur show shines with interactive elements. The skeletons can be brought to life with the so-called Jurascopes. The only original skeleton of a tyrannosaurus in Europe can be seen temporarily until the end of January 2020 with the loan of “Tristan Otto” in the Natural History Museum in Berlin.

13. Städel Museum, Frankfurt

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Frankfurt is a city where museum-goers are happy. 15 museums are located on the museum embankment in close proximity to the Main. The best known among them is probably the Städelsche Kunstinstitut. With over 3,000 paintings, 660 sculptures, more than 4,600 photographs and over 100,000 drawings and graphics, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt is one of the most important art museums in Germany. The considerable collection presents masterpieces of European art from seven centuries. Hieronymus Bosch and Sandro Botticelli are represented in the Städel Museum, as are Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter.

14. Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Nuremberg

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In the south of Nuremberg, extensive building remains on the former Nazi party rally grounds testify to the megalomania of the National Socialist regime. According to Hitler’s ideas, a congress hall should be built here, which would have offered space for up to 50,000 people. The building remained unfinished and has housed one of the most important historical museums in Germany since 2001. 

The Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds deals with the history of the National Socialist tyranny. The permanent exhibition “Fascination and Violence” deals, for example, with the causes, connections and consequences of Hitler’s power. The focus is on the history of the Nazi party rallies that were used by Nazi propaganda.

15. International Maritime Museum, Hamburg

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On nine exhibition decks, the museum in “Kaispeicher B” presents everything about the history of shipping over the past centuries and houses the largest private collection of maritime treasures in the world. The permanent exhibition tells of famous explorers and conquerors, provides information about the history of shipbuilding, commercial and passenger shipping, shows exhibits from the deep sea, which is still mysterious to this day, and paintings from seafaring. In addition, the museum presents over 40,000 ship models in miniature as well as miniature replicas of sea battles and port landscapes from history.

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