Visit Top State Museums and National Galleries (SMB) in Berlin

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums) are amongst the top cultural collections and art galleries in the world. The collections cover a wide spectrum of topics of astonishing quality and include artifacts and art from all corners of the world.

Cranach highlights in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin

Most of Berlin’s State Museums are located either on Museum Island in the heart of Berlin-Mitte or in the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz to the south of Tiergarten. Further major museums are the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art near the main station and smaller museums near Schloss Charlottenburg and in Dahlem. The Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum are the most popular state museums in Berlin while the Neue Nationalgalerie is the most visited art gallery.

Update 2024: New Berlin Museum Opening Hours

From 16 April 2024, several smaller museums will be closed on both Monday and Tuesday with shorter opening hours on many days. Opening hours for the Alte Nationalgalerie will be longer for much of the year, as the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition tickets are selling out fast, and also longer in summer 2024 for the top museums. See the latest Berlin museum opening hours for details.

Currently, time-slot reservations are essential only for the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition in the Alte Nationalgalerie (until 4 August 2024). However, it is sensible to book timeslots if available for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, and Das Panorama. (The Pergamon Museum itself is closed until 2027!) Timeslots are released only a few weeks in advance. Buy tickets and make reservations online at GetYourGuide or at SMB.

Online tickets for museums without timeslot reservations are skip-the-line — go directly to the entrance to scan the ticket. Many multiple-museum tickets and passes are again accepted, including Kulturforum, Museumsinsel, and the excellent value 3-day Berlin Museum Pass.

State Museums on Museumsinsel in Berlin Mitte

Altes Museum Berlin

Berlin’s Museum Island is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list and houses some of the most popular museums in Berlin. The museums here were built between 1830 and 1930 but were heavily damaged during the Second World War. Since 1990, all have been restored but work continues and further buildings are being added to make Berlin’s Museum Island the largest museum complex in Europe.

  • The Pergamon Museum is the most popular museum in Berlin but is closed until 2027 but some sculptures may be seen in the Panorama exhibition). It encompasses the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the Museum of Ancient Near Eastern Art.
  • The Neues (New) Museum houses the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of Pre- and Early History. Its top attraction is the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the most famous Egyptian artwork in Germany. This is currently the top museum and the only one always requiring time-slot reservation tickets.
  • The Altes (Old) Museum houses a large part of Berlin’s famed Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities) and part of the Numismatic Collection.
  • The Bode Museum houses the Collection of Sculptures, the Museum of Byzantine Art, and most of the Numismatic Collection.
  • The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) displays mostly 19th-century European art. (Time-slot tickets are essential from 19 April to 4 August due to the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition.)
  • The Friedrichswerdersche Kirche (Church) is close to Museumsinsel and exhibits mostly 19th-century sculptures. (Admission free.)

Humboldt Forum on Museum Island

  • Humboldt Forum in the rebuilt Berlin Schloss hosts several museums, exhibition spaces, and cultural events. The two main permanent SMB museums here are the Etnologisches Museum (Ethnology) with half a million items from non-European continents and the Museum fĂĽr Asiatische Kunst (Asian Art) with a vast collection of art from especially the Indian subcontinent, Japan, Korea, and China. Admission to parts of the building and some exhibitions is free. Note that these two museums follow the opening hours and ticket system of the Humboldt Forum and are not included in the Museum Island pass or other SMB tickets — admission to both museums is still free.

State Museums in Berlin Tiergarten – Kulturforum

The Gemäldegalerie is at the heart of the Kulturforum in central Berlin. 

The Kulturforum is to the south of Tiergarten, across the road from the Berlin Philharmonie, and close to the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. The buildings here were mostly purpose-built during and shortly after the Cold War.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by DĂĽrer
  • The Gemäldegallerie (Picture Gallery) has an astonishing collection of European Old Masters paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries including 16 works by Rembrandt and a fantastic Italian Renaissance display. It is one of the greatest art collections in the world.
  • The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) has 20th-century European paintings and sculptures mostly from pre-1970.
  • The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) is the largest of its kind in Germany with over 500,000 prints and 110,000 drawings spanning works from DĂĽrer to Andy Warhol.
  • The Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) has around 350,000 volumes.
  • The Kunstgewerbemuseum (Decorative Arts) has a high-quality collection of items ranging from the Middle Ages to the present.
  • The Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Musical Instruments) is not part of the state museums but is worth seeing and shares the same Kulturforum ticket.
  • A new modern art museum to permanently house the 20th-century art collection is under construction.

Berlin State Museums in Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg was the center of West Berlin museums but since the reunification of Berlin, this area has lost most of its top collections to Museum Island. The remaining museums are small but have some top-quality specialized collections:

  • The Museum Berggruen (closed until 2025) displays classical modern works. At the heart of the collection are over 100 works by Pablo Picasso and 20 by Henri Matisse.
  • The Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection focuses on surrealism with works by amongst others Goya, DalĂ­, and Max Ernst
  • The Gipsformerei (Replica Workshop) uses plaster of Paris to reproduce famous works.
  • Museum fĂĽr Fotografie (Photography) is physically closer to Zoologsicher Garten station. It is used to display the vast collection of photos owned by different museums.

Hamburger Bahnhof near the Hauptbahnhof in Berlin

The top venue for contemporary art in Berlin is the Hamburger Bahnhof National Galerie der Gegenwart near the Hauptbahnhof.

The very popular Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin is close to the Hauptbahnhof (Berlin main train station). This huge complex houses the impressive Berlin Museum of Contemporary Art, which has frequently changing temporary exhibitions.

State Museums in Berlin Dahlem – Museen Dahlem

Of the previous three museums in Dahlem, only the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (European Cultures) remained in this suburb in southwestern Berlin. This museum focuses on everyday life from the 18th century to the present.

The more famous non-European collections moved to the Humboldt Forum in the rebuilt Berliner Schloss on Museum Island.

Schloss Köpenick in Berlin

Schloss Köpenick to the southeast of Berlin has part of the Decorative Arts Collection focusing on European furniture and decorations from the Renaissance to Rococo. It is less often visited by foreign visitors and has shorter opening hours, especially during the winter months.

Berlin’s State Museums are easily reached on public transportation: the Kulturforum on bus 200 or any train to Potsdamer Platz, Museumsinsel on bus 100, bus 300, and U-Bahn U5, Charlottenburg by S-Bahn train, and Dahlem by U-Bahn train.

More on the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin):

Note new opening times for many Berlin museums from mid-April 2024. Timeslot reservations are essential only for the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition (until 4 August 2024) but sensible (and sometimes needed in busy periods!) for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, and Pergamon – Das Panorama. (The Pergamon Museum itself is closed until 2027!). Timeslots are released only a few weeks in advance. Online tickets are available from GetYourGuide, which seems to have timeslots available when SMB has already sold out. Many passes and multi-museum tickets are again sold (Kulturforum / Museums Island). Individual museum ticket prices range from €8 to €14 (€20 for special exhibitions). Online tickets are skip-the-line — go directly to the gallery entrance to scan the code but pick up free audioguides first.

For more general information on the Berlin State Museums:

News & Temporary Exhibitions:

More Museum Reviews and Museum-Specific Information:

Previous Temporary Exhibitions:

Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.