The bust of Queen Nefertiti (Nofretete) is the top attraction of the Egyptian Collection in the Neues Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island.
The Neues Museum is one of the most-popular museums to visit in Berlin. Its top must-see item is the bust of Queen Nefertiti (Nofretete in German) – one of the most-famous artworks from Ancient Egypt. In addition to the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the Neues Museum is also home to the Museum for Prehistory and Early History. Top attractions from these collections include the Celtic Golden Hat calendar, a Neanderthal skull, and items from Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation of Homer’s Troy. Buy tickets online with timeslot admission (Tiqets or Get Your Guide), or make free time reservations when using discount combination savings tickets.
The Neues Museum on Museumsinsel Berlin
The Neues Museum on Museum Island in Berlin is one of the top museums in Germany and with the bust of Nefertiti for many the main reason to visit. She made the museum so popular that time-slot tickets are required to visit the Neues Museum..
Neues Museum simply means New Museum. The name simply confirms that the museum building was built after the adjacent Altes Museum. The Neues Museum was originally finished in 1855 but heavily damaged during the Second World War. War damage mostly left the building unused until the late 20th century. A full restoration that purposely left much of the war damage still visible was only completed in 2009.
Somewhat ironically, the Neues Museum has the oldest items on display from the following collections of the Berlin State Museums:
- The Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection (Ägyptischen Museum und Papyrussammlung) includes items from ancient Egypt and Nubian cultures spanning four millennia. “Die Nofretete” is of course the main attraction.
- Museum for Prehistory and Early History (Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte) covers six millennia of archaeological finds mostly in Europe and the Near East from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages.
- A few items from the Classical Antiquities Collection (Antikensammlung) are displayed but most of this collection is in the Altes and Pergamon Museum.
- The Bust of Queen Nefertiti – one of the most-famous art works from Ancient Egypt.
- Thirty Centuries of Sculpture – a collection of Egyptian heads showing how art changed over three millennia.
- The Golden Hat – a Celtic calendar in the form of a ceremonial hat from around 1000 BC.
- The Stone Age Collection – including a Neanderthal skull and the skeleton of an elk found locally.
- Treasure from the Rhine – Roman art found in the Rhine River including the Xantener Knabe statue.
- Schliemann’s Troy – mostly copies of the treasures Schliemann brought back from Homer’s Troy.
TIP: The Neues Museum is too big to see everything in a single visit. Furthermore, it covers a fairly wide spectrum of themes making it sensible to focus on specific areas or top sights on a first visit. Many visitors only go to see Nofretete leaving many of the other halls pleasantly quiet.
The Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in Berlin
The bust of Nefertiti is one the second level, as are a variety of other sculptures from Ancient Egypt and the large papyrus collection. The papyri are displayed in glass cabinets in a darkened room with different items sliding out on demand.
On the ground floor is the Dreißig Jahrhunderte (30 Centuries) collection of head sculptures (Room 109) that shows how art and the depiction of people developed in ancient Egypt over a period of 3,000 years. These heads include pharaohs and priests but also other, lesser important figures. The best-known statue – the Berlin Green Head – is of an unknown person made around 350 BC.
In the cellar are further small displays covering death and life after death. The number of mummies on display is surprisingly small for an Egyptian museum with the animal mummies probably the more interesting.
The Bust of Nefertiti in Berlin
The bust of Nefertiti (Die Büste der Nofretete) in Room 210 is the undisputed highlight of the Neues Museum and one of the most-famous single items of Egyptian art in the world. It dates from the period around 1351 – 1334 BC and came to Germany shortly before the First World War.
Born a commoner, Nefertiti married pharaoh Akhenaton (Echnaton) and thanks to this statue is after Cleopatra the most-famous Egyptian queen ever. Slightly irritating to many Egyptologists, this statue is not particularly representative of Egypt or the period. Other depictions of Nefertiti and the royal family on display in the museum are more typical (but less popular).
The Bust of Nefertiti is nearly half a meter tall and made of sandstone with painted stucco layers. The overall condition of the sculpture and the paint color are remarkably good and show amazing details including wrinkles around the eyes.
Photography is not allowed in the room where Die Nofretete is on display. As a result, the crowds move on fairly fast making it easy to study the statue close up in more detail and fully appreciate its timeless beauty.
Somewhat surprisingly, one of the best Ancient Egyptian collections in Germany is not in a major city. The Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum has one of the four best collections in the world on the Old Kingdom. It is in the small city Hildesheim near Hannover and famous for its UNESCO-listed Romanesque churches and large half-timbered buildings.
The Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin
The largest part of the Neues Museum in Berlin is used by the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. Unfortunately, many items are copies, as around 10,000 items confiscated after the Second World War are still on display, or in storage, in various museums in Russia. However, the copies (Nachbildungen) mostly made before the Second World War are good and enough original items are on display to make for a very interesting visit.
The Stone Ages in the Neues Museum
The Stone Age (Steinzeit) collection is on the top floor of the museum. The displays include the usual collection of archaeological finds and bones with the following two items of particular interest:
- The largely intact skull with full set of teeth of an 11-year-old male Neanderthal (Homo mousteriensis Hauseri) was discovered in Le Moustier in France. It dates from around 45,000 BC. Modern scientific technology made it possible to make a bust of what the boy probably looked like.
- The Elch vom Hansaplatz – the full skeleton of a moose from around 10,700 BC was discovered in Berlin in 1956 during the construction of the local U Bahn.
The Golden Hat and the Bronze Age in the Neues Museum
This 74-cm high ceremonial hat from southern Germany was hammered without a seam from a single piece of gold leaf during the late Bronze Age (1000 – 800 BC).
The Golden Hat is not only pretty to look at but had a practical use as a very advanced calendar.
It is displayed in its own room with detailed explanations of how the celestial symbols on 21 horizontal bands may be used to determine the calendar through either the 365-day sun year or the 12 lunar cycles of 354 days. The calculations allowed for leap years too.
In the adjacent room, press the button to hear the lurs playing. (Only copies are on display, the originals are still in Russia.)
Treasures from the Rhine in the Neues Museum
Larger exhibitions of the Antiquities Collection are in the Pergamon and Altes Museum.
A highlight here is the Treasures from the Rhine (Schätze aus dem Rhein) – a large collection of Roman items that were presumably sunk in the Rhine by “barbarians” in the third century. Most items are typical items used in Roman private houses.
A top attraction is the Xantener Knabe (Boy of Xanten) – a largely intact life-size bronze sculpture from the first century AD that was also recovered from the Rhine.
Schliemann’s Troy in the Neues Museum
Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) was one of the most-famous German amateur archaeologists ever and famously excavated Troy with more enthusiasm than scientific methods or patience. Although later archaeologists accused him of wanton destruction of much of historic Troy, he did bring some fantastic treasures back to Germany and sparked much interest in archaeology in general.
Schliemann’s Troy used to be one of the top attractions of Berlin’s historical collection, but most items were transported to the Soviet Union in 1945 and never returned. Good copies, and a few original items, are on display in a small exhibition on the ground floor of the Neues Museum.
Neues Museum Berlin Visitors Information
Tickets for the Neues Museum
Admission tickets for the Neues Museum are €12 and free for children up to 18 years old. An excellent free audio guide is included. Buy Neues Museum tickets online from Tiqets or Get Your Guide and use the phone code or a print out.
Alternatively, buy from the Neues Museum ticket box – currently a shipping container opposite the museum entrance and without rain or wind cover.
When buying tickets for the Neues Museum only, a timeslot for admission should be specified. When buying any of the discount offers below, make free online reservations at the Neues Museum website.
With time slot admission codes, skip the waiting line outside the museum by showing the ticket at the door. Pick up a free audio guide and then have the code on a phone (or paper printout) scanned directly at the entrance to the collection without passing by the ticket counter.
- €18,00 – Museum Island Ticket: admission to all SMB museums on Museum Island for a day. Buy from Tiqets and use the phone code or printout.
- €29 – Museum Pass Berlin: unlimited admission to over 30 top museums in Berlin on three consecutive days including the Neues, Pergamon and all Museum Island museums. (A great deal: Buy from any participating museum, or online from Get Your Guide but a paper print out usually have to be exchanged for a ticket at an information office.)
- €45 – Berlin Welcome Card 72h + Museum Island: gives all the transportation and savings advantages of the regular Welcome Card plus free admission to the Museum Island museums. (Note: the regular Berlin Welcome Card does not give admission or any discounts for the Neues, Pergamon or any other of the Berlin State Museums.) Buy from Get Your Guide online (but a paper print out usually have to be exchanged for a ticket at an information office.).
- €25 to €100 – Annual Membership Passes: admission for a year to all 19 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin museums.
TIP: None of these savings passes, except the €100 annual membership pass, is skip-the-line tickets – make free time-slot reservations online for the Pergamon and Neues Museums.
Opening Hours for the Neues Museum
On Museum Island, only the Pergamon and Neues Museums are open on Mondays but they provide sufficient displays for a full day of sightseeing.
The Neues Museum is open on most vacation days but not on December 24 and usually shorter hours on December 31 and January 1.
TIP: Free time-slot reservations are very sensible to avoid queuing outside the museum. The museum is generally busiest in the mornings and all day on weekends. Thursday late afternoon and early evening are usually quieter.
Transportation to the Neues Museum
The Neues Museum, Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin, is on Museum Island in Mitte in the heart of Berlin. A new entrance is being built for the museums but the current entrance is from the court yard with the exit at the back of the building.