Museum Island In Berlin – An Amazing Museum Complex

The Museum Island In Berlin isn’t just one of the most popular tourist spots in the capital of Germany, it’s also one of the most historic places in the city.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Museum Island and its history, one of the most famous museum complexes in Europe that you simply must put on your Berlin bucket list!

Where is Museum Island located?

The Museum Island in Berlin is located on Spree Island, a small river island of the Spree River in central Berlin. Museum Island is the name of the northern tip of this island and features some of the country’s most famous museums.

The most famous avenue in the city, Unter den Linden, runs right through this river island (even though it’s referred to as the B2 or “Bundesstrasse” here) Other famous landmarks in the city such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building are located just 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) to the west.

The most prominent landmark in the city, the Berlin TV Tower, is located at walking distance directly to the east of the island.

Berlin Museum Island northern tip
Northern tip of the island / Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s A UNESCO site and home to 6 popular museums in Berlin

The northern tip of Spree Island that is called Museum Island covers an area of about 8.5 hectares (21 acres). The completion of the first museum happened nearly 200 years ago in the year 1830.

This means that the area in the heart of Berlin has significant historical importance. This has also been recognized as it was dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The island now features 6 amazing museums which are all part of the Berlin State Museums and which hold some of the greatest world treasures. These include:

  • The Altes Museum – The “Old Museum” was completed in 1830.
  • The Neues Museum – The “New Museum” was completed in 1859.
  • The Alte Nationalgalerie – The “Old National Gallery” was completed in 1876.
  • The Bode Museum – Situated on the northern tip and opened in 1904.
  • The Pergamon Museum – A museum completed in the year 1930.
  • The Humboldt Forum – Located inside the reconstructed Berlin Palace and opened in 2020.
Altes Museum berlin
Altes Museum / Avda / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

The master plan of the museums was completed in 1822

The original idea to create a museum on Spree Island came about in the year 1797. It was proposed by Archaeologist Aloys Hirt (1759-1837) who specialized in ancient Greek and Roman architecture.

The masterplan of the museum complex, which has been continuously been reconstructed accordingly following World War II, was completed in the year 1822, and the first building constructed shortly after.

This original construction phase was overseen by Neoclassical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), the designer of the Altes Museum.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about the Museum Island in Berlin is that this was originally a residential area. It wasn’t until the year 1841 that King Frederick William IV of Prussia turned it into an official are dedicated to “science and art.”

Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie / Wiki Commons

The museums aren’t the only attractions on the island

Even though the northern section of Spree island is completely occupied with museums, just south of the major thoroughfare in the city we can find multiple other interesting tourist attractions and landmarks.

One of the most iconic churches in the city, Berlin Cathedral, is situated in the central part of the island. One of the most popular public parks in berlin is located right next to this magnificent structure and is called the “Lustgarten.”

This magnificent public space is covered with green lawns and elaborately decorated fountains, an amazing spot to relax in Berlin!

Berlin Cathedral Museum Island
Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island / Pixabay

A recently completed gallery interconnects multiple museums

Right between the Neues Museum and the Spree River you can see a modern-looking building. This is one of the newest additions of the complex and is called the “James Simon Gallery.” It was named after James Simon (1851-1932), a German-Jewish art collector who donated numerous priceless works of art to the Berlin State Museum.

This structure is both an art gallery and visitor center and was only completed in the year 2019 to the design of English architect David Chipperfield at a cost of $157 million USD!

Before the year 1938, this area was occupied by the so-called “Packhof,” a building that was originally designed by the architect of the Altes Museum Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Today, it serves the same purpose as the Louvre Pyramid does for the Louvre Museum in Paris as it welcomes visitors to the museum complex.

James Simon Gallery berlin museum island
James Simon Gallery / Chatchamp / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en