The Pergamonmuseum is nothing short of a wonder in itself. Its rooms are overflowing with some of the world’s most impressive, long buried, treasures. The museum encompasses the vast history of the Ancient East, with collections that can not be experienced elsewhere. The museum is named after the Pergamon Altar, a Hellenistic masterpiece of white stone architecture. The imposing structure invites you to walk the steps of 2000 years of history and behold its intricacies close-up. But don’t get lost in this wonder for too long, as there are many more under the museum’s roof. Artefacts have been gathered from Iran, Asia Minor, Egypt and the Caucasus, and these worlds have been recreated for you to explore within the Pergamonmuseum.
The lost worlds of the Ancients brought to life
After the famous merchant and archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovers what is believed to be the ancient city of Troy, the 19th century sees an explosion of downward exploration, uncovering histories barely imagined until then. German archaeologists and researchers travel to Babylon, Uruk, Ashur and Egypt and send their finds to Berlin. They are cared for and preserved on the Museumsinsel (Museum Island). Over the years, more room is needed for the abundance of discoveries. As a result, a second building is constructed by Alfred Messel between 1910 and 1930. The museum today consists of three wings housing the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Middle East Museum. During the Second World War, the museum suffers some damage, but the artefacts are protected, and the museum survives to be one of the most visited attractions in Berlin. With its monuments such as the 17 metre high Roman Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate, and the Mschatta Façade, the museum transports you to an unfamiliar, mystical era. Architecture is key at Pergamonmuseum, filled with shimmering examples of intricately designed facades and gates, 2000 years old and more. In the light flooded halls of the Pergamonmuseum, the intricacy of the Oriental architecture becomes clear. A wonderful example is the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, exquisitely painted in beautiful blues and with reliefs of dragons and lions drawing you in from afar.
Highlights of the Pergamonmuseum
- The famously stunning Ishtar Gate of Babylon
- Pergamon Altar from Asia Minor with its elaborate reliefs
- Roman Market Gate of Miletus from the 2nd century AD
- The huge stone Mschatta Façade from one of the Jordanian desert castles
- The statuette of a man at prayer dated at around 2400 BC
Recommendations: What to see nearby
Museum Island is a masterpiece of architecture in its own right. The Island begins its life in the 1830s with the opening of the Alte Museum. It continues to grow and develop, being dubbed Museumsinsel by the 1870s. It stands now as a monument to discovery and ancient creation.
The five museums of the island are the Pergamon, Bode Museum, Alte Museum, Neues Museum, and the Alte Nationalgalerie — all of which have something unique to offer. The Neues Museum contains a trove of Egyptian artefacts, the highlight of which is the renowned bust of Nefertiti, famous queen of Egypt. You can walk around in a reconstructed Egyptian courtyard, with everything you could wish for from Ancient Egypt, including mummies. The Alte Nationalgalerie is likened to a temple, modelled on the Acropolis of Athens. Within are works of art in the Classicist, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist, and early modern styles. Painters like Caspar David Friedrich, Manet and Cézanne are represented here. The Bode Museum is a distinctive, copper-domed building, home to the Museum of Byzantine Art and the Münzkabinett. Also on Museumsinsel, you can visit the Berlin Cathedral, the largest church in Berlin, and on the historical boulevard; Unter den Linden. Here you will find the German Historical Museum, dedicated to the history of Germany and its people.
Hints and tips for your visit
Museum Island is easily accessible by all forms of public transport in Berlin. It can be reached on foot from Friedrichstrasse U- and S-Bahn station. You can also take the underground, using the U6 or S-Bahn lines S1, S2, S25, S5, S7 or S75. The S-Bahn stop of Hackescher Markt is just 15 minutes walk away from the Island. The M1 and 12 trams stop at nearby Kupfergraben, less than 5 minutes walk away. The Lustgarten bus stop is 600m away from Pergamonmuseum and can be reached on buses 100 and 200. You can use the Berlin Welcome Card Museum Island to explore all the museums on Museum Island over three consecutive days. With a Museum Pass Berlin you can visit 50 other museums in Berlin for free. Entry for children and young people up to the age of 18 is generally free. The museum is open on Mondays, and Thursdays offer longer opening hours. Please note that the north wing, including the Pergamon Altar, will be closed for refurbishment until 2023.
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