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City tour through the Nikolai quarter
City tour through the Nikolai quarter: Heinrich Zille © visitBerlin, Foto: Günter Steffen

Zille Museum

The chronicler of the Berliner milieu

From 2017, the newly reopened Zille Museum in the Nikolaiviertel exhibits a large, new permanent exhibition, titled "Heinrich Zille - Life and Work" showcasing the drawings, photographs, prints and letters of original Berliners. Heinrich Zille is not just "brush-Heinrich", as Berliners fondly refer to him, but a keenly observing journalist of the Berlin lower class, or "Milljöh" of the imperial age. He documents human misery, and is the mouthpiece of the social losers of that era: the "children of the street", according to the title of his famous picture book. Zille gives a voice to the scorned; the labourers, drinkers, little crooks and whores. Like no other, he packs his social and critical observations with humorous drawings and stories. The Zille Museum presents Zille and his work in all creative periods.

Located in the historic buildings of the Nikolaiviertel, once a showcase for the GDR, is the Zille Museum. From the outside it looks like a small shop. Through the narrow passageway, you can go straight to the museum shop which sells postcards and books. You then go into the museum with its surprisingly wide rooms. Bright walls, solid parquet and muted lighting make the museum look like a picture gallery. In contrasting images, Zille's simple motifs are from everyday life in Berlin; you will see drifters all around the Wannseestrand, dancing women, a pregnant woman holding two children in her arms. Over 150 exhibits of painters, graphic artists and photographers are presented here: milieu studies, portrait sketches and nudes - "doodles", as Zille calls them. They are pinned to the walls or lie open in glass cases. There is a lot to be found in the cabinet titled "Erotic of the Master". Zille writes and draws under the pseudonym W. Pfeifer in the collection titled "Surgery", which the censors of 1921 promptly forbid. You will see excerpts of this work, including pornography from the turn of the century. Take a look into the cinema room. Here you can enjoy excerpts from the film "Det war Zille sein Milljöh" (1980). They show unique recordings of the artist and his Berlin. Below are interesting self portraits of Zille.

The Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlins offers the possibility to view online the graphic work and related documents by Heinrich Zille

At the Zille Museum you can see:

  • Milieu studies, portrait sketches and nude drawings
  • Original ‘Whores Conversations’ with pictures and texts (1921)
  • Portraits of Zille and staged photographs
  • Clips from "Det war Zille sein Milljöh" by Irmgard von zur Mühlens (1980)
  • Group tours with actor Albrecht Hoffmann


Tips for your visit

The Zille Museum can be reached easily by underground U2 line to Märkisches Museum. It is a mere 500-metre walk to the museum. The Alexanderpllatz transport hub is also very near. Here you will find ample parking facilities. The museum is open on Mondays. Children below 6 enter free of charge. Guided tours for groups and schools are arranged upon request.

Opening hours

11:00 – 18:00 daily open
Opening hours (additional information)