Käthe Kollwitz Museum
Of all Berlin’s artists, no one captured the pain suffered in and exported from this place more than Käthe Kollwitz. The intense intimacy of her work revealed residents’ hopes and horrors, as well as the unspoken pains of the poor, in images and forms which – 60 years after her death – still appear to burst from the artist’s heart. This privately owned museum, just off the Ku’damm, includes hundreds of her finest drawings, etchings and sculptures. A passageway connects the museum to the neighbouring Literaturhaus, with one of the city’s most civilised cafes.
• Fasanenstrasse 24, +49 30 882 5210, kaethe-kollwitz.de, adults €6, concessions €3. Open daily 11am-6pm
Over the last decade the Neues Museum, a bombed-out ruin since 1945, has been repaired and rebuilt by British starchitect David Chipperfield. His recreation is a striking building which can be read like a book, telling – through its original walls, surviving textural details, all-but-lost classical frescos and soaring new spaces – the story of man’s ability to create, destroy and preserve. It is the perfect museum for Berlin. The collection, which includes a Neanderthal skull, the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and Heinrich Schliemann’s Trojan antiquities, isn’t half bad either.
• Bodestrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, neues-museum.de, adults €10, concessions €5, under-19s free. Open Mon-Wed, Sun 10am-6pm, Thur-Sat 10am-8pm
Bauhaus Archives – Museum of Design
Berlin has long been a capital of creativity but unlike London, Paris and New York the radiance of its arts shines brightest against the darkness in its past. The city is the spiritual home of the Bauhaus, the most influential school of architecture, design and art in the 20th century. Its Archive – or Museum of Design – houses a sensational collection of sculptures, ceramics, furniture and architectural models by Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, Klee, Kandinsky and the many others who – with the Nazis’ rise to power – fled Germany and carried modernism to the New World. A free guided tour runs every Sunday at 3pm.
• Klingelhöferstrasse 14, +49 30 254 0020, bauhaus.de. Open Wed-Mon 10am-5pm (closed Tuesday), adults €7, concessions €4
Heinz Berggruen bought his first painting in 1940 for $100 – a watercolour by Paul Klee. Half a century later, he gave to Berlin the bulk of his fabulous collection, then valued at $450m and including 165 masterpieces by Braque, Matisse, Klee and Giacometti. This intimate gallery, situated opposite the Schloss Charlottenburg, also has more than 100 works by Picasso from early student sketches to the blue and rose period through his cubist years and up to the year before his death in April 1973. Guided tours for children are offered on most Saturdays (paper and crayons provided).
• Schlossstrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, smb.museum, adults €6, concessions €4. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm
Topography of Terror
That Germany is open and dynamic today is a consequence of taking responsibility for its history. In a courageous, humane and moving manner, the country is subjecting itself to a national psychoanalysis. This Freudian idea, that the repressed (or at least unspoken) will fester like a canker unless it is brought to the light, can be seen in Daniel Libeskind’s tortured Jewish Museum, at the Holocaust Memorial and, above all, at the Topography of Terror. Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted.
• Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, +49 30 2545 0950, topographie.de. Open daily 10am-8pm, free
At the start of the 20th century, Berlin was the largest Jewish city in the world. One third of the 100 richest Prussians were Jews. By 1945 Hitler had destroyed Germany’s rich diversity, making it both poorer and more homogeneous. Berlin’s Jewish Museum – with its extension by Daniel Libeskind – explores two millennia of German Jewish history. But far from being locked in the past, the museum looks forward with child-friendly tours, weekend workshops and special shows including a histories of Jewish football and radical Jewish music in New York.
• Lindenstrasse 9-14, +49 30 2599 3300, jmberlin.de. Open Mon 10am-10pm, Tue-Sun 10am-8pm, adults €5, concessions €2.50, under-6s free
At the end of the second world war, the victorious Allies divided Berlin into four sectors. Stalin’s secret intention was to draw Berlin – and then the whole of Germany – into the Communist orbit. In 1948 he blockaded the city as a means of driving the Americans out of Europe, but the Allies retaliated by launching the Berlin airlift to sustain its freedom. The cold war heated up and in 1961 the Soviets built the Wall to completely encircle the western sectors. The Allied Museum tells the story of those years. Displays include the guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie, an RAF Hastings, as well as a section of the Berlin spy tunnel, the largest ever SIS/CIA operation.
• Clayallee 135, +49 30 818 1990, alliiertenmuseum.de. Open Mon, Tue, Thur-Sun 10am–6pm, free
The Berlin Wall Memorial
Bernauer Strasse witnessed some of the most tragic scenes when the city was divided in 1961: East Berliners jumped from apartment windows, vaulted over barbed wire, tunnelled beneath the streets in an attempt to reach freedom. The Berlin Wall Memorial – which includes the city’s only unadorned stretch of border fortifications and a superb museum – marks the iniquity, compliance and heroism of East and West Berliners during those tragic years. A must.
• Bernauer Strasse 111/119, +49 30 4679 866 66, berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de. Open April–October, Tue-Sun 9.30am-7pm, November-March, Tue-Sun 9.30am-6pm, free
Trabants, hidden microphones, beach volleyball nudists and Spreewald pickles: Ostalgie (or nostalgia for life in former East) might worry parts of country (a recent survey found half of 16-year-olds believed East Germany was never a dictatorship), but at the DDR Museum visitors can safely experience life in under communism – at least for their 90-minute visit. Watch TV in the authentic East Berlin living room, spy on your neighbours, join the FDJ pioneers or march in the May Day parade. The museum is located on the river Spree opposite Berlin cathedral.
• Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1, +49 30 847 123 731, ddr-museum.de. Open Mon-Fri, Sun 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-10pm, adults €6, concessions €4
The currywurst is as much a part of Berlin as the Brandenburg Gate, with more than 70,000,000 curried sausages scoffed in the city every year. No surprise then that Berliners should celebrate their civic dish with a feel-good museum. Uncover the story of fast food through the ages, learn about the “currywurst war”, lie back on the Sausage Sofa and discover why Volkswagen is one of Germany’s largest sausage makers. Entrance is far from cheap but the souvenirs are among the best in Berlin (for non-vegetarians) and the complimentary “Currywurst in a Cup” has the tastiest, fruitiest sauce I’ve found anywhere in town.
• Schützenstrasse 70, +49 30 8871 8647, currywurstmuseum.de. Open daily 10am-10pm, adults €11, concessions €8.50, children €7, under-6s free
• Rory MacLean’s book on Berlin will be published in 2012. He writes a weekly Berlin blog for the Goethe Institut
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