In Berlin, you can find history on every corner. On the Museum Island you can feel the 19th century of the imperial era, at Alexanderplatz you can take yourself back to the time of the GDR and at the Brandenburg Gate, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification come alive. Throughout the city, bullet holes in buildings and Stolpersteine on the sidewalks remind us of the atrocities of World War II. Even in times of social distancing and lockdowns, these online resources help you to experience the past of Germany’s capital.
The Berlin History App was developed by the City Museum Berlin and offers various participatory tools to discover Berlin’s fascinating historical heritage. It serves as a virtual museum by letting you browse through before-and-after-images, old maps, videos, audio-tours, interviews as well as the special online exhibition “Berlin 1945”… you can easily spend hours on this app!
Two of Berlin’s daily newspapers, the Tagesspiegel and the Berliner Morgenpost, have developed two interactive maps that let you discover what the city used to look like in 1928 and 1953. Looking back almost 100 years, many parts of Berlin looked entirely different and can hardly be recognized nowadays. Also in 1953, areas that are now home to and high-towering skyscrapers and lively neighborhoods lay completely barren marked by the war just years before. Take the virtual tour and be amazed by how much the city has changed!
Pastvu is an online photo database of historical photographs from around the world. For Berlin alone, there are thousands of photos from the last centuries to discover – all marked on a map with the exact location and sorted by color and era. You want to see how the Berlin Palace looked like 100 years ago or which buildings used to stand at Checkpoint Charlie? With Pastvu you can take a little trip back in time and not only check out what important Berlin monuments looked like in the past but also what everyday life on the streets felt like.
Germany’s national history museum, the Deutsches Historisches Museum, has digitized many of its exhibitions – completely free and accessible to all. Browse through some of the museum’s recent exhibitions, such as “Koloniale Geschichte(n)” about Germany’s colonies or “Facing Beethoven“ about portraits of one of Germany’s most famous musicians.
Whenever one comes back to the Berlinische Galerie, one could wonder: “have I ever been in this neighborhood before”? This comes as no surpirse, since the Galerie is randomly located in a very quiet residential area, away from Berlin’s usual hussle and bussle. It was built in the eighties as part of the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA), the International Building Exhibition. The Berlinische Galerie is one of the newest museums in Germany (founded in 1975) and showcases art from 1870 to the present day from both local and international artists. It features painting, graphics, sculpture, multimedia – photography and architecture. There is a permanent exhibition (“Art in Berlin 1880-1980”) on the first floor and regularly changing exhibitions on the ground floor. My favorite room is the first one, which usually holds a big spatial art installation.
Where? Alte Jakobstraße 124–128, 10969 Berlin Germany
Opening Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10am–6 pm, closed on Tuesdays
Admission: 10€ (reduced 7€)
The Museumsinsel (Museum Island) right at Hackescher Markt in Berlin Mitte is the perfect place for all museum enthusiasts visiting Berlin (or for those who simply want to cram as many museums into one day as possible, whatever floats your boat). The first addition to the island was the Altes Museum in 1830. Soon thereafter more and more museums were added to the island. Today, it encompasses six buildings (Altes Museum (Old Museum), Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Bode Museum, Pergamonmuseum, and the James-Simon-Galerie), with art that displays six thousand years of history, ranging from the Ancient Egyptians to European art of the 19th century. Due to its incredible number of famous collections, as well as its unique architecture, the Museumsinsel was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1999. Partially because of this, combined with the need for restoration of the museum buildings after the Second World War, the island has been in the process of being reconstructed since the turn of the century. While the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum, and the Neues Museum have already been through the process, the Pergamonmuseum is currently being renovated, though visitors can still access parts of the museum in the meantime.
If you’re really into museums, and your legs don’t hurt yet after hours of exploring and admiring everything the island has to offer, you can find many more museums close to it such as the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German historical museum), the Designpanoptikum (small, unique museum for industrial objects), or the Hanfmuseum (Hemp museum).
Additionally, next to hosting museums, this little island and its surrounding area are a popular meeting place for people when the weather is nice . So after a long, fun, art-filled day, you can walk across the bridge leading from the island and sit in Monbijoupark right by the Spree, listen to the street musicians that frequent this popular spot, or go to one of the several bars along the river to have a drink (or just buy a Späti beer) and people-watch.
Where? Bodestr. 3, 10178 Berlin (S Hackescher Markt, U Klosterstraße)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: 10AM – 6PM
Thursday: 10AM – 8PM
Admission: free with your Museum Pass!