Jüdisches Museum in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

History Museums in Berlin

The many museums in Berlin showcasing different aspects of the city and country’s turbulent and colourful history are the perfect places to spend some of the cold, rainy winter days in Berlin, while also learning about the city’s past. While several present a broad scope of history in general, many focus on the particular histories of various aspects of the world and everyday life. Here are some of the most worthwhile ones.

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Quite possibly Germany’s leading museum on European history, it is extremely comprehensive and houses changing exhibitions on various subjects. Exhibitions are pretty information-heavy, with a lot of text (in both German and English), and everything is presented in a very subjective manner. So, if you appreciate taking the time to really delve into well-curated, thorough exhibitions on a broad range of historical periods and events, then you’ll definitely get something out of this museum. It is housed in two connected and well-integrated buildings: one, the former city arsenal built in the late 17th century; and the other, more modern addition that opened in 2003 and is an impressive piece of architecture in its own right.

Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Deutsches Technikmuseum

This museum is a great place for anyone with an interest in the cultural history of technology, from early 20th-century computing to cutting edge, modern gadgets. It’s also an ideal place to take children with similar interests, as there is variety of things to see, both indoor and outdoor, much of it with interactive displays, demonstrations, and activities, as well as areas designated to creating and using machines. There are many different kinds of machines on display, including engines (both inside and outside of the vehicles they were built to power), computers, radios, cameras, printing presses, and scientific equipment. On the grounds surrounding the museum, there are two windmills, a brewery, and a forge powered by a waterwheel.

Jüdisches Museum

The permanent exhibition at the Jewish Museum presents 2,000 years of German-Jewish history, starting with stories from medieval settlements along the Rhine river in western Germany. A range of media is used to convey this history, and first-person accounts are employed wherever possible. The temporary exhibitions change regularly and cover a wide range of topics from across Jewish history, and also often touch on contemporary issues.

Jüdisches Museum in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Tränenpalast

This building, built in 1962 directly after the erection of the Berlin Wall, served as a crossing point from East to West Berlin, connected to the nearby S-bahn station. It now houses an exhibition with emotional stories, memorabilia, and interviews of the experiences of people who crossed there, and what everyday life in a divided Berlin was like. It also details the process of reunification that happened directly after the fall of the wall, and the struggles it entailed. The official website of the Tränenpalast has a free downloadable audio guide to the museum.

Computerspielemuseum

This cozy museum not only presents the history of computer games dating back to the 1950s, but also allows you to play with many different kinds of consoles and games on original machines. In between presentation areas covering topics such as the development of computer technology, changes in marketing of games through the decades, and scientific research on the benefits of playing them, are various spaces for visitors to play a multitude of games themselves. While small, the museum is full of variety, and each area for playing games is separate enough to give some privacy, but open enough that you won’t lose anyone inside. There is also a small shop attached, selling merchandise from various games and other small gifts.

Computerspielemuseum in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

DDR Museum

In the DDR Museum, you can get an up-close and personal feeling for what everyday life in East Germany was like from the end of the Second World War up until 1990. Not only are there photographs and videos from that era along with detailed explanations, but the museum also strives to make the experience of visiting as interactive and multi-sensory as possible. For example, there is a replica kitchen from an ordinary East Berlin apartment, where you can smell the spices that were available to people at the time, as well as many original artifacts to touch and play with, such as typewriters, computers, fabrics, and fashion items. There is even the possibility of having a go in a simulator at driving a Trabant, an East German car that was for a long time the most common vehicle in the country.

Museum für Naturkunde

This extensive museum of natural history contains the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton on view anywhere in the world, as well as impressive exhibitions on evolution, astronomy, minerals, and meteors. There are also several reasonably-priced, guided tours on offer to help you make the most of the museum, especially with children, and occasionally there are temporary exhibitions on more specialized topics. The building housing the museum is also worth mentioning and visiting in its own right, as it is the largest museum of natural history in Germany and was built in the early 19th century in a beautiful classicist style.

Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Deutsche Kinemathek

This museum offers an insight into the history of film and television, from the time of silent movies, through the Weimar Republic, the rise of Nazism, and up to the present day in both East and West Germany. There is a special emphasis on Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actor and singer whose career took off in the 1920s and ’30s, as well as other German film professionals living in exile during the Nazi regime. There is also a library with an extensive range of literature on film, television, and media, including books, periodicals, festival catalogues, television programs, and films on DVD, which you can watch at one of two viewing stations.

Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Have you ever been to any history museums in Berlin? If so, do you have any suggestions or tips for people? If not, what do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Sam Wood

Sam is originally from London, living nomadically since 2010 teaching English as a foreign language, and is now based in Berlin. He's a wannabe minimalist and language geek, working and often traveling with his husband, Zab. On his blog, Indefinite Adventure, he chronicles their journey as two city boys looking for the best vegan food, street art, and most interesting things to do in any given destination.
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