Top 10 Art Galleries to Visit in Germany

Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister | Jorge Royan, WikiCommons
Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister | Jorge Royan, WikiCommons
Photo of Evelyn Smallwood
8 June 2017

From klein aber fein (small but beautiful), to literal art palaces that take days to explore, Germany has art galleries nearly everywhere you turn. Since they are state funded, prices are usually reasonable and as Germans rarely do anything without eating cake after, the cafés are often first rate as well. Here’s ten place where you can appreciate some art and enjoy a snack after.

Museum Island

Museum, Archaeological site, Historical Landmark
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Bode Museum, Museum Island, Berlin, Germany
Museum Island is home to five museums | © JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo
There are several cities in Germany with museum islands, but none are as expansive as Berlin’s, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Altes Museum covers Greek and other antiquities; the Neues Museum has the bust of Nefertiti and other Egypt-related artifacts; the Alte Nationalgalerie contains Western art from roughly 1850-1950; the Bode covers sculpture and Byzantine art and the Pergamon antiquity, the Middle East and Islamic art.

Neues Museum

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The Neues Museum Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design is a mouthful, but there’s no doubt what you’ll find there. (Hint: it’s contemporary art and design). Opened in 2000, the galleries are laid out in a spiral, like a snail shell. A fine collection of work by German painter Gerhard Richter is especially worthwhile, as is the sculpture garden.


The other side of the city from Museum Island, the Gemäldegalerie is a painting paradise. Holbein, Titian, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt and shed loads of others you didn’t even know you loved: they’re all carefully, and, according to the museum, scientifically hung over 72 rooms. The pieces in the Gemäldegalerie are unusual in Europe because the collection was started by the government, not an aristocrat. From its inception in 1815, the collection was meant to reflect the full breadth of European art.

Gemäldegalerie – Matthäikirchplatz, Berlin

Bucerius Kunst Forum

The guiding principle of the Bucerius Kunst Forum is to present art in new contexts. For example a recent exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s work highlighted connections between European and Mexican art. The museum is small – there is only room for 100 exhibits at a time – so it can afford to be very precise in its programming choices. The Kunst Forum frequently borrows from other museums to complete the show, so who knows what will turn up at your next visit.

Bucerius Kunst Forum –

Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister

When the Electors Saxony weren’t busy ordering bakers to make 1.8 ton Christmas cakes, they were collecting art. These days, the Elector is no longer but the art lives on in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Well, most of it. During the war, the collection was stored elsewhere and then confiscated by the Russians. 450 paintings are still missing, but the jewel in the Alte Meister crown, Raphael’s Sistine Madonna returned home safely.

Gemäldegalerie Alter Meister, Theaterplatz 1, Dresden

Städel Museum

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Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main | © SKD Photographer: Ronald Bonss
The 200 year old Städel Museum, officially Die Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, has 2,700 paintings, 100,000 drawings, 600 sculptures and 100,000 books, making it the perfect respite from a rainy day in Frankfurt. During the war, all the art was moved to Bavaria for safekeeping and only discovered after the fact by one of the Monuments Men.

Max Ernst Museum - Brühl

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Le Couple (1937) - Max Ernst
Le Couple (1937) - Max Ernst | Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr
If Surrealism brings only Dali to mind, then get acquainted with the German painter who got there first. Max Ernst developed a love of defying authority as the child of a strict, Catholic father. Later in life, he sold many of his paintings to one collector in order to fund a move to Saigon with his lover and her husband. In addition to the Ernst collection, the museum has regular exhibitions of modern artist like M.C. Escher, Man Ray or Tim Burton.

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