Germany has more than 6,200 museums covering every topic imaginable, including mustard. Walk to the centre of any city and you’ll find ten or twenty or so to choose from. How then, to decide where to go? Randomly pointing on a map is fun, but for readers who like to plan ahead a bit more, here are 10 truly exceptional museums.
The Germanic National Museum in Nürnberg is Germany’s largest museum of art and culture. Its collection spans millennia and includes the usual paintings and sculpture alongside textiles and crafts, weapons, armour and early scientific instruments. If you’re after a one-stop shop for German history, this is the place.
Even visitors who aren’t car nerds will enjoy a visit to this auto museum. The history of Mercedes is the history of cars. Covering 16,500 square metres over nine floors, 160 vehicles and 1500 exhibits leave no stone unturned. Guided tours add even more detail. For those wishing for less, lunch time concerts and an excellent café await.
The German Museum in Munich leaves dinosaurs and paintings behind and focuses on science, technology and astronomy. The Experimental Workshop allows children and adults to explore physics and other science disciplines with their hands. The rest of the 25,000 square metre space is divided into five sections (natural sciences, energy, communication, humanity, transport) to help visitors decide what to see.
Situated in the Neander Valley about 12km outside Düsseldorf, the Neandertal Museum is home to the very first discovery of Neanderthal man in 1856. Aside from the indoor exhibits, which show the evolution of man, there is an archaeological park surrounding the museum, a Stone Age workshop, an art trail and an Ice Age game reserve.
Shipping nerds, or at least people who are somewhat partial to boats, will love this ode to the high seas. The International Maritimes Museum houses the private collection of Peter Tamm, which he started when he was six years old. The over 40,000 pieces now include construction plans, model ships, maritime art, various uniforms and a 3,000 years old dugout canoe.
Ever wonder what life was like in Germany behind the Iron Curtain? The Deutsches Demokratisches Republic Museum in Berlin can help. Divided into three broad spaces – Public Life, State and Ideology and Life in a Tower Block, the museum aims to make learning about life in the DDR fun. It’s even possible to drive a Trabant.
Between 1452 and 1455, Johannes Gutenberg changed the world. The invention of the printing press made the sharing and storing of information easy. Well, easier. Monks made beautiful manuscripts, but they took an age to get finished. The Gutenburg Museum in Mainz has a working replica of two original Gutenberg Bibles from the mid-15th century, other book and publishing artefacts and valuable books.
With over 30 million exhibits, the Natural History Museum in Berlin literally has something for everyone. Kids will go crazy for the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton, (the creature formerly known as Brachiosaurus) and other extinct animals like the world’s oldest bird and something called a Tasmanian tiger. There is also a T-Rex called Tristan.
From the 1850s to the 1930s, more than 5 million people from Germany, Russia, Poland the adjacent lands boarded ships bound for the New World, for a chance at a new life. The mirror of Ellis Island, the Ballinstadt Museum shows what the living quarters were like for those waiting for their ship as well as discussing the stress, fear of disease and difficult decisions emigrants had to make before they even got on the boat.
Concentrating on Germany from 1945 to the present, the National Museum of Contemporary German History deals largely with life during the Cold War. With West Germany allied with the USA and East Germany with Russian, things got complicated. Exhibits include some 75,000 political cartoons, the Chancellor’s residence and some documents from Oskar Schindler.