Berlin: 5 quirky—and mostly free—museums

Posted in: Berlin Sightseeing

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buchstabenmuseum Berlin
Typography galore at the Buchstaben Museum. Photo by Sarah Lincoln

By C.H. Kwak in Berlin—

You’ve deciphered the Pergamon’s ancient Greek paintings, gazed at the Neue Galerie’s Expressionist works, and even rode a Trabi at the kitschy DDR Museum. Now what? According to the city’s official website, Berlin boasts a whopping 175 museums—one for every taste.

For those of you who want to go off the beaten path, let me suggest five especially eclectic museums:

1. Deutsch-Russisches Museum (German-Russian Museum)
Zwieseler Straße 4
Tel.: +49 (0)30 50 15 08 52
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday)
Free entry
Web site

This historical collection on the eastern edge of the city is well worth the S-Bahn ride. Housed in a former Nazi officers’ school where the Wehrmacht officially surrendered to the Soviets, the museum offers a fascinating overview of German-Soviet relations spanning from 1917 to 1990.

You’ll see a whole lot of propaganda, odd uniforms, in-depth documentaries and even WWII Soviet tanks. Before the fall of the Wall, the museum was exclusively open to members of the Soviet Army. Today, anyone can visit, free of charge.

2. Jugend Museum (Young People’s Museum)
Hauptstraße 40-42
Tel.: +49 (0)30 90277 61 63
Hours: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Wednesday and Thursday), 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Free entry
Web site

While the Jugend Museum aims to educate young Berliners about the city’s diversity, the real treasures are found in the basement. Don’t be put off by the musky smell and charge forth past the human skeleton on display. Immerse yourself in the German tradition of Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities.

The Zucker Museum in Berlin, Germany

A display at the Zucker Museum. Photo by paula moya.

Part ethnography, part zoology and part freak show, the 27 haphazardly curated cabinets feature anything and everything collected from the neighborhood—from centuries-old ceramics to a 1920’s toilet. It’s a fantastic little place to learn about Berlin’s present and past. (Full disclosure: The author used to work here.)

3. Zucker Museum (Sugar Museum)
Amrumer Straße 32
Tel.: +49 (0)30 31 42 75 74
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Monday to Thursday), 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday)
Free entry
Web site

In case the name didn’t tip you off, this place is all about sugar. Over a century old, the museum offers a Teutonically thorough insight into the world of sweetness. Come prepared to learn about agriculture, history, technology, economy and even art.

4. Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik Berlin (The Ancient Sculpture Plaster Collection)
Schlossstraße 69 b
Tel.: +49 (0)30 33 77 83 32
Hours: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursday to Sunday)
Free entry
Web site

Yes, it’s far from the city center; yes, it’s open only three hours a day, three days a week. But come on. It’s a roomful of plaster replicas of famous sculptures. Imagine all the hilarious photo ops. Enough said.

5. Buchstaben Museum (Museum of Letters)
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 13
Berlin Carré, 2nd floor
Tel.: +49 (0)177 420 15 87
Hours: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (Thursday to Saturday)
Entry: €2.50
Web site

Dedicated to the world of typography, the Museum of Letters collects interesting store signs and stacks them from floor to ceiling. While they continue to search for a permanent space, the friendly curators (who are always up for a nice chat) open the crammed temporary showroom to public from Thursday to Saturday, two hours each day. You’re bound to discover something beautiful in the collection, even if it takes quite a bit of shuffling and restacking.

About the author

C.H. Kwak is a translator in Berlin.

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