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Berlin: Which museum pass makes the most sense for your trip?

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Museum Island Berlin
"Museum Island" is home to several world-class museums, including the Pergamon Museum, above. Photo: Tom Meyers

Berlin is a museum-lover’s dream—it even has its own island dedicated to these institutions of art, history and culture. But while museum-hopping makes for a fun and educational itinerary while in the city, steep admission prices can make it a costly one as well.  Luckily there are ways you can save on admission and keep museum costs low.

If you plan to visit at least three museums (or even just two of the more expensive ones) while in Berlin, you will almost certainly be able to save money with a museum discount card. Cheapos should consider one of the following two cards in the context of their itinerary.

Museum Pass Berlin

The classic museum lover’s money-saving secret has long been the Museum Pass Berlin, which grants you free entry to nearly 50 different museums in Berlin, including all of those run by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (approximately 20 institutions, including everything on Museum Island). The full list of museums can be viewed here.

When you buy a museum pass, you'll also be able to skip these ticket lines. Photo: Tom Meyers

When you buy a museum pass, you’ll also be able to skip these ticket lines. Photo: Tom Meyers

Major museums covered:  All “Museum Island” museums (including Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Altes Museum, Bode-Museum, Neues Museum, Pergamonmuseum), Bauhaus ArchiveHamburger BahnhofJewish Museum

Cost: The ticket costs €24 (for students, €12) and is valid for three consecutive calendar days only.

Cheapo tip: “Extend” the validity of your three-day ticket by having it run over a Monday—since most museums are closed that day, you can plan to visit the ones with Monday opening hours on the Monday, and thereby “gain” an extra day to visit all the other museums that are closed on Mondays.

“BASIC” annual ticket

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin recently announced a new “BASIC” annual ticket which for the low price of €25 grants visitors free entry to all their institutions weekdays from 4 p.m. until closing, weekends entry between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. till closing.

Major museums covered: Alte Nationalgalerie, Neue NationalgaleriePergamonmuseum,

Cost: The ticket costs €25 and is valid for one year, but with limited hours.

The ticket is valid for one calendar year, and although most visitors may not receive a full year of value for their investment, they will receive the relative flexibility of dipping into any of the SMB institutions over the entire length of their stay rather than being forced to group museum visits into a three-day period.

Which pass is right for you?

Given that the two schemes are approximately the same price, it’s up to you to consider which one is more beneficial for you.

I would choose the Museum Pass Berlin if I was planning a short visit to the city and certain I would visit one or more institutions from the list that is not part of the SMB group, such as the Jewish Museum, Brücke Museum, Bauhaus Archive, or German Technology Museum.

I would choose the “BASIC” membership if I was staying in Berlin for five days or more, was primarily interested in the institutions on Museum Island or at the Kulturforum, and wanted to spread out my museum visits in a more leisurely fashion.

Berlin WelcomeCard

The discount card to avoid is the Berlin WelcomeCard, which is heavily marketed around town, but which grants you discounted rather than free admission to various museums and sites.

As a rule of thumb, city schemes such as these are rarely formulated to save tourists more money than they would spend using other discounts such as the two above, so research them carefully before buying.

Questions about the passes? Ask away in the comments section below.

About the author

Hilary Bown

An academic by training, a writer by day, and a Cheapo by heritage, Hilary Bown's meagre means and insatiable travel appetite have helped her sharpen her "no-budget travel" skills across the European continent over the past decade. At home in Berlin or on an adventure abroad, you'll find her in sandals, riding the bus, reading novels while walking, drinking the local wine, writing out postcards with a felt-tip pen, and browsing the shelves of the supermarket and hardware store. Find her unique blend of travel adventure and tested advice at Less Than a Shoestring.

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