By Vicky · Published Feb. 1st, 2024 · Updated Feb. 2nd, 2024
Follow this free self-guided walking tour to explore the best of Museum Island and Central Berlin, with tips and much more.
Museum Island & Central Berlin Self-Guided Walking Tour Map
Tips for Museum Island & Central Berlin Walking Tour
- If you’re planning to visit more than one museum on Museum Island, then get a one-day pass for €24.
- If you also want to visit other museums in Berlin, such as those at the Kulturforum or the Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery, you can buy a Museum Pass for €32 that’s valid for three days.
- Alternatively, the Berlin WelcomeCard: Museum Island & Public Transport* allows you entry to all Museums on Museum Island plus public transport in Berlin for €54.
- Even if you don’t go inside the museums, it’s worth walking around Museum Island since they’re all in architecturally impressive buildings.
- There are several great, and free, museums in the Humboldt Forum.
- Gendarmenmarkt is under renovation until at least 2025.
- Check out other walks and city guides on our Germany Hiking Page.
Top Things to on and around Museum Island
On this self-guided walking tour of Museum Island and Central Berlin, you’ll see the main sights and attractions in this area. It takes about half a day to walk around, though if you want to visit the museums, allow at least one day. If you want to explore all the museums on the island in-depth, allow at least two days. If you prefer, there are many options for a guided walking tour of Berlin*.
- Berlin Cathedral
- Altes Museum
- Neues Museum
- Alte Nationalgalerie
- Bode Museum
- Pergamon Das Panorama
- Friedrichswerdersche Kirche
- Humboldt Forum
Museum Island & Central Berlin Walking Tour Route
This walking tour starts from the middle of Museum Island. First head to Berlin Cathedral, which dominates its surroundings.
1. Berlin Cathedral
Key Information: Open weekdays 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm. Tickets cost €10/7.50.
The Berlin Cathedral, or Berliner Dom, is an icon of Berlin and a symbol of Germany’s Protestant Church. Construction began in 1894 and the final result is an impressive blend of Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles. Today the cathedral’s ornate façade, crowned by a massive copper dome, dominates the skyline. If you pay to go in, you can explore the richly decorated interior, featuring intricate mosaics, impressive sculptures, and beautiful stained glass windows. You can also climb up to the dome, from which you get great views of the impressive museum buildings and the rest of central Berlin.
Directions: Head first to the Altes Museum, on the same grassy square as the cathedral. From here, turn right and then left, and you’ll come to both the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie. Cross over the pedestrian bridge and turn left along the waterfront through the park. Head left over the next pedestrian bridge to pass the Bode Museum, then take a left on the other side. The Pergamonmuseum – Das Panorama is here.
2-6. Museums of Museum Island
Key Information: The museums are all open Tue-Sun from 10-6pm and tickets cost between €12 and 14 for each museum. You can get a ticket to all museums for €24 if you visit in one day. Alternatively, you can buy a Museum Pass for €32 that’s valid for three days and covers the Museum Island museums plus many more in Berlin. Alternatively, for €54 you can get a Berlin WelcomeCard: Museum Island & Public Transport* that’s valid for 3 days which includes all museums on Museum Island plus public transport in Berlin.
The James Simon-Galerie is the official visitor center for all the museums. It’s a fancy new building, reflecting both old and modern, which also includes exhibition spaces where temporary displays take place. Check the website for current exhibits. You can buy tickets here and also find general information.
List of Museums on the Island
There are five main museums on Museum Island (or Museeninsel). Listed in order of popularity and interest for most people:
- Pergamonmuseum. Das Panorama: The Pergamonmuseum was by far the most-visited museum on the Island. While it’s undergoing renovation (until 2027) a sample of exhibits have been taken and are displayed here. You can also see a huge panorama showing the ancient city of Pergamon in AD 129. The original museum displayed reconstructions of monumental archaeological structures such as the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
- Neues Museum: The second most popular museum on the island showcases an impressive array of Egyptian, Prehistoric, and Classical antiquities. The most famous exhibit is the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti, created around 1345 BC, and considered one of the most beautiful works of art from the ancient world.
- Bode-Museum: This museum houses a diverse collection of sculptures, Byzantine art, and coins. Rather than organizing exhibits by historical periods, the museum aims to showcase artworks in themes to provide a comprehensive understanding of the artistic development across time and cultures.
- Altes Museum: A museum renowned for its neoclassical architecture as well as for its extensive collection of classical antiquities, primarily focusing on Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and artifacts.
- Alte Nationalgalerie: Housing 19th-century European art, with paintings and sculptures from the Romantic, Impressionist, and early Modernist periods, this museum displays some famous names such as Edouard Manet and August Rodin.
Unter den Linden Strasse
Directions: From the Pergamonmuseum – Das Panorama, continue down the road by the waterfront to Under den Linden Strasse. Turn right.
This large street is one of the main thoroughfares through Berlin and is lined by fancy old buildings. The German Historical Museum (or Deutsches Historisches Museum) is the first building on your right, but it’s currently closed for renovations. After this, you’ll pass the Neue Wache, or New Guard House. This is a memorial to those who died in war. It’s free to enter and inside you’ll find a sorrowful statue created by Käthe Kollwitz of a mother holding her dead son. The next building is the Humboldt University of Berlin, one of the most famous universities in Germany.
Directions: Cross over the road and into the square opposite the university.
Bebelplatz gained infamy as the location of the Nazi book-burning ceremony. The event was organised by the Nazis to burn books that were deemed “un-German” and contrary to their ideology. Today there’s a memorial consisting of a glass plate set into the cobblestones, allowing visitors to peer into an underground room filled with empty bookshelves.
Bebelplatz is surrounded by several prominent buildings, including the State Opera, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, and the former Royal Library (now Humboldt University Law Faculty).
Directions: Walk through the square, turn right at the end, then take the first left. You’ll see the large square of Gendarmenmarkt before you. It’s undergoing rennovation until 2025, so if you want to skip it, turn left here on Französischer Strasse.
There are several lovely buildings on this square, however the square is undergoing renovation until at least 2025. The Konzerthaus Berlin occupies the centre of the square, while there are two almost identical churches on either side:
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun, 11am-4pm. Tickets to go up the panoramic tower cost €6.50/4.50, with an extra €3.50 for an audio guide.
The Französischer Dom was built to serve the Huguenot community (members of the French Protestant Church) in Berlin, descendants of French Protestants who sought refuge in Prussia. Today there’s a museum about the Huguenots inside the church. You can also climb up the church tower for a panoramic view of the surroundings. The audioguide gives you details about the building and its history, as well as explains what you can see in the view from the dome at the top.
Key Information: Open Tue-Sun 10-7pm in summer and 10-6pm in winter. Free admission. Exhibition in German only.
The Deutscher Dom, or German Church, houses an exhibition on the history of German parliamentary democracy. It’s a fairly thorough history, over five floors of the building, but it’s all in German only.
Directions: Head back to where you entered the square and turn right onto Französischer Strasse, walking back towards Museum Island. You’ll see the church on your left.
9. Friedrichswerdersche Kirche
Key Information: Free entry, open Tue-Sun 10-6pm.
Friedrichswerdersche Kirche hosts sculptures by German Romantic sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow. While the sculptures themselves are not super exciting, the church itself is rather lovely, with elegant pillars and complimentary use of warm wooden furnishings.
Directions: Continue walking onto Museum Island, the next stop is the grand building on your left.
10. Humboldt Forum
Key Information: Exhibitions open Wed-Mon 10:30am-6:30pm. Most exhibitions are free of charge.
The Humboldt Forum is located in the rebuilt Berliner Schloss, or Berlin Palace, constructed in the 15th century. The Prussian Kings and German Kaisers lived here, but the building was severely damaged in World War II. It’s definitely worth wandering through the middle passageway of the building and into the courtyard at the back to see the architecture. Inside there are several great museums and things to do, most of which are free:
- Ethnologisches Museum: A very well-done museum that explores indigenous cultures, and traditional arts and crafts, with several interactive exhibits.
- Museum für Asiatische Kunst: An interesting museum housing a diverse collection of artworks and artifacts from Asia.
- Palace Cellar: Here you can see the historic remains of the Berlin Palace.
- Video Panorama: A video of the history of the building (German and English).
- Glass Dome: You can climb to the top of the dome (paid) for panoramic views over Berlin.
- Temporary Exhibitions: For example, about nature, democracy etc.
Directions: This is the end of the Museum Island & Central Berlin Walking Tour. From here you can walk or catch public transport to elsewhere in Berlin. The Tränenpalast is a great free museum not too far away, while if you have the 3-day Museum Pass, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart is one of the best included museums.
Key Information: Open Tue-Fri from 9-7pm and Sat-Sun 10-6pm. Free entry. Free audioguides.
Tränenpalast, or ‘Palace of Tears’, is a historic building that served as a border crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War. It gained its name ‘Palace of Tears’ because it was a place where emotional farewells between family members and friends often occurred due to the strict border controls and the separation imposed by the Berlin Wall. Today, the Tränenpalast shows exhibits about the experiences of individuals crossing the border, documenting the emotional and bureaucratic aspects of the divided city.
Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart
Key Information: Open Tue-Fri from 10-6pm and Sat-Sun 11-6pm. Tickets cost €14/7.
A station in the 19th century, the Hamburger Bahnhof is now a museum of contemporary art, i.e. art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It houses a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, installations, and multimedia art. Famous works include those by Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys.
Guidebooks to explore more of Germany
For more walking tours and hikes in Germany, see our Germany hiking page.