Germany is home to more than 6.000 museums, covering almost every niche imaginable, from mustard, erotica and sausages to culture, cars and archaeology. Just a short wander through any German city will land you upon a dozen or more institutions all begging to be explored. But for those looking for the crème de la crème, we bring you our selection of the most interest-piquing, mind-blowing and awe-inspiring museums in Germany, in honour of International Museum Day.
1. Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Germany’s capital city of Berlin has scores of great museums for visitors and locals alike to feast on. However, our top pick has to be the Pergamon Museum, which allows you to experience the beauty and sheer scale of some of the world’s ancient wonders – including the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Pergamon Altar, and the Market Gate of Miletus – up-close and personal, just as people did nearly 4.000 years ago.
2. Senckenberg Natural History Museum, Frankfurt
If dinosaurs, fossils, specimens and creepy crawlies are more your thing, head over to the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, one of the largest natural history museums in Germany and certainly one of the country’s greatest attractions. The whopping 400.000 exhibits showcased at the museum track the evolution of life and biodiversity over millions of years, from tiny trilobites through to terrifying T-rexes.
3. Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart
Even if cars and driving aren’t really your thing, you can’t help but get stuck in at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, which tracks the history of the automotive industry through the history of one of the most famous international companies in Germany. The impressively huge collection of gleaming cars – including everything from the very first patented vehicle through to the Popemobile – will convince even those without a driving licence that this is a great day out.
4. Green Vault, Dresden
The target of a shocking robbery in 2019, the Green Vault in Dresden houses some of Europe’s finest royal treasures, collected by the electors of Saxony between the 16th and 18th centuries. Fans of the finer things in life will marvel at the luxuriant collections of gemstones, precious metals, jewellery, decorated chests, tableware, statuettes, and the largest green diamond in the world.
5. Deutsches Museum, Munich
Located on an island in the middle of Munich, the Deutsches Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world dedicated to science and technology. The 100.000 exhibited objects tell a story of innovation, stretching from the Stone Age to the present day, including everything from axes and ships to dynamos and powered aircraft. There’s also a great kids section, suitable for the whole family.
6. Dialog im Dunkeln, Hamburg
At this museum in Hamburg, blind and partially sighted people guide visitors through the exhibitions – made to replicate real-life situations like visiting the market or crossing the street – in complete darkness, giving you an unforgettable experience of what the world is like for people with vision impairments. Dialog im Dunkeln also offers a “Dinner in the Dark” experience, as well as Dialog im Stillen exhibitions in complete silence, to help promote inclusion and understanding, and broaden your horizons.
7. Schokoladenmuseum, Cologne
If you’re looking for a sweet day out, look no further than the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, a toothsome treat that lets you dive into the history of chocolate making (but not, unfortunately, into its three-metre-high chocolate fountain, which is there for waffle-dipping only). Discover how the Mayans and Aztecs first nurtured cocoa 3.000 years ago, learn about modern chocolate-making practices, and pick up plenty of tasters along the way.
8. Documentation Centre, Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Nuremberg
Given Germany’s unflinching willingness to contemplate its own difficult past, there is no shortage of museums covering the most infamous period of the country’s history. At this museum in Nuremberg, housed in one of the huge structures from which the Nazi party’s rallies were organised, these bombastic, propagandistic displays are used as a lens to examine the National Socialist regime, and how it took hold of Germany.
Image credit: Nuremberg Municipal Museums, Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds; Photo: Helmut Meyer zur Capellen
9. Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, Munich
The federal republic holds nothing so dear as it does German beer, and this museum in the oldest townhouse in Munich is testament to that loving relationship. Looking at the history of beer production in Bavaria and the world’s largest beer and folk festival, Oktoberfest, this is a veritable palace for beer lovers, complete with guided tours, beer tastings, and four floors of exhibits.
10. Haus der Geschichte, Bonn
While many museums in Germany focus on prehistoric or 20th century history, the Museum of Contemporary History in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, turns the focus to the years after the Second World War, taking visitors on an interactive chronological journey through the Cold War to the present day. Using film, sound recordings and physical objects, the museum makes history feel tangible like never before.
11. German Emigration Centre, Bremerhaven
Germany’s answer to Ellis Island in New York, the German Emigration Centre in Bremerhaven is situated on the spot where almost 7,2 million people set out to start a life in the New World. Travelling through 330 years of migration history, the museum takes you from a pier in Bremerhaven to New York via authentic replicas of locations, unique artefacts and interactive media stations, revealing the life stories of people who made the journey.
Image credit: © Deutsches Auswandererhaus / Werner Huthmacher
12. experimenta Science Centre, Heilbronn
Set inside a spectacular glass building, experimenta Science Centre in Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, opens up a unique world of hands-on knowledge and experimentation over 25.000 square metres, including 275 interactive exhibits suitable for adults and kids of all ages. Travel through space and time in the planetarium, conduct your own experiments in the labs, turn your ideas to reality in the Maker Space, or discover how exciting science can be in the shows.
Image credit: experimenta gGmbH