As museums go, in my opinion the entrance fees for the various museums on Berlin’s Museum Island are not cheap. And there are five of them, each with their own entry fee. If there is a temporary exhibition, more often than not that is an additional charge. And there are still many other excellent museums around Berlin. I do not want to get into a discussion about if and how much museums should charge – that is a complex issue. Rather, here I share my experiences of five days in Berlin and how to see as many of the amazing range of museums there are without going bankrupt.
During previous stays in Berlin I never had an opportunity to really explore all five museums on Museuminsel. And, actually, because of various restoration projects since the reunification of Germany, not all of the individual museums were accessible during my visits anyway. So this time, the focus of my five days in Berlin was Museum Island. My concentration when moving from one large gallery filled with glass cabinets to another soon starts to flag, and I loose interest. And this is particularly true in the big, so-called ‘universal museums’.
To keep my interest alive and concentration high, I like to break up a visit by going off and doing other things. And Berlin is perfect for this. To do this, however, an open entry ticket or pass is essential – well it is for me. But, as anyone who has visited Berlin will tell you, there are a number of cards and passes available. On the one hand this is good because visitors are more likely to find a suitable ticket. On the other hand, choosing between the the various options requires some planning.
If all you want to do is visit one of the sites on Museuminsel and spend an hour or two there – and there is nothing wrong with that (the Pergamon would be top of my list), then the information below is probably irrelevant for you. Pay for your one-time entry at the ticket office, and enjoy! If, however, you want to visit more than one museum, and perhaps return to Museuminsel on more than one day, the advice and tips here are intended for you.
The following are the various options I think are useful, depending on what you wish to achieve during your trip to Berlin.
Berlin Welcome Card & Museum Island with Public TransportThe city’s official tourist agency, Visit Berlin, has created a very handy and affordable series of passes – known collectively as the Welcome Card Berlin. These Berlin passes combine a variety of benefits, including free, unlimited public transport with varying discounts at an impressive range of over 200 attractions, activities, restaurants and shops. And then, depending of the card type, either discounted or free entry to 50 of the best museums in Berlin.
In choosing which card is good for you, you need to think about your requirements, as there are essentially two different cards with different sets of benefits to choose from.
FIRST: The most basic card is the most straight forward – the Welcome Card Berlin. The card is available for either 48 hours, 72 hours, four, five and six days; and each of these comes with a substantial free guidebook. Besides substantial discounted entry to various activities, attractions and museums (over 200 of them), each card also has unlimited travel on the S/U-Bahn (each card is available with either zones A and B, or A, B and C). So, you get to choose how long you want the card for, and which of the two transport zones you require during your stay. As of July 2017, a 48 hour card for zones A&B costs €19.90 per person, whereas a six day card with zones A,B and C included costs €46. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
SECOND: The Welcome Card Berlin described above does not include entry to the museums on Museum Island. For these five museums there is a three-day card (i.e. 72 hours) that is specifically for these museums: the WelcomeCard Berlin & Museum Island. With this card you get the usual benefits of the standard Welcome Card plus for three days, plus free entry to the the museums on MuseumInsel. As of July 2017, a pass including zones A&B costs €44.00 per person. For two Euros more (i.e. €46), you get the card that includes zone C – a must to visit Potsdam. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
NOTE: each of the tickets are available in two different forms. One covers transport zones A and B (central Berlin and Tegel Airport TXL), the other zones A, B and C – which includes travel to Schönefeld Airport SXF and the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Potsdam (where the Sanssouci Palace is located).
How to Use the Berlin Welcome Card
For three days this card allows you unlimited access to the five museums on Museum Island. But do note, you will have to pay extra for any temporary exhibitions that might be showing at the time of your visit. If visiting that exhibition is optional (i.e. it is located in a separate set of galleries), you can decide whether or not to see it, and whether or not to pay the top up.If the special exhibition is open for all to see – i.e. not restricted (temporary exhibitions in the Neues Museum are usually like this) then you have no choice, you are required to pay the top up whether you had intended to see the exhibition or not.
You can buy your tickets online (click here for the Welcome Card Berlin, or here for the Museum Island Card. They can also be purchased at one of the many sales points throughout the city – the signs are obvious. (They are not on sale in the museums.) The ticket comes with a map and an extensive guidebook to the various discounts you can get with your Welcome Card – with text in German, English, Spanish and Italian.
You must validate your ticket before you start to use it – and this is done at either the U-Bahn or S Bahn stations only. To do this you simply insert your ticket into the red (U-Bahn) or yellow (S-Bahn) ticket machines. And you do need to do this before you get to MuseumInsel – even if you do as I did, buy the ticket and walk there.
At the museum, you must to go to the ticket desk and show your Welcome Card (this is when you pay for the top up for special exhibitions if necessary). You will then be given a museum ticket which you will be required to show when you go into the galleries.
If you are only interested in visiting one of the museums for a few hours, then simply go to the ticket desk at the entrance to the museum and buy your one-time ticket there. The Berlin Welcome Card does not include the possibilities of any reductions for this visit.
The Berlin Pass
Another popular multiple attraction ticket is The Berlin Pass. Starting at 99€ for an adult for two days, this card is obviously much more expensive than other passes. The main difference between the Berlin Pass and the Berlin Welcome Card is that with the latter you only get discounted entry. Whereas with the Berlin Pass, besides an excellent city guide and public transport for the duration of the ticket, you get full entry to over 60 top attractions and a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Berlin.
Some of Berlin’s finest museums are included, including the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Anne Frank Museum as well as all of the museums on Museuminsel. Given that such attractions as the Berlin Dungeons, Madame Tussauds, AquaDom & SEA LIFE Berlin and the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre are included, the Berlin Pass is great for families. Follow this link for a full list of participating attractions.
And the good news is, for the month of July with the promotional code JULY6) you get 10% off all of The Berlin Pass options.
Musems Pass Berlin
There is also a three day Museums Pass Berlin, that allows free entry to permanent exhibitions in up to 30 museums in and around Berlin (as of July 2017, it cost €29), including those on Museum Island. If you are in Berlin for a few days, and only need entry to a handful of museums, this could very well be the card for you.
The Museums Pass Berlin is a much more straight-forward card, the benefits of which are easy to calculate. But, do take note: entry to temporary exhibitions at the participating museums is not included. And neither is public transport or discounts at many of the other attractions included in the Welcome Card or the Berlin Pass. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
And Finally …
And if all those options are not enough, for those in the city for an extended period of time, or you return often, the State Museum Service of Berlin offers a ticket that provides entry to all of their museums for 12 months (January 2013, €80 with temporary exhibitions, €40 without).
Oh to be able to spend a year in Berlin …
Frequently Asked Questions about the Passes and cards Available for Berlin
Since this post was published what is on offer for visitors to Berlin has changed. And the various providers are constantly updating their tickets. I do my best to keep this post up-to-date (current update: July 2017). While the details have changed, the principles behind the different cards have largely remained the same. The following are some of the more frequently asked questions people have when choosing between the different tickets.
Berlin Welcome Card VS the Museum Island Welcome Card?
The Museum Island Welcome Card includes ‘free’ entry to the five museums on Museuminsel and last for three days. The equivalent, three-day basic Berlin Welcome Card does not include these museums. Both come with the same transport options (i.e. zones A & B and A, B & C). The difference in price between the two (as of July 2017) is €16.10, but the benefits are definitely worth more than that in my opinion.
Museums Pass Berlin VS Berlin Welcome Card Museuminsel?
Both of these tickets last are valid for three days. The Museums Pass only gets you entry to about 30 participating museums; this does not include special or temporary exhibitions. The Museum Island option of the Berlin Welcome Card gets you entry to the five museums on the UNESCO listed Museum Island, plus the option of free public transport as well as discounts to over 200 attractions and activities around the city.
So, if your hotel is near Museuminsel (and there are some good ones in the area) and if all the museums you wish to visit are on the list of 30, the Museums Pass Berlin is probably a good choice for you.
The Berlin Pass VS Berlin Welcome Card?
The fundamental difference between these two multiple entry tickets is that the Berlin Welcome Card offers discounted entry. For sites and attractions included in the Berlin Pass, there is no further entry fee.
Is the Berlin Pass worth it?
As the Berlin Pass is considerably more expensive than the Welcome Cards, if saving money during your trip to Berlin is important, it is crucial you think about what it is you wish to see and do. Depending on what you want to see and do in Berlin, it is very easy to save up to €60 on a three day pass. Check The Berlin Pass website to examine further the calculations they have on saving money.
Popular Activities in Berlin
There are over 500 hundred sightseeing tours and activities for Berlin, see the full list, or start with the following four selections:
Disclaimer: Archaeology Travel receives a small commission if you purchase any ticket or activity you purchase through Get Your Guide. This does not mean you pay extra, the commission is taken out of the advertised fee, which is the same as you will find on the street in Berlin and is the best price available.
For the photograph of the ticket machine, thanks to Adam @ Travels of Adam – a great blog with many interesting posts on Berlin and beyond.