Please Note: Information updated August 2015.
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 the 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’.
As a result, I like to break up a visit by going off and doing other things. And Berlin is perfect for this. But an open entry ticket or pass is essential – well it is for me.
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 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. I hope they help!The 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 three different cards with three different sets of benefits to choose from.
FIRST: The most basic card is the straight forward – the Welcome Card Berlin. The card is available for either 48 hours, 72 hours or 5 days; and each of these or this card you get free, unlimited travel and discounted entry to various activities, attractions and museums. As of November 2014, a 48 hour card for zones A&B costs €18.50 per person. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
SECOND: The Welcome Card Berlin does not include the museums on Museum Island. For these museums there is a three-day card (i.e. 72 hours) that is specifically for these museums: the WelcomeCard Berlin & Museum Island Pass. 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 November 2014, a pass including zones A&B costs €38.50 per person. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
THIRD: There are, however, many more museums in Berlin and for these Visit Berlin has created the WelcomeCard Berlin with Premium Card, only available for 72 hours, but with the option of transport zones A&B, or AB&C. Premium Card holders get all the benefits of the Welcome Card ad Museum Island Pass, with the added bonus of free entry to 50 popular museums around Berlin. As of November 2014, a Premium Card including zones A&B costs €48.00 per person, or €50.00 for zones AB&C. More Details, User Reviews and Buy Online.
Here I should add, each of the tickets are available in two different forms, the one covering transport zones A and B (much of central Berlin), the other zones A, B and C – the option required for airports and to visit nearby Potsdam using public transport (strongly recommended).
Get many more tips and suggestions for things to do and see in my Berlin City Guide.
How to Use the Berlin Welcome Card Museuminsel
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 and Premium 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.
MusemsPass Berlin and Other Options
There is also a three day MuseumsPass Berlin, that allows free entry to permanent exhibitions in up to 60 museums in and around Berlin (January 2013, it cost €19), including those on Museum Island. This can be bought at any of the participating museums. But do note: temporary exhibitions are not included, neither is public transport and discounts at many of the other attractions included in the Welcome Card.
If you are 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 …
For the photograph of the ticket machine, thanks to Adam @ Travels of Adam – a great blog with many interesting posts on Berlin and beyond.
My January trip to Berlin was supported in part by Expedia UK.