Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Berlin

Berlin (city-state)
N52 31 11 E13 23 55
Date of Inscription: 1999
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Property : 8.6 ha
Buffer zone: 22.5 ha
Ref: 896
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The museum as a social phenomenon owes its origins to the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. The five museums on the Museumsinsel in Berlin, built between 1824 and 1930, are the realization of a visionary project and show the evolution of approaches to museum design over the course of the 20th century. Each museum was designed so as to establish an organic connection with the art it houses. The importance of the museum’s collections – which trace the development of civilizations throughout the ages – is enhanced by the urban and architectural quality of the buildings.

The Berlin Museumsinsel is a complex of buildings composed of individual museums of outstanding historical and artistic importance located in the heart of the city. The five museums, built between 1824 and 1930 by the most renowned Prussian architects, represent the realization of a visionary project and the evolution of the approaches to museum design over this seminal century. They form a unique ensemble that serves purely museological purposes and constitutes a town-planning highlight in the urban fabric as a kind of city crown.

The Museumsinsel of Berlin is a remarkable example of the urban and architectural realisation of an urban public forum which has the symbolic value of the Acropolis for the city. It is appropriate to emphasise its rare planning and architectural continuity and the consistency with which for more than a century a concept has been continuously implemented.

The cultural value of the Museumsinsel is linked with its historic role in the conception and development of a certain type of building and ensemble, that of the modern museum of art and archaeology. In this respect the Berlin Museumsinsel is one of the significant and most impressive ensembles in the world. The urban and architectural values of the Museumsinsel are inseparable from the important collections that the five museums house, which bear witness to the evolution of civilization. The connection is a direct one, as the architectural spaces in the museums were designed in an organic relationship with the collections on display, whether incorporated as parts of the interior design or framed and interpreted.

Criterion (ii): The Berlin Museumsinsel is a unique ensemble of museum buildings, which illustrates the evolution of modern museum design over more than a century.

Criterion (iv): The modern museum is a social phenomenon that owes its origins to the Age of Enlightenment, and its extension to all people to the French Revolution. The Museumsinsel is the most outstanding example of this concept given material form and placed in a symbolic central urban setting.


Suggested Bases:

Berlin is Germany’s capital and co-extensive with the Land of Berlin, one of the 16 federal states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany. With a population of 3.8 million (2019) (and a million more in “suburbs” like Potsdam across the state line in Brandenburg), Berlin is Germany’s biggest city. The focus on and dominance of Berlin as a capital is and has historically been far weaker than that of London, Paris or Madrid, not least because of the federal nature of Germany and the havoc war and partition wreaked on the city Berlin is unusual among European capitals in many respects and the four decades of partition—28 years of them being physically separated by a wall—have also left traces. Merely a backwater town in the early 18th century, Berlin grew to be one of the most important and biggest cities in the world by the 1920s, only to lose much of its importance and historic architecture as a result of World War II and German partition [read more]

Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg and borders Berlin. The town has a population of about 180,000 (2019). It is widely known for its castles and landscape as a World Heritage Site. Potsdam is more than 1000 years old. Many historic buildings are under re-construction after World War II and the period of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or “East Germany”). Located about 30 km southwest of the capital, Potsdam was used as a residence for the kings of Prussia when they wanted to get away from the big-city trouble (and potential rabble-rousers) in Berlin, and in a way it still has a similar function, as many well-to-do people from Berlin have either moved here or have bought a second residence here since reunification in 1990. Potsdam also serves as the capital of the Bundesland of Brandenburg, after an attempt to reunite Berlin and Brandenburg in a single Bundesland failed in the early 1990s [read more].

Leipzig is the largest city in the German federal state of Saxony, with a population of approximately 600,000 (Oct 2019). It is the economic centre of the region, known as Germany’s “Boomtown” and a major cultural centre, offering interesting sights, shopping and lively nightlife. The Gewandhausorchester is the biggest and one of the most prominent classical orchestras in Germany, and Leipzig Zoological Garden is one of the most modern zoos in Europe. The Neuseenland, outside of Leipzig, is a huge lake district. First documented in 1015, and endowed with city and market privileges in 1165, the city of Leipzig has fundamentally shaped the history of Saxony and of Germany. It was founded at the crossing of two ancient trade routes, Via Regia and Via Imperii. Leipzig has always been known as a place of commerce and still has large trade fairgrounds and exhibition halls known as the Leipzig Messe north of the city [read more].



1 reply »

  1. Travel Tip: I would recommend buying the one day Museum Pass which will allow you access into all of the museums on the islands.
    Travel Tip #2: Must see pieces of art include The Ishtar Gate & The Altar of Zeus (Pergamon Museum).


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