Berlin insiders' guide: Culture

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The following is part of a series of visitor guides to Berlin. See also:
Berlin on a budget | Restaurants | Jewish Berlin | From the locals | Bars | Relaxing | Shopping

Looking for a break from all those packed screening rooms, flashy promo reels and endless deal brokering? Then get off Potsdamer Platz and check out some of Berlin's noncinematic culture, from the most beautiful woman on Earth (albeit dead for more than 3,000 years) to the real "Lives of Others" to a few spots you could send your SFX artists when they run out of ideas.

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Museum Island (Museumsinsel)

Address: Located between the Spree River and the Kupfergraben in Mitte
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. Thursdays
The first stop for any Berlin culture vulture should be the city's world-famous Museum Island, which is chock-a-block with some of Europe's most prestigious collections. Highlights include the Pergamon Museum on Bode Strasse 1-3. Inside, you'll find a reconstruction of the Egyptian Pergamon temple and an exhibit on the Egyptians' view of the afterworld titled "To Hell: A Journey to the Antique Underworld." Next door, you'll find the most beautiful woman in the world according to Berliners: the ancient Egyptian bust Nefertiti, in the Egyptian (Agyptisches) Museum. It is part of the Old (Altes) Museum.

The New National Gallery (Neue Nationalgalerie)

Address: Potsdamer Strasse 50, just down the street from Potsdamer Platz
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday
Berlin's best collection of modern-day art can be found at the New National Gallery. The current show focuses on cutting-edge artist Jannis Kounellis, who displays his sculptures (partly made of groceries) in a huge steel maze.

Museum of Natural History (Naturkundemuseum)

Address: Invaliden Strasse 43 in Mitte
Tel.: 03020938591
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
With the new "Raiders of the Lost Ark" coming up, you'll want to sharpen your archeological credentials. Head over to Berlin's Natural History Museum, which houses the world's largest dinosaur skeleton, surrounded by beautifully arranged exhibits about evolution.

Medical-Historical (Medizinhistorisches) Museum

Address: Schuhmann Strasse 20 in Mitte
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday-Sunday
Berlin's medical history museum is famous for its pathological collection: two-headed babies and other weird whims of nature collected 100 years ago. This museum is strictly NC-17; no one under 16 is allowed in. Not for the faint of heart.

Museum of East Germany (DDR-Museum)

Address: Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 1 on the shore of the Spree River in Mitte
Tel.: 030847123731
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Sunday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday
If you are curious to know the truth behind the hit film "The Lives of Others," visit the DDR Museum, which takes you back to a divided Berlin with you on the wrong side of the wall. You can sit behind the steering wheel of a real "Trabi" and relax in a real, reconstructed East German living room.

Academy of the Arts (Akademie der Kunste)

Address: Pariser Platz 4 at the Brandenburg Gate
Tel.: 030200571000
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
No one captured the quirks of Berliners in the 1900s like caricaturist Heinrich Zille. New exhibitions of his work are on display in Berlin at the Academy of the Arts and in the Ephraim Palais (Post Strasse 16 in Mitte; hours: Tue.-Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Wed., noon-8 p.m.)

Hitler, his City and his Bunker Tour
Tel.: 01773410733
If you want to see what Berlin was like during the Third Reich, take advantage of an English-speaking guided tour (3 p.m. Friday-Monday). Also available is a Where was the Wall? tour (10:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday).

The Story of Berlin

Address: Kurfurstendamm 207 in Charlottenburg
Tel.: 03088720100
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
This multimedia exhibit on top of an old bunker is the best one-stop shop look at Berlin's long and checkered history.

-- Astrid Ule
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