When it comes to museums in Berlin, we’ve all heard of the big hitters of Museum Island or the school trip classics like the DDR Museum. But we wanted to dig a little deeper and offer you some options for a more unconventional day out.
Fancy spending an afternoon in an apartment filled with hundreds of tubes of lipstick? What about a museum specifically dedicated to things you have never heard of? From tiny, quirky private collections to space curated by unsung heroes doing important work, check out our list of Berlin’s most unusual museums.
Disgusting Food Museum
Ever tried maggot cheese? Or what about Surströmming, the Swedish dish so smelly that it got a man from Cologne immediately evicted when he spilled some in his apartment building? This self-described “punk band” of Berlin museums features exhibits from all over the world and across history, proving that ‘disgusting’ is really just a matter of taste.
- Disgusting Food Museum Berlin, Schützenstr. 70, Mitte, free entry for children under 5, details.
The Magicum – Berlin Magic Museum
In the glitzy heart of Berlin Mitte, between Hackescher Markt and Museum Island, we dare you to descend the stairs and discover the labyrinthine wonders of The Magicum. Spread over 600 square metres and featuring around 450 exhibits showcasing all things weird and wonderful, you can learn about magic tricks, trace the origins of magical thinking, enjoy exhibits on witchcraft and the supernatural and even get your Tarot cards read!
- Magicum – Berlin Magic Museum, Große Hamburger Str. 17, Mitte, details.
The Design Panopticon
This museum hosts a ramshackle collection of unusual items, from industrial machinery to medical equipment, as well as bizarre everyday objects that have long gone out of fashion. Owner Vlad Korneev has been collecting for decades, seeking out the strange and surreal from Berlin flea markets and kellars. None of the objects on display have any descriptions, Korneev wants visitors to use both logic and imagination to interpret what they see, compiling his favourite wrong answers on a “best of” list.
- Designpanoptikum, Poststr. 7, Mitte, details.
Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum
This unassuming apartment in Friedrichshain is home to around 30,000 stickers. The Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum houses the collection of Oliver Baudauch, who began retrieving the adhesive art from rubbish bins, street lamps and park benches in the early 1980s. On display are around 4500 stickers from the collection, divided into four subject areas: skateboarding, streetwear, music and street art. Another nice touch is that the stickers are displayed together in large frames rather than individually, replicating the way they exist in urban spaces.
- Hatch Kingdom Sticker Museum, Schreinerstr.10, Friedrichshain, free entry, details.
The Letter Museum: Typography and City History
Typography and signage make up such a huge part of how we experience a city. Think of the iconic font of Karstadt or all the unique Apotheke and Späti signs that adorn the streets of Berlin. The world’s first museum to collect typography from public spaces and display it as part of urban history was founded in Mitte in 2005. The Buchstabenmuseum (or Letter Museum) preserves and documents 3-dimensional letters and signage, giving space to the unique position of writing as an interface between information transfer and art.
- Letter Museum, Stadtbahnbogen 424, Tiergarten, details.
Museum Apartment WBS 70
Are you ready to take a journey back to 1987? Set in an old Plattenbau apartment building in Marzahn, everything from the tube TV to the lamps with lace doilies is an original from the GDR. This museum is a fascinating time capsule that will help you understand the day-to-day lives of those living in old East Berlin.
- Museum apartment WBS 70, Hellersdorfer Str. 179, Marzahn, free entry, details.
The Computer Games Museum
The Computer Games Museum spans 60 years of gaming history. Their interactive exhibits trace the ever-changing landscape of the medium, from arcades and Gameboys to the high-tech consoles of today. Enjoy the meticulously replicated living rooms and bedrooms, showcasing era-appropriate equipment, and get the chance to play on genuine models. With more than 300 exhibits and many special exhibitions throughout the year, this museum explores not only the tech side but also the social, political and philosophical themes of gaming culture.
- Computer Games Museum, Karl-Marx-Allee 93A, Friedrichshain, details.
Hemp Museum Berlin
One of only six museums worldwide dedicated to the multipurpose plant, the hemp museum is also home to Berlin’s only (for now) legal cannabis plantation. You can learn about all aspects of the plant — from cultivation, harvesting and processing to the many ways in which it has been utilised throughout history. For example, did you know that in the Middle Ages, cannabis plant fibres were used to make paper? There’s also a reading cafe displaying videos and art and a shop where you can purchase all kinds of items made from hemp, such as CBD oil, textiles and food, as well as a substantial array of smoking paraphernalia. All completely legal of course.
- Hemp Museum Berlin, Mühlendamm 5, Mitte, details.
The Museum of Unheard-of Things
This bizarre but charming museum was established by Roland Albrecht. It all began with a telescope he acquired on a school trip when he was 11 and has gone on to include a veritable cornucopia of curiosities, some real, some purely fictitious. This is a museum where the tangible meets the literary and we are all encouraged to listen a little closer to the unheard stories that objects can tell us.
- Museum of Unheard Things, Crellestr. 5-6, Schöneberg, free entry, details.
Musical Instrument Museum
Part of the State Institute for Music Research, this museum is home to around 3500 instruments of European music spanning the 16th to 21st centuries. Many of the instruments are still in playable condition and are performed in guided tours and concerts. There are also family-friendly workshops that encourage everyone to get to know a wide range of instruments in a playful and creative environment.
- Musical Instrument Museum, Ben-Gurion-Str., Mitte, details.
Berliner U-Bahn Museum
Berlin’s subway system has been keeping the city connected since 1902. In 1997, a museum dedicated to the network opened its doors, aiming to inform and educate visitors on the history of our beloved U-Bahn. Set in the old Olympic Stadium subway station, which was once home to the largest lever signal box in Europe, the museum hosts demonstrations featuring fully functional models, historical uniforms and badges. This is the perfect place to bring the transport enthusiasts in your life.
- Berliner U-Bahn Museum, Rossitter Weg 1, Charlottenburg, details.
The Lipstick Museum
Makeup artist Rene Koch welcomes you into his chic private flat in Wilmersdorf, where he will take you on a journey through the history of lipstick. Featuring rarities from the Baroque period to today, including lipsticks studded with precious stones, historical makeup cases, and fascinating everyday products such as the “DDR people’s lipstick”, this is a unique chance to explore a vast and eccentric private collection. Koch even hosts salons where he regales audiences with hilarious anecdotes from his life and offers expert makeup tips.
- The Lipstick Museum, Helmstedter Str. 16, Wilmersdorf, details.
Berlin Museum of Medical History
On the grounds of Rudolf Virchow’s pathological Museum built in 1899 now stands the Berlin Museum of Medical History. Their permanent exhibition details the fascinating history of medicine over the last four centuries, with more than 750 human specimens on display in its large specimen hall, including a particularly creepy collection of diseased wax faces. You can also visit the historical dissection and sick rooms, and learn all the grizzly details of sickness and health across history. Fascinating, but not one for the faint-hearted.
- Berlin Museum of Medical History, Charitépl. 1, Mitte, details.
Did you know that Berlin’s fire brigade is the oldest in all of Germany? At the Museum der Berliner Feuerwehr, you can learn all about the brigade’s history and how operational tactics and technical equipment have changed and adapted to meet different challenges over the years. Originally only open to firefighters themselves, now everyone – regardless of their heroic credentials – can enjoy such exhibits as the first-ever rescue helicopter flown in Berlin, which stands jauntily on a tall platform at the museum’s entrance.
- Firefighters Museum, Veitstr. 5, Tegel, details.
The world’s largest institution of its kind, the Gipsoformerei celebrates plaster – an under-appreciated material that’s uniquely suited to reproduce the intricacies of original historical objects. The museum holds almost 7,000 original works from across eras and cultures, from the 25,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf to the 42-metre-high Marc Aurel Column from Rome. And get this, all the moulds in the inventory are available for purchase! So don’t forget your wallet.
- Gipsoformerei, Sohiep Charlotten Str. 17, 18, Charlottenburg, details.
Founded in 1925 by Berlin-born pacifist and anarchist Ernst Friedrich, who had denounced the horrors of WW1 in his photographic documentary War on War, the museum was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. 15 years later it reopened through the efforts of Friedrich’s grandson Tommy Spree and a dedicated group of volunteers who have been running the valuable institution ever since. Inside are photos, documents and objects from the two World Wars, showcasing diaries and letters from soldiers detailing the horrors of war. There are also special exhibitions focusing on current topics in the peace movement, intent on reminding each generation of the pain and tragedy of conflict.
- Anti-War Museum, Brüsseler Str. 21, Wedding, details.
This article was adapted from the original German version by Jess Blair.