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Intellectual all-nighter: Long Night Of Museums

Not sure how to make the most out of the Long Night of Museums? Check out our top picks from this year's programme, from hidden gems to big hitters. With 73 museums participating, it's the most intellectual way to stay out until 2am in Berlin.

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Oana Popa

Photo by Oana Popa. The lobby of the Museum for Natural History in Mitte will be open until 2am for the Lange Nacht Der Museen.

Dancing! Drinking! Reading plaques! 

The Long Night of Museums is back for its 39th year, offering Berlin residents and tourists the rare opportunity to stumble home at 3am knowing more, not less. With 73 museums on the docket, it can be difficult to know how to best utilize your all-access ticket, which for €18 grants you entry to every participating institution and unlimited use of shuttle buses to get there. Exberliner has combed the schedule to present you with our top picks, depending on your museum mood. 

If you’re in the mood to…

Take in a show. Live performances are extra-immersive in the right setting. Those with refined taste can head west to the Charlottenburg Palace, where the Berlin Residence Orchestra performs a half-hour collection of 18th century organ music in the palace’s elaborately decorated chapel, with shows at 18:30, 20:00, 21:30, and 23:00. More modern folk can dance the night away in Mitte, at the multimedia exhibition nineties berlin where Dr. Motte, famed founder of the now defunct music festival Love Parade, headlines an hour long techno set starting at 20:30. For wallflowers who prefer to hang back and observe, the Museum of Musical Instruments, located within the Mitte Kulturforum complex, hosts a pair of professional tango dancers backed by a live band with two 45 minute shows at 20:00 and 22:00. Non-musical performances include hourly demonstrations from 18:30 to 20:30 of traditional martial arts weapons at the Samurai Art Museum, a private collection in Zehlendorf; back in Mitte, the Museum for Communication collaborates with the ongoing Berlin Circus Festival for a packed schedule of Dadaist-themed circus acts in the striking, multi-story lobby that includes Guillaume Karpowicz on the diabolos at 20:00, 22:00, and 24:00 (think string-assisted juggling) and Vincent Bruyninckx in the cyr wheel at 21:00 and 23:00 (think a big metal wheel where Bruyninckx is the spokes). The Animal Anatomy Theater, an off-the-beaten-track choice on Museum Island, is Berlin’s oldest academic building and serves at the venue for local artist Dominique Hurth’s 30-minute performance piece “soundless voices, bitten tongues, haptic hands”, at 19:00, 20:30, and 22:00. 

DIY Bauhaus. Kick off Bauhaus Week, a seven days celebration of the movement’s centennial anniversary, with a hands-on night of activities at the Kulturforum. Home to several Berlin state museums and one of many temporary homes for Bauhaus pageantry while the original archive undergoes renovations, most events can be found in the entrance hall of Kulturforum’s centerpiece, the Gemäldegalerie. There, on the basement floor, guests can try out a collection of Bauhaus furniture, join 15 minute Charleston lessons taught by Les Belles Magnifiques, or stop into a Bauhaus photo studio and costume closet, open from 18:00 to 21:00 or 22:00 to 24:00. Up a level, artists on the ground floor offer Golden Twenties fashion portraits at 19:30, 20:30, or 21:30, and on the patio, aspiring engineers with €3 can attend lamp-making workshops inside a trailer fashioned after the Dessau Bauhaus museum, with instruction available from 18:30 to 21:30. Or, take your €3 and head to the first floor to try out a Bauhaus-inspired letterpress, developed by one of the leading personalities in typeface, Erik Spiekermann. In Charlottenburg, the former gift shop of the Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design also offers themed activities, with a Bauhaus puppet-making program available until 22:00 at its stand-in center of operations, fittingly called the temporary.   

Work with your hands. Take a break from the Bauhaus and master an unfamiliar art at the Mori Ôgai Memorial Site in Mitte, the former apartment of the 19th century author and army surgeon credited with introducing German literature to Japan. Workshops here do the opposite, teaching visitors how to paint simple Japanese characters until 8pm and offering hourly tea ceremonies from 10:30 to 12:30 for five euros. Other hands-on opportunities to learn include forty-five minute porcelain making workshops from 18:00 to 21:00 at Charlottenburg’s Royal Porcelain Factory, and a continuation of the Museum for Communication’s collaboration with circus acts through lessons in juggling, choreography, and acrobatics on the ground floor from 20:00 to 0:00. The second floor welcomes the non-profit group Trial and Error e.V., which leads a studio for costume “upcycling” at the same time.

Eat and drink. While many institutions extend their cafe’s hours to match their exhibits’, some have gone the extra step to provide glamourous options for Long Night. Though the main exhibition of the Jewish Museum is still closed, the equally impressive Glass Courtyard plays host to a cocktail party complete with DJs, snacks, and booze: a hummus bar sells exotic flavors like curry, red beet, and chocolate for €2 per portion, and drinks from the Tel Aviv cocktail bar include Tubi, an Israeli citrus liquor, and Gin-onana, a spiked version of ‘Limonana’ mint-lemon slushies that are popular across the Middle East, for €7 to €8 a piece. Al-fresco dining options can be found at the Georg Kolbe Museum in Charlottenburg, which opens its normally-closed roof to sell Hugos, Aperol Spritzes, or plain Prosecco (€2-4 per drink), and the Historic Harbor on Fischerinsel, where the moored vessel Adonis promises “refreshing drinks and all things fishy” (prices vary). Museums in Mitte play on more obvious themes: the German Espionage Museum serves James Bond’s signature cocktails (shaken, not stirred) for €5 per pour.

Take the perfect selfie. Perhaps looking to gain some free publicity, many museums appeal to guests’ vanity with appearance-oriented activities. Until midnight at the German Film Museum on Potsdamer Platz, visitors can pay tribute to the grandmother of all selfies with a 1920s-themed photo booth that is an homage to the decade “Photomatons” took off. C / O Berlin, a center dedicated to photography in Charlottenburg’s Amerika Haus, allows guests to get in on the action with a citrusy photo op for amateur self-portraitists modeled after a piece in their current show, “Food for the Eyes”. The Museum for Natural History, back in Mitte, allows museum-goers to experiment with a highly scientific filter for their photos: SnailSnap, through 1:00, that allows museum goers to take a picture where the pixels are replaced with corresponding snail shells sampled from the institution’s huge collection of specimens. Guests willing to make the trek to Marzahn-Hellersdorf can visit the Biesdorf castle for a makeover inspired by their favorite piece of artwork in the villa’s collection, provided by makeup artists who are on site until 22:00. 

Do something unexpected. Why not use these extra hours to hit up a smaller spot you’d never see otherwise? Visit the police, “dein freund und helfer”, at the Police Historical Collection in Tempelhof-Schoneberg. Housed within actual police headquarters, this volunteer-run exhibition is normally only open on Mondays from 9:00 to 15:00, but opens its doors for the entirety of Long Night with events that include a flea market for crime literature, a presentation of the force’s newest pistol, and a food event called the “Culinary of the Canteen Manager” which, in the program, offers only the intriguing instruction to “let yourself be surprised” (all three programs are available throughout the night). The Berliner U-Bahn-Museum is another hidden gem chronicling a ubiquitous city presence on its grounds of operation (in this case, the Olympia-Stadion U-bahn station). Open all night, the decommissioned control room will also have staff standing by to answer any burning questions about public transport guests may have. Another option for those eager to tackle a niche topic is the double-decker bus tours hosted by local group Gaslight Culture e.V in Charlottenburg. From 21:00 to 0:30, the society of gaslamp enthusiasts explain the lanterns’ relationship to Berlin history while tourists observe examples in the wild from the bus’ top deck. While the tour is in German, the pleasures of a softly lit, night time ride through Charlottenburg require no translation. 

Learn something. Fear not, nerds. Most museums are still devoted to their intended purpose, and tours and talkbacks are available throughout the night for guests to learn more about the institutions’ curatorial content. Guided tours in English include an exploration of Weimar Germany at the German Historical Museum (18:30, 20:30, 22:30), a review of emerging African fashion designers at the Craft Museum (18:30, 19:30, 20:30), and the story of trans liberation told through selected objects at the Gay Museum (20:00), all in Mitte. The Jewish Museum distracts from recent internal difficulties and anti-Semitic polemics (it is still leader-less after the departure of former director Peter Schafer) with the presence of its lead architect and aging wunderkind, American Daniel Libeskind, who gives talks on the building’s stylistic connections to the Bauhaus movement at 18:30, 20:00, 21:00, 23:00, and 23:30. 

Featured tours and museums, in order of appearance:

Charlottenburg Palace | nineties berlin | Museum of Musical Instruments | Samurai Art Museum | Museum for Communication | Tieranatomisches Theater Kulturforum | Bauhaus Archive / Museum for Design – The Temporary | Mori Ogai Memorial Site | Royal Porcelain Factory | Jewish Museum Berlin | Georg Kolbe Museum | Historic Harbor  | German Espionage Museum | German Cinema Museum | C / O Berlin | Museum for Natural History | Biesdorf Castle | Police Historical Collection | Berliner U-Bahn-Museum | Gaslight Culture e.V., tours leave from the Luisenplatz/Schloss Charlottenburg bus stop, directly off the Route 6 Shuttlestop, 10459 Berlin, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf | German Historical Museum | Craft Museum | Gay Museum