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Berlin's Top 10 : Pergamonmuseum

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The Pergamonmuseum is one of the most important museums of ancient art and architecture in the world. The museum was built in 1909–30 by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann to house Berlin’s collection of antiquities as well as vast temples and palace rooms in their original size. These works of art, excavated by German archaeologists in the Near East at the end of the 19th century, were shown here for the first time.

  • Museumsinsel, Bodestr. 1–3 (entrance Am Kupfergraben)

  • 030 209 055 77

  • www.smb.museum

  • 10am–6pm Mon–Sun, 10am–10pm Thu

  • Admission charge


On the Museumsinsel there is a café at the Bode-Museum (Antique Sculpture Collections) and also at the Altes Museum (Egyptian Museum), which is a little closer to the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.


Visitors wishing to explore all the museums on Museumsinsel on the same day, should buy a day ticket for €15. However, Sundays are generally best avoided because of the long queues and large groups of visitors.



Top 10 Exhibits
  1. Pergamon Altar

    The colossal Pergamon Altar, dating from the year 160 BC, is the largest and most important treasure of the Berlin museums. The altar was part of a much larger temple complex in the Greek town of Pergamon (today the town of Bergama in Turkey), excavated in the 19th century by the German archaeologist Carl Humann (see also Figures on the Pergamon Altar).

  2. Market Gate of Miletus

    This vast gate (AD 120) is over 16 m (52 ft) high. To the right of the entrance, a hairdresser has carved an advertisement for his shop into the stone.

  3. Assyrian Palace

    The interior of this palace from the days of the Assyrian kings (12th century BC) has been completely restored and boasts impressive statues of lions.

  4. Ishtar Gate

    The imposing Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way that led to it are fully preserved. The original avenue in ancient Babylon was 180 m (590 ft) long. The gate was built in the 6th century BC, during the reign of Nebuchadnezar II. Original faïence wall tiles depict the sacred lions.

  5. Goddess Persephone

    The 5th-century BC Greek statue of the goddess of the underworld sports a mysterious smile, the expressive symbol of her divinity.

  6. Goddess Athena

    The beauty ideal prevalent in Greek antiquity is perfectly reflected in this statue’s features. It is one of many valuable and impressive sculptures worth exploring in the collection of antiquities.

  7. Aleppo Room

    Dating from the early 17th century, this small room features magnificent wooden cladding taken from the house of a Christian merchant’s family in Syria. A beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, the room originally served as a reception hall.

  8. Roman mosaic

    This magnificently executed Roman floor mosaic dates back to the 3rd or 4th century AD. It was excavated in Gerasa in Jordan.

  9. Palace of Mshatta

    A gift from Sultan Hamid II to Kaiser Wilhelm II, this desert palace, built in AD 744 in Jordan, has an elaborately decorated southern façade.

  10. Temple of Athena

    Dedicated to Athena of Nikephoros, this full-scale temple from the 2nd century BC has a simple yet elegant design.

Figures on the Pergamon Altar

  1. Eastern Altar Frieze

    The eastern side of the altar frieze – the side first lit up by the rising sun – depicts the battle between the gods and the giants.

  2. The God Apollo on the Eastern Frieze

    Like no other deity on the altar, the god Apollo is depicted as a noble man of ideal beauty, thus bearing witness to the artistic mastery of Classical sculpture in Greece.

  3. The Titaness Phoebe

    An impressive figure depicted on the southern frieze, Phoebe is shown, with her daughter Asteria, fighting an enormous giant with a torch, sword and lance.

  4. Zeus in Battle

    On the eastern frieze, the father of all the gods on Mount Olympus fights three giants at the same time. Zeus is armed for this battle with his most dangerous weapons – thunder and lightning.

  5. The Goddess Athena

    The goddess Athena is also shown on the eastern frieze, as a powerful figure of light who drags her opponents to their deaths by their hair.

  6. The Gods of the Sea

    Three pairs of sea gods are depicted on the staircase frieze (on the northern staircase): Doris and Nereus, Oceanus and Tethys as well as Triton and Amphitrite.

  7. The Goddess Aphrodite

    Victorious, the fighting goddess rises proudly above two dead giants.

  8. Statues of Women

    Larger-than-life figures of women, found near the altar in the excavations, are displayed in front of the Pergamon Altar.

  9. The Beisser Group

    The so-called Beisser Group on the northern frieze is a group of unknown deities. One god, almost defeated, desperately tries to fight off a giant who has clamped his teeth into his arm.

  10. Telephos Frieze

    The frieze in the upper altar courtyard depicts Telephos, son of Hercules. The kings of Pergamon thought themselves to be descended from Telephos and worshipped him accordingly.


Saving the Museumsinsel

The “island of museums” is a treasury of antique architecture – yet it has been slowly decaying. Since 1992 a total of €1.6 billion has been spent on the renovation and modernization of Museumsinsel. A “master plan” hatched by renowned architects, such as David Chipperfield and O M Ungers, will transform the complex into a unique museum landscape – just as it was first conceived in the 19th century by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, when he established the “free institution for art and the sciences”. By 2014, all the museums will be linked by an “architectural promenade”, creating a conceptual and structural link between the various parts. This promenade will consist of a variety of rooms, courtyards and vaults as well as exhibition halls. The core of the complex will be a new central entrance building. Once renovated, the museums will gradually reopen – the Alte National galerie opened in 2001, the Egyptian collection returned to the Altes Museum in 2005 and the renovated Neues Museum opened in late 2009. The Museums insel is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Top 10 Events in the Altar’s History
  1. The Pergamon Altar is built, c.160 BC

  2. Excavation by Carl Humann, from 1870

  3. Transfer of the Altar to Berlin, 1902

  4. Start of construction of Museumsinsel, 1909

  5. Pergamon Altar inaugurated in Berlin, 1930

  6. Reception for the Olympic Games at the Altar, 1936

  7. Bombs destroy the museum, 1943

  8. Reconstruction of the Museum, 1957

  9. The IOC dines at the Altar, 1992

  10. Bode-Museum reopened in 2006

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