Berlin’s most famous museums can show you a good time, but they’re also crowded and expensive. The two museum experiences that I liked the most were in museums that are little heralded, and in the case of one of them, not in the guidebooks at all. The Musical Instruments Museum, which is part of the Kulturforum complex, so it’s right next door to the Berlin Symphony concerthall, and the Buchstaben Museum, which is on the heavily trafficed/touristed road between Alexanderplatz and Museum Island, are both fascinating and cheap, and comparatively little visited, making them a great respite from the city’s other museums.
The Musical Instruments Museum isn’t very big, but it’s packed with pretty, weird, and old (including some fancy, fancy Italian violins by the likes of Stradivarius) instruments. We were lucky too, because there was a tour going on, so we got to hear the guide play a bunch of crazy instruments including a legit Wurlitzer:
Which was fantastic, because Wurlitzers actually sound like entire, complete orchestras; the guide played the main themes from the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter movies (which were then irrevocably stuck in my head) and they sounded exactly like John Williams and his entire orchestra was serenading us out the door. Every Saturday at 11, they fire that baby up and it alone is worth the extremely reasonable price of admission.
The other, even weirder museum we went to was the Buchstaben Museum, oddly located in a little mall just a few minutes walk from Alexanderplatz. The Buchstaben Museum is infrequently open, curated by local artists, and dedicated to old neon signs. It’s great:
Also super cheap and essentially empty, the Buchstaben Museum is an excellent example of how excellent peculiar and specific little museums can be. While the Pergamon Museum and Gemäldegalerie get all the headlines, places like these two unsung museums give you a HUGE bang for your euro and a break from the lines and crowds. And as my experiences prove and prove again, the blockbusters are nice (ahem, Vatican), but museums are always better when they’re practically empty!