The Gemäldegalerie, the painting branch of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, (which is a handful to pronounce), is the perfect size, pleasantly attended, and provides one of the most thorough presentations of late medieval-renaissance-baroque painting from northern AND southern Europe that exists anywhere. If you want to see good paintings (cough way more interesting than the Mona Lisa cough) and a huge variety of them, THIS Is the museum to do it in.
A considerable distance from Museum Island in Mitte, where a ton of Berlin’s fanciest museums are located, it’s still SO EASY to get to because Berlin’s public transportation wins the universe.
And while it suffers a bit from the tendency to display Old Master paintings in stuffy rooms with jewel toned walls (which is what makes the European Painting wing at the Met a giant let-down for me, despite its recent renovation), because the rooms are arranged around the central, light-filled courtyard you never feel like you’re suffocating in dusty history. Just suffocating in pretty, pretty paintings.
I wrote about the Gemäldegalerie before, right after I visited, but I feel like I’ve grown to appreciate the museum more in the time that’s passed since then. I was a bit crabby about admissions prices at that point. I was living on a Fulbright in Rome then and while I am extremely grateful for that experience, all aspiring Fulbrighters in Italy should be aware that it pays terribly. It’s like much of the English aristocracy– all prestige, no money. Anyways, It should be pointed out that while Berlin in general is super economical, going to a lot of the museums there adds up quickly, so while I don’t always advocate for such things, a museum pass or city card might be the way to go. I would recommend looking into it, being honest about your interests and deciding what plan makes the most sense for you.
PS- also, some readers might’ve gotten a sneak peak at this post last night. Due to my own stupidity I managed to publish it while still in draft form. Sorry about that.