Financial prosperity, artistic flair, and academic curiosity have helped the Germans develop some of the finest museums anywhere.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich: This gigantic repository of old-master paintings could easily fill a day (or two, or three) of your time. Works by major European artists from the 14th to 18th centuries form the basis of the collection, with highlights that include a charismatic self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer and canvases by Raphael, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt.
- Altes Museum, Berlin: One of the five museums on Berlin’s Museum Island, this imposing neoclassical edifice houses Berlin’s superlative collections of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. Renovated to its former glory, the museum displays the full breadth of artistic expression in these ancient cultures.
- Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, Nürnberg: Displays in Hitler’s monumental yet uncompleted Congress Hall chronicle the Führer’s rise to power, celebrated during the Nürnberg rallies when hundreds of thousands gathered on the adjacent Zeppelinwiese (Zeppelin Field) to listen to the leader rant at more than 100,000 spectators enthralled by his violent denunciations.
- Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Germanic National Museum), Nürnberg: Germany’s largest museum of art and culture spans the millennia to show off paintings, sculptures, crafts, arms and armor, early scientific instruments—if it’s part of Germany’s national heritage, it’s here.
- Grunes Gewölbe (Green Vault), Dresden: There are two Green Vaults, old and new, in Dresden’s Residenzschloss, and both display a sumptuous assortment of treasures collected by the electors of Saxony from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Precious metals, stones, porcelain, corals, and ivory were used to create this trove of decorated chests, carvings, jewelry, statuettes, and tableware.
- Lenbachhaus, Munich: The 19th-century villa of portrait painter Franz von Lenbach houses a stunning collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century paintings from the Munich-based Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group, including works by Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, and Gabriele Münter.
- Kunsthalle, Hamburg: In Northern Germany’s leading art museum, Canalettos, Rembrandts, Holbeins, and other old masters share space with modern canvases by Picasso, Warhol, Beuys, Munch, Kandinsky, Klee, and Hockney. Works by contemporary artists and those banned by the Nazis round out this fascinating and sweeping collection.
- Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum, Stuttgart: Germany’s well-earned rep for precision engineering and luxury auto travel comes to the fore in these two collections that showcase the output of world-famous hometown auto makers. Whether it’s a long, lean Mercedes 500 K convertible or a Porsche 911, the gleaming showpieces turn even nondrivers into car buffs.
- Museum Ludwig, Cologne: Created in 1986 to house the modern-art collection of German collector Peter Ludwig, this museum is renowned for having one of the world’s largest collections of the works of Pablo Picasso, but just about every major artist and art movement of the 20th century is represented.
- Neues Museum, Berlin: Left in ruins for decades after World War II, the Neues Museum on Museum Island underwent a remarkable restoration and renovation by British architect David Chipperfield and reopened in 2009 to great critical acclaim. The museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Egyptian antiquities and includes the celebrated bust of Queen Nefertiti.
- Schnütgen Museum, Cologne: In the Middle Ages, Frankish Cologne was the center of a rich artistic tradition of stained-glass, painting and carving—all of which are on display in this small, superlative museum. The surprise here is the depth of expression that medieval artists achieved in their work.
- Wallraf-Richartz Museum/Fondation Corboud, Cologne: The oldest museum in Cologne presents one of Germany’s grandest collections of art, covering the 14th to the 19th centuries. The collection of Gothic works, including altarpieces painted by artists of the Cologne School, is one of the finest in Europe, and the galleries are a virtual encyclopedia of art, from Flemish old masters to the French Impressionists.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.