The Long Night of Museums (Die Lange Nacht der Museen) occurs twice a year in the German capital. It is an incredible event as thousands of Berliners and tourists take advantage of a totally free night of culture.
What is the Long Night of the Museums?
The Long Night is a very popular cultural event. People from all over the city take the opportunity to see the museums, palaces and exhibits for free. It is also a means to show off the wide range of cultural venues that the city has to offer. The Long Night has become important since the fall of the Berlin Wall1, as it allows everyone to enjoy the vast diversity of exhibits, palaces, churches and museums that are scattered throughout both sides of the once divided city. They range from former Royal Palaces such as Schloss Charlottenburg, through all the museums on Museum Island, to the Jewish Centre, a museum to Jewish culture that is situated within the remains of the New Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis.
The range of subject matter and speciality of some museums and galleries is amazing. Some are devoted to one culture or period; others, like the National Gallery and Natural History Museum, encompass so much you may will have to go back and pay to take it all in.
Basically, although you have eight hours during the Long Night, it is not nearly enough time to take in everything that is available to you. So, if you are a tourist, it may be an idea to aim the beginning of your holiday close to the Long Night and then go back for a better look at anything that really caught your eye.
You can pick up a ticket for the event through tourist information, where you will also find a brochure for the event2 to show you the bus routes and museums, palaces, galleries and churches which are going to be open.
There are also other events such as concerts, dancing and film shows, which occur at certain venues throughout the night. Times are listed in the brochure to help you plan your evening and avoid crowds at earmarked locations.
When is the Long Night?
The Long Night happens at the end of January/start of February and again at the end of August/start of September. The museums stay open from 6pm until 2am in the morning; hence it really is a long night.
Be prepared - even though you might think that museums at midnight will be nice and quiet, they aren't. In fact, during the Long Night they are probably at their busiest, so be prepared for a lot of people cramming around every exhibit.
As part of your ticket for Lange Nachte der Museen you have access to a number of specially laid on express bus routes which will transport you to all the various locations. There are some stops on the various routes with more than one museum, so if you are looking to see as much as possible, bear this in mind when planning your route.
Once you have your brochure and ticket, get out your map and sit down and work out a rough plan of attack. There is so much you could do, but only so much time in which to attempt it. The best thing to do is make a checklist of:
Things you absolutely want to see.
Things that might be fun to see.
Which bus routes they are on.
Where is it best to change buses.
Where you might want to stop to eat/drink, or bring along a picnic.
Check out other sites at or within walking distance of the bus stops you will be going to and see if something else catches your eye.
Once you have worked out all these things, work out the best starting off point and get there for 6pm. Allow plenty of time to eat before setting off; you will need the energy. But then be prepared to change all your plans if you hear of something even better from one of the many thousands of people you will come across throughout the evening.
The event is not unique to Berlin - other similar long nights of museums also happen in Aachen, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Erfurt, Hanover, Zurich and others. So check out the website of basically any cultural German-speaking city and see what you can find.