Alte Nationalgalerie

Berlin, Germany

The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) in Berlin is a gallery showing a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork. It is the original building of the National Gallery, whose holdings are now housed in several additional buildings. It is situated on Museum Island, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The idea of establishing a cultural and educational centre across from the Berlin Palace dates back to the time of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who dreamt of creating a 'sanctuary for art and science' on the site. The basic architectural concept for the Alte Nationalgalerie – a temple-like building raised on a plinth decorated with motifs from antiquity – came from the king himself. The building was designed by Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel who also designed the Neues Museum. It was completed after Stüler’s death by another of Schinkel’s students, Johann Heinrich Strack.

The initial impetus for the construction of the Nationalgalerie was a bequest to the Prussian state in 1861 from the banker and consul Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Wagener, whose collection featured works by Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, painters from the Düsseldorf school, and history painters from Belgium. The bequest came with the stipulation that the paintings were to be publicly displayed in a 'suitable location'. Just one year later Stüler received the commission to draw up plans for the building. After ten years of construction the Nationalgalerie ceremoniously opened on 21 March 1876 for the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm I, becoming the third museum on the island in the Spree.

The building suffered direct hits on several occasions during the aerial bombardment of the Second World War, sustaining heavy damage particularly after 1944. The collection itself had gradually been evacuated with the war’s onset. Among other places, it was stored in Berlin’s anti-aircraft towers near the zoo and in Friedrichshain, as well as in the salt and potash repositories in Merkers and Grasleben.

After the war’s end the building was quickly though provisionally restored; parts of it were re-opened in 1949. The second floor was made accessible to visitors one year later.

During the division of Germany, the 19th-century paintings that had survived the war in Western zones of occupation were housed in the Neue Nationalgalerie, starting in 1968, and in Schloss Charlottenburg’s Gallery of Romanticism from 1986. After the fall of the Berlin wall, the growing collections were united in their original building, now called the Alte Nationalgalerie, on Berlin’s Museumsinsel. Accommodating the collection meant repairing the damage the war had wrought to the building as well as adding new rooms. The architectural firm HG Merz Berlin was entrusted with this work in 1992. In March of 1998 the Alte Nationalgalerie was closed for renovations. The museum was finally re-opened in December 2001, marking its 125th anniversary.



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Bodestraße 1, Berlin, Germany
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Founded: 1861
Category: Museums in Germany
Historical period: German Confederation (Germany)


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Brayden Chuang (8 months ago)
We visited during the Museum Sunday which is an event that happens every first Sunday of the month and got into the museum for free. The museum has three levels and there is only one entrance. However there are no elevators to go to each floor. Each floor also focuses on a specific era in art. There is a free audio guide that helps in describing the most important pieces of art in the gallery. When we visited there was the Klimt Exhibition on Secession. The collection is extensive and includes famous artists such as Klimt and Monet. It is worth noting that this was the last day of the Klimt exhibition. But there are still some of his paintings in the gallery. Overall the gallery was good and worth a visit
Pumpkin Fire (9 months ago)
Amazing painting and sculpture museum, maybe my favorite in Berlin!Worth spending 2-3 hours in the 3 different floors that show paintings from 3 different periods, there's something for everyone. I recommend buying a ticket in advance if you come during the afternoon on weekends (~30' wait time).
Q'nqüra (10 months ago)
Me and my mother were both at the “Secessions Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann” exhibition of Berlin’s Old National Gallery, which lasted from 23rd June 2023 until 22nd October 2023. Although being from Berlin myself, I was never inside the building before and I was really amazed by its marble white beauty that you can find inside. The building itself is already a great piece of white marble-like art, especially its stairways with the red carpet, making you feel as if you have fallen back in time, although I have to admit that it was sometimes hard to shoot good pictures, due to the different fall of light in the rooms. Of course, we did not just go to the special exhibition, but have visited all of the other rooms as well and I was actually very surprised that I have seen the originals of some very well-known paintings, for example the painting of the Grimm brothers, as I have always believed that they must be exhibited somewhere else. I also love the exhibition of the sculptures. If you love classic art and find yourself in Berlin, you really should give the Old National Gallery a try and I am sure that you won’t be disappointed. I would like to advise you to buy the tickets online and print them, so you can get right inside the museum, instead of having to wait in line, although you need to place your bags in special lockers, for which you need 1 Euro, which you can retrieve when opening the locker again. You also should come early, best is when the museum opens at 10 AM, because later you may have to wait outside, until the guards decide that enough visitors have left the gallery, to allow new visitors in. The only negative aspect I was able to find is the fact that the guards, which are not part of the gallery’s staff itself, but are actually the staff from private security companies, are not capable of using English very well and if someone asks them something in English, they always respond with a mix of German and English, which, for a museum of Germany’s capital that receives thousands of international guests every single day, is just embarrassing. I have shot all of those pictures on 31st August 2023. Please be advised that some of those have been shot inside the special exhibition “Secessions Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann” and won’t be available to be seen in the Old National Gallery anymore, if you visit it after the 22nd October 2023. This includes the figurine “Amazon On Horseback”, as well as the paintings “Fighting Amazon”, “Circe” and “The Sin”, which all have been made by the German artist Franz von Stuck, as well as “Pallas Athena” by the German artist Gustav Klimt.
Ellie Handberg (11 months ago)
An amazing variety of art from neoclassical sculpture to French impressionism - and not to mention the museum feels really well-ran as well. I love that the audioguides are at no extra cost and yet very informative. Sounds simple but this sometimes isn't the case. Definitely reserve tickets online and you will have a seamless experience!
Laura Alexandra (11 months ago)
Definitely book in advance. It will save you so much time especially because the museum is also pretty big and you will need min 2h inside, probably 3h or 4h if you spend more time analysing the art. The wait outside seems to be around 20 to 30 min if you don’t have a ticket. The tour guide is very useful but it has about 2 min per painting and although it selects 1 painting/ room it will take much longer if you also go through them. I visited during the Secession expo and it was very informative and interesting. The Klimt paintings were amazing.
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