After Paris and London, Berlin Museums See Drop in Visitor Numbers

Security concerns aren't to blame.

The Neues Museum in Berlin. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker
The Neues Museum in Berlin. ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Achim Kleuker.

The Berlin State Museums (SMB), which include a number of the German capital’s most popular art institutions—such as the Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island, and the Hamburger Bahnhof, dedicated to contemporary art—have reported a drop of about 150,000 visitors in 2016.

However, unlike the fall in museum-goers in other European capitals such as Paris and London, the lower attendance was not linked to security threats and fear of attacks, but rather to various renovation and construction works in several of the state-run museums.

General director of the SMB, Michael Eissenhauer, spoke to the press in Berlin on Wednesday reporting a total of 3.65 million visitors across the Berlin State Museums in 2016. He noted that, compared to the previous year, this represents a mere four-percent drop.

The most popular among the city’s institutions was the Neues Museum, located on Museum Island, which attracted 740,000 visitors. Its neighboring Pergamon Museum, a visitor magnet which houses the original Ishtar Gate and the monumental Pergamon Altar, ranked second with only 712,000 visitors, largely due to the fact that the gallery housing one of its main attractions, the aforementioned altar, has been closed for renovation since 2014.

In addition, the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie, a beloved tourist destination, has been under construction since early 2015.

However, one institution enjoyed a significant increase in numbers: the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Contemporary Art. From 260,000 ticket holders in 2015, the museum reported 394,000 visitors in 2016.

The upsurge can be explained through a number of blockbuster shows, including Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto,” featuring Cate Blanchett. But most significant for the rise was the opening in late 2015 of a new exhibition space at the museum, called the Neue Galerie, designed to keep the Nationalgalerie’s modern art collection on public display while the Mies van der Rohe building undergoes renovations.


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