Founded in 1852, the home of the German National Museum has extended over the years as the collection has increased; it was originally housed in a 14th-century former monastery, to which a Neo-Gothic extension was added in the 1900s. Extensive bomb damage in World War II led to architect Sep Ruf designing glass-and-brick replacements for demolished galleries in the 1960s and the last addition was the glass entrance foyer, which is approached via thought-provoking sculptures in the Avenue of Human Rights by Jewish artist Dani Karavan.
Today the multi-story museum contains some 1.3 million artifacts showcasing Germanic culture and art, all on show in light, airy galleries and divided into 23 collections encompassing – among others – prehistory, prints and drawings, textiles, decorative arts, musical instruments and 20th-century art.
Thanks to the museum’s immense size, some cherry picking is vital, so the highlights of the chronological exhibitions include a handsome display of Baroque porcelain, the fabulously over-the-top decoration in the wood-paneled Aachen Room and a cluster of wacky work by Joseph Beuys. Also worth catching are the Stone Age tools, the scary-looking 18th-century dolls and ancient suits of armor in the Weapons Room – and don’t miss the circumcision clamps or tools for staffing sausages.