Seven little-known German museums with brilliant ideas

From spies to mechanical musical instruments, Germany has a lot to offer in seven of its museums.

Seven little-known German museums with brilliant ideas
Bottles of eau de Cologne from 1830, shown at the Fragrance Museum in Cologne. Photo: DPA

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1. Museum of stillness, Berlin

The Museum contrasts bright red walls with white 3D sculptures. Photo: Museum der Stille

This museum is focused on making you feel relaxed and contemplative.

Here you can observe the works of Nikolai Makarov, an artist whose work encourages viewers to reach a meditative state. 

Described by arts patron and supporter of the museum Peter Raue as a ‘secular prayer room’, museum provides a calm environment in Germany's capital city. 

2. Fragrance museum, Cologne

Bottles of eau de Cologne from 1830 at the Fragrance Museum, Cologne. Photo: DPA

Ever wondered why some perfumes are called ‘Cologne’? Prepare to have your mind blown.

The Fragrance Museum in the Rhineland city of Cologne takes you through 300 years of the history of fragrance and the work the perfumer Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766).

3. Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet, Rüdesheim on Rhine

A gramophone and phonographs are explained to guests on a tour. Photo: Siegfrieds Mechanisches Musikkabinett

This charming museum allows you to enjoy sweet tunes played by the instruments themselves as you embark on a 45-minute tour of 350 self-playing instruments from across three centuries.

You’ll need to book to a guided tour to experience the history and sound of these beautiful machines, as the guide operates the instruments for you as you progress through the museum. 

4. German hygiene museum, Dresden

An employee of the German hygiene Museum looks at a model of a chromosone, which is part of the 'living and dying' theme of the permanent exhibition. Photo: DPA

No, it’s not a museum solely based on the history of hand sanitizer. Rather, this museum and conference centre in Dresden exhibits historical and recent  scientific developments. 

The permanent exhibit focuses on the human body and health, whereas the temporary exhibitions deal with science and society, art and culture. For example, the current exhibitions present the themes language and shame.  

5. German spy museum, Berlin

The laser course allows you to test out your flexibility. Photo: ©Deutsches Spionagemuseum

The German spy museum is a new addition to the German museum scene, having only opened in 2015.

Located close to Potsdamer Platz, where the Berlin wall once sliced through the city, this interactive museum transports you to the shady world of espionage, enabling you you find out about the technology used by spies or wriggle your way through laser beams amongst other exhibits. 

6. Customs museum, Hamburg

Customs officers inspect smuggled cigarettes. Photo: DPA

Do not be fooled by the name, this museum is engaging even for those uninterested in financial matters!

In a building which itself used to be a customs office, you are transported from the days of the Romans to the customs laws of modern times, this museum will definitely make sure you're clued up on the world of international trade.

 7. German Emigration House,  Bremerhaven

A view of the harbour in Bremerhaven. Photo: DPA

This award-winning museum invites you to experience emigration to and from Germany, particularly focusing on the 7.2 million German emigrants who sailed from Bremerhaven to the USA to start their lives anew. 

On entry, visitors are provided with an iCard, an 'electronic boarding pass' which allows them to follow the individual journey of a person from the past 300 years, who either left Germany for the USA, or who moved to Germany to start a new life.

Not only this, but the museum offers assistance for those conducting research into their family history using online databases, and examines the influence of immigration to Germany on German popular culture.

For members


Five German drinks to try this summer

There’s nothing quite like a cold drink on a hot summer’s day and the Germans know it well. That’s why they’ve got a variety of tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to cool them down in the hottest months. Here are five you should try.

Five German drinks to try this summer

Summertime in Germany can get pretty hot, but thankfully there are plenty of popular drinks which can help you cool down, as well as tickle the tastebuds.

In Germany, fizzy water is wildly popular, so it’s not surprising that Sprudel is a key ingredient in most of the drinks on this list.


A Hugo cocktail. Photo: Greta Farnedi/Unsplash

The Hugo is a cocktail made of Prosecco, elderflower syrup, mint leaves, a shot of mineral water and a slice of lime.

This refreshing alcoholic drink was invented by Roland Gruber, a bartender in South Tyrol, the mainly German-speaking region of northern Italy in 2005.

Though the drink wasn’t invented in Germany, it quickly spread across the borders of northern Italy and gained popularity here. Nowadays, you’ll be able to order a Hugo in pretty much any bar in the country.


A woman holds a pint of Radler. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

One of the best-known and most popular mixed beer drinks is the Radler: a concoction of beer and lemonade, a bit like a British shandy. In some areas of Germany – particularly in the south – the mixture is called Alster.

Usually, the ratio is 60 percent beer and 40 percent lemonade, but there are also some interesting variants. In some regions of Germany, a distinction is made between sweet (with lemonade) and sour (with water) Radler. Some foolhardy drinkers even mix their beer with cola (called a diesel).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions producing the most important beer ingredient


A woman pours apple spritz into plastic cups. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Soeren Stache

Apfelschorle is an absolute German classic.

The traditional mix of apple juice and fizzy water is a 1:1 ratio, but if you’re making the drink at home you can adjust the measurements to your liking. 

The concept of Saftschorle (fruit spritzer) has moved way beyond the plain old apple in Germany though. On Supermarket shelves, you’ll find major drinks chains offering a wide variety of fizzy fruit beverages, including  Rhabarbe-Schorle (Rhubarb spritz), Schwarze Johannisbeer-Schorle (Black currant spritz) and Holunderschorle (elderberry spritz).

Berliner Weiße mit Schuss

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin.

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Britta Pedersen

The Berliner Weiße (or Weisse) is an old, German beer, brewed with barley and wheat malt.

As the name suggests, it originates from the German capital, where it was extremely popular in the 19th century and was celebrated as the “Champagne of the North”.

But by the end of the 19th century, sour beer styles, including this one, became increasingly unpopular and they almost died out completely. 

READ ALSO: Five German foods that aren’t what you think they are

So people started mixing the drink with sweet syrup. This gave rise to the trend of drinking Berliner Weissbier with a shot (Schuss) of raspberry or woodruff syrup, which is still widely enjoyed today. Some breweries even ferment fruits such as raspberries or strawberries.

The drink is so well-known in Germany, that there was even a TV series named after it which ran for 10 years 1984 to 1995.


Water and wine in equal parts and both well chilled – a light summer drink. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | DWI

Another fizzy-water-based German classic is the white wine spritz. 

A wine spritzer is a refreshing drink on warm summer days which has the advantage of not going to your head as quickly as a regular glass of wine. With equal parts fizzy water and wine, the drink has only about 5-6 percent alcohol, compared to glass of pure white wine, which has about 9-14 percent. 

For optimum German-ness when making this drink at home, choose a German white wine such as Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner or Riesling.

Enjoy and drink responsibly!