Peep into the past at the Märkisches Museum

Märkisches Museum, the Kaiserpanorama stereoscopic 3D viewer

Take a seat, peer through the brass eyepieces, and travel back in time to 19th century Berlin.

The Kaiserpanorama in the Märkisches Museum is a huge, automated stereoscopic display dating from the early 1880s.

Märkisches Museum, Berlin: the Kaiserpanorama stereoscopic viewer
Berlin in the time of the Kaiser: Märkisches Museum

A forerunner to the cinema, each of its 25 viewing stations provide constantly rotating glimpses of the old city, many of which still astonish with their vivid, 3D depth and lifelike detail.

The device was invented by German physicist August Fuhrmann, and although hundreds of the machines were constructed to meet the demands of enraptured 19th century audiences, very few have survived intact.

Berlin's own Kaiserpanorama was installed in 1883 above the Kaisergalerie, an elaborately decorated Friedrichstraße shopping arcade which you'll see, in all its glory, on one of the slides themselves.

View of 19th century Berlin as seen in the Kaiserpanorama viewer, Märkisches Museum
Advertisement for the Kaiserpanorama, Berlin

Amazingly, the optical entertainment continued to attract viewers right up until its final show in 1939 - a year, of course, that also marked the start of a war that would sweep away many of the Berlin landmarks depicted.

Today, the Kaiserpanorama is once again a firm favourite amongst visitors to the Märkisches Museum, but there are plenty of further highlights to discover in one of Berlin's most eclectic collections.

Märkisches Museum, Berlin: the collection of mechanical musical instruments
Märkisches Museum, Berlin: globe from Hitler's study - with photograph showing its original location in the Chancellery

A wonderful assortment of mechanical instruments (above left) are brought to clamorous life on Sunday afternoons, and other noteworthy treasures include masterpiece paintings by the likes of Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the enormous globe from Hitler's Chancellery study (above right) and a Jugendstil barbershop interior.

That said, the sheer profusion of artefacts covering centuries of Berlin's history can seem just a little overwhelming, and labelling in English is surprisingly scarce.

But for many, the low admission fee is reason enough to plunge into this cabinet of curiosities... or simply head straight for the enchanting Kaiserpanorama and its magical views of a long-vanished Berlin.


Further facts

Even if you decide to pass on the Märkisches Museum's displays, its atmospheric, Renaissance-style courtyard cafe is a definite hidden gem. There are plenty of other highlights in the immediate area, too, including the rich and varied historic architecture of Wallstrasse, the real Berlin bear of Köllnischen Park, and a free display of Berlin city models.

Märkisches Museum: Am Köllnischen Park 5, 10179 Berlin
Opening hours: Tues, Thurs, Sun 10am-6pm; Fri, Sat 2pm-10pm; Wed 12 noon-8pm. Admission fee: 5 Euros, 3 Euros reductions. Free entrance on first Wednesday of every month.  

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