From the World Heritage inscription:
The art museum is a social phenomenon that owes its origins to the Age of Enlightenment and its extension to all people to the French Revolution. The Museumsinsel is the most outstanding example of this concept given material form and a symbolic central urban setting, and one that illustrates the evolution of modern museum design over more than a century.
The present importance of the Museumsinsel began when the Altes Museum was built to the designs of Karl Friedrich Schinkel in 1824-28. A plan to develop the part of the island behind this museum was drawn up in 1841 by the court architect, Friedrich August Stüler, on the orders of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The first element of this plan to be built was the Neues Museum (1843-47). The next step did not take place until 1866, when the Nationalgalerie, the work of Johann Heinrich Strack, was built. Another two decades passed before the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (now the Bodemuseum) was built in 1897-1904 to the designs of Ernst von Ihne, and Stüler’s plan was completed in 1909-30 with the construction of Alfred Messel’s Pergamonmuseum.
Museum Island is one of the cultural and tourist highlights of Berlin. The island is in the middle Spree river and is home to five significant museums: the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum.
It is the only museum(s) that I know of that have UNESCO World Heritage status. The Louvre and other important museums in the world are have not been accorded special World Heritage status.
One unique thing about the museums, and unlike much of the rest of Germany, is that the damage caused during WWII has been kept. You can still see bullet holes on the facade of many of the buildings.
Getting to Museum Island is very easy if you are in Berlin. It is accessible by U-Bahn and bus.
This was the tenth stop on my Eurail trip of UNESCO sites in Europe.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.