The Reichstag was built in 1894 by Paul Wallot. It was the parliament building of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. In 1933 the plenary hall was destroyed by the Reichstag fire. The Dutch perpetrator Marinus van der Lubbe admitted the arson. He was a radical communist who had been noticed several times because of arson. For the Nazis, it was the signal to arrest all communists because they feared a revolution like in Russia. The Reichstag was badly damaged at WW2. In 1945 the Russians hoisted the red flag on top of the building. During the division of Germany the Reichstag was temporarily used as a Museum of German history.
After the reunification of Germany, the building was converted to become the parliament building of the Bundestag in 1999. The British architect Sir Norman Foster was commissioned and designed a spectacular, glass dome. To get into the dome, you have to queue in front of the Reichstag. You take the elevator up to the roof and walk up the spiral ramp. The Reichstag dome is an architectural highlight of Berlin.
America has the White House and the British have No. 10 Downing Street. In Germany, the center of power is in the Federal Chancellery. Here is the office of the German Chancellor. On the 8th floor there is an apartment with a view to the south. The building is part of a building complex that extends north of the Reichstag. The urban design by Axel Schultes was built in 2001. The Chancellery is a cube made of glass and concrete that rises above the flanking office wings. Berliners call the Federal Chancellery the washing machine.
The sculpture "Berlin" by Eduardo Chillida stands in front of the Chancellery. The artwork consists of two rusty claws that interlock.
The Berlin Palace is a replica of the former city palace of King Friedrich I of Prussia. Who had the palace built in 1699 on the foundations of a previous castle. The architect Andreas Schlueter built the baroque palace until 1702. The Berlin palace was not a particularly beautiful building and the architect fell out of favor due to cracks in the masonry. Schlueter went to Russia to help build St. Petersburg, but died soon after his arrival.
The Berlin Palace was hardly used since the electors had officially resided in Potsdam since 1660. The Berlin Palace served more as a demonstration of power. After the construction of Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam 1745, Berlin was only a branch of the king. The Royal Palace was in Potsdam, and since then the Berlin Palace was called the City Palace.
After the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Karl Liebknecht proclaimed the "free socialist republic" from the balcony of the city palace. The palace was empty and Liebknecht took advantage of the moment. But he had no legitimate power and was therefore shot two months later.
The Berlin City Palace was badly damaged in the Second World War. The GDR had little interest in a monument of feudal rule and blew up the ruins in 1950. Only the balcony of Liebknecht was saved and attached to the State Council building nearby. The Palace of the Republic was built on the property.
After the reunification, the asbestos-contaminated Palace of the Republic was demolished. In its place, the reconstruction of the city palace began in 2013. The new building was planned by the Italian architect Franco Stella and is to be opened as the Humboldt Forum.
The Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of Berlin and became a symbol of the whole country due to the division of Germany. The classicist city gate was built in 1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans. The Quadriga by Johann Gottfried Schadow stands on top of the gate. The Quadriga is a chariot drawn by four horses on which the goddess Victoria stands. It symbolizes the arrival of peace. Napoleon conquered Berlin in 1806 and brought the Quadriga to Paris. Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1814 and the Quadriga returned to Berlin. After Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933, a National Socialist torchlight procession marched through the Brandenburg Gate. After the war, the gate was on the border between the GDR and the West-Germany. After the Berlin Wall was built, the Brandenburg Gate was located between two walls on the GDR's death strip from 1961 until 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the gate and the Quadriga were restored and have since become the most famous sight of Berlin.
The Gendarmenmarkt is the most beautiful square in Berlin. In the middle of the square stands the royal playhouse by Karl Friedrich Schinkel built in 1821. The playhouse is flanked by two identical churches, which give the Gendarmenmarkt its elegant harmony. The German and French Cathedral were built in 1701 without clock towers. The towers of the two Protestant churches were supplemented by Carl von Gontard in 1785.
Friedrich I. built a new district attached to the medieval town of Berlin, which he called "Friedrichstadt". In this new borough he allowed Huguenots to settle, who had to leave France for religious reasons. This community build the French Cathedral on the Gendarmenmarkt. The French Cathedral is located on the northern edge of the square, while the German Cathedral is at the southern end of the Gendarmenmarkt.
The Protestant cathedral in Berlin was built at the request of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The term cathedral comes from the previous buildings from Catholic times. There was already a baroque cathedral on the property, which was remodeled by Schinkel in a classical style. This structure was demolished for the new Berlin Cathedral. Architect Julius Raschdorff designed the Cathedral in 1885 in an eclectic style with classicist and baroque elements. The foundation stone ceremony was held in 1894 and the building was completed in 1905. The facade was originally filigree, with many decorations. Due to the certifications during the war and the simplified reconstruction in the GDR, the Berlin Cathedral no longer looks as crowded as it used to.
The interior looks monumental and is dominated by the dome. The altar stands in a splendidly furnished niche, with marble columns, stained glass windows and a gilded dome.
Under the church is the Hohenzollern Crypt, the burial place of the german empire and the Prussian kings. In total there are 94 nobles in the crypt. The oldest coffin dates from 1595.
The "Nikolaiviertel" is the oldest part of Berlin. The late Romanesque to early Gothic Nikolai Church in Cölln was built around 1237. Berlin was mentioned later, but was directly opposite on the north bank of the Spree. The twin city united later on, using Berlin as name. Köln (Cologne) was the biggest city in Germany at that time. The "Nikolaiviertel" looks like a historic village square in Brandenburg, but has historicized prefabricated buildings from the GDR period on its edges, which somewhat reduce the old town charm. The Nikolaiviertel is not a real old town, since Berlin had no significance in the Middle Ages.
If you want to experience Berlin from the water, you can take a boat trip on the Spree. Excursions on the Wannsee and along the Havel are also attractive. Depending on the tour and the operator, the boats leave from different locations. Stern and Kreisschiffahrt is one of the best known providers (check the link) but there are other shipping companies that offer tours through Berlin. On a boat trip on the Spree you can see Berlin from a different perspective and do not have to walk that much. Exploring the city from the ship is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Berlin.
The Hackesche Markt is a square in Berlin-Mitte. Nearby, the Quilitz family's 8-court residential and commercial complex was built in 1907. The courtyard was planned by Kurt Berndt together with August Endell, who designed the art nouveau facades. The Hackesche Höfe were extensively renovated from 1994-1997 and since then have been an attraction with shops, cinema and restaurants. These backyards are typical of Berlin and attract many tourists. The Hackesche Höfe are among the most beautiful in all of Berlin. The entrance is on the corner of Oranienburger / Rosenthaler Street.
The Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church was commissioned in commemoration of Kaiser Wilhelm I. The Architect Franz Schwechten designed a Neo-Roman replica of the Marienkirche Church in Gelnhausen which was consecrated in 1895. The church was hit by bombs in 1943 and collapsed. The architect Egon Eiermann designed a new church in 1957 and intended to tear down the remains. Berlin Citizens opposed and fought for the preservation of the ruins.
The Victory Column (Siegessäule) was built in 1873 by Heinrich Strack after german victories over Denmark, Austria and France. These wars of unification led to Prussian supremacy in Germany and thus to the empire with Berlin as capital. A democratic Germany, as the Frankfurt National Assembly was striving for, prevented Prussia this way. This also made unification with Austria impossible. The warlike Prussia won the power struggle against Austria and defeated democracy. The emperor leads Germany finaly into the First World War.
At the top of the 67 m high victory column stands the Roman goddess Victoria. The Victory Column originally stood in front of the Reichstag and was moved to the Tierpark by Hitler, while the column was increased by one segment. The base shows scenes from the three wars. France wanted to blow up the victory column after the Second World War, but after protests only dismantled the reliefs and brought them to Paris. France returned the reliefs in 1987. Below the goddess of victory is a small viewing platform, from which you can look out over the Tierpark.
The Berlin Wall was built to prevent the escape from the GDR to the West. From 1961-1989 over 100 people were killed trying to escape on the "death strip". At the inner German border there was a barbed wire, self-shot systems and the order to shoot by the East German border guards. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the border facilities were removed. Only a metal strip remains of the former wall on the ground. The Berlin Wall Memorial was opened in 2010 to commemorate the history of the division of Germany. For this purpose, a part of the wall was reconstructed on Bernauer Strasse. The Berlin Wall Documentation Center is opposite. The visitor center of the Berlin Wall Memorial is on the corner of Bernauer Strasse and Gartenstrasse.
S-Bahn: Berlin Nordbahnhof U-Bahn: Bernauer Straße oder Naturkundemuseum
The "Topography of Terror" is a memorial that commemorates the place from which the Nazis terrorized Germany. The headquarters of the Secret State Police (Gestapo) and the Reich leadership of the SS were located on the premises. Both organizations arrested the opponents of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party NSDAP. Here opponents of the dictatorship were tortured and murdered or deported to concentration camps. Little remains of the buildings of the Nazi henchmen, to make these traces visible the "Topography of Terror" memorial was founded. On a gravel surface there is a square building in which the exhibition rooms are located. Here the history of the place is impressively described.
"Checkpoint Charlie" was a former border crossing between the Soviet and American zones. When the GDR built the Berlin Wall in 1961, the transitions Alpha, Bravo and Charlie (ABC) were created. On October 27, 1961, American and Soviet tanks faced each other here. The world was on the verge of World War III. Today there is a replica of the first American inspection body. The "Checkpoint Charlie" is a very popular attraction especially for American tourists.
The East Side Gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall that was painted by artists from all over the world after the border was opened. The west side of the wall was embellished with graffiti shortly after the concrete wall was built. The eastern part remained drab and gray. After opening, this section of the wall in Friedrichshain was painted by 118 artists from 21 countries with large-format works of art. In 1991 the East Side Gallery was listed. The East Side Gallery is a historical testimony of German history and one of the most famous tourist attractions in Berlin.
S-Bahn + U-Bahn: Warschauer Straße
The Berlin TV tower was built in 1969 as a symbol of the superiority of socialism. In West Germany, television towers were built on a hill on the outskirts of the city. The television tower in East Berlin was built in the centre of the city. You should see the tower from anywhere, even in West Berlin. The design is simple, a ball pierced by a needle. The idea of the sphere probably came from architect Hermann Henselmann, but other architects of the collective later claimed authorship.
The ball cladding is made of stainless steel, which was imported from West-Germany. The pattern of the metal plates creates a cruciform light on the sphere. This is why the tower is also called the Cross of the East. Because the tower was built mainly for propaganda purposes, it is also called the show club. With antenna, the Berlin TV tower is 368 m high, making it the tallest television tower in Germany. The observation deck is 203 m above the ground. The omnipresent TV tower is a landmark of Berlin.
At the 1942 Wannsee Conference, the National Socialists decided on the "final solution of the Jewish question". That meant that all Jews in the power of the German Reich should be killed. The Jews were transported on freight trains to extermination camps, where they were killed in gas chambers. In this way 4-6 million Jews were murdered in Europe.
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, it was completed in 2005. The design by New York architect Peter Eisenman together with Richard Serra consists of 2711 concrete steles, which differ only in height and are arranged in a grid on the surface. The number of concrete cubes has no symbolic meaning, and the cubes themselves have no meaning. The monument is supposed to touch emotionally and raise public awareness of the topic. Peter Eisenman said of the Holocaust Memorial that it is a place of no meaning, like a wheat field or a moving surface of the sea. Nevertheless, there is a certain resemblance to the stone tombs on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, as the memorial is officially called, is an information center that was created in collaboration with Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
The Potsdamer Gate used to stand here, this is where the Berlin-Potsdamer Chaussee began, which led to Sanssouci and the New Garden. The Potsdamer Station was built in 1838 and the square quickly developed into a traffic hub for the fast-growing city. In 1924 the first traffic light in Germany was set up on Potsdamer Platz. A replica is on the square today. Potsdamer Platz was the pulsating center of Berlin in the golden twenties. Some houses were destroyed in World War II, but most structures could have been rebuilt. Due to the location directly on the border, no investors were found. The remaining buildings were demolished from 1970 onward. The division of Berlin made the city's busiest square an empty wasteland.
From 1992 the urban planning master plan by Renzo Piano was implemented. Three small skyscrapers and a shopping center were built on Potsdamer Platz. The entire district was built within a few years. The Kollhoff Tower is the tallest of the three highrise buildings. The Deutsche Bahn Tower by Helmut Jahn follows second, with the attached Sony Center, a covered square with shops, restaurants and cinema. Renzo Piano designed another high-rise for Daimler-Benz and the shopping center Potzdamer Platz Arkaden . Several hotels were built on the northern edge of the square, the Ritz-Carlton is now one of the most famous hotels in Berlin.
Opposite is Leipziger Platz, an octagonal square that was built between 1990 and 2015 according to a uniform urban planning concept. To the west is the Kulturforum with the Berlin Philharmonic and the New National Gallery.
Bellevue Palace (Schloss Bellevue) has been the official residence of the German Presidents since 1994. The palace was built in 1786 for Prince August Ferdinand of Prussia. The building was designed by architect Michael Philipp Boumann, who also designed the castle ruins on the Pfaueninsel. After the prince's death, Bellevue Palace served as an art gallery. The Supreme Army Command met here during the First World War. It was partially destroyed in the Second World War and rebuilt until 1959. After the german capital moved from Bonn to Berlin, the oval Federal President's Office was established south of the palace. Richard von Weizsäcker was the first President to move to Bellevue Palace.
The Duchess of Braunschweig and Lüneburg Sophie Charlotte von Hannover had the palace built as a summer residence in Lützow near Berlin in 1695. Several architects built a baroque-style palace with classicist elements. After her death in 1705, the palace and the town were renamed Charlottenburg. Friedrich II used his grandmother's castle as a residence and expanded the complex until 1747. Then he moved to Potsdam in his new Sanssouci Palace. Charlottenburg Palace was only used occasionally for celebrations. Under Friedrich Wilhelm II the palace was expanded and its side wings were built by Carl Gotthard Langhans as the Belvedere in the garden. Charlottenburg Palace is around 500 m long, Versailles is "only" 400 m long. In 1825 the new pavilion was built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, which is located between the castle and the river Spree.
The palace park consists of a baroque garden north of the palace and an English landscape garden behind it. The carp pond is the boundary between the two gardens. The lake is in the central axis of the palace and offers a beautiful view of the tower. On the tower dome stands the golden sculpture "Fortuna" by Richard Scheibe, which toweres over the palace since its reconstruction after the war in 1965.
S-Bahn: Westend U-Bahn: Richard-Wagner-Platz
Welcome to Berlin
The German capital was divided by the "Berlin Wall" for 40 years. West Berlin and East Berlin developed differently during this time, which is what makes the city so attractive today. Creative spaces were created in the east, thanks to affordable rents, which gave artists and students space to develop. Today east and west are becoming more and more alike. The former workers' and student district of Prenzlauer Berg has already developed into a middle class district. The gentrification of other West German cities like Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg has now reached Berlin. Rents have been rising for years and are displacing socially weaker groups. As a result, even West Berlin districts that were previously considered a social hotspot, like Berlin-Neukölln, are now becoming expensive.
Berlin has a lot to offer, especially the museums landscape is unique. The most famous museums include the Pergamon Museum, the New National Gallery and the New Museum.