Scheidemannstraße 1, 10557 Berlin, Germany
Here we go at our first point of interest in Berlin. The Reichstag building is a historic landmark and an important symbol of German democracy. It serves as the meeting place for the German Bundestag, the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The original Reichstag building was constructed in the late 19th century to house the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) of the German Empire. It was designed by architect Paul Wallot and completed in 1894. The building's architectural style combines elements of Renaissance and Baroque revival, with a prominent glass and steel dome as its centerpiece. Later in the tour we will discuss the types of architecture found throughout the city.
Over the years, the Reichstag witnessed significant events in German history. One of the most notable incidents occurred in 1933 when the building was severely damaged by a fire, which the Nazi regime used as a pretext to further consolidate their power. After World War II, the building fell into disuse as Berlin was divided by the Berlin Wall.
Following the reunification of Germany, plans were made to restore and modernize the Reichstag building. British architect Norman Foster was chosen to lead the renovation project, which took place from 1995 to 1999. The most distinctive addition to the building was the new glass dome, which symbolizes transparency and offers panoramic views of Berlin.
Today, the Reichstag building is open to the public, and visitors can explore its historic halls, visit the parliament chamber, and ascend to the dome. The dome's spiral ramp leads visitors to an observation deck at the top, providing a unique perspective of the cityscape.
The Reichstag building serves as a powerful symbol of democracy and German history. Its combination of historic architecture and modern design reflects Germany's commitment to openness, transparency, and democratic values.
B2 4, 10557 Berlin, Germany
Coming up straight ahead is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Berlin and holds great historical and symbolic significance. The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic structure that has played a central role in many significant historical events in Berlin's history. The monument is surrounded by other significant landmarks, such as the Reichstag building and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a focal point for visitors exploring the city and remains an enduring symbol of Berlin and Germany as a whole.
The Brandenburg Gate was constructed between 1788 and 1791 as a neoclassical triumphal arch. It was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans and commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia. The gate consists of 12 Doric columns, forming five passageways, with a chariot statue on top called the Quadriga.
The Quadriga, created by sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow, depicts the goddess of victory, Victoria, riding a chariot pulled by four horses. During its history, the Quadriga and the Brandenburg Gate underwent several changes and restorations, particularly in the aftermath of World War II.
The Brandenburg Gate It was a symbol of the divided city during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall ran just behind it, separating East and West Berlin. The gate became a powerful symbol of German reunification when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, marking a pivotal moment in history.
Since the reunification of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of peace, unity, and freedom. It has been the site of numerous celebrations, concerts, and gatherings, including the New Year's Eve celebration that attracts thousands of people each year.
Today, the Brandenburg Gate stands as a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of Berlin's rich history and resilience. It serves as a gateway between the bustling Pariser Platz and the Unter den Linden boulevard, connecting the modern city with its historic past. More on these points of interest later in the tour, but for now we will be visiting a landmark remembering the darkest of memories in Berlin’s history.
Ebertstr. (Berlin), 10117 Berlin, Germany
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Memorial to the Holocaust, is a highly significant and powerful memorial dedicated to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold and opened to the public on May 10, 2005.
The memorial serves as a solemn tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, particularly the Jewish people who were systematically persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during World War II. It stands as a powerful reminder of the atrocities committed and the magnitude of human suffering during that dark period in history.
The memorial plays a crucial role in educating visitors about the Holocaust and its historical context. It serves as an educational tool to raise awareness about the Holocaust's horrors, promote tolerance, and encourage reflection on the consequences of intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination.
The memorial's design is highly symbolic and evokes a range of emotions and interpretations. The site consists of 2,711 concrete slabs, known as stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on undulating ground. The varying heights and the maze-like layout create an eerie and disorienting atmosphere, representing the chaos and unpredictability of the Holocaust.
As visitors navigate through the memorial's maze-like pathways, they are encouraged to have a personal and introspective experience. The towering slabs surround and engulf visitors, evoking a sense of isolation, claustrophobia, and vulnerability. The memorial's design aims to provoke deep contemplation and emotional response, allowing individuals to confront the magnitude of the Holocaust on a personal level.
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin has gained international recognition and has become a symbol of the Holocaust's memory and global commitment to preventing such atrocities from happening again. The memorial's central location highlights Germany's acknowledgment and confrontation of its Nazi past and emphasizes the importance of remembering and learning from history.
We will be making a left up ahead on Leipziger Platz and approaching the next destination on our tour, Potsdamer Platz.
S+U Potsdamer Platz (Bln) [Bus Leipziger Str.], 10117 Berlin, Germany
Potsdamer Platz is a vibrant public square and one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin
It is situated in the central part of Berlin, in the Mitte district and serves as a major transportation hub located at the intersection of several important roads and public transportation lines.
Potsdamer Platz has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. It was once a bustling traffic intersection and a symbol of urban modernity in the early 20th century. However, during World War II, much of the area was destroyed and left in ruins. After the war, Potsdamer Platz found itself divided by the Berlin Wall, with the western part falling within West Berlin and the eastern part belonging to East Berlin. The area became a desolate no-man's-land known as the "death strip," heavily fortified and inaccessible.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification, Potsdamer Platz underwent a massive redevelopment project. It transformed into a modern urban center featuring high-rise buildings, commercial spaces, hotels, entertainment venues, and residential areas. Renowned architects such as Renzo Piano, Helmut Jahn, and Richard Rogers contributed to the architectural designs.
Let’s talk about those unique building structures. Potsdamer Platz boasts impressive contemporary architecture that showcases modern design and innovation. Some notable buildings include the Sony Center, a striking glass and steel complex housing offices, shops, restaurants, a cinema, and a concert hall. The Beisheim Center, a skyscraper featuring a unique triangular shape, is another prominent landmark in the area.
Far from the days of the Death Strip, Potsdamer Platz has become a vibrant cultural and entertainment district. It is home to theaters, art galleries, cinemas, and museums, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the German Spy Museum, and the Filmhaus, which hosts the annual Berlin International Film Festival.
Finally, it’s important to point out that Potsdamer Platz is seen as a symbol of Berlin's reunification and the city's transformation from a divided capital to a unified and thriving metropolis. It represents the resilience, innovation, and dynamic spirit of Berlin and its ability to rebuild and reinvent itself.
Follow your navigation as we head towards the next destination on our tour today.
Zimmerstraße 19, 10969 Berlin, Germany
Here we are at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most famous border crossings between East and West Berlin during the period of the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie was located on Friedrichstrasse, a major thoroughfare in central Berlin. It stood between the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the American-controlled West Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie served as a crossing point for diplomats, military personnel, and foreigners traveling between the two parts of the divided city. It gained significant symbolic importance as a physical representation of the Iron Curtain and the ideological divide between the Western and Eastern blocs during the Cold War.
So how did it get its name? Well, it’s not named after Charlie Brown. It got its name from the phonetic alphabet. Shortly after the wall was built, President John F. Kennedy ordered the U.S. forces to build three checkpoints at different points in the wall. The other two are named Alpha and Bravo.
At the checkpoint, there were border guards from the United States and the Soviet Union stationed on opposite sides. They would check travel documents and inspect vehicles crossing the border. The guards were often armed, and their presence added to the tension and sense of separation.
Checkpoint Charlie was witness to several notable incidents during the Cold War. It was the site of successful and unsuccessful escape attempts by East Germans seeking to flee to the West. It also saw tense confrontations between American and Soviet forces, most notably during the Berlin Crisis in 1961 when American and Soviet tanks faced off in a standoff.
Checkpoint Charlie came to represent the struggle for freedom and the desire for reunification among the German people. Its image was widely circulated in the media and became a potent symbol of the divided city and the ideological conflict between the superpowers.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent reunification of Germany, Checkpoint Charlie lost its function as a border crossing. Today, it stands as a popular tourist attraction and a memorial to the Cold War era. The original guardhouse from the checkpoint is preserved at the site, along with a replica of the "You are leaving the American sector" sign.
Adjacent to the former checkpoint is the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, also known as the Mauermuseum. It is dedicated to documenting the history of the Berlin Wall, escape attempts, and stories of those affected by the division. The museum showcases various artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts, providing insights into the hardships faced by East Germans during that period.
Markgrafenstraße 37, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Follow your navigation as we make our way to one of the most beautiful and historically significant squares in Berlin. Gendarmenmarkt is located here in the Mitte district and stands as a testament to the city's architectural splendor.
Gendarmenmarkt is situated in the heart of Berlin, between two prominent churches, the German Cathedral (Deutscher Dom) and the French Cathedral (Französischer Dom), with the Konzerthaus Berlin (Concert Hall) at its center. The square dates back to the late 17th century when it was established as a marketplace. It was initially named Linden-Markt but was later renamed Gendarmenmarkt in honor of the Gens d'armes regiment stationed nearby.
Gendarmenmarkt is renowned for its impressive architectural ensemble. The two cathedrals, built in the late 18th century, frame the square and contribute to its grandeur. The German Cathedral serves as a striking backdrop with its distinctive dome, while the French Cathedral features a similar dome design.
The Konzerthaus Berlin, located at the center of Gendarmenmarkt, is a renowned concert hall that hosts classical music performances, orchestral concerts, and cultural events. It is esteemed for its excellent acoustics and elegant neoclassical façade.
During the holiday season, Gendarmenmarkt is transformed into a festive Christmas market. Visitors can enjoy traditional food, beverages, crafts, and various entertainment options in a magical winter atmosphere.
Gendarmenmarkt has witnessed several significant events throughout Berlin's history. It was the site of political demonstrations, celebrations, and important speeches. Notably, on November 9, 1989, during the fall of the Berlin Wall, a massive rally was held at Gendarmenmarkt to celebrate the reunification of Germany.
The square is home to several cultural institutions, including the German Historical Museum and the French Friedrichstadt Church. These institutions add to the intellectual and artistic ambiance of the area.
By now you’ve likely noticed the street graffiti throughout the city. The city's graffiti scene emerged in the 1980s and has since evolved into a thriving and dynamic movement. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city experienced a surge of creativity and self-expression. Graffiti became a means for individuals to reclaim public spaces, express political opinions, and explore personal identity. It served as a visual representation of freedom, unity, and the desire for change during a transformative period in Berlin's history.
In addition to its socio-political significance, graffiti has become an integral part of Berlin's artistic identity. The city is home to numerous street art festivals, such as the renowned Berlin Mural Fest and the Street Art Mecca at the RAW-Gelände.
Unter den Linden 37, 10117 Berlin, Germany
We will be turning right onto Unter Den Linden as we make our way east through the city.
Unter den Linden is the famous boulevard in Berlin, known for its historical significance, architectural beauty, and cultural institutions. It stretches from the Brandenburg Gate in the west to the Schlossbrücke (Palace Bridge) near the Berlin Cathedral in the east. Unter den Linden is a bustling boulevard with wide sidewalks, elegant shops, cafes, and restaurants. It attracts both locals and tourists who come to enjoy its vibrant atmosphere, stroll along the avenue, and take in the historical and architectural beauty.
The boulevard has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century. It was initially a tree-lined path leading to the City Palace (Stadtschloss), the residence of the Prussian royal family. Over the centuries, Unter den Linden became a prestigious avenue and a symbol of power and grandeur.
Unter den Linden features a blend of architectural styles from different eras. Along the boulevard, you can find impressive buildings, palaces, and monuments that showcase various architectural influences, including neoclassical, Baroque, and modernist designs.
Along the boulevard is The Berlin State Opera House, home to the Staatskapelle Berlin, one of the oldest orchestras in the world. It stages a wide repertoire of opera classics, including works by composers such as Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Strauss, as well as contemporary operas. The Berlin State Opera showcases an elegant and grand architectural style. Its exterior design is characterized by neoclassical elements, while the interior features opulent decorations, chandeliers, and ornate detailing.
Humboldt University's main building is located on Unter den Linden in close proximity to other iconic landmarks such as the Berlin State Opera and the Brandenburg Gate. Founded in 1810, the university is one of the oldest and most renowned in Germany. The campus features a mix of historic and modern buildings, including the main building known as the "Hauptgebäude," which is an impressive neoclassical structure.
Humboldt University has had a significant impact on academia and has been associated with many influential figures throughout history. Some notable alumni and faculty members include Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Max Planck, and Friedrich Engels among others.
Unter den Linden/ Deutsche Staatsoper, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Coming up on your left is a prominent memorial called Neue Wache, translated as "New Guardhouse" in English.It holds significant historical and cultural importance as a tribute to the victims of war and tyranny. The building itself has undergone various transformations since its construction in the early 19th century.
Neue Wache was originally built in 1816 as a guardhouse for the Prussian royal palace and later served as a museum. However, its purpose changed in 1931 when it was repurposed as a memorial to honor the soldiers who fell during World War I. Over time, its significance expanded to commemorate victims of war and oppression from subsequent conflicts as well.
The most striking feature inside Neue Wache is the sculpture known as "Mother with her Dead Son" created by German artist Käthe Kollwitz. The statue depicts a grieving mother holding her deceased son, reflecting the profound sorrow and loss experienced by families affected by war.
Käthe Kollwitz, known for her poignant and emotionally charged artworks, completed the sculpture in 1938. The sculpture was initially created to represent the suffering endured by mothers who lost their children during World War I. However, its meaning has expanded to encompass the universal grief experienced by mothers who have lost loved ones in war, regardless of nationality or time period.
The statue is placed in the center of the memorial's dark and somber interior, directly under an oculus in the roof, allowing a beam of natural light to fall on the sculpture. This subtle play of light draws attention to the central theme of mourning and remembrance.
Neue Wache has continued to evolve in its commemorative purpose. After German reunification in 1990, the memorial was rededicated to honor all victims of war and tyranny, acknowledging the suffering endured by individuals and communities throughout history.
Unter den Linden 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Museum Island, known as Museumsinsel in German, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the Spree River in Berlin, Germany. It is an ensemble of five world-renowned museums, each housing an impressive collection of art, archaeology, and cultural artifacts.
Museum Island has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. It was originally conceived as a cultural complex designed to house Berlin's significant collections of art and antiquities. The museums were constructed between 1824 and 1930.
Built between 1823 and 1830, the Altes Museum is home to the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities). It houses a vast collection of ancient Greek and Roman art and artifacts, including sculptures, pottery, and jewelry.
Reconstructed and reopened in 2009 after being heavily damaged during World War II, the Neues Museum houses several important collections, including the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection. Its most famous exhibit is the bust of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen.
Completed in 1876, the Alte Nationalgalerie houses a vast collection of 19th-century art, including works by renowned artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and Adolph von Menzel.
Built between 1897 and 1904, the Bode Museum is home to the Skulpturensammlung (Sculpture Collection) and the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Museum of Byzantine Art). It showcases sculptures, Byzantine art, and a range of European medieval and Renaissance artifacts.
The most famous and visited museum on Museum Island, the Pergamon Museum houses monumental structures and art from ancient civilizations. Its highlights include the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
Museum Island itself is an architectural marvel. The buildings feature a variety of architectural styles, including Neoclassical, Renaissance Revival, and Art Nouveau. The architecture is often considered a reflection of the periods in which the museums were built.
In addition to the museums, Museum Island includes green spaces and historic monuments, creating a unique cultural landscape. The Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) is located nearby, adding to the historical and architectural richness of the area.
Let’s continue forward to the Berlin Cathedral and our next point of interest on our tour.
Am Lustgarten Berliner Dom, 10178 Berlin, Germany
The Berlin Cathedral, known as the Berliner Dom in German, is a magnificent Protestant cathedral located on Museum Island in Berlin.
The Cathedral has a history that dates back to the 15th century when a parish church stood on the same site. The current cathedral was built between 1894 and 1905 in a neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque architectural style. It served as the court church for the Hohenzollern dynasty, the ruling family of Prussia and later Germany.
The Berlin Cathedral is known for its impressive architectural design. It features a large central dome with a lantern and multiple smaller domes and towers. The exterior is adorned with intricate sculptures, decorative elements, and ornate facades. The interior of the cathedral is equally stunning, with a spacious nave, beautiful stained glass windows, and elaborate decorations.
The Cathedral serves as the primary church for the Protestant Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg, and Silesian Upper Lusatia. It hosts regular religious services, including Sunday worship, weddings, and other religious ceremonies. The cathedral's impressive acoustics also make it a popular venue for concerts and musical performances.
The Berlin Cathedral houses the Hohenzollern Crypt, a burial place for members of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The crypt contains over 90 sarcophagi, including those of German emperors, empresses, and other prominent members of the royal family.
Visitors to the Berlin Cathedral can enjoy a Dome Walk, which offers panoramic views of Berlin's cityscape. Climbing to the top of the dome provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, including the River Spree, Museum Island, and other notable landmarks.
The Berlin Cathedral stands as an iconic symbol of Berlin and is recognized as one of the city's most significant landmarks. Its grandeur, rich history, religious significance, and cultural offerings make it a popular destination for both tourists and locals seeking to explore Berlin's architectural and spiritual heritage.
Karl-Liebknecht-Str., 10178 Berlin, Germany
Ahead you will see perhaps the most iconic landmark in the city, the Berlin Wall, or what’s left of it. We know the wall came down due to ongoing socio-economic and political change throughout Eastern Europe. Let’s explore some less recognized information regarding the Wall.
One lesser-known fact about the Berlin Wall is the existence of an extensive network of tunnels dug underneath it during the Cold War. These tunnels were created by individuals and organizations seeking to assist East Berliners in escaping to the West. One notable tunnel was called "Tunnel 29." It was constructed in 1962 by a group of university students led by Joachim Neumann, who was studying civil engineering at the time. The tunnel got its name because it was the 29th tunnel attempt made to help people escape.
To keep the tunnel hidden from the authorities, the students used wooden boards to support the walls and ceiling and removed the excavated soil through bags. They also installed an electric cable for lighting, air ventilation, and a telephone system to communicate between the two ends of the tunnel.
Another lesser-known fact about the Berlin Wall is the significant role that artists played in transforming it into a vibrant canvas of political expression and artistic creativity. While the eastern side of the wall was covered in graffiti from the West Berlin side, the western side remained relatively bare due to strict control by the West German authorities.
However, in 1984, French artist Thierry Noir became one of the first to paint on the western side of the Berlin Wall. He started creating large, colorful murals depicting surreal figures and faces, effectively initiating the transformation of the once stark and imposing structure into an open-air art gallery.
Following Thierry Noir's lead, numerous artists from around the world flocked to Berlin to leave their mark on the Wall. The artistic movement grew, and the Wall became a symbol of creative resistance and a platform for expressing political messages and ideas.
One of the most famous artworks on the Berlin Wall is the "Brezhnev Honecker Kiss." A common tradition among eastern bloc leaders at the time, though less known to Western culture.
Security along the wall often implemented brutal measures to keep people from crossing. Dog runs were installed in some areas so that watch dogs could block the path and alert border soldiers of an approaching intruder. At night the border strip was lit brightly by a line of lamps, making it easier for border soldiers to see someone fleeing in the dark.
Many people lost their lives at the GDR border due to firearms. Of the 140 total deaths that occurred at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989, 91 of the victims – mostly people trying to flee – had been shot by GDR border soldiers.
In June 1990 the systematic dismantling of the border grounds began at Ackerstrasse, between the districts of Wedding (West Berlin) and Mitte (former East Berlin), and was basically finished by the year’s end. The East Berlin magistrate placed the first sections of the Wall, including the section on Bernauer Strasse, under protection as a historical monument in 1990.
Berlin Alexanderplatz Bahnhof Dircksenstrasse, 10178 Berlin, Germany
Here we are at the final destination on this tour, Alexanderplatz. It is a major public square and transportation hub located in the central district of Mitte in Berlin, Germany. It holds historical, cultural, and commercial significance and is one of the city's busiest and most well-known squares.
Alexanderplatz has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. It was originally a cattle market and later developed into a bustling commercial and transportation hub. The square has undergone significant transformations over the years, particularly during the 20th century.
Located in the heart of Berlin, Alexanderplatz is easily accessible and well-connected to other parts of the city. It serves as a major transportation hub, with multiple subway (U-Bahn) and tram lines converging at the square, making it a vital transit point for both locals and visitors.
Alexanderplatz is characterized by its distinct architecture, featuring a mix of historic and modern buildings. Fernsehturm, the iconic TV Tower is the tallest structure in Berlin and a symbol of the city. Visitors can take an elevator to the observation deck for panoramic views of Berlin. Weltzeituhr the world clock is a popular meeting point and the clock displays the time of different cities around the world.
Another significant structure here is the Fountain of International Friendship. This fountain represents the friendship between the Soviet Union and East Germany.
Alexanderplatz is a bustling commercial area, featuring several shopping centers, department stores, and retail outlets. The Galeria Kaufhof and Alexa Shopping Mall are popular destinations for shopping enthusiasts. The square also hosts a variety of street markets and events throughout the year. The area is also known for its vibrant atmosphere and entertainment options. It is home to numerous theaters, cinemas, restaurants, and cafes. The nearby Volksbühne Theater and the Berliner Ensemble are renowned cultural institutions in the area.
Well that about wraps it up. Again my name is Dave, and it was a pleasure showing you around the city of Berlin. Have a wonderful day!
S+U Alexanderpl/Memhardstr., 10178 Berlin, Germany