A to Z of tourist attractions in the area
Abgeordnetenhaus Berlin (Berlin House of Representatives)
The Berlin House of Representatives is where Berlin’s state parliament meets. It is in the building that formerly housed the Prussian parliament, in the Mitte (Central) district.
The rectangular, entirely paved Bebelplatz (named after August Bebel, the co-founder of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party) was created in 1740 after the demolition of the city fortifications. On 10 May 1933, the square set the stage for a gloomy chapter of modern German history – the book burnings initiated by the National Socialists.
The city’s most famous landmark has a history of around 200 years. Until 1989, it was a symbol of the division of Berlin and Germany, but today it is a national symbol of unity and is, thus, one of the most visited and most photographed edifices in the city.
Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known border crossing point in Berlin, besides the Glienicke Bridge.
The checkpoint was one of three and the Americans controlled it. Nowadays, the replica of the guardhouse is still a reminder of the Cold War period.
Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)
The memorial was officially opened to the public on 10 May 2005, following a two-year construction period, and was designed by Peter Eisenman, an architect from New York. It consists of 2,711 pillars that have been installed in an area of almost 19,000 m² – there is also an “information centre”.
East Side Gallery
The spontaneous work of art between the Oberbaum Bridge and the Ostbahnhof has, in the meanwhile, become a protected historical site. After the division of Germany ended in 1990, a large number of international artists painted a 1.3 kilometre stretch of the dismal Wall along the Mühlenstraße.
The Friedrichstraße has, in the meanwhile, become Berlin’s most fashionable shopping destination. The north-south dead-straight axis, which is 3.3 kilometres long, is home to numerous high-end brands, but also to smaller exclusive boutiques.
Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial)
Up to the middle of the 1980s, on the border strip on the Bernauer Straße, stood the Church of Reconciliation, which was blown up on 28 January 1985. After reunification, the Chapel of Reconciliation was erected in its place and it now forms part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on the Bernauer Straße. There is also a documentation centre and the national memorial for the victims of the Berlin Wall and German division by the architects Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff.
The inscription reads:
“In memory of the division of the city from 13 August 1961 until 9 November 1989
and in commemoration of the victims of Communist tyranny”
and, thus, gives us the first indication that a particular importance is attached to this place on the former Berlin Wall. It is the central memorial site. A wide strip to the south of the Bernauer Straße still bears witness to the site of the former border installations.
The Bernauer Straße, on the border of Berlin’s Wedding and Mitte (Central) districts, was a flash point in post-war intra-German history. The border ran along the front of the houses that stood on the border of the East Berlin district. After the barriers were erected, many inhabitants of these border houses spontaneously decided to flee. They slid down ropes from their flats, or they jumped onto safety blankets held ready by the West Berlin fire brigade. A few weeks after the erection of the Berlin Wall, the houses were cleared and the remaining inhabitants were forcibly resettled and the windows and doors were bricked up.
For many, the Gendarmenmarkt is the most beautiful square in Berlin. Three monumental buildings dominate it: the German Cathedral, the French Cathedral and the Concert Hall (formerly known as the Playhouse), which is the central point of the three-part ensemble.
The former palace was a three-wing complex, which was grouped around a forecourt facing the Linden. Seven-point stone buildings were built along the Lindenallee.
Invalidenfriedhof (Invalids’ Cemetery)
The cemetery, which was erected in 1748, was once part of the Invalids’ Hostel of the Prussian Army, built by Frederick II in 1747-48, where war veterans could spend their retirement. Important people in the history of Berlin have found their final resting place in the Invalids’ Cemetery; some graves have been preserved. In 1951, the Invalids’ Cemetery was shut, and all the gravestones from the time before 1925 levelled.
Daniel Liebeskind’s spectacular expressionist architecture has turned the building into an architectural highlight of the city. With the contorted design of the building, the American architect wanted to turn the destruction of Jewish lives in Germany into a physical experience. The zigzag layout represents a fragmented Star of David.
There is not much to say about this department store, except go and have a look for yourself. A visit to the gourmet department on the sixth floor is a must.
Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden)
The Pleasure Garden, which initially belonged to the City Palace, lies between the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, the Kupfergraben, the Old Museum and the Berlin Cathedral. It is amongst the most traditional places in the city.
On the northern tip of the Spree Island in the city centre lies one of the most impressive museum complexes in Europe. Over the course of 100 years up to 1930, five architects were involved in creating this ensemble. In 1999, the ensemble was added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. The biggest crowd puller is the Pergamon Museum with its reconstructed altar of the same name.
The Nikolai Quarter, located between the Spree, Berlin’s Town Hall and Mühlendamm, between 1981 and 1987, was the site of reconstruction of a number of historic buildings from the 17th, 18th and 19th century, which had originally stood elsewhere. The small quarter, which is filled with numerous cafés and restaurants, is dominated by the Nikolai Church, the oldest preserved building in Berlin.
The Oranienburger Straße is among one of the most famous promenades in Berlin, which offers numerous attractions as well as many bars and restaurants. It is a popular meeting point for tourists and locals, especially in the evenings.
More than any other square, the Potsdamer Platz represents the new, unified Berlin.
The Schützenstraße Quarter is probably the most extraordinary development in the Friedrichstraße area, and a former border strip.
Today, the Reichstag is one of the most visited sights in Berlin. Since the government moved from Bonn to Berlin, more than 15 million visitors have been recorded here. The glass cupola of the Reichstag is especially popular with the tourists. The Reichstag was constructed between 1884 and 1894 following the designs of Paul Wallot.
Schloss Bellevue (Bellevue Palace)
Recently, Joachim Gauck became the host in this neo-classical palace directly on the banks of the Spree in the northern part of the Tiergarten. The white building is the official residence of the incumbent Federal President.
Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears)
The current building was constructed, after the erection of the Wall, as a border crossing point at the Friedrichstraße Station. The name “Palace of Tears” derives from the fact that most GDR citizens were not allowed to travel to West Berlin in those days, and their visitors from the West would say their tearful goodbyes here.
Unter den Linden
Thanks to “Old Fritz”, the “Linden” has been expanded into a majestic avenue.
The capital’s magnificent boulevard is the oldest promenade of the city. It stretches from the Brandenburg Gate to the Schlossbrücke (Palace Bridge). The central promenade of the street, which is 60 metres wide, finishes in the east of the city, next to the equestrian statue of King Frederick the Great.
Volkspark Humboldthain (Humboldthain Public Park)
It is one of three public parks in the Wedding district. During the Second World War, two giant flak towers were built here. The southern tower has now completely disappeared under a hill (toboggan run), the northern tower has been raised towards the park, but is still recognisable on its north side (towards the S-Bahn) as a flak bunker, which gave refuge to up to 10,000 people during the war. From a height of 85 metres, you can enjoy a stunning view over the city – especially its north side.
The Friedrichswerder Church is an eye-catcher, but a different building is of greater significance: the building near the Werder Market, which was constructed in 1935–39 as an extension of the Reichsbank, and has since been used as a government building. During its long history, it accommodated the chambers of the Reichsbank and the Central Committee of the SED, and since 1999, it is an extension to the new building erected in 1997–99 – the Foreign Office.
The Berlin Zoo was founded in 1844 at the initiative of the zoologists Alexander v. Humboldt and Martin Lichtenstein, and it was also Germany’s first zoo. With the help of the garden designer Peter Joseph Lenné and several renowned master architects, an attractive terrain was created with an antelope house (1872) and an elephant house (1873). It achieved worldwide fame in 2006 thanks to the polar bear cub Knut.