The capital city of Germany is rich with history and culture. Badly fractured during World War II and the cold war. Berlin has recreated itself into an international city with diverse cultures and architecture.
Explore the top tourist attraction in Berlin that still bears the scars of the recent past.
1. Brandenburg Gate
Built in the late 1700s. The Brandenburg gate is the only surviving city gate of Berlin. The gate is in the western part of Berlin and marks the entrance to Unter den Linden.
Used as one of the Berlin Wall crossings. The gate became a site of protest during the division of Germany and a place of celebration when the wall fell in 1989.
The gate was severely damaged in World War II and underwent extensive renovation in the early 2000s.
Today it is fully restored and is the symbol of not only the turbulent history of the region. but also the reunification of East and West Berlin.
2. Holocaust Memorial
Near the Brandenburg Gate. The Holocaust Memorial is a simple, but powerful tribute to the Jews that died as a result of Hitler’s extermination plan. The 2,711 slabs are arranged in a wave-like pattern over 205,000 square feet.
Each stone is unique. Varying from ankle high to over six feet tall. The paths between the slabs undulate with the overall effect being one of instability and disorientation.
There is no set pattern and visitors may walk in any direction through the peaceful, quiet stones. At the base of the memorial an underground information center offers information and personal stories of people affected by the actions of the Nazi party.
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3. Museum Island
Five museums comprise Museum Island which is located between the Spree River and Kupfergraben. As with many of the structures in Berlin.
The old museum buildings were nearly destroyed during the Second World War but are now open.
The Altes Museum displays ancient Greek and Roman artifacts. While the Alte Nationalgalerie houses the largest collection of 19th century paintings and sculptures in Germany.
The Nues Museum houses prehistoric pieces and Egyptian art, including the bust of Queen Nefertiti.
The Pergamon Museum contains another display of Greek and Babylonian antiquities. The Ishtar Gate and Pergamon Altar are here.
Finally, the Bode Museum displays a large collection of sculptures, numismatic (coin) collections and a number of paintings.
The Reichstag is the seat of the German Parliament and an historic landmark. A fire in 1933 and air raids during the Battle of Berlin in 1945 caused a great deal of damage.
The Reichstag sits near the Brandenburg Gate and was not fully restored until after the deconstruction of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification.
Some historical scars, such as graffiti left by Soviet soldiers. Were left as a tribute to the building’s difficult past.
The original building was designed by several architects and the mix of styles in the completed structure was somewhat controversial at the time. But now is appreciated by thousands of visitors each year.
5. East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still in existence. Often described as a memorial to freedom, it showcases paintings of artists from around the world.
The artwork, which began appearing in 1990. Documents the changing time after the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as expressing hope for the future.
Sections of the wall have been moved to facilitate construction and other portions have been damaged by erosion and vandalism.
6. Memorial Church
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is in the center of the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. The original church was built between 1891 and 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
During WWII the church burned down after it was hit by an allied bomb. Only the broken west tower of the church was still standing.
In 1961 a new church, consisting of 4 buildings. Was constructed around the remains of the old church. The concrete and glass structure is a fascinating counterpoint to the neo-Romanesque old church that it surrounds.
Photos of the original church can be found in the remaining west tower along with some of the original mosaics.
7. Check Point Charlie
One of the best known crossing points of the Berlin Wall. Checkpoint Charlie resonates with emotional and historical significance. Named by the Western Allies. the border crossing bore an ominous sign stating “You are leaving the American Sector”.
This was the single crossing point for members of the Allied forces and foreigners. The guardhouse which once stood here is now on display at the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf.
A replica of a U.S. Army guardhouse stands at the crossing. And cobblestones are used to designate the former border spot.
The best documentation on escape attempts and the original Checkpoint sign can be found in the museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
8. Potsdamer Platz
Art, entertainment and shopping can all be found in this vibrant corner of Berlin. The square was completely destroyed after the war but has been rebuilt into a modern plaza with landmark towers and a shopping arcade.
The area is seen as symbolic reconnection of the two halves of Berlin. Joining the residents of both sides in a completely new part of the city.
A replica of Germany’s first traffic light stands in the center with sleek, modern office buildings surrounding the platz.
The DaimlerChrysler Atrium offers a changing art exhibit while the Sony Centre features a Cinema Complex and Film Museum, a shopping mall and a 3D IMAX theater.
9. Hackesche Hoefe
The Hackesche Höfe is a complex that includes eight interconnected courtyards. It was designed and built by the architect Kurt Berndt. And the Art Nouveau façade was the work of August Endell.
As with many Berlin courtyard buildings. The complex was used for a mixture of offices, shops and flats. The buildings were only partially damaged during the WW2.
But were mostly neglected while Germany was partitioned. Only after reunification, starting in 1993, was the complex extensively restored and it now looks better than it ever has.
Inside the Höfe you’ll find a wide variety of cafes. restaurants and shops that attract tons of locals and visitors each day. As you travel from one courtyard to the next to see more vendors. you’ll understand the unique nature of this complex.
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Once the hunting grounds of the Brandenburg elite. The Großer Tiergarten is now an urban park in central Berlin. Commemorating a Prussian victory. The Berlin Victory Column stands in the park and is surrounded by a street circle.
Pedestrians can reach the column by using any of four underground tunnels. Near the Column sits Schloss Bellevue. The Beautiful Palace, which is the official residence of the President of Germany.
Occupying the southwest corner of the Tiergarten. The Berlin Zoo houses around 14,000 animals. The open-air habitats have made it one of the most popular zoos in Europe.
11. Topography of Terror
One of the more poignant attractions in Berlin is the Topography of Terror. This is an indoor and outdoor museum located on the exact site of the former Nazi government’s SS Reich Main Security Office.
Within view of the Berlin Wall, former prisons cells were excavated to showcase the tragedies and horrors of the Nazi regime. Exhibits explore the Jewish ghettos of Berlin.
The criminals brought to justice at the Nuremberg Trials and a memorial to all those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. It can be emotionally tough to explore the Topography of Terror. But it an important historical stop to make.
12. Victory Column
The Siegessäule, or Victory Column. Was built toward the end of the 19th century in celebration of several Prussian military triumphs.
The column originally stood in front of the Reichstag but was moved to the middle of Tiergarten by the Nazi government as part of a major urban redevelopment plan.
At the very top of the column is an angelic. Winged figure that represents Victoria. The Roman goddess of victory. At the top of the Victory Column is an observation deck that allows for panoramic views over the city.
There’s just one catch, There is no elevator. If you’re feeling up for it, take on the 285 steps to get to the top.
13. Pergamon Museum
In Berlin’s Museum Insel you’ll find the fascinating Pergamon Museum. The whole museum is named for the Pergamon Altar, which is one of its most valued attractions on display.
The Pergamon Museum is the most visited art museum in Germany. And it boasts an incredible collection of antiquities and treasures.
Touring the museum is a way to bring the ancient world to life. Some of the most notable attractions in the Pergamon include the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
The Mschatta Façade from a desert castle in Jordan and the Roman Market Gate of Miletus. Which dates back to the 2nd century.
The Gendarmenmarkt is a major public square in Berlin that dates all the way back to the 17th century. Although many of the historic buildings in the Gendarmenmarkt were destroyed in World War II. Several major landmarks remain.
With a visit to the Gendarmenmarkt, you’ll be able to see the Deutscher Dom and the Französischer Dom. Or French Cathedral, which was built by the Huguenots in the early 18th century.
The Gendarmenmarkt is also home to the beautifully reconstructed Konzerthaus. Where the Berlin Orchestra performs. During the winter. Christmas markets are a major highlight at the square.
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15. Charlottenburg Palace
If you like touring palaces, then don’t miss the Charlottenburg Palace. This is the largest palace in Germany. And it is found in Berlin’s City West district.
Charlottenburg Palace was constructed at the end of the 17th century, and the entire community of Charlottenburg grew around it.
Built in the Baroque style, and boasting beautiful gardens and outdoor sculptures. The palace is now open to the public. You can tour restored rooms and see the extravagant.
Rococo style in the apartments of Frederick the Great, and you can also see collections of porcelain, crown jewels and royal silver.