Berlin, Germany’s capital, dates to the 13th century. Reminders of the city’s turbulent 20th-century history include its Holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall’s graffitied remains. Divided during the Cold War, its 18th-century Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of reunification. The city’s also known for its art scene and modern landmarks like the gold-colored, swoop-roofed Berliner Philharmonie, built in 1963.
Berlin straddles the banks of the Spree, which flows into the Havel (a tributary of the Elbe) in the western borough of Spandau. Among the city’s main topographical features are the many lakes in the western and southeastern boroughs formed by the Spree, Havel and Dahme, the largest of which is Lake Müggelsee. Due to its location in the European Plain, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. About one-third of the city’s area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers, canals, and lakes. The city lies in the Central German dialect area, the Berlin dialect being a variant of the Lusatian-New Marchian dialects.
Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media and science. Its economy is based on high-tech firms and the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, startup companies, research facilities, media corporations, and convention venues. Berlin serves as a continental hub for air and rail traffic and has a highly complex public transportation network. The metropolis is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries also include IT, healthcare, biomedical engineering, biotechnology, automotive, construction, electronics, social economy and clean tech.
Berlin’s most famous historic landmark is undoubtedly the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). Once a symbol of a divided nation, it now stands as a symbol of unity and peace. This impressively large Neoclassical gate was commissioned by King Frederick Wilhelm II in 1788, and its design was inspired by the Propylaea in Athens’ Acropolis. The sandstone monument is 26 meters tall, standing in the Mitte district’s Pariser Platz, just a block from the Reichstag building.
It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin within Mitte, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament (Bundestag). The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, a boulevard of linden trees which led directly to the royal City Palace of the Prussian monarchs.
Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous histories of Germany and Europe, but also of European unity and peace.
The Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude) was originally completed in 1894 where the Neo-Renaissance palace served as the home of the German Empire’s Imperial Diet until it burned in 1933. It was not used again until after the reunification of Germany, at which point it underwent a 10-year reconstruction and finally became the home of the German Parliament in 1999.
A highlight of this magnificent reconstruction is the replacement dome, the Kuppel. Made of glass, it offers superb views of the surrounding city, especially at night from the Rooftop Restaurant. If visiting in the summer months, be sure to check into the schedule of light shows and film nights for a memorable Berlin experience.
In World War II, during the Battle of Berlin, the building was severely damaged by the Soviet Red Army. After the War, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
The ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after German reunification on 3 October 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the contemporary Bundestag.
The Museum Island is a museum complex on the northern part of the Spree Island in the historic heart of Berlin. It is one of the most visited sights of Germany’s capital and one of the most important museum sites in Europe.
Sandwiched between the River Spree and the Kupfergraben in a 400-meter-long canal, Spree Island – better known as Museum Island (Museumsinsel) – is one of the city’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here, you’ll find many of the city’s oldest and most important museums, including the Old Museum (Altes Museum), built in 1830 to house the Crown Jewels and other royal treasures.
The New Museum (Neues Museum), destroyed during WWII, was rebuilt and opened again in 2009. It serves as the home of extensive collections from the Egyptian Museum, the Papyrus Collection, and the Collection of Classical Antiquities.
The Museum Island (German: Museumsinsel) is a museum complex on the northern part of the Spree Island in the historic heart of Berlin. It is one of the most visited sights of Germany’s capital and one of the most important museum sites in Europe. Built from 1830 to 1930 by order of the Prussian Kings according to plans by five architects, Museum Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 because of its testimony to the architectural and cultural development of museums in the 19th and 20th centuries. It consists of the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum and the Pergamonmuseum.As Museum Island includes all of Spree Island north of the Unter den Linden, the Berliner Dom is also located here, near the Lustgarten. To the south, the reconstructed Berlin Palace houses the Humboldt Forum museum and opened in 2020. Since German reunification, the Museum Island has been rebuilt and extended according to a master plan. In 2019, a new visitor center and art gallery, the James Simon Gallery, was opened.
The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer commemorates the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall and the deaths that occurred there. The monument was created in 1998 by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal State of Berlin.
The Berlin Wall originated in 1961 when East Germany sealed off that half of the city to prevent citizens from fleeing to West Germany. By the time it was torn down in 1989, the four-meter-high wall extended 155 kilometers, dissected 55 streets, and possessed 293 observation towers and 57 bunkers.
Today, only small stretches of this graffiti-covered travesty remain, including a 1.4-kilometer stretch preserved as part of the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer). It stands as a chilling reminder of the animosity that once divided Europe.
The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) commemorates the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall and the deaths that occurred there. The monument was created in 1998 by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal State of Berlin. It is located on Bernauer Straße at the corner of Ackerstraße and includes a Chapel of Reconciliation, the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre, a 60-metre (200 ft) section of the former border, a window of remembrance and a visitor center.
The idea of a memorial was suggested by the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) on behalf of the federal government of Berlin, and architects Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff were commissioned to design it. The cost of the competition and completion was 2.2 million Marks. The federal government took over the construction costs, while the state covers the maintenance costs. On 11 September 2008 the Berlin House of Representatives approved the opening of the memorial on the anniversary of the day that the Berlin Wall fell.
By 2013, an extension was to be completed. Original relics of the border were to be shown, with missing parts marked in steel on the ground. The memorial was to be divided into four areas:
The wall and the Todesstreifen (death strip)
Destruction of the city
Building of the wall
“Es geschah an der Mauer” (It happened at the wall)
The Berliner Fernsehturm or Fernsehturm Berlin (English: Berlin Television Tower) is a television tower in central Berlin, Germany.
Located in the Marien quarter (Marienviertel), close to Alexanderplatz in the locality and district of Mitte, the tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the government of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It was intended to be both a symbol of Communist power and of the city. It remains a landmark today, visible throughout the central and some suburban districts of Berlin. With its height of 368 metres (including antenna) it is the tallest structure in Germany, and the third-tallest structure in the European Union. When built it was the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world after the Ostankino Tower, the Empire State Building and 875 North Michigan Avenue, then known as The John Hancock Center.
Of the four tallest structures in Europe, it is 2 m shorter than the Torreta de Guardamar, 0.5 m shorter than the Riga Radio and TV Tower, and 8 m taller than the Trbovlje Power Station in 2017. The structure is also more than 220 metres higher than the old Berlin Radio Tower in the western part of the city, which was built in the 1920s.
In addition to its main function as the location of several radio and television broadcasting stations, the building – internally known as “Fernmeldeturm 32” – serves as a viewing tower with observation deck including a bar at a height of 203 metres, as well as a rotating restaurant. Also, the Berlin TV Tower can be booked as a venue for events. The distinctive city landmark has undergone a radical, symbolic transformation: After German reunification, it changed from a politically charged, national symbol of the GDR into a citywide symbol of a reunited Berlin. Due to its universal and timeless design, it has increasingly been used as a trademark and is identified worldwide with Berlin and Germany. In 1979, the Berlin TV Tower received monument status by the GDR, a status which was perpetuated after the German reunification.
The Checkpoint Charlie Museum is a private museum in Berlin. It is named after the famous crossing point on the Berlin Wall, and was created to document the so-called “best border security system in the world”.
Also of interest is the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie). Marking the best-known crossing point between East and West Berlin, this fascinating tourist attraction features numerous displays and artifacts tracing the history of human rights, along with exhibits dealing specifically with the history of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie.
Situated next to the original guardhouse, the museum also highlights some of the most interesting attempts made by those trying to escape communist rule. These include an original homemade air balloon used in one successful attempt.
The Checkpoint Charlie Museum (German: Das Mauermuseum – Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie) is a private museum in Berlin. It is named after the famous crossing point on the Berlin Wall, and was created to document the so-called “best border security system in the world” (in the words of East German general Heinz Hoffmann). On display are the photos and related documents of successful escape attempts from East Germany, together with the escape apparatus: hot-air balloons, getaway cars, chairlifts, and a mini-U-boat. The museum researches and maintains a list of deaths at the Berlin Wall. It is operated by the Mauermuseum-Betriebs gGmbH, and the director is Alexandra Hildebrandt.
The Pergamon Museum is a listed building on the Museum Island in the historic centre of Berlin. It was built from 1910 to 1930 by order of German Emperor Wilhelm II according to plans by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann in Stripped Classicism style.
The Pergamon, the most visited of the Museum Island attractions, is also one of Berlin’s top sightseeing destinations. It is home to three main galleries, each occupying a wing of the massive building, including the Middle East Museum, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Antiquity collection.
The artifacts, which narrowly escaped harm during WWII, were collected by German archaeologists during the 19th and 20th centuries from excursions to Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia. Primarily focused on architectural marvels, including ornate façades and gates, some of the museum’s most famous pieces are the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Roman Market Gate of Miletus, and the Mshatta Façade. A café and bookshop are located on-site.
The Pergamon Museum (German: Pergamonmuseum; pronounced [ˈpɛʁ.ɡa.mɔn.muˌzeː.ʊm] ) is a listed building on the Museum Island in the historic centre of Berlin. It was built from 1910 to 1930 by order of German Emperor Wilhelm II according to plans by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann in Stripped Classicism style. As part of the Museum Island complex, the Pergamon Museum was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 because of its architecture and testimony to the evolution of museums as architectural and social phenomena.
Currently, the Pergamon Museum is home to the Antikensammlung including the famous Pergamon Altar, the Vorderasiatisches Museum and the Museum für Islamische Kunst. Parts of the building are closed for renovation until 2025.
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