Whether you are interested in the Second World War, street art, classical art or modern architecture, Berlin is the right choice for you: the capital city of Germany is brimming with monuments, museums, churches and so much more to visit! Here’s an overview of 10 landmarks that you must see during your stay in Berlin as well as some insider tips.
1. East Side Gallery
Right after the fall of the Wall in December 1989, artists used the remaining sections of the wall as a canvas. Over 1,3 kilometer, you can see murals that depict several subjects, from the fall of the Wall to world peace. Some of them are really famous (such as the Fraternal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel, that depicts Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the USSR and Erich Honecker, who led the German Democratic Republic, kissing) and are often restored, but some are removed so that artists can start from scratch! Each visit of the East Side Gallery will be a new discovery!
2. Berlin Victory Column (Siegessäule)
The Victory Column (or in German, Siegessäule) is located at the center of the biggest park in Berlin, Tiergarten. Its construction began in 1864, to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. There, you will see a bronze sculpture of Victoria, the Greek Goddess of Victory, but first, you have to climb a 285-step spiral staircase to reach the top of the monument. There, a viewing platform offers a wonderful panoramic view of Berlin and the Brandenburg Gate.
3. Brandenburg Gate
Now, you have to take a closer look at the Brandenburg Gate! This symbol of Berlin, located on the Pariser Platz. Atop the gate is a beautiful Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses. Night and day, you can enjoy the view : the Brandenburg Gate is often illuminated, for instance for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall or during the Festival of Lights each year in October.
4 – Alexanderplatz
Alexanderplatz is a large public square located in Mitte and one of the best examples of the architecture of the Communist era. Nowadays, it is a huge shopping area and an important transport hub. There, you can also see the Weltzeituhr, or World Clock, which displays the time for various cities around the world. The Fernsehturm, or TV Tower, is also located nearby, and offers a stunning view over Berlin. If you want to enjoy the scenery with a drink or a meal, there is a revolving restaurant at the top of the Tower. Another recommendable place at just 15 minutes walking distance from the Fernsehturm is the Sophie’n Eck, a great German restaurant where you can enjoy reasonably priced meals and a great selection of typical drinks. Here are the directions: Grosse Hamburger Strasse 37, 10115 Berlin. For further information call +49(0)30 28 34 06 5 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 – Holocaust Memorial
To honour the memory of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the city of Berlin has inaugurated in 2005 the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Located near the Brandenburg Gate, it consists of a field of concrete stelae and was designed by Peter Eisenman. Under the Memorial, the ‘’Place of Information’’ holds the names of all the Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the museum Yad Vashem.
6 – Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church)
Located on the Kurfüstendamm avenue, this church was built between 1891 and 1895 in order to honour the first German emperor William Ist, as well as the victory in the French army in 1870. The church however fell victim to the bombings during the Second World War, and only the entrance porch, the awning’s bailey a tower and the ruins of the bell tower still stand erect; further to the opposition of many Berlin inhabitants to the Eiermann project, which aimed to completely demolish what was left of the church, it was decided to leave it there as a war remembrance. This very Eiermann project is behind the construction of a new church where previously the nave of the Memorial Church used to be; very modern and in a style drastically different from the one of its neighbour, this new church is worth going out of your way for.
7 – Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial)
If you were wondering what the wall’s no man’s land looked like when Berlin was still cut in half, rush to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, or Berlin Wall Memorial. Located at the junction of the Bergstraße street and the Bernauerstraße street, you will be able to go up a plateau/set from which one can see the wall as it was from 1961 until 1989: watchtower, lightning system to see if anyone would be trying to cross the wall, barbed wires… A real dive in the past.
8 – Checkpoint Charlie
When Berlin was cut in zones, it was necessary to go through a border post to cross from the west zone to the east zone, and vice versa. You can find Checkpoint Charlie on the Friedrichstraße street, where it formerly used to show where the limit between the Mitte district (the then soviet district) and the Kreuzberg district (the then American district) was. All that’s left today is a sentry box constantly animated by nice walk-on actors with whom you’ll be able to take photos, as well as the famous post where “You are leaving the American sector” is written in four languages. An open-air museum is located a few steps away from the sentry box: the panels attached to the walls will give you more information about the wall’s history, the life in a capital city cut in sectors and the attempts of east-Berlin inhabitants to cross the wall.
9- Reichstag building
The Reichstag building is no other than the Bundestag’s headquarters, which is the German parliament. Very informative visits are organised in the building: on top of discovering the palace, explanations on how the German political system works will be given to you. The Palace cupola is a not-to-be-missed: from there, you’ll have a stunning view of Berlin, as the cupola is made of glass. If you plan on visiting Berlin during the winter, book a visit on the website of the Reichstag building at the end of the day: this way, you’ll be able to appreciate a sunset from the roofs, and take advantage of an exceptional panorama given by Berlin’s buildings being lit up by spotlights.
10 – Museuminsel (Museum Island)
Berlin can be proud of its island : stuck between two arms of the Spree river, the Museum Island or Museuminsel, brings together nothing less than 5 museums (the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie), a cathedral (the Berliner Dom) and a pleasure park (the Lustgarten). The bravest ones will have to save two of their holiday days in order to see it all! You can however rest in the garden with a chilled beer between two visits, as Berlin’s authorities turn a blind eye on alcohol consumption in public space. Don’t be hesitant over joining a group of locals on the Spree banks and share a drink with them, the atmosphere there is always friendly and they will gladly talk with you!
Apart from the typical tourist attractions we have some insider tips that we recommend to check out during your stay in Berlin:
- Sightseeing Point Berlin offers great private walking, bike, bus, minivan, and boat tours
- The Stadt im Ohr audio guides are an excellent alternative in case you prefer to discover the city on your own