If you’ve made it all the way to Berlin, there are a few iconic sites that you’d be mad to miss. Berlin has thousands of sites and attractions, and each person experiences Berlin slightly differently. Nonetheless, here are five of the most famous sites in Berlin, that no trip to the city is complete without.
Celebrating in Berlin. Image organic2000, via Flickr
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous images of Berlin. Almost everything that happened in Berlin in the last centuries took place with the twelve stone pillars of the gate in the background. Napoleon and Hitler marched through the gate to show their power; three US presidents have given speeches by the gate, including Reagan’s famous “tear down this wall” speech; and when the wall was finally destroyed, the rulers of East and West Germany met at the Brandenburg Gate, which stood in the center of the divided city. Nowadays, the gate is a sign of pride and unity, and the most iconic landmark in Berlin.
This grand parliament building stands in the center of the city, and is the most visited landmark in Berlin. It was built when Germany still had a royal family, but the famous inscription on the Reichstag walls, ‘To The German People’, marked the transition to democracy. The building was destroyed during World War II, but after Berlin was reunited the parliament renovated the building and brought it back to its former glory. The renovated building has a huge glass dome on the roof with a view over the whole city, and it has become an immensely popular site to visit.
The Berlin Wall, which divided the city for 28 years, was the most symbolic image of the Cold War, and the fall of the wall became a symbol of freedom and resistance. Most of the wall was destroyed in the early 1990s, either by the government or by people venting their rage and collecting souvenirs. Parts of the wall survive in a few places around the city, and you should definitely visit one of the famous sites. The Berlin Wall Memorial is a large open-air museum that tells the history of the wall, and remembers those who died trying to cross it. The longest extant section of the wall is the 1.3km stretch of wall along Mühlenstrasse covered by graffiti, with slogans and paintings about freedom and unity. You can also visit Checkpoint Charlie, which tries to recreate the feeling of the divided city, with two uniformed actor-soldiers standing guard at the former border crossing.
The Berlin Television Tower stands above Alexanderplatz, and can be seen from far around. It used to be an East German display of strength, to show the west how advance they were. Today, as well as a functioning television relay station, the famous tower has an observation deck 203 meters above ground and a revolving restaurant with a spectacular view of the city. Booking in advance is recommended for this popular landmark.
Berlin shouldn’t and can’t forget the events that started in the city, with the rise of the Nazis in 1933 and their subsequent attempt to wipe out the Jewish population. The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, near the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, is an eery conceptual artwork in the form of a huge field of concrete blocks, vaguely similar to a cemetery. Under the open-air memorial is an underground information center providing more information on the Jews of Germany, and on the Holocaust.