The Brandenburg Gate is undoubtedly the most famous symbol of Berlin. It symbolizes both the height of Berlin’s proud history, and the darker periods of war and division. Napoleon, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have used the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin as a site for speaking out to the world. Today, the Brandenburg Gate is still an iconic landmark, standing for freedom and unification.
The Brandenberg Gate. Image Tom Godber via Flickr
The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor in German) was originally just one of eighteen entrances to the walled city of medieval Berlin. King Friedrich II originally turned it into a grand structure, with twelve pillars forming five separate entrances. At the time, ordinary citizens were only allowed to walk through the outer entrances, and nobody but the royal family could ride through the middle of the gate. At the top of the gate is a chariot drawn by four horses, known as the Quadriga. Napoleon knocked down the Quadriga and took it to Paris, but it was taken back eight years later by Prussian soldiers.
The Nazi party used the Brandenburg Gate as a symbol of their popularity, gathering rallies before and during Hitler’s rise to power. The gate was damaged during World War II, and in 1961 it became off-limits to West Berlin after the Berlin wall was built. It became a symbol of the divided city. John Kennedy spoke at the gate, in his famous “I am a Berliner” speech, and President Reagan stood on the western side of the gate in 1987, and demanded that the Soviet leader “tear down this wall!”. Two years later, Berliners from both sides of the city did just that. In a symbol of unity, the West German chancellor walked through the gate to be greeted by the East German prime minister.
Nowadays, the Brandenburg Gate survives as a symbol of unity and freedom. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, and several important events take place in the Pariser Platz in front of the gate. On the north side of the gate, a resting area called the Room of Silence has been added to the structure, where visitors can stop for a moment to appreciate the significance of the site. The Brandenburg Gate is accessible by S-Bahn and U-Bahn (look for Brandenburger Tor Station), and several bus routes. It can be visited before or after the nearby Tiergarten, or together with other monuments close by, such as the Holocaust Memorial and the Reichstag.