For visitors in a hurry or for those who want to limit their tourism to the absolute fundamentals, we have compiled a list of Berlin’s top 10 highlights. It goes without saying that this wasn’t an easy job – there are literally thousands of places of interest in Germany’s capital.
Original post from traveltrade.
1: Pariser Platz
Here lies the undisputed emblem of Berlin: the Brandenburg Gate. Constructed between 1788-1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans, this monument was simply one of the many city gates surrounding the formerly small city of Berlin. A pleasant square designed next to the gate was named Pariser Platz, which is still home to many important buildings today such as the Hotel Adlon, the Academy of the Arts, and the British and U.S. Embassies. Just south of Pariser Platz one can find the Holocaust Memorial.
2: Reichstag, Federal Chancellery, and the Victory Column
After the Federal Government’s move from Bonn to Berlin, the Reichtag building from 1894 was awoken after decades of inactivity on the border of the Berlin Wall: the building was completely modernized and adjusted to the needs of the reunified republic. From the new glass dome, visitors can appreciate a 360° view of the bustling city. Many new buildings were constructed near the Reichstag in the 1990s, for example the Band des Bundes with the Federal Chancellery. Berlin’s new Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof), opened in 2006, is also in close proximity to the Reichstag. From its construction in 1871 until 1938, the Victory Column was located directly in front of the Reichstag, however it was moved to its current location at Grosser Stern by the Nazis for reasons of prestige.
3: Unter den Linden and Museum Island
Already in the 19th century, the central boulevard Unter den Linden (Under the Linden Trees) was Berlin’s most splendid promenade and parade street. Even today the avenue has not lost any of its old charm. The boulevard is home to the main building of Berlin’s Humboldt University, the German Historical Museum, the Berlin Cathedral, the Berlin State Opera, and it even traverses Museum Island. These museums host some of the most important exhibits in Germany. The museums were and continue to be under renovation so that they can soon be able to offer the same range of cultural exhibits as they did before the Second World War. The Berlin City Palace also used to stand on Museum Island across from the Old Museum. It was torn down during the GDR years and replaced by the Palace of the Republic. The Palace of the Republic has been torn down in recent years and will soon be replaced by a museum commemorating the Berlin City Palace.
4: Ku’damm and City-West
The Bahnhof Zoo train station is not only surrounded by the center of West Berlin, but also Berlin’s most important shopping district. The Kurfürstendamm (or Ku’damm) stretches from the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidtplatz to Berlin’s high-class residential district of Halensee. This street was formerly the horse riding path of the Prince Elector (Kurfürst) of Brandenburg to his hunting palace; today the street is Berlin’s most expensive street, where many high-end brands have placed their flagship stores. Germany’s most luxurious and largest shopping mecca, KaDeWe, can be found on Tauentzienstrasse, an extension street of Ku’damm – and don’t forget the high point of Berlin for younger visitors: the Berlin Zoo.
5: Friedrichstraße and Gendarmenmarkt
West Berlin’s Ku’damm can only be rivaled by East Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse. Exclusive stores, hotels, and cafes can be found on one of the most well-known streets in the city. In the past twenty years, Friedrichstrasse has successfully reignited the flame of its former beauty. During the GDR years, the Friedrichstrasse train station and Checkpoint Charlie (located on Friedrichstrasse a few kilometers south) served as the connection hubs for travelers between East and West Berlin. Instead of luxury shopping and street cafes, Friedrichstrasse was a dire place of customs clearance, visas, and compulsory exchange. In close proximity to Friedrichstrasse is the Gendarmenmarkt, a place considered by many to be Berlin’s most beautiful square, with the Berlin Concert House, the German Cathedral, and the French Cathedral.
6: Charlottenburg Palace and Park
Somewhat outside of the city center, the pompous Charlottenburg Palace receives many visitors each year. It was built in 1700 by the Prussian King Friedrich III for his beloved wife Sophie Charlotte and was placed on the grounds of a picturesque park directly on the Spree river. The city district Charlottenburg around the palace is one of Berlin’s most desired residential areas. After visitors enjoy a pleasant stroll through the park, they can enjoy the cultural aspects of the location at six museums located directly across from the park on Schlossstrasse.
7: the Fernsehturm and Alexanderplatz
Alexanderplatz was more than simply the center of former East Berlin, it was also architecturally the center of the entire GDR. For this reason the socialist design of Alexanderplatz remains fascinating today: wide streets spread out from the square (such as Karl-Marx-Allee with its architecturally exaggerated Stalinist buildings). “Alex“ is also surrounded by some of the tallest buildings in the city, including the largest structure in Berlin: the Fernsehturm (TV Tower). Also nearby is the Red City Hall (the headquarters of Berlin’s city government) and the Nikolai Quarter, which was reconstructed in the 1980s according to the historical layout. As a striking contrast to the socialist design, Alexanderplatz is also bordered by the oldest churches in the city: the Church of St. Nicholas built in 1230 and St. Mary’s Church, built in 1294.
8: Oranienburger Strasse
The city district between Hackescher Markt and the New Synagogue was the home to Berlin’s Jewish population until the Holocaust. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Oranienburger Strasse has become a particular attraction for art, culture, and nightlife. Countless restaurants, bars, and galleries can be found here and on side streets. The Hackescher Markt S-bahn train station located at the south end of Oranienburger Strasse is a hotspot for Berlin’s nightlife – the city doesn’t sleep here. The area around Oranienburger Strasse can certainly be characterized as the vibrant center of Berlin’s midnight hours.
9: Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz and the adjacent Leipziger Platz were the commercial hubs of Berlin before the Second World War. Two main train stations, countless stores and warehouses, theaters, and cinemas transformed this area into the heart of the city – in order to control this heavy flow of pedestrian, carriage, streetcar, and automobile traffic, Europe’s first traffic light was installed here. Between the end of World War Two and the reunification of Germany, Potsdamer Platz offered another picture entirely: the Berlin Wall cut straight through Potsdamer Platz and was bordered by no-man’s-land and the so-called “death zone.“ After 1989 efforts were made to breathe new life into this former heart of the city. Sony and Daimler Benz developed this area with three skyscrapers, countless stores, and many premiere cinemas. Potsdamer Platz is especially known today as the location of the Berlin’s stars – not only during film festivals
10: Olympia Stadium
West of the high-end suburb, Westend, there was sufficient undeveloped land for the Nazis to realize their megalomaniacal architectural concepts for the 1936 Olympic Games. In dimensions unimaginable at that time, the Olympia Stadium was constructed here in the 1930s – today the stadium is not only home to Berlin’s soccer team, Hertha BSC, but also hosts rock concerts and athletic championships. Directly next to the Olympia premises is Berlin’s legendary Forest Theater (Waldbühne), an open air stage that excites Berliners with concerts by famous rock bands and pop artists.
All images via propeller island.