Berlin has been a crossroads of history for the last 60 years. The wall that divided the city from the post-war period to 1989 has for too long obscured the priceless treasures of the history of humanity concentrated in Berlin, almost all kept on Museum Island in the middle of the Spree river.
But Berlin is also the home of electronic music, fashion and designers, who move in an urban context where the new avant-garde architecture still coexists with Gothic and post-war ruins. u
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A city where destruction, division, reconciliation, memory and redemption chase each other in an eccentric and cosmopolitan landscape.
Under the austere blanket and stiffened by a dark and impossible to forget past, Berlin is the city you don’t expect. Here we recommend the 10 things to see absolutely in Berlin .
Backdrop of one of the most famous photographs in the world, which marks the fall of Nazism and immortalizes a Soviet soldier as he raises the flag with the hammer and sickle on its top, the Reichstag is the seat of the German parliament and like most of Berlin’s monuments, it bears all the markings of WWII and has a story of its own to tell.
Born as a building to house the chambers of the German Parliament, it was from one of the windows of the Reichstag that the birth of the German Republic was proclaimed in 1918 , marking the decline of the monarchy and the dynasty of German emperors.
In February 1933, a terrible fire almost completely destroyed the building and during the Second World War it was used as a clinic for new births.
One year after the fall of the Wall, it was inside it that the official ceremony of reunified Germany was held on 2 October 1990. Only in 1999, 66 years after the great fire, did the symbol of German democracy officially return, once again hosting the chambers of Parliament.
The splendid glass and steel dome we see today was designed by the renowned English architect Sir Norman Foster , as a symbol of openness after the dark period of division and through its glass windows you can see all of Berlin and the inner Parliament area.
Opening times and ticket prices for the Reichstag dome
The dome of the Reichstag is open every day from 8 to 24.
Last admission at 22.
Closed: 24 and 31 December, 15-19 July, 16-20 September and 7-11 October.
“ Mr Gorbachev, tare down this wall! ” exclaimed the American president Ronald Regan, during his famous speech given in Berlin in 1987. Only two years later, on the night of November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down and with it all the ideological and political barriers that for 28 years they materially and cruelly split Berlin and Germany in two.
In August 1961, the face of the city changed completely: 170 km of 10 m high concrete marked the division of the world into two spheres, the American and the Soviet. Crossing the border was impossible, there are at least 136 people who died trying to escape to West Berlin, others used the most disparate and unthinkable means in a desperate attempt to cross the wall : hot air balloons, super light planes and false documents with the United Nations header are just a few examples.
On November 9, 1989, President Reagan’s words found substance when, following the fall of Communism, the leaders of the GDR government announced that East Berliners could cross the border and the wall fell under the blows of hammers and pickaxes of Berliners.
Only 1 km of concrete remained intact and in 1990 artists from all over the world celebrated the reunification of Germany with spray cans, painting the remains of the wall with colorful murals, some of which have become famous works all over the world such as “ The mortal kiss ” which immortalizes the kiss on the mouth between Honecker and Brezhnev, and the “ Test the best ” which depicts the “official” car of East Germany breaking through the wall.
These and many other graffiti make up what is now called the East Side Gallery , a real open-air art gallery, protected by the German government as a monument in all respects.
Opening times and ticket prices for the Berlin Wall
Opening hours: always.
Ticket cost : free.
How to get there :
Bus : 248, 165, 265, N65
U-Bahn : lines 3, 5, 7, 9, 75 Warschauer Straße stop; or the Ostbahnhof train station.
Theater of one of the hottest moments of the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was one of the passageways between East and West Berlin , armored and controlled by the American military, built in the stretch of wall where two of the city’s main arteries converge: between Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße .
It was here that on October 25, 1961, Soviet and American tanks lined up facing each other, in an action of force that ended in favor of the American troops who secured the right to move freely around Berlin.
With the city split in two, it was necessary to ensure that no GDR inhabitants tried to go to the West, so several checkpoints named after the NATO phonetic alphabet were installed: Checkpoint Alpha separated East Germany from Germany West; Checkpoint Bravo separated East Germany from the western part of Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie , the third in the order, had the arduous task of guarding the border between the Americans and the Soviets.
Checkpoint Charlie was also dismantled with the wall and what we see today is a reproduction made in 2000, with the suggestive blow-ups of two soldiers: an American one looking towards East Berlin and a Soviet one looking towards the West , and the famous sign announcing ” You’re leaving the american sector”.
The more passionate can also visit the museum “The house of Checkpoint Charlie” , where a permanent exhibition on the history of the Wall is set up and the weirdest objects used for the most amazing escape attempts by the inhabitants of East Berlin are displayed.
Checkpoint Charlie opening hours and ticket prices
Opening hours: always.
Ticket cost : free. Museum €14.50.
How to get there : Friedrichstrasse
S-Bahn : S1, S2, S25, S3, S5 and S7 stop Friedrichstrasse.
The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate completes the trio of iconic symbols of the Cold War, the background of one of the images that has traveled around the world and a bulwark of divided Berlin.
When the wall was torn down on the night of 9 November 1989, thousands of people gathered right in front of the gate, which had been closed since 1969 in that “no man’s land” between the two sectors of the city.
But the history of the Brandenburg Gate starts from far away , when in 1788 William II, a great lover of Greek art and mythology, commissioned the construction of one of the 18 access gates to the City of Berlin along the lines of the entrance gate to the Acropolis of Athens. On the top of this majestic arch supported by 12 columns 26 meters high, stands a Quadriga depicting the Goddess of Victory aboard a chariot pulled by 4 horses.
Like every monument in Berlin, even the sculpture that overlooks the Brandenburg Gate has its own troubled story to tell: in 1806 it was Napoleon’s war booty when he conquered the city, it was captured and taken to Paris before returning to Berlin in 1814 , and during the Second World War it was destroyed by bombing. The Quadriga we see today was recast in 1953 and placed on one of the most significant monuments in the history of the 20th century.
Opening times and ticket prices for the Brandenburg Gate
Opening hours: always.
Ticket cost : free.
How to get there : Pariser Platz.
S-Bahn : lines 1, 2, 25, Brandenburger Tor stop.
Unter den Linden winds its way from the Brandenburg Gate , literally the avenue “under the linden trees”, the most famous boulevard in Berlin which extends for over 1 km to the Museum Island, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco both for the architectural singularity and for the priceless heritage kept in its museums.
Have you ever thought you’d find an island right in the middle of the river that runs through the city? And not just any island, but the only one in the world that can boast of hosting 5 museums in a row, each with its own treasures that retrace the stages in the history of humanity.
The Altes Museum , not surprisingly the “Old Museum”, was the first of the five to be built between 1823 and 1830, which houses collections of works and objects from the world of Ancient Greece in the rooms on the ground floor , while the upper floor is dedicated to an extraordinary journey through time to discover the objects of daily life of the Etruscans and the testimonies of ancient and imperial Rome .
Other finds from classical antiquity and the fabulous Egyptian works are housed in the Neues Museum , the “New Museum”, which arose immediately after the Altes. Among its treasures it can boast the stone bust of Nefertiti , dating back to 1340 BC, the Papyri Collection and various works from European Prehistory.
The Alte Nationalgalerie , on the other hand, houses the most important collection of 19th-century German painting and sculpture and a collection of French and German Impressionist works. The Bode Museum , named after the architect who designed it, was built in 1904 and boasts a splendid coin collection with around 500,000 pieces, as well as evidence of Byzantine art and sculptures from the Classical World.
The list of museums is completed by the Pergamon Museum , the spearhead of the island, which takes its name from the most important work it houses: the Pergamon altar , dating back to the 2nd century BC, followed by other architectural marvels such as the majestic Porta of the market of Miletus , built in 120 BC, and the Gate of Babylon , built at the behest of the sovereign Nebucosondor and consecrated to the goddess Ishtar, embellished with wonderful mosaics.
Opening times and ticket prices for Museum Island in Berlin
The museums are open every day from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on Mondays.
Ticket cost :
Old Museum: €10
New Museum: €12
Old National Gallery: €12
Bode Museum: €10
Pergamon Museum: €12
How to get there : Bodestrasse
Metro U-Bahn: U6 (Friedrichstrasse)
Metro S-Bahn: S1, S2, S25 (Friedrichstrasse); S5, S7, S75 (Hackescher Markt)
Tram: M1, 12 (Kupfergraben); M4, M5, M6 (Hackescher Markt)