From the Grimm brothers to the Federal Republic of Germany, modern day Berlin has been the centre of German history both in the past and present. Home to some of the most famous composers, powerful German companies, and a very famous jelly doughnut – Berlin is the third most visited city in Europe.
From learning more about German people, German states, and German reunification – visiting the most famous monuments in Berlin can give you an insight into the rich and complex past of Deutsches history!
The Brandenburg Gate, known as Brandenburger tor in German, has become an important symbol for German national pride. If you’re looking to stay near this famous attraction, there are many strategic locations to choose from.
This wasn’t always the case, however. Built-in 1788 to 1791, the gate was first a symbol of power under the German empire. From 1871 to 1918, only the Kaiser was authorized to pass under the central arch.
In 1945, Berlin was divided in two. After the war, the gate was located in East Berlin. However, after the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, actually found itself in the middle of a “no man’s land” guarded by soldiers of the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. Established in 1949, after the split of East and West Germany, the GDR was commonly called East Germany.
Largely left alone after the fall of the Berlin wall, it was first renovated in 2002, after which it became the symbol for the German state.
The Berlin wall is a must-see while in the city
The Reichstag palace, when looking at a map of Germany, is located close to the Grandenburg gate. Today it houses the Bundestag – the Federal diet or, as it’s more commonly known, the German parliament.
Although the word Reichstag can be traced back to the Holy Roman Empire, the building itself – once a symbol of the German reich – was forever marked by the Nazi regime in Germany. In February of 1933, after the building was set on fire, Hitler launched a campaign of terror. After being Berlin was taken in 1945, the red army hung its banner off the roof of the Reichstag.
During the existence of the Berlin wall, the palace found itself in West or Western Germany, where the two coexisted side by side. Originally housing the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic, forever marked by that of Nazi Germany, it is now largely a symbol of the reunification of Germany.
A visit to the capital of Germany is never complete without a tour of the remainders of the Berlin wall. After learning about the Treaty of Versailles, the Kingdom of Prussia, and about Northern Germany – no experience will drive home German culture more than visiting the last piece of the Berlin wall. Located in the Friedrichshain, or Friedrichs, district, the open air, street art gallery houses 1.3 kilometres of the Berlin wall. Now, the wall is filled with messages from and to the people of Berlin city and Germany.
Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the memorial is dedicated to the memory of the Jewish population murdered in Europe. One of the most visited and important monuments in Berlin, it is largely a homage to the Jewish people who experienced “shoah” – the Hebrew word for annihilation.
Inaugurated in 2005, the memorial is made of 2,711 concrete slabs that form an enduring reminder of the consequences of nazi Germany, the iron curtain and oppressive systems of government. The memorial in the German capital is only one of many you can find throughout Germany in cities such as Hamburg, and throughout the world, like the Bermen Jewish Heritage Museum in the United States.
Located on Museum Island in Berlin, the Berlin Cathedral is actually not a cathedral but a church. Known as the Berliner Dom in German, it is a protestant church that was built from 1894 to 1905. It is about 40 meters smaller than the Cologne Cathedral.
Originally built in 1688, the building is the site of the Berlin concert haul and German and French churches. While many of its components were destroyed during the Second World War, it has since been totally restored and has become an important marker for people living in Germany.
During the winter, it is the site of what is considered as one of the best Christmas markets by the population of Germany.
Otherwise known as the Charlottenburg Palace, the palace is the largest in Berlin and embodies the best of Baroque and Rococo architecture of the time in Germany. Now, it serves as an ideal place for tourists to lounge and enjoy lakes and gardens in the centre of Berlin.
This Olympic Stadium, like many others around the world, have been as much a part of historical events as any monument. In 1931, Berlin was assigned the role of hosting the 1936 Olympics. This was considered a win for the Nazis, who used the sport ceremony as an opportunity to spread propaganda. The stadium was built to house 86,000 to 110,000 people.
Later, the stadium was used again to host the Football World Cup in 1974. While most of us weren’t born yet or are too young to remember this, a more recent even will probably jog your memory: this stadium was also the site of the famous Zidane, Materazzi situation in 2006.
The stadium today is mostly used for championship games for the athletic world and is home to the football club Hertha Berlin. In a city where the cost of living isn’t too high, this is a popular destination for many Berliner.
Berlin, the largest city in Germany, naturally has many tourist spots
Originally constructed in 1230, the Saint Nicholas church is the oldest building in the city of Berlin. Located in the heart of the Nikolaiviertel quarter, also known as the medieval quarter, the church was damaged during the Second World War.
Renovated in 1977, the church today is an exhibition hall for concerts thanks to its beautiful and unique acoustics.
While it may sound odd, one of the best views of a city can always be seen through telecommunication towers. The Fernsehturm is no exception – built in 1965, the television tower was originally owned by the German Democratic Republic, otherwise known as East Germany. While the intention of this tower was to be a symbol for communist power, it is, today, more a part of Berlin’s famous skyline than anything else.
Standing at 368 meters, it is actually the tallest structure in Germany. Since 1969, the Fernsehturm has been welcoming the public for an incredible view of the city. Today, you can also enjoy the tower by visiting its rotating restaurant located at about 200 meters above the ground.
The control point C, often called Charlie after the phonetic alphabet established by NATO, was a post on the frontier of East and West Berlin that actually allowed for crossing between the wall. It was situated at the frontier between the American and Soviet quarters.
During the Cold War, it was often one of the points of tension between the two powers. In October of 1961, a dispute over the free movement of Germany’s citizens caused a stalemate between tanks on both sides, which remained pointed at each other for three straight days.
Today Checkpoint Charlie has become a favourite tourist visit for history buffs, where you can take some photos of the replicas of uniformed officers. It is also a great place to shop for historical souvenirs of Berlin.
Located in Potsdam, which is a 26-kilometre ride away from the capital, the palace was built in typical Rococo style between 1745 and 1747. It was the palace of the Prussian king Frederic II, otherwise known as Frederick the Great.
Sanssouci, contrary to many other monuments both in Berlin and throughout Germany, was actually prized and respected by the communist regime. It featured on the 5 mark notes for East Germany, known as DDM. In fact, it was the GDR that requested it be classified by the UNESCO as a world heritage site, something that because reality in 1990.
The Fernsehturm, one of the most iconic viewpoints in the city
If you’re looking for some more interesting sites to see while in Berlin, there are two more historical sites that are a must-see for people wanting to learn more about the city’s history.
A visit to the Gesunbrunnen metro stop will allow you to visit the underground of Berlin. Most notably, you will find an older bunker that used to house the citizens of the city in case of airstrike attacks. A quick spoiler alert: the bunker wasn’t actually efficiently built and, had a bomb actually dropped in the area, everyone within would have perished.
Another great place to drop by on your stay in Berlin is the Stasi prison. While it is a bit far from the centre, it’s definitely worth a visit. While this was the site where Soviet interrogations took place, it was also a place of torture. The famous prison offers tours in German, French and English.