The impressive and symbolic Brandenburg Gate that lay forlorn for so long
in the no man’s land behind the Berlin Wall, is now once again renovated
and accessible, along with the newly reconstructed Pariser Platz that
links the gate to the beautiful Unter den Linden Boulevard. The gate is
Berlin’s only remaining city gate, built of sandstone between 1788
and 1791 with 12 Doric columns according to a design by C.G. Langhans.
Six columns support an 36ft (11m) transverse beam, similar to the propylaeum
of the Acropolis in Athens. The massive gate is topped with a stunning
statue of the Goddess of Victory facing east towards the city centre (this
was added in 1794). The gate is closed to traffic, as is the adjacent
Pariser Platz, a gracious square that was once surrounded with beautiful
buildings sadly destroyed in the Second World War. Since the fall of the
Berlin Wall new buildings have been built, however, to designs closely
following those of the originals.
Check Point Charlie
The infamous border crossing point in the wall dividing West and East
Berlin has now become a shrine to the wall’s memory with the addition
of a museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. For nearly 30 years, between
1961 and 1990, Checkpoint Charlie in the Friedrichstrasse was the only
crossing point between East and West Berlin. The soldier’s post
can be visited, and tourists can be photographed under the border sign.
The remains of the infamous Berlin Wall have now become the largest open-air
art gallery in the world. The longest section of the wall, which has been
preserved, stretches from Ostbahnhof station to the Oberbaumbrucke, and
has been given over to graffiti artists from around the world. A total
of 118 artists from 21 countries have exerted their skills on the 4,318ft
(1,316m) long section of the wall, and this collection has become a Berlin
landmark and a tourist attraction. Best known paintings are Dimitri Vrubel’s
Brotherly Kiss and Gunther Shaefer’s Fatherland. The gallery is
billed as an international memorial for freedom.
Although relatively new the Jewish Museum in Lindenstrasse has
already gained an international reputation for its significant architecture
and unique exhibitions that bring history alive. The bulk of the museum
is housed in a windowless and doorless steel-clad, silver building, designed
by Daniel Libeskind, sited alongside the yellow Baroque edifice of the
Berlin Museum. Visitors enter the Jewish Museum through the Berlin Museum
to explore the exhibition rooms, which are clustered around a main axis
void, designed to signify the empty and invisible aspects of Jewish history.
One of the most popular art galleries in Berlin is housed in a train station.
The historic Hamburger Bahnhof, built in 1846 at the Tiergarten, was badly
damaged during the Second World War, but has been restored and reopened,
with some modern elements added to the architecture, as an exhibition
venue for an extensive contemporary art collection. The former station
now offers 107,639 square feet (10,000 sq metres) of space filled with
works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Josephy Beuys and Roy Lichtenstein.
The basis of the exhibition is the Marx private collection, but there
are changing exhibitions and good examples of the Italian Transavanguardia
and minimalist art on show too.
This vibrant square is the heart and soul of the 'New Berlin', which has
emerged since the fall of the wall in 1989. The original square was once
one of the busiest junctions in Europe with a major train station sited
on it. However after damage during the Second World War and being cut
through by the divisive wall, it became a decayed wasteland. Since the
fall of the wall, however, a building boom has been taking place around
the Potsdamer Platz, which now boasts an exciting mix of restaurants,
shopping centres, hotels, a casino, theatres and cinemas that draws both
Berliners and tourists seeking good food and recreation. Focus of the
square is the 22-storey Debis Haus, designed by Renzo Piano, featuring
an atrium with cathedral-like dimensions, and its neighbouring Potsdamer
Platz Arkaden, a shopping mall with an Imax cinema. The Sony Centre is
the most recent addition, consisting of seven buildings around a light-flooded
arena, which also houses Berlin’s popular Film Museum. The Kollhoff
building features a panorama platform, reached by Europe’s fastest
express elevator, which offers views of the city. www.potsdamerplatz.de
The historic district of former East Berlin.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The ruins of this famous landmark, damaged during World War II bombings,
serve as a symbol of the destruction of war.
An important archaeological museum with a large collection of classical
New Synagogue Berlin (Neue Synagoge Berlin - Centrum Judaicum)
This famous Jewish landmark was damaged both by the Nazis and by Allied
bombings, but has been restored to house an exhibition of Berlin's Jewish
Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)
This ornate Protestant cathedral is one of Berlin's best known landmarks.
Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg)
Built from 1695–99 as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, this
palace is a stunning example of baroque architecture.
Unter den Linden
This famous East Berlin street is lined with interesting attractions and
Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design (Bauhaus Archiv Museum fur
Collection focusing on the Bauhaus, the famous school of architecture
and design. The building which houses the collection was drafted by Walter
Gropius, founder of the school.
Part of Berlin’s charm is its proud grittiness, but don’t
chide yourself for being bourgeois if it gets to you - it got on the nerves
of Friedrich der Große (Frederick II the Great), too. The ruler
of Berlin (and all of Prussia) from 1740 to 1786 built his favorite abode
Sanssouci, outside of Berlin in the town of Potsdam.
'Without a care' was the French name of his palace, though thanks to considerable
care taken by its architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, craftsmen,
and artisans, it is hailed as the Versailles of Germany. Sanssouci was
intended as a summer residence, and though Friedrich stretched out the
seasons he spent here, tourists don’t have the same privilege: many
buildings close between mid-October and April. The best attractions are
open through winter – Park Sanssouci’s Schloss Sanssouci and
Neues Palais; and the Neuer Garten’s Marmorpalais and Schloss Cecilienhof.
The compact town’s beauty, both faded and restored, makes for a
quaint respite from big-city Berlin. Villas lining the lakes and parks
also provide tax-respite for their celebrity residents living larger outside