The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most iconic sights in today’s vibrant Berlin. More than just Berlin’s only surviving historical city gate, this site came to symbolise Berlin’s Cold War division into East and West – and, since the fall of the Wall, a reunified Germany. Architecturally, the sandstone Brandenburg Gate also represents one of the earliest and most attractive examples of a neo-classical building in Germany.
Constructed between 1788 and 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was Berlin’s first Greek revival building. Designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, architect to the Prussian court, it was inspired by the monumental gateway at the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The Brandenburg Gate is 26 metres high, 65.5 metres long and 11 metres deep, and supported by two rows of six Doric columns.
In 1793, the gate was crowned by the Quadriga statue, designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow. This statue also has its own story to tell. In 1806, when Napoleon’s army took Berlin, the French Emperor had the Quadriga transported to Paris as war booty and a sign of his victory. In 1814, after Napoleon’s forced abdication, the Quadriga was returned to Berlin where it once again adorned the Brandenburg Gate, facing towards the east and the city centre.
At 1316 metres long, the open-air art gallery on the banks of the Spree in Friedrichshain is the longest continuous section of the Berlin Wall still in existence. Immediately after the wall came down, 118 artists from 21 countries began painting the East Side Gallery, and it officially opened as an open air gallery on 28 September 1990. Just over a year later, it was given protected memorial status.
In more than a hundred paintings on what was the east side of the wall, the artists commented on the political changes in 1989/90. Some of the works at the East Side Gallery are particularly popular, such as Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss and Birgit Kinders’s Trabant breaking through the wall. They are not just a popular subject for postcards – you’re sure to want to photograph them yourself.
Discover the magic of the rococo at the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace – once a royal summer residence, today Berlin’s largest and most magnificent palace.
In the Neuer Flügel (New Wing), you can view the staterooms and the rococo ballroom known as the Goldene Galerie (Golden Gallery). The Silver Vault includes quite stunning tableware of gold, silver, glass and porcelain displayed on laid tables. Around 100 table services have survived intact, a vivid reminder of the magnificence of dining at court. The impressive display of the remaining pieces of the Prussian crown jewels, complete with the imperial insignias, as well as personal treasures, such as the elaborated designed, exquisite snuffboxes collected by Friedrich the Great, are also well worth seeing. The Porcelain Cabinet in the Old Palace offers a breathtaking collection of the finest blue-and-white porcelain decorating the entire room.
The Reichstag is an internationally recognisable symbol of democracy and the current home of the German parliament. Every year, thousands of guests visit the Reichstag - and with good reason: It is not often that you can enjoy such an amazing panorama while, just beneath your feet, the political decisions of tomorrow are being made. Both as an architectural wonder and a historical testimony, the Reichstag has an important role to play in Berlin.
There are several options to visit the Reichstag: join a guided tour; listen to a plenary session (in German of course) or climb up to the dome and the roof!
The government buildings in the heart of Berlin form a ribbon across the river Spree, symbolically connecting East and West. The parliamentary offices and the chancellery were not built until the wall came down and Berlin was chosen as the country’s seat of government. The buildings are exciting examples of contemporary architecture that no-one sightseeing in Berlin can afford to miss.
The original idea for the Band des Bundes was a gesture of reunification. In a dual piece of symbolism, the government buildings and the offices for democratically elected MPs are both a physical connection and a symbolic bridge between East and West.
The federal buildings are not just the centre of the town in geographical terms; since 2006, the striking concrete and glass buildings have been the first thing that visitors to Berlin see when they arrive at the city’s main station.
The magnificent dome of the Cathedral Church (Berliner Dom) is one of the main landmarks in Berlin’s cityscape – and marks the spot of the impressive basilica housing the city’s most important Protestant church. With its elaborate decorative and ornamental designs, the church interior is especially worth seeing.
Yet although the church is known as a cathedral, it actually has the status of a parish church – though not just any parish. This was the court church to the Hohenzollern dynasty, the rulers of Prussia and later the German Emperors. Today, as the High Parish and Cathedral Church, the church serves the Protestant community in Berlin and the surrounding areas. The congregation is not based on place of residence, but open through admission to all baptised Protestants in the region.
The Pergamonmuseum is nothing short of a wonder in itself. Its rooms are overflowing with some of the world’s most impressive, long buried, treasures. The museum encompasses the vast history of the Ancient East, with collections that can not be experienced elsewhere. The museum is named after the Pergamon Altar, a Hellenistic masterpiece of white stone architecture. The imposing structure invites you to walk the steps of 2000 years of history and behold its intricacies close-up. But don’t get lost in this wonder for too long, as there are many more under the museum’s roof. Artefacts have been gathered from Iran, Asia Minor, Egypt and the Caucasus, and these worlds have been recreated for you to explore within the Pergamonmuseum.