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19th-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel provided Berlin with many of its greatest buildings, including the magnificent Konzerthaus and the equally striking Altes Museum. The museum, which opened in 1830, was the first to be built on Museum Island. It now houses rotating special exhibitions and is home to part of the Antique Collection, a breathtaking collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts that were excavated by the famous German archeologist Hildesheimer.
This museum houses a vast collection of artifacts from the ancient world, the crowning glory being the altar from the Zeus Temple in Pergamon (180-160 BCE), one of the world's most significant archaeological finds. The museum is also home to parts of the magnificent Antique Collection, the East Asian Collection, the Near Eastern Museum and the Islamic Museum. Designed by Ludwig Hoffmann and Alfred Messel, this museum was established in 1910 and is a part of the wonderful Museum Island. Ranked as one of the most visited art museums, not only throughout Germany, but also the world over, Pergamon Museum makes for a truly enriching experience.
C/O Berlin calls itself an "International Forum for Visual Dialogues," and while this may be apt, it doesn't actually describe what C/O is. It is simply an excellent gallery that houses temporary exhibitions of photographs and photographic installations by the world's leading documentary photographers, from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Trent Park. It is not particularly well known, but for photographers, lovers of photography, or even just people who are interested in the world, it is one of the must-see museums in Berlin. Its exhibitions, usually by multiple photographers, never leave the viewer untouched. Exhibitions have included a retrospective of several Magnum agency photographers and an installation of photographs of religious practices from around the world.
Anyone visiting Berlin today would find it hard to imagine that this vibrant and cosmopolitan city was once divided and through its heart ran a wall made of concrete and barbed wire, patrolled by armed guards. Erected on 13 August 1961 to halt the outflow of disaffected East German workers, the Berlin Wall divided Germany. No one will forget the night of 9th November 1989 when it came crashing down. In the months following its fall, it was bulldozed to the ground and the land where it stood auctioned off to the highest bidder. Not much of the original Wall is left today, with only one or two sections saved as a permanent reminder of the past. The longest and most impressive stretch can be seen at the East Side Gallery, while another section, which is full of chisel holes and graffiti, runs along Niederkirchner Straße just south of Potsdamer Platz. Hoards of tourists still flock to Checkpoint Charlie but there is not much left to see except a gripping exhibition at Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. The Wall Memorial on Bernauer Straße is well worth a visit while a more sombre moment could be spent contemplating the line of white crosses on Ebertstraße behind the Reichstag, dedicated to all those who died trying to flee the East German tyranny.
Located in the charming borough of Kreuzberg, Berlinische Galerie lies in close proximity to the Jüdisches Museum. Established in 1975, the gallery is fully devoted to exhibit and promote modern art in Berlin. Showcasing exhibits related to photography, architecture and contemporary art, the museum sees a lot of art aficionados, coming in from various parts of the globe. Apart from the changing installations and exhibitions, the museum's best collection includes the works of Berlin Secession, Georg Baselitz and Junge Wilde.
Germany's most recognizable symbol is not as large as many visitors expect, yet its history is rich and fascinating. Built in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was modeled on the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The Quadriga statue on top of the Gate, designed by sculptor Gottfried Schadow, represents Victoria, the Goddess of Peace, riding a four-horse chariot. This was one of Berlin's original 14 city gates, yet the only remaining evidence of the other gates are the names of underground stations such as Kottbusser Tor and Schlesisches Tor. The Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz have played center stage to numerous turbulent historical events. The south wing houses a tourist information office.
The imposing Reichstag stands as a witness to Germany's past, present and future. It was constructed between 1884 and 1894 as the parliament for Bismarck's German Empire and has seen a century of German history. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, work began to return the building to its original purpose, during which time a glass dome was added to the building by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Visitors can now climb up to the dome and take in the panoramic views from the terrace.
Located on the Lindenstraße, the Jewish Museum is the largest museum focusing on Jewish history in all of Europe. The original Jewish museum of Berlin was built in 1933, but was closed in the following decade by the Nazi regime. The Berlin government hosted an anonymous competition to design the new museum; famed architect Daniel Liebeskind won the competition with his jagged and zig-zagging building that was nicknamed "blitz." The museum was completed in 1999. Today, visitors to the museum can learn all about German-Jewish heritage, starting in the Medieval era and continuing into today's Jewish community.
After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Potsdamer Platz turned from a deserted wasteland into Europe's biggest building site, as urban planners worked to create an ultra-modern city center in the middle of a reunited Berlin. The only remnants of old Potsdamer Platz are the historic Haus Huth and the majestic Hotel Esplanade ballroom, which has been cleverly incorporated into the Sony Center. Approximately half of the area contains offices; the rest is divided between entertainment complexes like the IMAX movie theater and a fantastic shopping mall.
Stretching from the Brandenburg Gate in the east to Zoo Station in the west, Tiergarten park is one of Europe's largest and most beautiful inner-city parks. Originally conceived as a hunting ground for Prussian kings, the Tiergarten was transformed into an romantic landscape garden in the early 19th Century by Peter Joseph Lenne, who designed a series of winding paths, lakes, bridges, sculptures and flower beds. The park was devastated in the World War II and during subsequent winters. Replanted in the mid-20th Century, the Tiergarten is now as beautiful as it ever was and very popular with locals and visitors alike.
Located next to Zoo Station in the heart of the western city center, Zoologischer Garten Berlin is home to all kinds of animals from kangaroos to gorillas and elephants, to name just a few. Other attractions are the nocturnal animals, lions and hippos. Founded in 1844 by Prussian King William IV, the Zoologischer Garten is Germany's oldest zoo. With 13,000 animals covering over 1,400 different species, the zoo is also one of the world's most populous zoos, and a sight not to be missed while in Berlin.