Constructed between 1884 and 1894, the imposing Reichstag stands witness to Germany's past, present, and future. It was established as a parliamentary house for the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck and has since seen more than a century of European history unfurl. After the second World War, the Reichstag was neglected until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, at which time work began on returning the building to its original purpose. This new attention led to such additions as the iconic glass dome, which was added by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Today, visitors can climb up to the dome and enjoy panoramic views of brilliant Berlin from the terrace.
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.
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.
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 a 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 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.
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. Hordes 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 somber moment could be spent contemplating the line of white crosses on Ebertstraße behind the Reichstag.
The original Alexanderplatz, locally called 'Alex' by Berliners, was completely flattened during World War II. Its present day appearance is a prime example of East German town planning: a huge, windswept pedestrian area surrounded by featureless 1960s high-rises. But those who are familiar with Alexanderplatz from Alfred Döblin's novel of the same name will find that none of the hustle and bustle of the square has disappeared. Alexanderplatz is still very much a commuters' thoroughfare and is regarded by locals as the true center of Berlin. Named after Russian Tsar Alexander I who visited the Prussian capital in 1805, Alexanderplatz was at the center of the mass-demonstrations which brought the Berlin Wall tumbling down in November 1989.
The MeMu Menschen Museum is a unique body art museum which showcases the anatomy of the human body. The exhibits on display here answer many of the mysteries of the human body and visitors can learn more about the structure of the body. There are more than 200 exhibits here which showcase the various anatomical movements of the body and the functions of the organs. A truly unique museum, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Located in Alexanderplatz in the heart of eastern Berlin, this 1960s structure towers over the whole city. Built by communist authorities at the height of the Cold War, West Berliners cheekily christened the TV Tower "the Pope's revenge" because of the sparkling cross which appears on the pinnacle of the tower when the sun shines on it. Although regarded by many as an eyesore, the views from the top are hard to beat. The revolving restaurant situated 207 meters (680 feet) up the tower is a pleasant spot to stop for a coffee or meal and a relaxing gaze over the city.
While plans are afoot to reconstruct the ruin of Schinkel's classic Elisabethkirche on Invalidenstraße, the Franciscan Monastery Church near Alexanderplatz will not be rebuilt. It remains, instead, in its present state as a memorial to the senselessness of war. Originally constructed in 1260, the church used to be Berlin's most impressive Gothic building before being bombed to pieces during the Second World War. The stunning red brick arches and columns have no roof, no knave, no tower, no spire. They stand alone on a deserted plot of land which is currently used for open-air art exhibitions and theatrical performances.
The Hackesche Höfe has been a center for food and entertainment since its construction in 1906. Before World War II, this area was known for its Jewish theaters and cultural institutions and later became a great place for squats, underground bars and restaurants. This historic hidden courtyard complex in the Scheuenviertel consists of eight courtyards and houses cultural establishments, businesses and firms. These also include theaters, shops, bars and restaurants. Despite the courtyard being the largest of its kind in Berlin, the area is still infrequently visited, and makes for a lovely getaway from the Berlin crowds.
Established in 2003, the Theaterdiscounter features one of the best contemporary shows right in the center of Berlin. Located within the old telecommunications office, the Theaterdiscounter has multiple rooms for rehearsals, meetings and conducting workshops. The crew at the theater holds more than 140 performances every year and showcase it free of cost at this venue. Performances range from theatricals to theme plays to political and classic plays.