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.
Throughout the centuries, many churches have stood on the location of the current Berliner Dom. The first one was erected in 1465 for the reigning royal family, the Hohenzollerns, and was little more than a chapel at that time. In 1747, it was replaced by a Baroque cathedral designed by Johann Boumann, before being transformed once again in 1822 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Today's Dom was built between 1894 and 1905 during King Wilhelm II's reign. Almost completely destroyed in World War II, the Berliner Dom remained a ruin until restoration work finally began in 1973. Some of the cathedral's highlights include the mosaics covering the cupola, the crypt, the altar and the altar windows. The Dom also enshrines over 80 members of the Hohenzollern family. Those visiting must take a look at the Sauer organ within the cathedral, one of the largest in Germany, and take in the views from the roof promenade.
Museum Island is located on the northern half of a historically-significant island in the Spree River that runs through Berlin. The island takes its name from the five Berlin State Museums that reside in the area - the Altes Museum, the Bode Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Neues Museum, and the Pergamon Museum. Museum Island was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The island's first museum was erected in 1797, and the whole area was designated specifically for art and science by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841. An assemblage of spectacular historical monuments, the Museum Island is a stunning heritage hub.
Constructed between 1884 and 1894, the imposing Reichstag stands witness to Germany's past and present. 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 World War II, 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.
When you think of Berlin, the first word that likely comes to mind is the Wall. After being torn down, there is not much of the Berlin Wall which remains intact. The longest section of the Wall to be spared, which is 1.3 kilometers (0.81 miles) runs parallel to the River Spree between Kreuzberg in the West and Friedrichshain in the East. In the months following the fall of the Wall in 1989, 118 artists from all over the world flocked here to pay their tributes. The result is an open-air gallery containing a host of colorful and imaginative images, some satirical, some shocking and others puzzling. An important part of Berlin's cultural heritage, this landmark is one of the largest open-air galleries in the entire world.
Familiar to many from Wim Wenders' 1987 film "Wings of Desire," the view from the top of the 69 meter-high (226.37 feet) Victory Column is well worth the 285-step climb! Built in 1873 to commemorate Prussian military victories against Denmark, Austria and France, the Victory Column originally stood in front of the Reichstag, but was moved to its current location in the middle of the Tiergarten by the Third Reich in 1938. The golden statue of the Goddess of Victory can be seen from all over the city and is one of Berlin's most eye-catching landmarks.
A riveting beacon of multiculturalism, Berlin's history bears testimony to the fact that the city was and continues to be an extremely influential European icon. Marked with vestiges of history at every turn, Berlin is strewn with life-altering landmarks and monuments that were shaped by the turbulent times it was dealt with. Whether it is the graffiti-etched Berlin Wall that split the city into ideologically distinct entities, or the sandstone grandeur of the Brandenburg Gate that came much before, Berlin's cityscape is filled with a timeless parade of historically significant symbols. While on one hand, historical monuments like the Reichstag capture the imagination and transport visitors to a post-war era, modern marvels like the Fernsehturm and Potsdamer Platz are a proof of the country's progressive economy. This politically charged city is also home to over 150 theaters, almost 170 museums and more than 200 private galleries. A throbbing urban culture with a spirited nightlife, haute fashion and a strong affinity for football, Berlin is undoubtedly a German city at its best.
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 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 Czar 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.
Urania-Weltzeituhr stands for Urania World Clock. It is a ten meter high metallic world clock built in the capital city. It is a popular eye catchy landmark and a historic structure built in 1969. Today, the locals and tourists consider this place to be a common meeting point.
Located in Alexanderplatz in the heart of eastern Berlin, this 1960s structure towers over the whole city. Built during the Communist era, this landmark offers views from the top that 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 to admire the scenery of the city.
No other square in Berlin has changed its name quite as often as Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. And that's saying something, because each new political regime in the German capital has traditionally set about renaming streets and squares after its own particular heroes. Previously known as Bülowplatz, East German authorities renamed the square in the fifties after their favorite national hero, Rosa Luxemburg. The central point of interest on the square is the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz theatre, one of the liveliest and creative stages in Berlin. Equally popular is Babylon cinema, an independent cinema with a long tradition.
The ancient St. Mary's Church, built of rough stone and crowned by a copper green steeple, was first mentioned in chronicles from the year 1294. As such, it contrasts starkly with its surroundings, a series of spartan socialist monoliths towered over by the futuristic TV Tower. It reminds us that Berlin is in fact an ancient city, although little has survived successive centuries of turmoil. The inside of the church is as plain as the socialist urban landscape outside, a place where Medieval Protestantism meets twentieth century agnosticism.