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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.