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.
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 2010. 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.
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 Hohenzollern, 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.
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 Nazi regime in 1938. The golden statue of the Goddess Victory can be seen from all over the city and is one of Berlin's most eye-catching landmarks. Since 1995, the Victory Column has been the epicenter of Berlin's annual Love Parade, when hundreds of thousands of ravers gather in the Tiergarten to party in the name of love.
Berlin's grandest boulevard stretches east to west for just over a mile between Schlossplatz and the Brandenburg Gate. Originally conceived as a simple riding path between Berliner Schloss palace and the royal hunting ground in Tiergarten, Unter den Linden was transformed into a splendid regal boulevard by the 18th-century Prussian kings. Named after the linden trees which line its median, the road contains many of Berlin's landmark buildings like the Brandenburg Gate, Zeughaus, Kronprinzenpalast, State Opera House and Humboldt University. The Statue of Frederick the Great also sits here; one of Rauch's masterpieces, it depicts the king riding on his favorite horse, Condè, wearing his coronation robes, three-cornered hat, riding boots and holding a stick. Amazingly, the statue took nearly 70 years, 40 artists, and 100 designs to determine the final plan.
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.
Although plans are afoot to radically redesign Alexanderplatz, the square is still dominated by socialist buildings whose architectural beauty still attracts attention. One of these, Haus des Lehrers, is marked by an impressive 125 metre long mural which wraps its way around the building. Painted by Walter Womancka, this colorful depiction of "the perfect socialist life" is a classic example of the kind of art once promoted by East German authorities for propaganda purposes. Erected in 1964, the building represented a break with the monumental architecture of the Stalin era and a move towards a more cosmopolitan and transparent style. Originally built as a congress center for teachers, the building is now used for exhibitions and cultural events.
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.
Built between 1896 and 1905, Stadtgericht boasts extravagant stairs which are its best features; and elegant columns. It is partially exposed by urban redevelopment. Much of the building is undergoing restoration. This building, consisting of five floors, is the second largest after Berlin building of the castle. The four complexes once stretched over a length of 220 meters (721.79 feet) parallel to the S-Bahn route.
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.