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Best Landmarks in Berlin

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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.

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.

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.

The garden Volkspark Friedrichshain lends its name to Friedrichshain and is situated at the northern end of this prominent Berlin neighborhood. Friedrichshain is bordered by other city districts like Lichtenberg, Kreuzberg, Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, and the River Spree in the south. It was initially known for its low real estate prices and attracted numerous youngsters looking for inexpensive accommodation. Today, it has seen a rapid increase in housing rates and is known as one of the trendiest districts in the city. It is the hub of fashionable boutiques, design studios and media houses and its streets are dotted with bars, restaurants and cafés. This borough is especially known for its happening nightlife. Popular tourist attractions in the area include East Side Gallery, Frankfurter Tor and the Molecule Man sculpture.

The erection and fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Germany from 1961 to 1989, is one of the most significant chapters in German history. The Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) is a salute to those who lost their lives during this tumultuous era. The Federal Republic of Germany established the memorial in 1998 on Bernauer Strasse, the site of the wall and the hub of the powers that ruled Germany during this period. The memorial comprises of the Monument in Memory of the Divided City, the Chapel of Reconciliation and the Window of Remembrance among other significant sites. The Documentation Center and the Visitor Center are also situated opposite the memorial in what was formerly West Berlin. Visitors can avail of guided tours of the monument and the open-air exhibition, which narrates the turbulent history of the site. The educational programs use innovative teaching methods so that kids and youth are immersed in local history. It also hosts events and film screenings, and has a bookstore and multimedia guides for visitors. This site is open to all visitors free of charge.

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.

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.

This imposing monument was built in memory of the 20,000 Soviet soldiers who died during the battle for Berlin in 1945. It took 1,200 workers over three years to build (1946-9) and is constructed from the granite which had been previously ordered by the Third Reich for their own victory monuments. Located in leafy Treptower Park, the sheer size of the memorial is striking. A broad path leads to the enormous entrance portal, sculpted with lines of grim faced Soviet soldiers. Spread out before you is a long walkway, decorated with friezes depicting the Red Army's heroic struggle and culminating with a gigantic statue of a sword-wielding Soviet soldier, standing stoically on a plinth bearing friezes of cheerful peasants and workers. The memorial is impressive at any time of year, but is particularly imposing in the winter, when the snow absorbs all sound, lending the area a surreal, awe-striking atmosphere.

The Sachsenhausen is a concentration camp that lies twenty minutes north of Berlin, in the town of Oranienburg. It was used as the central command base for all the concentration camps in Germany and the Nazi-occupied territories during World War II. During this time it also witnessed the systematic oppression of the jews and other minorities. It is one of the few concentration camps to have been designed by an architect and while most of the buildings have been demolished and replaced by memorials, the deliberate layout of the camp still recalls the purposefulness of Nazi tyranny. The one thing to remember while visiting this is place is its varying times. Open daily, the Sachsenhausen functions between 8.30a to 6p on March 15th to October 14th and 8.30a to 4.30p on October 15 to March 14.

Located near Niederfinow, Niederfinow Boat Lift, also known as the Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow, is the oldest boat lift in Germany. It attracts around 25000 tourists each year and thus acts as a major tourist destination. This lift was established in 1934 on Oder-Havel Canal and since then has undergone several refurbishments to ensure a smoother functioning. The view afforded to visitors is a magnificent one, one which allows them to observe and admire the entire process of lifting and transporting ships as it unfolds before their very eyes. The place also provides tours for which prior reservations are advisable.

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.

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