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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.
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.
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 Berliner Funkturm towers over the city at 146 meters (480 feet). This lattice radio tower was built in 1926 and is an iconic feature on the Berlin skyline. Since 1973, it ceased to serve for broadcasting purposes and was opened to tourists. The restaurant located at 51.65 meters (170 feet) offers guests unrivaled views to go with their European meal. A visit to the observation tower is arguably the best place to watch the city by night. The tower is a must-see attraction of Berlin.