Berlin Tiergarten

Tiergarten

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Berlin Tiergarten Goethe MemorialWhether Berlin is just one stop on your travel itinerary or the sole destination for a weekend city break, escaping the metropolitan hustle and bustle and spending time in nature is good for your mind, body and soul. Thankfully, Berlin is home to one of Germany’s largest urban parks, the Großer Tiergarten, a 210-hectare green space filled with gardens, small lakes, dense foliage and tucked-away locations perfect for having a picnic.

The Tiergarten is centrally located near Berlin Mitte near famous attractions and sights such as the Potsdamer Platz,the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag. You can also combine it with a visit to the Berlin Zoo and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church.

History

While the Tiergarten is now an integral part of Berlin’s urban landscape and a stop on nearly every visitor’s itinerary, it was first utilized in the early 16th century as hunting grounds solely for royalty and noble guests. However, in 1742 Friedrich II (1712-1786) decided that the park would be better suited as a Lustgarten (pleasure garden) open to all of the people of Berlin. He hired the elaborately-named George Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to transform what was a private forest into a Baroque wonderland complete with flowerbeds, sculptures and water features.

By the mid 19th century, change was afoot again and the entire park was redesigned in homage to the style of Victorian English flower gardens, and many of the attractions and Prussian monuments seen today were added. Despite being badly damaged during World War II and neglected in the postwar period, a massive revitalization project started in 1955 has brought the park back to its former glory, and a visit to the “green lung of Berlin” is a must-visit for every tourist.


Top attractions inside the park

While a walk through the park is beautiful and relaxing in its own right, you may want to visit some of the structures and monuments located within its borders. The famous statue to Queen Louise, the beloved Prussian queen, is a lovely place for photos, and more adventurous visitors may choose to scale the 67-metre tall “Victory Column,” built in the 1870s to commemorate victory in the Prusso-Danish War of 1864. For a few Euros, sightseers can climb to the top and take in a breathtaking vista of the capital.

Culturally minded guests will want to visit the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cutures), a stunning mid-century modernist building constructed for an international architecture exposition in 1957, given to Berlin as a gift by the Americans. The centre is now lauded as “Germany’s national centre for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary arts, with a special focus on non-European cultures and societies,” and it is well worth checking out their programme of events.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Berlin Zoological Garden, first opened in 1844 and home to the largest array of different species in the world! As one of the world’s most popular zoos, it receives 3 million guests per year, all clamoring to see the over 1500 different species inside. The zoo has a storied history and was nearly destroyed in WW2, but now maintains successful breeding programs and partnerships with numerous universities and research organizations.


Visiting Year Round

The Tiergarten can be enjoyed year-round. The spring is a time of budding blossoms, fresh grass and chirping birds, while visitors in the summer will witness what seems like all of Berlin heading to the park to sunbathe, stroll and socialize at the park’s many summertime Biergartens. The colder months bring their own benefits – in autumn, people come from around the world to experience the changing colours of the park’s countless trees and trample through crunchy carpets of fallen leaves. During the winter months the temperature may drop far below freezing, but the frost covering ground and the frozen Neuer See (the small lake at the park’s centre) can be enjoyed while on a cozy stroll, best navigated with a hot cup of mulled wine in hand to keep your temperature – and your spirits – high.

 

How to get there:

Public transportation: closest S-Bahn train station: Tiergarten (S5, S7, S75),  Bellevue (S5, S7, S75), closest U-bahn train station: Potdamer Platz, or take Bus 200.

 

Berlin Brandenburger Gate

How is the weather in Berlin in November?

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

The month of November in Berlin tends to be cloudy and cold with frequent periods of rain and some risk for snow.  November, however, is still a good time to be in Berlin. Towards the end of this month you can enjoy the opening of the many Christmas markets in Berlin and some alternative Christmas markets.

Early in the month the afternoon high temperatures are mostly in the lower 50s f (10-11C) while the overnight and early morning lows are in the lower 40s f (5-6C).  Early in November you may still see some afternoons reaching the upper 50s f (14-15C). As the month progresses daytime highs will more likely be in the low to mid 40s f (6-7C) while the early mornings will see lows in the mid-30s f (1-2C) with a few days falling into the mid-20s f (-3 to -4C).

Expect about 18-19 days to be cloudy or mostly cloudy with some form of precipitation likely. Light to moderate rain is most likely this month, however, the risk for snow increases from about 5% early this month to over 20% by the end of the month.

The sun is getting lower in the sky during November and the duration of daylight is growing shorter from about 9.5 hours early in the month to only 8 hours near the end of the month.

+++If you are coming for a visit to Berlin, here are some ideas on FREE Things to do in Berlin, and some tips on saving with Berlin City Passes.+++

 

What to wear in Berlin during November

A good umbrella is a must plus some winter clothing including at least a medium-weight jacket or coat early this month, however, more winter attire, including a heavier coat with gloves and warm hats will be needed for later this month.

November is a good time to see Germany’s capital with one of our private Berlin tours. You can book any of our regular walking tours or we can create a customized tour to suit your groups’ interests and schedule.

Berlin Potsdamer Platz banner

Potsdamer Platz

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Located in a coveted position near the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz is a bustling hive of activity in central Berlin – the perfect place to catch a film, sip a latte or shop for some designer duds. Once a cultural and social deadzone owing to its location in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, the Potsdamer Platz of the 21st Century has thrown off its grim communist past and embraces fashion, entertainment and commerce in a big way!

 

 

History

Potsdamer Platz has a long history as both a public gathering place and a rural crossroads. People from around Europe have been trading at this very site since the seventeenth century. Unsurprisingly, the square derives its name from the city of Potsdam, approximately twenty-five kilometres southwest, as historically it was where the road from that city snaked joined to other major Berlin roads. By the 1930s, the once sleepy country road had developed into the busiest automobile junction in Europe, only to be completely destroyed in World War Two.

In 1961 the Berlin Wall was built directly through the centre of the once iconic square, owing to its strategic position at the nexus of the American, British and Russian sectors of East and West Berlin. As a result, the area was unremarkable and abandoned throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

 

Modern structure of today

Berlin Potsdamer PlatzBut after the fall of communism, throughout the 1990s things were changing in a big way. For over a decade, Potsdamer Platz was the largest construction site in Europe, with mega-companies like Sony bidding for a now-desirable spot in the newly envisioned consumer mecca. The architects sought to design a gathering place for the modern, unified Berlin – one that would cast a nod to the square’s parochial beginnings while signaling to the world that the former ‘East Berlin’ was open for business.

Potsdamer Platz is now home to over a dozen modernist skyscrapers, a full-sized shopping mall, the largest 3D film theatre in Germany (also, original movies in English can be seen here), cutting-edge art and historical exhibits (including pieces of the Berlin Wall), as well as countless restaurants, shops and service providers. What was a rural crossroads and marketplace in the distant past is once again a place for people of all cultures and nationalities to meet, mingle and shop.

Chances are, if you are in Berlin for more than a brief stopover, you will find yourself wandering through this modern crossroads with a look of awe on your face – and with daily visitor numbers topping 100, 000, you’re certainly not alone!

 

++Extra Tip:If you like to see the Potsdamer Platz from above, consider taking a ride in the supposedly fastest elevator in Europe to the PanoramaPunkt at the Kolhoff Tower. It’s located right opposite of the DB tower on Potsdamer Strasse and it’s open daily from 10am-8pm. Admission is €6.50 (adults), €5 (children), FREE (kids aged 6 and younger).++

+++Don’t forget to check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Berlin!+++

 

Written by Jessica O’Neill

Checkpoint Charlie Featured Image

Visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known border crossing between former East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War era. Visiting the border house and iconic warning signs (both recreations of the originals) is one of the most popular activities for tourists in Berlin. A visit will feel a bit tourist-y. But when combined with a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, where you’ll learn about the Berlin Wall and the many daring escape attempts by East Germans, you might be surprisingly moved by the experience.  A stop at Checkpoint Charlie is included in our pay-what-you-like Classic Berlin Tour. It is also a stop on pay-what-you-wish guided Berlin Wall walking tour. If you cant make our tours, feel free to enjoy our Self-guided tour of East Berlin.

History of Checkpoint Charlie

Daring Escapes and Tragic Deaths

Checkpoint Charlie Border House

Read more »

Brandenburger Gate Berlin

How is the weather in Berlin in October?

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

The Weather in Berlin in October – October finds the temperatures falling fairly rapidly in Germany’s Capital City with mostly cloudy skies and fairly frequent rainy days; however, there are still nice days here, especially early in the month.

Early October afternoons are fairly mild with high temperatures averaging around 17-18C (the low to mid 60s F). As the month progresses the afternoon temperatures will fall through the month to 11-12C (into the lower 50s F) by the end of the month.  At times early in the month, afternoon temperatures can still reach 21C (70 F) or more and by the end of the month overnight lows can dip below 7-8 C (the mid-40s F) at times and occasionally  to 2-3C (into the mid-30s F).

The risk for rain increases as the temperatures drop with about 16-17 days, overall, seeing some rain.  Of these rain days about 9 will have just light rain or drizzle, about 6-7 days have moderate to heavy rain, and about 1 day every-other year will see some snowfall.

+++If you are thinking about a visit to Berlin, here are some ideas on FREE Things to do in Berlin, and some tips on saving with Berlin City Passes.+++

What to Wear in Berlin in October

A good umbrella is a must, plus some warm pullovers and a medium-weight jacket are in order. Wearing layers are a good idea and you might want to bring some extra shoes in case of rain.

Two interesting events this month in Berlin are the Day of German Unity and the Festival of Lights.   You can also join us on our Berlin in a Day Walking Tour or our Berlin Wall Tour.

Fred Pickhardt

 

 

 

Berlin Market

Best Berlin Flea Markets

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

No visit to Berlin is complete, without exploring the atmosphere of the best Berlin flea markets.  Some markets take place every day.  Others take place on a weekly basis.  Some are dependent on the weather.  If you like to explore the different culinary delights, buy some fresh produce, explore local arts and craft, or just browse, a visit to Berlin’s markets will open your eyes to Berlin’s many subcultures, neighborhoods and its people.  And it’s FREE.

Here is our take on the best Berlin flea markets:

Turkish Market at the Maybachufer

 

Turkish Market at the Maybachufer – On Tuesdays and Fridays from 12-6pm, you can visit the Turkenmarkt. From Turkish and Mediterranean culinary delights, to fresh garlic, ginger or herbs, to other fresh produce, tasty lunch or afternoon snacks, or garments, this market invites you for a delightful stroll along the Landwehrkanal (a canal). The closest U-Bahn station is Schönleinstrasse (U8) or Kottbusser Tor (U1) (map).

+Check out our self-guided Kreuzberg tour.+

 

 

Marheinekeplatz Markthalle

Marheinekeplatz Markthalle – This indoor market hall is open Mondays through Saturdays from 8am at least 6pm. It’s an experience back from Old Europe when you walk past the many stands of fresh cheeses, breads, fruits and flowers from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. There is also a bookstore and café to relax, an art exhibition, and a restaurant. You will certainly get a community feel here. The closest U-Bahn station is Gneisenaustrasse (U7) (map). More more info, click here.

 

Berlin market

 

Winterfeldtmarkt – On Wednesdays from 8am-2pm and Saturdays from 8am-4pm, this outdoor market at the Winterfeldtplatz in Schöneberg will enchant your desire for seasoned and locally grown produce wool fabrics, or arts and crafts. This is where the high-end chefs do their produce purchase. There are plenty of vendors selling snacks as well. The closest U-Bahn stations are Kurfürstenstrasse (U1), Büllowstrasse (U2), and Nollendorfplatz (U3, U4) (map).  Read the reviews of this market on TripAdvisor.

 

 

 

Best Berlin Flea MarketsFlea market at Mauerpark – This flea market at the Mauerpark is a nice activity for a sunny Sunday. From second hand clothes, jewelry, or East German memorabilia, or food vendors this market can be more a get-together of Berlin’s subcultures. If you are lucky, you’ll get so experience the karaoke show as well. Closest public transportation is tram train stop Wolliner Str. (M10), or U-Bahn stations Bernauer Strasse (U8) or Eberswalder Str. (U2). If the East German memorabilia tickled your interest for the Berlin Wall and East Berlin, check out our FREE self-guided tour here.

 

++You might find our post on Shopping in Berlin helpful, too.++

Berlin Former Ministry on Aviation

The Former Ministry on Aviation in Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Berlin Finance MinistryBetween Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie in the Wilhelmstraße, there is a large building in shell limestone with hundreds of windows – the former Ministry on Aviation.  The building opened in 1936 and is used today for the Department of Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany.

It was conceived as the Ministry of Aviation, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium”, and has 2,000 offices and about 603,000 square feet. This was Berlin’s largest office building but, unlike the skyscrapers in American cities of that time, it has only five stories, but several courtyards and a huge hall, three stories high. At the main entrance is a large cour d’honneur like in a castle. The shape of the building has more in common with a traditional European palace, that with a modern office building.

The ministry combined civil and military aviation, namely the reorganization of the German Air Force after the restrictions for Germany as a consequence of World War I.  Hermann Göring, Minister for Aviation and a pilot of the German Air Force or “Luftwaffe” in World War I got also hold of the German aircraft industry and aerial defense. Clearly, this ministry was conceived to prepare another war.

+++You might also be interested in our free self-guided Berlin Mitte West tour. The Potsdamer Platz, the Checkpoint Charlie, and the exhibition Topography of Terror are also nearby in walking distance. +++

Modern Architecture in the 1930s

Even though modern architecture was banned in Nazi-Germany, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is a modern building. The architect, Ernst Sagebiel, used steel framework and reinforced concrete. The shell limestone and the relatively small windows with a traditional German crossbar pretend traditional crafts. The building was also a public project to create work and it was finished in less than two years. In this aspect it was part of the NS propaganda of economic recovery. Later, Ernst Sagebiel was responsible for the construction the Berlin Airport Tempelhof, then the largest building in the world. The airport was only finished after World War II and is now out of service. Sagebiel, who spent his career during the Third Reich designing buildings for aviation in Berlin and other German cities, cultivated a relatively simple and functional architectural style, which is referred to as “air force modernism”.

After the war, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” found itself in the Soviet occupation zone and October 7th 1949, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was officially founded in this building.  The new socialist state used it as the “House of the Ministries”.  The government commissioned a 24 x 3 meters (75 x 9 feet) mural made of tiles (China from the traditional factory in Meißen) and named “Aufbau der Republik” (“Constitution of the Republic”) which is still there and landmarked.

 

After Unification of Germany

After the unification of Germany, it was the seat of the “Treuhandanstalt”, (“trust agency”), the agency in charge of privatizing the East German enterprises that had been nationalized. The first CEO of this “Treuhandanstalt”, Detlev Rohwedder, was assassinated by an allegedly left extremist terrorist in April 1991.  Later, the “Treuhandanstalt” moved to another building at the Alexanderplatz and its former seat was named “Detlev Rohwedder Building”. After some years of renovation, the former Ministry on Aviation now houses the Federal Department of Finance.  The administration of the “Bundesrat” (the second chamber of the German Parliament) with its main building just around the corner on the Leipziger Straße is in the adjacent wing of the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium”.

 

Memorials

Berlin 17 June 1953In a way, the huge “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is a kind of monument of Nazi-architecture, the importance of modern technology for the regime and the preparation of World War II right at the beginning of the NS-government. But there are some memorials in- and outside the building.

In the 1970s, the GDR-government honored the German officer Harro Schulze-Boysen with a memorial in his former office. Harro Schulze-Boysen, who had worked in the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” and spied for the Soviet Union in the hope to accelerate a victory over Hitler, was executed in 1942.

In June 17th 1953, there was an uprising of workers of the construction site of the Stalinallee (today Karl-Marx-Allee) that spread all over the country and was brutally suppressed by the East German police forces and Soviet troops. One demonstration took place at the “House of the Ministries”. Today, there is a memorial at the building, on the corner of Leipziger- and Wilhelmstraße.

The “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is one of a few NS-buildings in Berlin that are used for public administration in Berlin. Its plain functionality made it apt for different political systems.

 

++On our Berlin-in-a-in a day-Walking Tour we’ll stop by the former Ministry on Aviation.++

 

 

Berlin Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

In the Western district of Charlottenburg, close to the river Spree, you find one of the most beautiful palaces in Berlin. It’s the largest royal residence in Berlin dating back to the Hohenzollern family and a great destination for a half day trip. The whole complex is about 500 meters/1,500 feet long, dominated by a green copper dome with the gilded statue of Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune and luck. Two orangeries, a theater, and several smaller buildings in the huge park – this palace looks like the residence of an important prince at least. Today, it’s also venue for classical music concerts and weddings.

 

 

You might also be interested to check out our self-guided Charlottenburg tour. If you enjoyed the stroll around Charlottenburg Palace gardens, you might also enjoy a visit to the Tiergarten which is located in West Berlin as well. Other famous sights and attractions that are a short bus ride (bus 109) away are the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church and the Berlin Zoo.

Visit Charlottenburg Palace

The palace gardens are open daily from 6a.m till sunset. The interior places such as the palace, or mausoleum are open Tue-Sun from 10a.m – 6p.m.

Getting there by public transportation is easy: nearby S-train stations with the S41 and S42 trains are Westend and Jungfernheide, nearby U-Bahn stations with the U7 trains are Mierrendorfplatz and Richard-Wagner-Platz or with the U2 trains Sophie-Charlotte-Platz. 

Tip: Some boat tours which start in the city center end/start nearby as well, so you can combine this visit with a Spree river cruise.

Admission to the palace is €12 (students: €8), admission for the palace and the other buildings is €15 (students: €11). It’s free for kids aged 6 and younger.

 

About the Charlottenburg Palace

A Small Summer Residence

But the building started smaller and more modest. Charlottenburg Palace was commissioned in 1696 by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Frederick III, elector of Prussia (a specific kind of monarch in the complicated German system of princes, kings and emperors) who managed to become Frederick I, King of Prussia in 1701.

The small palace, which now forms the central part of the building under the dome (added 1709-1712), was Sophie Charlotte’s summer residence.  Back then; it was in the middle of the countryside with only the small town of Lietzenburg nearby. Berlin was far away, given the means of transportation of the era. A lover of the arts, namely the performing arts, she had also a small opera house built. The garden was landscaped in the characteristic symmetrical way of the baroque period. One of the architects of the palace was Andreas Schlüter, famous for the City Palace in the historic city center of Berlin, currently under reconstruction. In 1701, another architect, Eosander von Göthe enlarged the palace. What was done around 1700 is now known as the “Alter Flügel” or “old wing”.

Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 at the age of 37 years. The king Frederick I added the first orangery for the hibernating of Mediterranean plants that stood outside in summer in large pots. This was a common practice in the 17th and 18th century in palaces in Central Europe and the dome. When he died, things changed in Prussia and in the palace.

King Frederick I had spent a lot of money to be able to rise form elector to king. And he admired the lifestyle of the French King, Louis XIV, and the “Sun King”. So he spent on prestigious architecture, lavish festivities and such. His son, Frederick William I, the so-called soldier king, was pious, dutiful and avaricious. He only spent on maintenance, rented out parts of the park and gave away his mother’s theater for demolition – a school was built of the bricks. He only used the building for some acts of state.

 

Rococo for King Frederick II

His son, Frederick II, the best-known king of Prussia (also known as “the Great”), rose to the throne in 1740. He liked his grandmother’s palace and used it as his residence. He commissioned his favorite architect, Wenzelslaus von Knobelsdorff, to ad the “Neuer Flügel”, the new wing with private rooms and rooms for festivities. All in the then fashionable rococo style. But in 1744 already, he felt he needed even more reclusiveness and opted for Potsdam where he enlarged the Potsdam City Palace and had the today well-known Sanssouci Palace built as his summer residence.

 

Frederick William III and Louise – the Dream Couple of the early 19th Century

His nephew (Frederick II didn’t have children of his own) Frederick William II added a new theater, a second orangery and private rooms. The architectural style of these additions changed from rococo to early neo classical. The park was enlarged and the new part was landscaped in the more natural English manner. His son and his daughter-in-law, Frederick William III and Louise actually lived in Charlottenburg Palace with their many children. They actually loved each other, this was not common among monarchs with their arranged marriages and thus led an almost middle-class lifestyle. Louise later became famous for her confronting Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 and asking him for better conditions in a peace treaty (sent by the male politicians hoping she could charm him). Louise died in 1810 and was buried in a mausoleum in the park of Charlottenburg Palace. The fact that Napoleon hadn’t been very impressed by her and her early death at 34 as a mother of seven made her a martyr in Prussia and later in Germany and useful for anti-French propaganda.

 

Military Hospital, Damage and Reconstruction

The last monarch to use the palace was Emperor Frederick III, the “emperor of 99 days” in 1888. When he ascended to the throne after his father’s long reign, he was 57 years old and had been suffering from cancer for a while already. He then moved to Potsdam and died a couple of days later. During World War I, the Palace was used as a military hospital and in 1926 an administration to take care of the former royal and imperial palaces and parks was established. In World War II, Charlottenburg Palace was heavily damaged. The head of the West-Berlin administration for the palaces and parks, Margarete Kühn, opted for the reconstruction, which was finished in 1957.

During the German partition, Charlottenburg Palace hosted parts of the collections that are now on Museum Island, namely Early History. Today you can visit the castle and different collections inside: French paintings of the early 19th century in Frederick III and Louise’s residence, china of the famous KPM factory in the Belvedere (1788 under Frederick II) in the park, temporary exhibits in the theater (also 1788) sculptures in the New Pavilion (1825 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel). The renovations of the palace that started in the early 21st century are almost done, but expect to see some scaffolding here and then.

 

Written by Gundula Schmidt-Graute

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt b

Gendarmenmarkt

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

In Berlin Mitte, what was formerly called the “Friedrichstadt”-  close to the station Bahnhof Friedrichstraße–  you’ll find a beautiful square, the Gendarmenmarkt. The square features a concert hall and two large cathedrals. Throughout the year, there are markets and cafes to enjoy, street music and free concerts going on. You might just want to stroll around and take some great photos.  Gendarmenmarkt is named after the stables of the “Corps des gens d’armes”, a cavalry regiment of Frederick William I, which were located on the site. His son, Frederick II, had the stables removed later.

Today, the square is one of the most visited places in Berlin. The area has been reconstructed in the 1990s to an upscale shopping neighborhood with a French department store (Galéries Lafayettes) just around the corner from the Gendarmenmarkt. Every December, the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market takes place there and the annual Festival of Lights gives a particular beautiful flair to the area. Checkpoint Charlie, the famous American checkpoint is in walking distance, and so is the Brandenburg Gate.  Don’t miss out on visiting this famous spot of architecture and history, you will surely say: “This is the most beautiful square in Berlin”.

How to get to Gendarmenmarkt

How to get to GendarmenmarktIf you are coming from Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) or you are already exploring Berlin Mitte and are strolling along the main boulevard Unter den Linden, take a turn at Friedrichstrasse or at Bebelplatz. Turn again at Französische Strasse, you should be able to see the two dome cupolas from the distance. If you are traveling from further away, the closest public transportation stops are on the U2-train (Hausvogteiplatz or Stadtmitte) or the U-6 train (Französische Str.).

click map to enlarge.

 

Things to Do near Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt exhibitionsVisit the exhibitions in the German Cathedral and French Cathedral
Gendarmenmarkt

The German dome hosts different type of exhibitions each year. Entrance is usually FREE and a short introduction tour is offered every hour and there are audio guides available (English tours can be requested as well). The current exhibition “Wege, Irrwege, Umwege” is about the German parliamentary system. The exhibition is open Tue-Sun 10-6pm. The French Cathedral hosts the Huguenot Museum in its basement, which displays books, paintings, and engravings. Entrance is 2EUR, and it’s open Tue-Sat 12-5pm.

 

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt French domeClimb up the French Cathedral and enjoy the view
Gendarmenmarkt

For only 3 EUR (children 1EUR) you can climb up the 254 steps to the viewing platform on top of the French Cathedral. It’s a great way to see the Gendarmenmarkt from a bird perspective. Unless there is a wedding going on, you can climb up daily from 12-4pm (Jan-Feb.) and 10-6pm (Mar-Dec.).

 

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt Concert HouseGo to a concert or take a tour at Concert Hall
Konzerthaus, Gendarmenmarkt

Right in the middle of Gendarmenmarkt is the concert hall which hosts classical concerts. Depending on which type of concert you like to go to, tickets range between 13-35 EUR. A couple times a year, the orchestra invites people to a training concert (öffentliche Probe) for 5 EUR only. On Saturdays, you can also book a tour through the concert hall for only 4EUR (tours are usually in German – inquire about foreign language tours).

 

 

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt Friedrich Schiller memorialTake a selfie with the Schiller Memorial
Gendarmenmarkt

This monument situated right in the center of the Gendarmenmarkt honors German poet and philospher Friedrich Schiller. There are four female allegories portrayed around the basin: history (look for the book), lyric poetry (look for the harp), philosophy (search for the thinker), and tragedy (look for the tight fist and grim face).

 

Berlin-bebelplatz-book-burning-memorialVisit the Book Burning Memorial at Bebelplatz
Bebelplatz

A short walk northeast of Gendarmenmarkt is the Bebelplatz, a big square right opposite of Humboldt University which shelters the memorial of the Nazi book burning that took place on the square in 1933. You won’t find a statue or anything coming to sight from afar, but instead the memorial is an underground library with empty book shelves, which can be seen through a glass window – it’s better visible when it’s lit at night.

 

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt Chocolatier Fassbender Rausch sVisit chocolate house Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatier
Charlottenstr. 60

Whether you feel like having a hot chocolate with orange on a cold day, or a piece of pastry and pie with coffee, or whether you are just looking to stock up your fancy chocolate supply, this chocolate store is popular among Berliners and visitors alike. Their chocolate sculptures of iconic Berlin monuments have been photographed by many guests.  This chocolate house has a sit-down cafe upstairs and the chocolate shop downstairs. It’s located right next to Gendarmenmarkt on the German dome side.

 

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt Ritter Sport sBuy a sweet gift at Ritter Sport chocolate store
Französische Strasse 24

A little less fancy, but still iconic and delicious is the German chocolate store Ritter Sport Bunte Schokoladenwelt. The colourful squares are a little better known worldwide and make a great gift to bring home. The store has a cafe as well, and it is located on the other side of Gendarmenmarkt near the French cathedral.

 

 

 

More about the Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin Gendarmenmarkt Festival of lightsSymmetry

The Friedrichstadt was founded in 1688 as an independent suburb of Berlin and was incorporated in the city in 1710.  It was the elector Frederick III, who in 1701 became King Frederick I of Prussia, who ordered this new town to be built. It had a grid plan similar to Manhattan: rectangular blocks, the so-called “Karrees”. The Gendarmenmarkt has the size of three of these blocks and in the beginning it was used as a market. When you stand in the square, everything is symmetrical: Two churches with identical towers left and right, a symmetric neo-classical concert hall in the middle and a statue of the German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller right in the center of the space in front of the hall.

Market and Stables

In the 17th and 18th century, the Gendarmenmarkt was a market place for the town and later district of Berlin, the Friedrichstadt.  In 1736, King Frederick William I had the stables for his cavalry regiment “Corps des gens d’armes” on the square. In the streets around were residents of high government officials and office buildings of the royal administration. His son, Frederick II who was at odds with his father, had the stables demolished in 1773. The architect Georg Christian Unger presented plans for uniform three-story-buildings around the square.

Two Cathedrals

The two churches are referred to as “cathedrals”, even though they are neither large nor important. King Frederick I assigned two congregations a site for a new church each.  Both were built in 1701. The German Lutheran church is the “German Cathedral”, today a museum of parliamentarianism. The Friedrichstadt was home to immigrants from France: the Huguenots. They were Protestants (Calvinists) and hadn’t been allowed religious freedom since 1686 in France. They immigrated to many European counties and were invited to live in Prussia and Berlin by the Prussian monarchs. On the Gendarmenmarkt they built their church, the French Dome. The Huguenots had kept to their French traditions and language for a long time, so the service was in French. The French Cathedral still has Protestant services in French. In the building is also a museum about the Huguenots. The two identical domed towers were built in the years 1780-1785; the architect Carl von Gontard was a Huguenot himself.

Theater and Concert Hall

After the demolition of the stables, Frederick II ordered a theater for French plays built on the site.  The king didn’t like the German language, he even wrote an essay on how bad German literature was – in French. So, in his theater, German plays were performed in French translation.  The building we admire today is the third theater on the site, built between 1818 and 1821 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the famous neo-classical architect of Berlin. Damaged heavily in World War II, the building was restored between 1979 and 1984 and changed to a Concert Hall. This happened in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the socialist German state. In 1859, the monument for the poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller was added at the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Berlin GendarmenmarktPolitical Happenings

In 1847, there was a rebellion against high grocery prices on the Gendarmenmarkt. The year of 1848 was the year of the “failed German revolution” in most of the many states in Germany. The victims of the fights between the people and the soldiers in Berlin were laid on the steps of the German Cathedral. King Frederick William IV felt obliged to honor them, in order to calm the situation. Under the Nazi-Regime, the Gendarmenmarkt was used for propaganda, e.g. public admittance ceremonies of young boys to the Hitler Youth. In 1946, when the buildings on and around the square lay still in ruins, the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir and orchestra of the Soviet Armed Forces, performed on the Gendarmenmarkt. On October 2nd, 1990, the eve of the German reunification, the last official ceremony of the then democratic GDR took place on the square as well.

Check out our self-guided Berlin Mitte East tour.

+++On our Berlin-in-a-day-Walking Tour we’ll stop by the Gendarmenmarkt.+++

Berlin fall of wall

The Berlin Wall Part III: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

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The Berlin Wall Part III – (part 1part 2)

++Check out our FREE self-guided Berlin Wall and East Berlin tour or read our post on FREE sights to learn about the Berlin Wall. ++

It was one of the biggest parties ever in Berlin: The fall of the wall. People cheering, hugging each other, drinking Champaign right from the bottle in the streets (consumption of alcohol in public has always been legal in Germany), singing and climbing the Wall and dancing on the top of it. At the Brandenburg Gate and elsewhere.  At the border crossings, long lines of “Trabbis”, the standard East German cars of the “Trabant” brand. Police Officers in East and West German uniforms didn’t interfere. This was the night from November 9th to 10th 1989. The word that the Germans used most during these hours and the following days was “Wahnsinn!” (“crazy!”). What had happened?

“Glasnost” and “Perestroika” in the Soviet Union

In 1985, Michail Gorbatchev became Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and thus the head of government. He tried to reform the state within the communist system by “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (reconstruction). These reforms encouraged the citizens in other states of the socialist block like Poland, Hungary etc. and led to discussions and some changes. At the end of the day, Gorbatchev failed and the Soviet Union collapsed. In the German Democratic Republic, a group of hardliners governed who wouldn’t accept any changes. But during the 1980s already, a civic movement, partly supported by the churches, emerged. People discussed topics like peace, environment, freedom of speech and many of them were persecuted and jailed or ended up living in West Germany.

Mass Escapes of Germans in Hungary and Czechoslovakia

During the summer months of 1989, many citizens of the GDR had lost patience. They had only one life after all. As Hungary and the Czech Republic were possible vacation destinations, people tried it here. In Prague, GDR-citizens occupied the West-German embassy and could eventually leave for West Germany (in trains crossing East Germany, thus stirring the movements and rallies in the cities the train passed through. In Hungary, the government opened the border to Austria on June 27th. Hundreds of East Germans made it to West Germany via Austria.

Changes in the Government in East Berlin

Beginning September 4th in Leipzig, citizens gathered every week for “Monday Demonstrations” in various cities to demand open discussions, civil liberties and the freedom to travel. Using silent diplomatic ways, the government of Czechoslovakia protested against GDR citizens using their country to defect and demanded a solution.  Thus, October 17th, ten days after he had celebrated the 40th anniversary of the GDR praising its achievements, the Secretary General of the Communist Party and head of state, Erich Honnecker, was overthrown and a new government was created. In secret negotiations with the authorities in Bonn (then the capital of West Germany) and in West Berlin, the new government tried to start some reforms of the travel regulations for its citizens. The time span was late December. But history turned out to be faster.

“As far as I know effective immediately, without delay”

November 4th, half a million people rallied on the Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, the largest demonstration in the history of the GDR. November 9th, the government had a meeting to discuss new regulations for free travel to the West. They were to take effect the following day to give the government time to inform the border police in Berlin and along the Inner German border. For whatever reason one party official, who had not taken part in the meeting, Günter Schabowski, was to speak on a press conference at about 6pm. After he had explained the regulations, Riccardo Ehrman, an Italian journalist asked when the new regulations would take effect. Schabowski, who hadn’t been briefed properly, answered: “As far as I know effective immediately, without delay.” The news spread by radio and TV and the rest is history.

Eventually the Unification

The following weeks, a lot of East Germans travelled West (and some West Germans checked out the East) in Berlin and elsewhere and the process ended eventually with the unification October 3rd 1990. But why this nondescript day? Why not November 9th, the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall? November 9th was already occupied: the “Reichskristallnacht”, when the SS destroyed hundreds of synagogues and the belongings of Jewish was November 9th 1938. This is not a day for celebrations.

What happened to the Wall?

The following weekend, new border crossings were opened, some in historically significant sites like the Potsdamer Platz or the Bernauer Straße. On both sides, crowds watched the bulldozers cheering. One very symbolic opening was the one at the Brandenburg Gate, which took place later, on December 22th.

The weeks and months to follow, was the time of the “wall-woodpeckers”. That’s how the people were called who used hammer and chisel to break out little pieces of the concrete wall. First as a souvenir, later as a business.  By the way: If you come to Berlin and are offered “authentic” pieces of the Berlin Wall, don’t buy. There are no more authentic pieces after 25 years. But most of the Wall as well as the death strip and the interior wall were torn down on a regular way by the East German authorities.

And Today?

Only about 2% of the 100 miles (160 km) are left. You can see some of it close to the memorial  “Topography of Terror”, the site of the former SS-headquarter, at the Bernauer Straße with its Wall Memorial and at the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is a strip of 0.8 miles (1,300 meters) of the Wall with murals in Friedrichshain close to the Ostbahnhof at the border of the river Spree. A double row of cobblestones marks the former Berlin Wall in the city center, so you can check out if you are East or West.

Make sure not to miss our tours! We see the sites at our Berlin-in-a-in a day-Walking Tour and the Berlin Wall Tour