Berlin: Main Sights
The Capital Of Germany
The Museum Island as only ensemble of an educational landscape represents 100 years of museum architecture in central Berlin. In 1999 UNESCO declared the Museum Island a World heritage site. It accommodates archaeological collections and art of the 19th century. Developments of the building complex began with the Altes Museum where King Frederick William III made art treasures accessible to the public for the first time in 1830. When the Pergamon Museum opened in 1930, it marked the completion of the Museum Island complex. During the Second World War nearly 70% of the buildings were destroyed. A huge reconstruction and modernisation programme is ongoing to overcome the results of the war and division. Most of the original collections, which were divided between east and west after the war, are now shown reunited.
The Bode Museum, at the northern end of Museum Island in Berlin's Mitte district, is in the old museum centre of Berlin. Frederick William IV saw the island in the River Spree as a "Sanctuary of Art and Science". Founded in 1904, the Bode Museum reopened in 2006 after extensive renovations. It contains a wealth of art and artefacts from the Byzantine and Medieval periods, primarily from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France and Spain.
Designed by the head government-building officer Ernst von Ihne, the Bode Museum was built in the style known as "Wilhelminian Baroque" for Wilhelm II. It is a stately, palatial building with its outer wings directly overlooking the River Spree on both sides of Museum Island.
The northwest corner of the museum, which occupies the end of the island, is topped with a large Baroque dome. At the other end, a smaller dome overlooks train tracks that run across the island. The interior is bright and spacious and decorated with fine architectural details.
Located on Museum Island, The Neues Museum was designed by Friedrich August Stüler and built between 1841 and 1859. At the time it was built, the Neues Museum was one of the most ambitious building projects in Prussia. Extensive bombing during the Second World War left the building in ruins, with entire sections missing completely and others severely damaged. After more than ten years of intensive work, the completion of the rebuilt Neues Museum was celebrated in an official ceremony on 5 March 2009 and will reopen in October. The Neues Museum will house the archaeological collections of the capital's Egyptian Museum including the 3,400-year-old Egyptian bust of Nefertiti, which will have its own hall.
The Pergamon Museum is located on the Museum Island This museum was designed by Alfred Messel and took 20 years to build (1910-1930). It is an internationally renowned ancient history museum that contains several fantastic artefacts, such as the huge Altar of Zeus and the famous Ishtar Gate from Babylon. The Pergamon contains three separate museums: the Collection of Classical Antiquities (Antikensammlung), the Museum of the Ancient Near East (Vorderasiatisches Museum), and the Museum of Islamic Art (Museum für Islamische Kunst).
Die Alte Nationalgalerie
The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) located on the Museum Island in Berlin, is a gallery that boasts a collection of 19th-century art and a good range of 20th-century German pieces. The gallery also owns significant collections of French Impressionist works, including masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne and Rodin.
The Nationalgalerie was founded in 1861, after the donations of 262 paintings by banker Johann Heinrich Wagener. Originally, the collection was housed in the buildings of the Akademie der Künste. Friedrich August Stüler planned the current building in 1865, basing it on a sketch by King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Overseen by Heinrich Strack, its construction took place between 1869 and 1876. The building was heavily damaged in World War II air raids. It was partly reopened in 1949, but reconstruction continued until 1969. Between 1998 and 2001, the museum was renovated thoroughly. Some extra halls were added on the uppermost floor and now contain the Romantic works.
The Brandenburg Gate is an enduring symbol of Berlin. Built in 1791 as a triumphal arch, it is the only remaining town gate in the country. The design, by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans, was modelled on the ceremonial entrance to the Acropolis ("Propylaea") in Athens, Greece and was intended to symbolise the strength and power of the Prussian Empire. Construction work began in the year of the French Revolution and it was the first building in Berlin's architectural history, to be based on models from Greek antiquity. Eventually, this trend led Berlin to be known as the "Athens on the Spree".
There are six Doric columns on each side, forming five passages. The central passage, which is 5.65 m/18.5ft wide, was reserved for the carriages of the royal court; the four side passages, each 3.8 m/12.5ft wide, were used by ordinary traffic. Above the Doric entablature and the steps of the attic is the five-metre high copper "Quadriga" with the goddess of victory, designed by Gottfried Schadow and cast in bronze by Emanuel Jury. The goddess Victoria is shown in reliefs as a bringer of peace, and a time of peace is portrayed as a time of cultural abundance. Originally, it was even suggested that the gate should be entitled "Peace Gate". The central figure in the reliefs of the openings through the gate is Heracles.
In its design, the gate reverses the significance of mediaeval city gates, in that it represents the openness and cultural generosity of this confident city of residence.
In 1989 the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of hope to a new generation. The tore down the Berlin wall and most of the frontier between East and West Germany vanished seemingly overnight. In their enthusiasm, they damaged the gate and its statue on New Year's Eve 1989. However, since then the damaged areas have been restored, complete with its Prussian eagle and cross. Now, the gate serves as a symbol of a united Germany moving forward in unity economically, socially, and spiritually.
The Gendarmenmarkt is a beautiful and elegant square created at the end of the 17th century. Although most of the buildings were destroyed in World War II, it has since been restored to its former glory. The main attractions on the square are the twin churches of Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) and Franzosischer Dom (French Cathedral), and the Konzerthaus.
Visit Deutscher Dom to learn more about democracy in Germany, or visit the Französischer Dom to find out about the French Huguenots who were banished from France in 1685 and fled to Berlin. The Konzerthaus is a stunning concert house that replaced the former National Theatre, which was originally built here, but destroyed in the war. It is the home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
There are many cafes, bars and restaurants around the square, which makes it a fantastic place to sit and relax.
From 203 to 207 metres high you can look out over the entire city of Berlin. You can see the Reichstag (Parliament building), the Brandenburg Gate, the Museum Island and many more fantastic sites. The Television Tower is one of Berlins most popular tourist attractions therefore it is wise to consider booking tickets online in advance.
The New Synagogue is one of the most important locations for Jewish life in Berlin. It is used as a synagogue with egalitarian worship, but it also hosts a number of exhibitions. Dedicated in 1866, the building was the largest and most magnificent Jewish place of worship in Germany, and at the same time a self-conscious declaration of the city's well-established Jewish bourgeoisie. In 1943, the building was severely damaged and in 1958 the main chamber of the synagogue was demolished.
The foundation stone of the reconstructed building was laid on 9 November 1988, precisely 50 years after the "Night of Broken Glass". This iconic building is well worth a visit.
Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War, located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße. Many other sector crossing points existed in Berlin. Some of these were designated for residents of West Berlin and West German citizens. Checkpoint Charlie was the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and — for some East Germans — a gateway to freedom.
It is frequently featured in spy movies and books. During its 28-year active life, the infrastructure on the Eastern side was expanded to include not only the wall, watchtower and zigzag barriers, but a multi-lane shed where cars and their occupants were checked. However the Allied authority never built any permanent buildings, and made do with the iconic wooden shed, which was replaced in the 1980s by a larger metal structure now on display at the Allied Museum in western Berlin. Their reason was that they did not consider the inner Berlin sector boundary an international border and did not treat it as such. In the years after reunification, a reproduction of the 1960s-era wooden shed was placed at the site of the original. Visitors can take pictures with actors dressed in boarder patrol uniform.
The Reichstag Building, which was first opened in 1894, was constructed to house the Reichstag, the first parliament of the German Empire. It housed the Reichstag until 1933 when it was damaged in a severe fire. It remained in ruins until Germany’s reunification when it underwent an elaborate reconstruction managed by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster. Today it is the German Bundestag’s meeting place. It also houses a restaurant on the top floor with stunning views of the famous dome and of the city.
The Karl-Marx-Allee, which was known as Stalinallée between 1949 and 1961, is a monumental socialist boulevard built between 1952 and 1960. It is 89m wide and nearly 2km long and is lined with monumental eight-storey buildings designed in the so-called wedding-cake style, the socialist classicism of the Soviet Union. There are dual towers at Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz designed by Hermann Henselmann. Most of the buildings are covered by architectural ceramics. Landmarks of the Karl-Marx-Allee are the two domed towers on Frankfurter Tor. This magnificent avenue is absolutely worth a visit.
Potsdamer Platz is a popular attraction of the New Berlin. With its mix of restaurants, shopping opportunities, theatre and cinemas, both Berliners and tourists are drawn in to pass the time. The former Postdamer Platz is only a small part of the site now bearing its name.
The original square was a crossroads, which, after the building of the train station Potsdamer Bahnhof, became one of the busiest junctions in Europe and a synonym for the pace of life in the capital. The square was badly damaged in the Second World War and then, cut through by the Wall, the wasteland decayed into a no man's land in the heart of the city.
After the fall of the Wall the area around Potsdamer Platz became the biggest building site in Europe. The whole area is especially of interest to the architecturally interested tourist. But also other visitors will especially appreciate the breakfast room and the Emperors room of the old East Berlin Hotel Esplanade which are now integrated into the Sony centre. The neo-baroque Emperors' Room, weighing 1,300 tonnes, was lifted onto air cushions and moved around 70 metres to its present position.
The Hackesche Höfe were built at the turn of the century. It is a complex with eight rear courtyards. The first courtyard was designed by August Endell, who made it a prime example of Art Nouveau. The Hackesche Höfe became a colourful mixture of different services, factories and shops. The residential tenants were merchants, factory owners, civil servants, restaurant owners. The courtyards have been restored in their original style and today the Hackesche Höfe are one of the liveliest settings in Berlin. By day you can stroll around some unique boutiques or have lunch in one of the restaurants and by night there are many bars, restaurants, galleries and a theatre for your enjoyment.