Exploring Berlin — 5 Favorites

posted by Sharon March 31, 2019 32 Comments
Berlin Brandenburg Gate

Berlin is a city of modern buildings and culture. It also is easy to find places that allow you to look at Berlin’s history, especially of the last 100 years. Once you visit, you will likely find yourself mulling over this lively place that wears its past “on its sleeve” for all to see. I could easily name more than five favorites. If you have only a short time in Berlin, though, these are the top places I would recommend for your itinerary. And they are all within walking distance of each other (or a short bus or metro ride if you prefer).

The Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate towers above the center of Berlin. When you think of this city, this is likely the image that comes to mind. It dates from 1791 and was modeled on the Acropolis in Athens. In recent history, the gate was damaged during World War II, then caught in no man’s land when the Berlin Wall went up. The wall was literally a few feet behind the gate, blocking passage. For years the historic gate stood visible but abandoned. Now it’s repaired and open once again to the public. We walked back and forth between its pillars, just because we could. We passed by here every day of our Berlin stay, taking in the beauty and symbolism of this monument.

Berlin Brandenburg GateBerlin Brandenburg Gate

A plaque in the sidewalk marks the spot where U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech in June, 1987 demanding that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall. Two years later, the world watched as the wall fell.

Berlin Brandenburg GateBerlin Brandenburg GateBerlin Brandenburg GateBerlin Brandenburg Gate

The Reichstag

The Reichstag in Berlin is a fascinating pairing of the old and the modern, with layers of history, much like the city itself. Completed in 1894, it housed the government for decades. In 1933, a famous fire destroyed part of the building shortly after Hitler became Chancellor. He blamed others for the fire and closed the building, insisting this entitled him to grab more power for himself. Perhaps he actually engineered the fire? No one knows . . .

When Berlin was liberated in 1945, Russian troops rushed into the Reichstag, as it symbolized Germany. The building, damaged from WWII, wasn’t repaired by the Soviet occupiers. It wasn’t until after the fall of the Wall and the Communists left the city that the new, unified German government moved into the Reichstag and the interior of the building was modernized.

Reichstag Berlin

Reichstag BerlinReichstag Berlin

This painting in the library depicts Berlin’s tumultuous recent past. Reichstag BerlinThe view from the deck outside the library is of the River Spree. The seven white crosses are a memorial to unlucky Germans who thought that the river marked the line of the Berlin Wall here. East German soldiers knew the river here was actually in East Germany. So they shot those misguided seven. Notice there is a blank cross, too. We saw several unfinished types of these memorials in Berlin. Apparently so many people died trying to cross from East to West that names of the missing are still being added. Reichstag BerlinThe floor of the parliament boasts about 600 blue chairs and a huge Bundestag eagle presides over the room. If you look up, you’re looking up into the glass dome.Reichstag BerlinVisible from far away in the city, the dome is a marvel of architecture and efficiency. Inside, as you wind up the circular structure, the views of Berlin are stunning. The lower end opens into parliament (no secrets allowed!) and the top end is open to the sky. Berlin ReichstagReichstag BerlinThe Berlin Wall Memorial

For about 28 years, the infamous Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin. It fell in 1989, marking the end of East German oppression and making reunification of the city possible. Most of the Wall was knocked down right away, but a section along Bernauer Strasse was kept that today stands as a memorial to all who lost their lives trying to escape from the East. As the Wall went up virtually overnight, families and friends woke up to find themselves stuck and separated from each other. Escapes were prompted by families trying to reunite, as well as a desire for freedom.

The Berlin Wall is familiar to us and yet much more complicated than I understood before visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial. The line of the Wall, built in 1961, zigs and zags all over the city, rather than being anything like a straight line. The Wall was about 96 miles long. It surrounded West Berlin in an attempt to keep East Germans from migrating there. A guard tower still stands, and you can see “no man’s land” in between the two parallel sections of wall.Berlin Wall MemorialBerlin Wall Memorial

Berlin Wall MemorialBerlin Wall Memorial

You’ll find memorials and photos of those who lost their lives in their bid for freedom. Berlin Wall Memorial

Berlin Wall Memorial

Where sections of the wall here are missing, iron bars delineate the path. The stepping stones mark the line of a tunnel that aided 57 people to escape. A tribute to an East German soldier who jumped to freedom hangs on a nearby building. Berlin Wall Memorial

Berlin Wall MemorialThe Tiergarten

The Tiergarten in central Berlin is an oasis of greenery and ponds in the middle of modern buildings of glass and chrome. After visiting the Memorial Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, or the Reichstag, you may want to relax in the Tiergarten. We crisscrossed the Tiergarten often during our days in Berlin as we walked from place to place seeing the famous sights. And we enjoyed every foray into this quiet place of tree-lined paths. It’s refreshing to meander through here after a long day of seeing all the sights.

The 520 acres of the Tiergarten make up the oldest public park in Berlin. It’s been compared to Central Park in New York. The Tiergarten began as a royal hunting grounds, then in the late 1600s Friedrich III, Duke of Prussia, declared it open to everyone – a “park for the pleasure of the general population.” During WWII, bombs damaged the park. With so much of Berlin suffering after the war, people cut down the trees in their desperation for firewood. Most of the green growth in the Tiergarten today dates only from the 1950s.

Berlin TiergartenBerlin TiergartenThe shadow of World War II and then Russian rule reaches even this peaceful place. The Beethoven-Hayden-Mozart Memorial celebrates these composers. It’s impressive and large. When you get close, you can observe the bullet holes still in the marble from the battles of WWII. The memorial was taken down in 2000, restored, and reinstalled in its place of honor among the tall trees. Berlin TiergartenBerlin Tiergarten

The Soviet War Memorial commemorates the Russian soldiers who died liberating Berlin from the Nazis. The marble used to build it came from Hitler’s Chancellery. Two T34 tanks are on display, and a statue of a Soviet soldier rises into the air, standing guard over the memorial.

Berlin Tiergarten

Berlin TiergartenBut the garden is mostly a beautiful park that provides greenery and trees and ponds and paths to enjoy.    Berlin TiergartenBerlin Tiergarten

The Berlin Cathedral

The impressive Berlin Cathedral, with its magnificent dome, is a landmark in central Berlin. The church sits among the stately museums on Museum Island, with the Spree River flowing nearby. The Berlin Cathedral is the largest Protestant church in the area and is well worth a tour.

A church was first built on this site in the fifteenth century. This was the court church to the Hohenzollern dynasty, the Prussian rulers, and then the German Emperors. Due to fires and restorations that destroyed earlier churches, the baroque-style Berlin Cathedral on the island today dates from 1905. Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to build a cathedral to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. And he did.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

The church suffered bomb damage in World War II. Restoration was completed in 1993. You can tour the inside and climb the 267 steps up to the dome for a magnificent panoramic view of Berlin sites.Berlin CathedralBerlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin CathedralBerlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin is a fascinating city. I would gladly go back any time — there’s so much more to explore!Berlin Brandenburg Gate

How about you? Have you been to Berlin? What are the top sights you would recommend? Brandenburg Gate Berlin

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32 Comments

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William Kendall March 31, 2019 at 9:42 am

It truly is a magnificent city!

We have a section of the Wall here at our national War Museum.

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Junieper2/Jesh StG March 31, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Berlin has been so long a city of war! Maybe it’s one of the reasons where there are so many churches there (not only church buildings! Still have not visited the Brandenburger Thor after the wall fell, because we were already in the States. But have heard the details of the half year before of protests (very brave, because you could be shot) and the joy of the Christians because it was an answered prayer of 50 years! But also the disillusionment and hurt of the East Germans when they discovered the Western countrymen spoke about them as “those people.” Yes, this is what communism does – every day people tried to escape to the West when we were living in W-Berlin.

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Tamar Benjamin April 1, 2019 at 12:39 am

What a breathtakingly beautiful city to visit!

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Carol April 1, 2019 at 9:04 am

Another wonderful post on a beautiful city!

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Eileen April 1, 2019 at 11:10 am

Hello, what an awesome post and photos from Berlin! Wonderful tour, thanks for sharing your visit. Happy Monday, enjoy your day! Wishing you a great new week ahead!

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Photo Cache April 1, 2019 at 11:25 am

The city looks very impressive.

Worth a Thousand Words

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Mother of 3 April 1, 2019 at 12:24 pm

I love those beautiful old building with the intricate architectural details. So much history and heartache; I had no idea the wall was so long or that there was a no-mans land in between!

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Lady Fi April 1, 2019 at 8:17 pm

Wow – amazing and beautiful!

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rupam { xhobdo } April 1, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Awesome pics. Beautiful post.

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Cynthia April 3, 2019 at 5:28 am

It’s my favorite place in the world, for sure. I actually had never seen that there was a Reagan plaque! Of all of these, the Bernauerstrasse memorial really made the biggest impression on me during my first or second visit. I try to take all visitors here if I can 🙂

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Mandy April 3, 2019 at 9:52 am

The view from the Berlin Cathedral took my breath away when I was there. We were up there right after sunset and blue hour, despite impending rain, was phenomenal. I also loved exploring the area where the Berlin wall was. I think you did a great job covering Berlin, Sharon. 🙂

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Catscue Catmom April 3, 2019 at 10:50 am

Beautiful photos!

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Bill April 4, 2019 at 6:47 am

The first time I was there the wall was still in place, I had to drive along the road from the East German boarder to Berlin, it scared th elife out of me seeing Machine guns watching you at the border. I had to install some equipmet at research establishment and had a walk around where I took a few photos.I returned after the wall had come down but did not take a camer with me more is the pity.
https://spudsdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2014/11/25-years-ago.html

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betty - NZ April 4, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Wonderful photos and commentary of the city. I think I would pass under the gate, too, just because I could 🙂 I’m so glad you linked up at My Corner of the World!

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California Globetrotter April 4, 2019 at 10:35 pm

I cna’t believe I’ve lived in Germany for 6 1/2 years and still haven’t made it to Berlin! Haven’t been since 2007 and 2003, always with a school group! I need to do some serious exploring but I’ll never forget the Topography of Terror museum! #FeetDoTravel

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Paul and Carole April 5, 2019 at 8:41 am

So much history and fantastic architecture. Can’t believe we have never visited and we don’t live that far away. Really enjoyed your post. Have pinned for when we do eventually visit!

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Amy April 5, 2019 at 5:42 pm

I haven’t been to Berlin YET! We;re hoping to visit in 2020 when we’re doing a bike tour in Germany. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures.

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Keri | Ladies What Travel April 6, 2019 at 1:31 am

Thanks for this article – we’re heading here this summer with the kids and cannot wait. We all love our history so it will be a very interesting and educational trip!

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Jenn | By Land and Sea April 6, 2019 at 4:46 am

We spent a bit of time in Berlin – it truly is an amazing city. Your post is a great reminder of this and will be handy for the next time we return!

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Erik the Hungry Traveller April 6, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Berlin is absolutely rich in culture and history. I especially love the Berlin Cathedral feature. That place is huge. Being that I love history the world war 2 artifacts and sights to visit in Berlin was also superb

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Sarah April 6, 2019 at 10:17 pm

I’ve been to Berlin a couple of times, it’s not my favourite European city but it’s certainly an interesting place to explore. Looks like you had better weather than me, maybe that’s why I’ve yet to fall in love with the city like so many do 🙂

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Ava April 7, 2019 at 8:12 am

I lived in Germany for a couple of years in the early 70s but never made it to Berlin. There is so much history and beautiful architecture there.

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Jill April 7, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Love your photos. Berlin looks like a very cool place to visit – I haven’t been but it’s on my list.

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Akriti April 7, 2019 at 11:56 pm

I’d only heard a lot of good things about Berlin so far and now I read this amazing article. Thank you. I might end up going there in summer, so this will be really helpful!

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Linda (LD Holland) April 8, 2019 at 6:12 am

It is strange but Germany is one spot we really have missed on our travels. Your post on Berlin certainly shows some of what we are missing. I am sure that the view of the Brandenburg Gate just evokes such a sense of history. I understand wanting to walk back and forth through it – just because you could! It was interesting to read that the Berlin Wall actually zigzags around the city. Some restful time in the Tiergarten would be a great idea after the emotional impact of seeing the historical sights in Berlin. Great photos of Berlin. We would also want to check out the street art in Berlin as we have heard it is quite amazing.

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Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) April 8, 2019 at 11:33 am

I always love your photos, Sharon. Berlin is a city we’ve yet to explore. We’re really excited about seeing it one day. I did enjoy seeing more of it in your post. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

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Obligatory Traveler April 8, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Berlin looks so interesting. The mix of modern and historic architecture creates a stunning looking city. The Parliament looks like a building from a Marvel movie and I really want to see that Reagan plaque. Thanks for sharing #WeekendWanderlust

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Lorita | Ting and Things April 9, 2019 at 3:30 am

Berlin looks an amazing city to visit! I like history and visiting cathedrals. I’ll add to my bucket list.

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Anna April 9, 2019 at 4:08 am

I love Berlin so much, one of my favorite cities in Europe! I find it astonishing how they reformed The Reichstag into such a mixture of history and modern art, especially how they kept the walls with Soviet names and signatures!

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Shona Grant April 10, 2019 at 1:43 am

The Berlin Cathedral is absolutely magnificent. This is a great itinerary for a few days in Berlin. I’m yet to get there, so will pin this for later. 🙂

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Angie (FeetDoTravel) April 12, 2019 at 5:53 pm

Berlin has been a City I have wanted to visit for many years, mainly because of the part it places in Europe’s history. I had a list of things to do, but you have shown me more – that Cathedral is fantastic! Thanks for sharing, pinned #feetdotravel

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