As the European Union’s most populous city, Berlin is an artistic, historic, and social hub. The city has been under the rule of the Kingdom Of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich. After the Second World War, it was famously severed in half by the Berlin Wall, which was only taken down in 1989. As a result, there are endless monuments, museums, and historical sites to explore the capital’s multifaceted history with.
From famous places steeped in history like the Reichstag, to lesser-known sites like Berlin Flak Tower, there’s a wealth of sites to visit. Here’s our pick of 10 of the best.
Probably Berlin’s most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate is a stunning Romanesque structure modelled on the ancient gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Standing at the heart of the city, the Gate is a symbol of the German capital and is consistently ranked among the top 10 things to see in Berlin.
Commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia and built between 1788 and 1791, today, visitors from around the world come to see the Brandenburg Gate and its ornate carvings, including its dramatic depiction of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, driving a horse drawn chariot.
No visit to Berlin can miss the famous German parliament building, the Reichstag. One of the most popular places to visit in Berlin, the Reichstag Building as we know it today is a fusion of the original 19th century building – heavily damaged by the infamous fire of 1933 and subsequent WWII bombing – and a restoration project which finished in 1999.
As well as viewing the stunning architecture particularly the remarkable roof terrace and dome, visitors can explore more via guided tours are available, but these must be booked in writing well in advance.
Probably the most famous of all the places to see in Berlin, the Berlin Wall split the city and was a dramatic symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War. An 87 mile long concrete barrier that divided East and West Berlin, the Wall was the most obvious embodiment of the so-called ‘Iron Curtain’ between eastern and western Europe.
The fall of the Berlin Wall finally occurred on 9 November 1989, and was almost completely dismantled in the weeks that followed. Very few segments of the wall remain today, but those that have are extremely popular for visitors and locals alike. The largest section can be found at the open air East Side Gallery, although small sections are dotted throughout the city.
One of the most stunning buildings in Berlin, Berliner Don is an exceptionally beautiful early 20th century Cathedral built during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Constructed between 1894 and 1905, this ornate structure is crowned with a remarkable, imposing dome and is now open to the public to explore.
It’s the capital’s largest and most important Protestant church and, when it comes to deciding what to see in Berlin, this hugely popular landmark is an absolute must.
History runs to the very heart of Berlin, and while joyous events are celebrated, there are a number of sites which document darker moments from the city’s past. Berlin has made the conscious decision to ensure that the horror of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust are not forgotten. One of the most moving sites of all is the Holocaust Memorial.
The Holocaust Memorial is a vast granite maze covering 19,000 square metres which remembers the millions of European Jews murdered by the Nazis. It makes for sombre and thought-provoking viewing.
Located on Museum Island, the Pergamon Museum showcases a vast and fascinating world famous collection of ancient artefacts, Ancient Near East, and Islamic art. For lovers of history, it ranks as one of the very best things to do in Berlin.
As well as a host of incredible artefacts, the museum houses monumental structures such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus, which all consist of original parts brought from their original locations in Turkey.
Originally built in the 1890’s and dedicated to Kaiser William I by his grandson Kaiser William II, today the fusion of Romanesque and modern architecture make the Kaiser Wilhelm Church a fascinating place to explore.
Seemingly odd to view from the outside – being as it is a largely 18th century tower with a modern concrete, steel and glass hulk attached – inside the Church is truly stunning, with beautiful glass walls and an epic feel. A truly unique experience.
An infamous East German prison which operated during the Cold War, the Berlin Stasi Prison is a memorial to those who were persecuted there. Following WWII, East Berlin was under the occupation of Soviet Russia as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Stasi were the official security forces of this state. The Berlin Stasi Prison became the detention centre for anyone considered hostile to the state until it was eventually disbanded in 1989 as the GDR began to falter.
Today, the prison is a memorial to those who were detained there and is a stark reminder of the atrocities carried out during the Cold War. Tours are offered and visitors can see a film about the prison’s history.
One of the more hidden and obscure places in Berlin to visit, the Berlin Flak Tower is a Second World War anti-aircraft station and bunker which can now be seen via organised tours run by the Berlin Underground Association.
Visitors can explore three of the seven floors of the bunker and discover the astounding underground landscape. The most striking experience that the site offers is the opportunity to stare deep down into the very depths of the building.
Built in 1713 as a summer getaway for the first queen of Prussia, Charlottenburg is Berlin’s largest royal estate. One of Berlin’s most beautiful museums, the architecture is predominantly baroque, reflecting the taste during the period when it was first constructed.
Today, Charlottenburg ranks among the top places to visit in Berlin and visitors can undertake a guided tour through both the Old Palace and the New Wing. Tours guide visitors through the rich family history of Sophie Charlotte, in addition to the property’s extensive collection of artworks.