From August 13, 1961 until November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin. Since the wall came down, East Berlin has been renovated and revitalized into a world-renowned historical center for artistic and cultural expression.
Touring the Berlin Wall
Scattered throughout the city, tourists can explore traces of the wall’s remains and memorial sites commemorating the history behind this wall. A range of self-guided and guided tours provide ample opportunities to delve into the history behind this wall. For example, the City Circle Sightseeing bus’ Wall Tour offers a self-guided hop-on hop-off tour tour that stops at 12 destinations. Adventurous travelers might want to explore this route via bike. This tour covers over 150 kilometers along the former GDR border encircling West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall Memorial stretches for 1.4 kilometers along border of former Bernauer Strass. Walking along the grounds, one can see the facades of apartment buildings that became the wall dividing the east and west, and the site where some families jumped out of these apartments trying to escape. A memorial replete with photographs pays tribute to some of those who lost their lives trying to flee. An outdoor Chapel of Reconciliation provides a quiet place for those looking to reflect and pray as they tour this site. The interior museum features a historical exhibit about the rise and fall of this wall. Climb the stairs up to the tower for a view of the wall from their observation deck.
Another key stop along the wall is the East Side Gallery featuring the works of over a hundred artists. Other sites include the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, a former Stasi remand prison, and the green Mauerpark. Also, a double row of cobblestones along some of Berlin’s streets mark the route of the Berlin Wall.
Topography of Terror
This outdoor and indoor history museum is situated on the site of the buildings that were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS from 1933 to 1945. A new documentation center opened in 2010 that chronicles the history of the rise of the Nazi party and their atrocities. This free museum is open until 8 p.m., so one can tour this museum after other museums are closed. After one’s visit, be sure to venture over to Brandenburg Gate for a nighttime photo. Built in 1791, this 26-meter-high sandstone sculpture was later used by toll-collectors and guards during the time the city was divided.
Those seeking to further explore this history should venture over to the Palace of Tears (Tränenpalast). This exhibit documents the border experiences for West Berliners when they traveled to East Berlin, as well as those East Berliners who tried to escape.
Exploring Berlin’s Art Scene
Built on a small island in Berlin’s Spree River between 1824 and 1930, Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) consists of an ensemble of five museums whose collections span six thousand years of artistic endeavors. These five museums – the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie – form one of the most important museum complexes in the world and are listed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.