The Gendarmenmarkt is arguably Berlin's most magnificent square. It is best known for the architectural trio composed of the German and French cathedrals (Deutscher und Französischer Dom) and Schinkel's Konzerthaus (concert hall) which together form one of the most stunning ensembles in Berlin. The "domes" refer to the domed tower structures erected in 1785 by architect Carl von Gontard. They were mainly intended to add stature and grandeur to the two buildings.
The square dates back to 1700, part of King Friedrick I's plan for Friedrichstadt, an emerging new quarter of Berlin, where the recently expelled French Protestants or Huguenots had settled following the Edict of Potsdam in 1685 which granted them asylum in the Prussian capital. The name is in fact of French origin as "Gens d'arms", which was a Prussian regiment consisting of Huguenots soldiers.
Since its full restoration completed in 1994, the French Church (Französischer Dom) houses the Huguenot museum. In the German Dome rebuilt in the 1980s and restored in 1996 it is possible to visit a permanent exhibition on the history of the German Parliament. The statue of Friedrich Schiller by Reinhold Begas set in the square's centre in 1871 was another victim of the Nazis purges. It was returned to East Berlin in 1988 after a long exile in the other half of the city.
Gendarmenmarkt is also a great place to wander around and soak in the atmosphere. Some of Berlin's most glamorous hotels and restaurants are in this part of town. Now part of re-built Mitte, it has become a lively urban space with its frequent performances at the concert hall. A lively Christmas market and ice rink opens for the entire festive season from the first of Advent to the New Year.