Berlin Wall Trail - From Nordbahnhof to Potsdamer Platz

Enlarge photo: Park am Nordbahnhof
Park at Nordbahnhof Image: SenStadt/Ulrich Reinheckel

This seven-kilometer route starts at the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station on the former border to West Berlin. The S-Bahn station was shut down after Berlin was divided and became one of the city’s “ghost stations.” Underground S-Bahn trains ran from southern West Berlin to the north without stopping; border guards patrolled the dimly lit platforms. A visit to the exhibition “Grenz- und Geisterbahnhöfe im geteilten Berlin” in the Nordbahnhof station on Gartenstrasse will give you a good impression of what these stations were like.

Enlarge photo: Friedhof der St.-Hedwig-Gemeinde
St. Hedwig cemetery Image: SenStadt/Guggenthaler

The extensive grounds of the Nordbahnhof station were transformed into a section of the border strip starting in 1961. Remaining sections of the Wall have been integrated into the park grounds created here. The train station wall on Gartenstrasse served as part of the outer wall (“Vorderlandmauer”). It was continued as a concrete wall along Liesenstrasse, on the grounds of the St. Hedwig cemetery, and can still be seen in its original condition at the corner of Gartenstrasse. You can still see noticeable traces of the GDR border regime in the cemetery itself. Some of the graves were destroyed in the process of expanding the border strip, and the cemetery could only be reached from the rear, through an apartment house on Wöhlertstrasse.

Enlarge photo: Grenzübergang Chausseestraße Ecke Liesenstraße 1970
Former border crossing at Chausseestrasse 1970 Image: Landesarchiv/D. Lohse

At the end of Liesenstrasse you pass the former Chausseestrasse border crossing, which you can read about on a Berlin Wall History Mile info board. Karla Sachse’s artwork “Kaninchenfeld” (Rabbit Field) accentuates the former checkpoint. Boyenstrasse takes you to the Spandauer Schifffahrtskanal, a canal that marked the border to West Berlin. Here you will find the Günter Litfin memorial in an old watchtower used by GDR border guards.

Enlarge photo: Grenzübergang Invalidenstraße
Former border crossing at Invalidenstrasse Image: Landesarchiv Berlin 0078732/Johann Willa

Passing the cemetery Invalidenfriedhof, which was heavily damaged by the construction of the border strip, you arrive at the former Invalidenstrasse border crossing. Two History Mile info boards here tell the story of a failed escape attempt at this border crossing and of Günter Litfin, who was the first fugitive to be shot dead at the Berlin Wall. He was killed by GDR transport police not far from the bridge at the harbor Humboldthafen.

Enlarge photo: Weiße Kreuze am Spreeufer
“Weisse Kreuze” memorial Image: Senatskanzlei

In the new government district built between the bridge Sandkrugbrücke and Brandenburg Gate you can visit three memorial sites dedicated to the victims of the Berlin Wall and built at different times: the “Parlament der Bäume” (Parliament of Trees) created by the artist Ben Wargin after the fall of the Wall out of original parts of the inner wall; the wall memorial at the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, which continues the “Parliament der Bäume” in the Bundestag library; and the memorial “Weisse Kreuze” (White Crosses), first set up in 1971 on the bank of the Spree River by citizens of West Berlin on the tenth anniversary of the building of the Wall.

Enlarge photo: Tränenpalast
“Tränenpalast” (Palace of Tears) Image: Stiftung Haus der Geschichte / Axel Thünker

Here you can make a short trip along the southern bank of the Spree River to the “Tränenpalast” (Palace of Tears), a pavilion once used by the GDR for border clearance at the Friedrichstrasse train station. On the way there, you’ll also pass a former GDR waterway checkpoint underneath the bridge Marschallbrücke. At the Tränenpalast, which has been classified as a historical monument, the foundation Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland has set up a permanent exhibition on “Teilung und Grenze im Alltag der Deutschen” (Division and the border in everyday life in Germany).

Enlarge photo: Mauer an der Ebertstraße; Mauerabschnitt zwischen Reichstagsgebäude und Brandenburger Tor; 2.1.1990
Between the Reichstag building and Brandenburg Gate, January 1990 Image: Landesarchiv/Edmund Kasperski

Back on the Wall Trail and passing the Reichstag building, which stood right next to the Wall on the West Berlin side, you will come to Brandenburg Gate. Berlin Wall History Mile info boards show you how this Berlin landmark once stood in the middle of the border strip, as well as some of the world-famous images associated with the peaceful fall of the Wall.

In the Brandenburger Tor U-Bahn station (U55) at Pariser Platz, the Berlin Wall Information Center at Brandenburg Gate provides an overview of all the Berlin Wall memorial sites in Berlin and of the history of Berlin’s most famous landmark, Brandenburg Gate, as the symbol of both German division and the joy of reunification. This last stop on the Berlin Wall Trail is just a few minutes away from the Potsdamer Platz subway and S-Bahn station.

  • About the route: This route through the city center first takes you from the Nordbahnhof station along the former border fortifications via Gartenstrasse and Liesenstrasse to the end of Boyenstrasse. The Wall Trail turns to the south here onto Scharnhorststrasse and brings you via Kieler Strasse to the Spandauer Schifffahrtskanal, which it follows to the bridge Sandkrugbrücke. Via Alexanderufer, Kapelleufer, Schiffbauerdamm, and Ebertstrasse, the trail then follows the former course of the Wall to Potsdamer Platz. Here, too, you should plan on enough time to visit the many memorials and sights along the way.

Sights along the route

New Synagogue

Link to: New Synagogue
Image: Berlin Partner GmbH / FTB-Webefotografie

The New Synagogue (Neue Synagoge), built from 1859 to 1866 to a Moorish-Byzantine design by Eduard Knoblauch and Friedrich August Stüler, was once Germany’s largest house of prayer.More information

Hamburger Bahnhof

Link to: Hamburger Bahnhof
Image: Claudio Divizia - Fotolia.com

As early as 1884, this train station was unable meet the demands of modern railway traffic, and was converted to a transportation museum at the beginning of the 20th century.More information

“Sinkende Mauer”

Link to: “Sinkende Mauer”
Image: SenStadt/Jutta Krenz

The Invalidenpark, partly new and partly restored from 1996 to 1998, is home to Christophe Girot’s fountain installation “Sinkende Mauer” (Sinking Wall): a slanted wall you can walk on rises up out of a pool of water, and water runs down it in the summer months.More information

Natural History Museum

Link to: Natural History Museum
Image: AndreasJ - Fotolia.com

The Natural History Museum (Naturkundemuseum), built from 1883 to 1889 by August Tiede, boasts a collection of more than 25 million zoological, paleontological, mineralogical, and geological objects.More information

Charité Campus Mitte

Link to: Charité Campus Mitte
Image: Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin

The Charité, built in 1710 as a plague hospital, evolved into an outstanding medical research and teaching institution in the 19th century. Many of its different buildings were erected from 1897 to 1917, while its 21-story high-rise was opened to patients in 1981.More information

Hauptbahnhof

Link to: Hauptbahnhof
Image: kameraauge - fotolia.com

After ten years of construction, Europe’s largest crossing station (architects: von Gerkan, Marg and Partners) opened in 2006.More information

Deutsches Theater

Link to: Deutsches Theater
Image: Bezirksamt Mitte

Built from 1849 to 1850 by Eduard Titz and originally called the “Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater,” it has been known as the Deutsches Theater since 1883.More information

Federal Chancellery

Link to: Federal Chancellery
Image: Alex Arocas - Fotolia.com

The Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt), designed by Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank and completed in 2001, lies right in the middle of the meander of the Spree.More information

Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten

Link to: Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten
Image: Wolfgang Bittner LDA

This Soviet memorial (Sowjetisches Ehrenmal) designed by Lev Kerbel was officially unveiled in November 1945. Buried here are 2,500 Soviet soldiers who died in the fight to take Berlin; their military units are inscribed on columns.More information

Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus

Link to: Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus
Image: Henry Czauderna - Fotolia.com

The Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt), designed by Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank and completed in 2001, lies right in the middle of the meander of the Spree.More information

Reichstag Building – German Bundestag

Link to: Reichstag Building – German Bundestag
Image: Marcito / Fotolia.com

The seat of the German Bundestag is the Reichstag building built by Paul Wallot from 1884 to 1894. It was gutted and remodeled according to plans by Sir Norman Foster from 1994 to 1999; today it is a modern parliament building.More information

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Link to: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Image: hindenberg / Fotolia.com

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) honors the memory of the six million Jewish victims of German National Socialist persecution.More information

Philharmonie and Kammermusiksaal

Link to: Philharmonie and Kammermusiksaal
Image: © Thomas Röske - Fotolia.com

The Philharmonie (1960–1963) is considered one of Hans Scharoun’s major works and a classic example of his “organic architecture”: in the center of the concert hall stands the orchestra podium, surrounded by terraced rows of seating for an audience of 2,200.More information

New National Gallery

Link to: New National Gallery
Image: Berlin Partner GmbH / Fritsch Foto

The New National Gallery (Neue Nationalgalerie) (1965–1968) is the only museum ever built by the architect Mies van der Rohe. A “floating” roof hovers above a light-filled, austere hall of glass and steel. The row of exhibition rooms are located in the basement, which itself is encased in granite. .More information

Picture Gallery

Link to: Picture Gallery
Image: Thomas Röske - Fotolia.com

The Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie), designed by Hilmer & Sattler, was opened in 1998 and owes its architectural appeal to the expressionist glass roof above the entrance area and a huge hall with three naves. Wrapped around this hall is a double row of 53 exhibition rooms lit evenly from above.More information

State Library

Link to: State Library
Image: Da flow

The State Library (Staatsbibliothek), built from 1967 to 1978 according to plans by Hans Scharoun, was intended to block off West Berlin’s Kulturforum from the “death strip” and the Wall.More information

Sony-Center

Link to: Sony-Center
Image: Berlin Partner GmbH / Fritsch Foto

Along with other striking buildings, Potsdamer Platz’s Sony Center was built under the overall control of the American architect Helmut Jahn starting in 1996.More information

Brandenburg Gate

Link to: Brandenburg Gate
Image: robepco - Fotolia.com

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s main landmark and former gate to the city, was located right behind the border inside the Soviet sector during the years of division.More information

Academy of Arts

Link to: Academy of Arts
Image: Wolfgang Bittner LDA

Reunited since 1993, the Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste) has returned to its original location, where it is housed in a new building designed by the architects Behnisch & Partner.More information