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From Nordbahnhof to Potsdamer Platz

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” (Border stations and “ghost stations” along transit lines in divided Berlin) in the Nordbahnhof station on Gartenstrasse will give you a good impression of what these stations were like www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de(Externer Link).

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.
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 www.gedenkstaetteguenterlitfin.de(Externer Link) in an old watchtower used by GDR border guards. 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.
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.

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). The exhibition is free.

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.

New Synagogue

New Synagogue

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. Only slightly damaged in 1938’s Kristallnacht pogrom, it was almost completely destroyed during World War II; partial reconstruction did not start until 1988. Since 1995 it has housed Centrum Judaicum, a Jewish cultural, documentation, and event center. … more »

Hamburger Bahnhof

Hamburger Bahnhof

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. After being remodeled by Paul Kleihues, it became the home of the Museum for Contemporary Art (Museum für Gegenwart), which shows modern art by Beuys, Rauschenberg, Warhol, and others, along with the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection. … more »

“Sinkende Mauer”

“Sinkende Mauer”

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. This monument is intended to recall both the church Gnadenkirche that was torn down in 1967 and the “disappearance” of the Berlin Wall. … more »

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

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. Its glass-covered atrium showcases an especially striking highlight: a dinosaur skeleton that is 23 meters long and 12 meters tall. … more »

Charité Campus Mitte

Charité Campus Mitte

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. The Mitte campus has been one of the four locations of Charité-Universitätsmedizin since 2003. Berlin’s Medical History Museum (Medizinhistorisches Museum) is also found here. … more »

Hauptbahnhof

Hauptbahnhof

After ten years of construction, Europe’s largest crossing station (architects: von Gerkan, Marg and Partners) opened in 2006. The 321-meter-long and 27-meter-high glass hall for the east-west lines crossing Berlin intersects the 180-meter-long and 40-meter-wide train station concourse and the north-south tracks below it; 1,100 trains a day stop here along 14 platforms on two levels. … more »

Deutsches Theater

Deutsches Theater

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. The director Max Reinhardt bought it in 1905, and the “DT” made theater history with Otto Brahm, Max Reinhardt, Wolfgang Langhoff, and Thomas Langhoff. In recent years, productions of plays by contemporary authors have intrigued audiences and critics alike. … more »

Federal Chancellery

Federal Chancellery

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. A 36-meter-tall cube rises up between and above this white-concrete building’s two five-story administrative wings. The cube holds the offices of Germany’s chancellor and state ministers, the cabinet room, a conference room, and a press center. … more »

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

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

As part of the “Band des Bundes,” a ribbon of federal government buildings, Stephan Braunfels designed a two-part domicile for the members of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag: the Paul-Löbe-Haus and the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus. Connected by a footbridge across the Spree River, these buildings are home to offices, meeting rooms, the Bundestag visitors’ service, and a restaurant, as well as the parliamentary library, the parliamentary archives, and a hearing room. … more »

Reichstag Building – German Bundestag

Reichstag Building – German Bundestag

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. The first regular session of the now all-German parlia-ment to take place in this building was held on 19 April 1999. A dome and viewing platform, built above the 1,200-square-meter, glassed-in plenary hall, crown the building. … more »

Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten

Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten

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. Six pillars symbolize the various branches of the armed forces, while the central pillar supports a bronze sculpture of a Red Army soldier with a fixed bayonet. Two artillery guns and two T-34 tanks flank the memorial. … more »

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

This landmark, a symbol in recent German history of both Berlin’s division and its regained unity, was built from 1789 to 1791 by Carl Gotthard Langhans, who took the Propylaea of the Acropolis in Athens as his inspiration. A quadriga designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow in 1789 crowns this former city gate. The goddess of victory driving an ancient chariot was intended to recall Prussia’s triumph in the Seven Years’ War. … more »

Academy of Arts

Academy of Arts

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. It was founded in 1696 by the Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg (later King Friedrich I) with the idea that it would champion the freedom and claims of art with regard to the state and society at large. Exhibitions and events take place in the Academy’s main location here at Pariser Platz. … more »

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

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. Following a long period of debate, this memorial designed by the architect Peter Eisenman was opened in 2005. The exhibition in a center under the field of pillars tells visitors about the lives of the victims and about the historical sites of Nazi persecution. … more »

Philharmonie and Kammermusiksaal

Philharmonie and Kammermusiksaal

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. The building is the home of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Edgar Wisniewski based his design for the Chamber Music Hall (Kammermusiksaal) (1984–1987) linked to the foyer of the Philharmonie on a sketch by Scharoun. … more »

New National Gallery

New National Gallery

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. This museum is devoted to European painting and sculpture of the 20th century, from classic modern art to art of the 1960s. … more »

Picture Gallery

Picture Gallery

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. This museum shows one of the world’s most important collections of European painting from the 13th to the 18th century. … more »

State Library

State Library

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. Laid out in terraces, reading and lecture rooms rise up to the windowless stacks behind gold-anodized aluminum sheets. In the course of German reunification, which also reunited the inventories of east and west, “Stabi West” became the research library for holdings from the modern age. … more »

Sony Center

Sony Center

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. A tent-shaped glass roof spans seven individual buildings, uniting them into a transparent architectural ensemble of steel and glass. The heart of the complex is an oval forum (Sony Plaza), which is a frequent venue for public events. … more »