Berlin Wall Trail - 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” in the Nordbahnhof station on Gartenstrasse will give you a good impression of what these stations were like.
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 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).
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.