BUS 100 & BUS 200
If you don´t want to fork over up to € 20 for a guided bus tour, use the public buses – lines 100 and 200. They pass most sights and with a day-pass you can get off and back on as you like. With some luck, you´ll even get one of the talkative drivers who should really teach the professional guides how to entertain an audience. Both lines connect Zoo station and Alexanderplatz – Number 100 takes the route through Tiergarten while number 200 runs more southerly via Potsdamer Platz. Please mind that you won´t be the only tourist on these buses – pickpockets know that.
Sorry – we got rid of it. Except for the bit now called “East Side Gallery” in Mühlenstr, between Ostbahnhof and Oberbaumbrücke (U1 Warschauer Strasse). The 1.3 kilometer rest of the wall is now the world´s largest open-air art gallery – free and open 24/7.
A Memorial and Documentation Center was opened in 1999 on Bernauer Strasse 111 (U8 Bernauer Strasse or a 20 minutes walk from the hostel), open 10-17, closed on Mondays. Free admission. The exhibition is in German and English and gives you a very good overview about the history of the wall and the cold war politics which lead to its construction.
You can see it very well from our upper floors (and almost anywhere else in Berlin – that was the purpose of its construction!), but we strongly recommend to pay the € 7.50 for the lift to go up there. The views are really stunning. The tower was built in 1964-69 as a symbol of communist superiority: with a height of 368 meters it was the tallest free-standing structure in Europe – second only to Moscow´s Ostankino tower (staggering 540 meters), built in the same time.
Built in the 18th century as one of Berlin´s city gates. With the wall right in front of it, it was the symbol of divided Berlin and the Cold War. On its southern flank is the new Monument to the Murdered Jews in Europe – it consists of 2700 stone slabs. There is an information center beneath it (open daily 10-20, free admission).
Unter den Linden
runs eastwards from the gate – it is our showcase boulevard, dotted with embassies, posh hotels, government buildings, the Humboldt university, the state opera and many museums. It is worth to have a look at the palatial Russian (and former Soviet) embassy as well as Bebelplatz, the square where the Nazis first burned books on May 10, 1933. A glass window in the ground now shows empty bookshelves beneath.
Germany´s old – and new – parliament building just west of Brandenburg Gate. Entrance to the glass dome on top of it is free (daily 8-22), but come early to avoid the queue. Magnificent views of the new government district and a good opportunity to literally look down on politicians – the plenary hall is right under it in plain view. Next to the Reichstag building is the new Federal Chancellery, called “washing machine” for its bizarre design. No admission. Although it´s one of the biggest government headquarters worldwide (eight times the size of the White House) the chancellor´s apartment inside measures tiny 28 square meters.
This was urban wasteland during the cold war – apart from the wall, there was only one structure left in the entire area (“Weinhaus Huth”, Alte Potsdamer Str 5). Many Berliners were disappointed that two corporations (Sony and Daimler-Benz) were allowed to re-invent Berlin´s “middle” (Europe´s first traffic light was installed there), but at least they built their commercial utopia without destroying an existing quarter. Go and see, you make the call.
Built in 1934-36 on the western edge of town for a maximum capacity of 100.000, it is an (intentionally) awe-inspiring legacy of Nazi architecture. Renovations for the football world cups in 1974 and 2006 gave it a roof, but reduced capacity to 74.400. It´s now the home of Berlin´s ever-unsuccessful Hertha BSC football team.
There was a time when every monarch who took his business seriously had to have a Versailles-style weekend home with a big hunting-and-BBQ garden. This one was commissioned by Fritz-the-First and his wife Charlotte (hence the name) and it was finished in 1699. It hosts the biggest display of 18th-century French paintings outside France. Admission € 10, open 10-17, closed on Tuesdays. Bus M45 from Bahnhof Zoo takes you to Luisenplatz!