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Berlin - Around Town - Central Berlin: Unter den Linden (part 1)

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Most visitors to Berlin regard the magnificent boulevard of Unter den Linden as the heart of the small historic Mitte district. Many of Berlin’s sights are concentrated along the grand avenue and around Bebelplatz, creating an impressive picture of Prussian and German history from the early 18th century until the present day. South of Unter den Linden is Gendarmenmarkt, one of Europe’s most attractive squares. In recent years, many varied and elegant restaurants and cafés have appeared around the Neo-Classical square. Not far away, chic Friedrichstraße is lined with luxury shops and department stores as well as modern offices and apartments.

Frederick as Architect

Forum Fridericianum was not only Frederick the Great’s memorial to himself, it also ensured that Unter den Linden became one of the greatest boulevards in Europe. The king, who favoured a strict Neo-Classical style, drew up the plans for the Staatsoper and other buildings himself, and Knobelsdorff executed his ideas.


The Huguenots in Berlin

In 1685, the Great Elector issued the famous Edict of Potsdam, granting asylum in Berlin to around 20,000 Huguenots, who were persecuted in their native France because of their Protestant faith. Skilled academics and craftsmen, they moulded the social and cultural life of the city and enriched Berlin with the French art of living. Today, still, the French community worships in the Friedrichstadtkirche on Gendarmenmarkt.


Nazi Architecture

One of few surviving examples of the monumental architectural style favoured by Fascists is the former Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministry of Aviation), commissioned by Hermann Göring in 1935–6 from Ernst Sagebiel. At the time, the monotonous sandstone building was the world’s largest and most modern office block, strengthened by steel girders against aerial attack. After reunification, the Treuhandanstalt was based here; today it houses the Federal Ministry of Finance.


Portal of Kronprinzenpalais

Sculpture on Schlossbrücke

Top 10 Sights
  1. Brandenburger Tor

    Berlin’s best-known landmark on Pariser Platz leads through to Unter den Linden .

    • Pariser Platz

  2. Deutsche Guggenheim

    This branch of the American Guggenheim museum, together with the Deutsche Bank branch Unter den Linden, show changing exhibitions of modern art of the highest standard from the US. During recent years, Deutsche Guggenheim has thus managed to become one of the most successful and popular art venues in the city, with an emphasis placed on installations. In 2008, Anish Kapoor’s Memory was a particular highlight. Treasures from the Deutsche Bank archives are also shown here. Pop into the small museum shop and refresh yourself with a coffee from the museum café.

    • Unter den Linden 13–15

    • 10am–8pm Fri–Wed, 10am–10pm Thu

    • 030 202 09 30

    • Admission charge, free on Mon

    Deutsche Guggenheim, Unter den Linden
  3. Forum Fridericianum

    The historic structures of this architectural complex in Unter den Linden are among the finest attractions in Berlin. From 1740, Frederick the Great commissioned the prestigious Early-Neo-Classical buildings for the area around today’s Bebelplatz, and personally influenced their design: Deutsche Staatsoper, the first free-standing opera house in Europe; Catholic St Hedwigskathedrale, Alte Bibliothek and Prinz-Heinrich-Palais, later the Humboldt University. Bebelplatz itself is particularly interesting. A memorial set into the ground reminds of its dark past – in 1933, it was the venue for the Nazi book burning. Frederick’s successors commissioned Altes Palais and a memorial statue of “the old Fritz”, surrounded by “his” buildings. Christian Daniel Rauch created the 13.5-m (44-ft) high equestrian bronze figure in 1840. It portrays Frederick the Great wearing his trademark tricorn hat and coronation mantle and carrying a walking stick. The statue has always turned its back to the east – but wags claim that the East German government mistakenly set up the figure the wrong way around.

    • Unter den Linden and Bebelplatz

    Altes Palais at Forum Fridericianum
  4. Gendarmenmarkt

    This square, whose strict layout is reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance piazza, is probably the most beautiful in Berlin. To the left and right of Schauspielhaus – today’s Konzerthaus – stand the twin towers of Deutscher and Französischer Dom (German and French cathedrals), dating back to the late 18th century. Gendarmenmarkt, named after a regiment of gens d’armes stationed nearby, was built at the end of the 17th century, as a market square. The Schauspielhaus (theatre) on the north side of the square, built by Schinkel in 1818–21, was used as a theatre until 1945. Damaged in World War II, it was reopened as Konzerthaus (concert hall) in 1984. A statue of the playwright Friedrich Schiller stands in front of the building. Französischer Dom, to its right, is a prestigious Late-Baroque building; concealed behind it is the French Friedrichstadtkirche, a church serving Berlin’s Huguenot community. The Deutscher Dom opposite, built in 1708 on the south side of the square for the Reformed Protestant Church, did not receive its first tower until 1785. Today it has an exhibition on democracy in Germany.

    • Mitte

  5. Museumsinsel

    Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, is one of the most important complexes of museums in the world, holding major arts collections and imposing full-scale ancient structures. Based here are the Pergamonmuseum, the Alte Nationalgalerie (the old national gallery), Bode-Museum and Altes and Neues Museum. The Neues Museum will reopen in late 2009 .

    • Pergamonmuseum, Bodestr. 1–3

    • 10am–6pm daily, till 10pm Thu

    • 030 20 90 55 77

    Alte Nationalgalerie

    • Bodestr.1–3

    • 10–6pm Tue–Sun, until 10pm Thu

    • 030 20 905 801

    • Admission charge

  6. Friedrichstraße

    Friedrichstraße has risen to some of the glamour and vibrancy it possessed before World War II. Today, Berlin’s Fifth Avenue once again boasts elegant shops, and some upmarket restaurants and cafés, which have opened here in recent years. Especially worth visiting are the three Quartiers 205, 206 and 207 within the Friedrichstadtpassagen, containing the Galeries Lafayette store and Department Store 206 respectively. At the northern end of the street is the famous Dussmann store (books, music, events), S-Bahn station Friedrichstraße, as well as the former entertainment district with the Friedrichstadtpalast and Admiralspalast.

    • Mitte

  7. Holocaust-Denkmal

    This memorial, officially called “Memorial to the Killed Jews of Europe”, serves as Germany’s national Holocaust memorial. After years of debate, US star architect Peter Eisenman completed the memorial in 2005. It is comprised of a large field with dark grey steles of varying heights up to 2 m (6 ft) high, which symbolize the six million Jews and others murdered by the Nazis in their concentration camps between 1933 and 1945. Underneath the memorial there is an information centre which explains the causes and history of the genocide.

    • Ebertstr.

  8. Wilhelmstraße

    In imperial Berlin, the centre of the German Empire’s governmental power was based in Wilhelmstraße. Around 100 years later, nothing remains of the prestigious historic buildings which represented the equivalent of No. 10 Downing Street in London or Quai d’Orsay in Paris. All political decisions were made at Wilhelmstraße: both Chancellor (No. 77) and President (No. 73) of the German Reich lived here in old town houses. Their gardens became known as “ministerial gardens”. Adolf Hitler had the street systematically developed into the nerve centre of Nazi power. The Neue Reichskanzlei (the Chancellor’s office) was built in 1937–9 to plans by Albert Speer, at the corner of Vossstraße and Wilhelmstraße. It was blown up in 1945. Behind the Reichskanzlei was the so-called “Führerbunker” where Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945 (today it is a car park). Of the historic buildings, only the former Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministry of Aviation) remains. Today, Wilhelmstraße is lined by modern office buildings; and the British Embassy, built in 2000 by Michael Wilford, creates a link with the international importance of this street.

    • Between Unter den Linden and Leipziger Str.

    The former Ministry of Aviation, Wilhelmstraße

    British Embassy, Wilhelmstraße
  9. Schlossplatz

    Today Schlossplatz seems deserted, but once the Stadtschloss (town residence) of the Hohenzollerns stood here. It was blown up by the East German government in 1950–51, and today just a few historic fragments of the original can be seen.

    Remains include the façade of the doorway where Karl Liebknecht supposedly proclaimed the Socialist Republic in 1918. The portal has been incorporated into the former Staatsratsgebäude on the south side of the square. On its eastern side, Schlossplatz used to be bordered by the Palast der Republik (palace of the republic), the former seat of the East German parliament demolished in 2008. Development of the Humboldt-Forum cultural centre will be complete in 2015. It will have a façade reminiscent of the old Hohenzollern Palace, a library and the non-European collections of the Dahlem Museums. A temporary “White Cube” building will show modern art exhibits until then.

    • Mitte

    Portal of the Staatsratsgebäude
  10. Museum für Kommunikation

    The world’s largest Post Office Museum was opened as early as 1872. Its excellent displays document the history of communication from the Middle Ages via the first postage stamps to today’s satellite technology. Particularly worth seeing are a blue and a red Mauritius stamp, one of the first telephone installations (dating back to the year 1863) and three talking robots who interact with the visitors. Children – young and old – always enjoy the Computer-galerie, where they can learn and gain new insights while playing.

    • Leipziger Str. 16

    • 9am–5pm Tue–Fri, 10am– 6pm Sat, Sun

    • 030 20 29 40

    • Admission charge

    Museum für Kommunikation at night
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