Berlin - Around Town : Kreuzberg & Schöneberg (part 1)

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Kreuzberg is possibly Berlin’s most notorious district, and it definitely qualifies as its most colourful area. Here, in historic tenement blocks that are slowly but surely being renovated, Turkish families live next door to drop-outs and alternatives, artists and students. Social tensions, still characteristic of Kreuzberg today, make this a varied and interesting district – but at the same time a problematic one. The neighbouring district of Schöneberg is markedly quieter; this part of town is not as experimental as Kreuzberg, neither is it as elegant as Charlottenburg – here Berlin is simply enjoyed by its inhabitants. Winterfeldtplatz is surrounded by many inviting pubs, and in the area around Nollendorfplatz entire roads have been taken over and transformed by Berlin’s gay scene, with their shops, bars and night clubs.

Turkish Berlin

In the 1960s, thousands of Turkish gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) came to Berlin in response to a shortage of labour. Today the Turkish community numbers around 190,000 and it is mainly their children who leave their mark on life in the city. There are few “guest workers” left; most Turkish Berliners own their own shops and consider themselves to be true Berliners. The rate of naturalization is still fairly low, and many German Berliners have no contact with everyday life in the Turkish community. At 40 per cent, the rate of unemployment among young Turkish Berliners is depressingly high.

Top 10 Sights
  1. Deutsches Technikmuseum

    The history of technology and crafts is the theme of this fascinating museum, located in the grounds of a former station. Visitors can learn about developments in aviation and admire 40 planes, including a Junkers Ju 52 and a “raisin bomber”, the type of plane used for the Berlin airlift. Old ships and steam locomotives bring back the days of the Industrial Revolution.

    • Trebbiner Str. 9

    • 9am–5:30pm Tue–Fri, 10am–6pm Sat, Sun

    • 030 90 25 40

    • Admission charge (free for children after 3pm)

  2. Jüdisches Museum

    The Jewish Museum is not only unique architecturally, but it is also one of Berlin’s most fascinating museums. Its collections present an overview of almost 1,000 years of German-Jewish cultural history; a special exhibition is devoted to everyday Jewish life in Berlin from the end of the 19th century .

    • Lindenstr. 9–14

    • 10am–10pm Mon, 10am–8pm Tue–Sun

    • 030 25 99 33 00

    • Admission charge

  3. Checkpoint Charlie

    The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, next to the former crossing point for the Alllied forces, has an exhibition on the history of the Berlin Wall and the various means people used in trying to escape from East to West Berlin, ranging from a hot-air balloon to a car with a false floor. Only a replica of the control hut remains of the former border.

    • Friedrichstr. 43–45

    • 9am–10pm daily

    • 030 253 72 50

    • Admission charge

    The old sign at Checkpoint Charlie
  4. Topographie des Terrors

    After 1934, three terrifying Nazi institutions had their headquarters in this area: the security service (Sicherheitsdienst, SD) was based at Wilhelmstraße 102 in the Prinz-Albrecht-Palais; the school of arts and crafts at Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8 was occupied by the Gestapo; while Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, resided next door at No. 9, at the Hotel Prinz Albrecht. After World War II, all the buildings were bulldozed except for the cellars where, in 1933–45, prisoners had been interrogated and tortured. An exhibition charts the history of the area and a documentation centre opens in 2010.

    • Stresemannstr. 110, entrance Niederkirchner Str. 8

    • May–Sep: 10am–10pm daily; Oct–Apr: 10am–6pm daily

    • 030 25 48 67 03

    Exhibition of Nazi crimes at Topographie des Terrors
  5. Anhalter Bahnhof

    Only pitiful fragments remain of the railway station that was once the largest in Europe. The giant structure was erected in 1880 by Franz Schwechten as a showcase station: official visitors to the Empire were meant to be impressed by the splendour and glory of the German capital as soon as they reached the railway station. In 1943 the station was badly damaged by bombs and in 1960 it was pulled down. The waste ground behind the façade was meant to become a park; today the Tempodrom is based here, hosting concerts and cabaret shows.

    • Askanischer Platz 6–7

  6. Oranienstraße

    Oranienstraße is the heart of Kreuzberg. It is the wildest, most colourful and most unusual street of the district, where alternative shops and pubs jostle for space with doner kebab take-aways and Turkish greengrocers. All aspects of life and politics in Kreuzberg are centred around this road.

    • Between Lindenstr. and Skalitzer Str.

  7. Nollendorfplatz

    Nollendorfplatz and neighbouring Winterfeldtplatz are right in the centre of Schöneberg. The former square has always been a focal point for the gay scene in Berlin, and a plaque at U-Bahn station Nollendorfplatz commemorates approximately 5,000 homosexuals killed in concentration camps by the Nazis. Today, gay life is concentrated more in the surrounding streets. Before World War II, Nollendorfplatz was also a centre of entertainment. The Metropol-Theater, today a discotheque, then boasted Erwin Piscator as its innovative director. And next door lived the writer Christopher Isherwood, whose novel formed the basis of the famous musical “Cabaret”.

    Façade of the Metropol
  8. Viktoriapark

    This rambling park was set up as a recreational space for workers in Kreuzberg in 1888–94 to plans by Hermann Mächtig. It has an artificial waterfall, and the Neo-Gothic Schinkel memorial at the top of Kreuzberg, 66 m (216 ft) high, commemorates Prussian victory in the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon.

    • Kreuzbergstr.

    Memorial by Schinkel in Viktoriapark
  9. Martin-Gropius-Bau

    The richly ornamented former museum of arts and crafts is one of Berlin’s most attractive exhibition centres .

    • Niederkirchnerstr. 7

    • changing exhibitions and opening times, but usually 10am–8pm Wed–Mon

    • 030 25 48 60

    • Admission charge


  10. Riehmers Hofgarten

    Over 20 buildings make up this elegant estate, built as officers’ quarters in the Gründerzeit (after the founding of the German Empire in 1871). Attractively restored in recent years, there is also a pleasant hotel with restaurant.

    • Yorckstr. 83–86

    Riehmers Hofgarten
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