Discover the most interesting areas of Berlin. Take a short trip (two hours, half a day) or even a whole day?s excursion through the centre of one of Europe?s most interesting historic city centres:
Between S-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße and Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin?s town centre houses some of its most well-known attractions including the Tränenpalast (Palace of tears), the Reichstag, the Chancellor?s office, the Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, the Hotel Adlon, the American embassy, the Holocaust Memorial, the site of Hitler?s Bunker and Reich Chancellery, the Topography of Terror and Checkpoint Charlie. This tour introduces its participants to the many layers of Berlin?s rich and interesting history, demonstrating the changes undergone in the momentous history of the German capital.
If you are interested, I can show you the building which housed the American embassy during the Cold War ? I can tell you the story of how, as a child in the GDR, I went to the American embassy and how this act led to an invitation to a Stasi interrogation.
If you bring a little more time, I can also organize a visit to the dome of the Reichstag and we can see the city from the roof of the German Bundestag.
Off the beaten path from Alexanderplatz to Gendarmenmarkt
The Alexanderplatz is nothing less than the heart of Berlin?s modern Eastern city centre. Just a stone's throw from this hub of Communist modernist realism are some of the oldest sites of Berlin history: the remains of Berlin's medieval town wall, the ruins of the Cloister Church, the Parochial Church, the Nikolaiviertel and Berlin?s oldest remaining bridge, the Jungfernbrücke. Jostling amongst this panoply of the ancient are many new buildings - the new Dutch embassy, Berlin's city centre urban residence projects and two highly attractive town squares, the Hausvogteiplatz and the Gendarmenmarkt.
This tour also passes the court buildings where I stood trial in 1984 aged 18 for attempting to escape from the GDR. A beautiful art nouveau building, I was not able to appreciate the architecture at the time, having just received a 12 month sentence.
The area around the Kurfürstendamm and Bahnhof Zoo
The Western half of the city centre was neglected a little in the aftermath of reunification. Now, after being brushed down and spruced up, it has returned to the heights of its former glory. See the KaDeWe, the old and new Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche) the aptly-named Bikini House, the Café Kranzler, the Kudamm corner and the high-rise Waldorf Astoria Hotel, all of which pay testimony to both the past and bright new future of this exclusive area. Berlin's most well-known street was once a bridle path for local royalty. Expanded to a broad boulevard on the orders of Otto von Bismarck, the street soon attracted the most refined and exclusive retailers that the world had to offer: the Kurfürstendamm.
After being bought by the West German government for a sizeable sum of money, I was expelled from East Germany and arriving in West Berlin looked around, not just a little lost. With my accent clearly marking me as a Berliner, I asked a fellow (but West) Berliner just how I should reach the Kudamm. Are you having a laugh? He replied. The average Berliner is friendly at heart, but becomes a little short tempered if he thinks you are trying to make him look stupid. Anyway, those unfamiliar with the Kudamm only have themselves to blame!
The Spandauer Vorstadt: The Hackescher Markt
Today, the Hackescher Markt attracts visitors due to the contrasts which it offers. The area is jam-packed with well-known (and some less well-known) backstreet courtyards in the Oranienburger, August and Sophienstraße which jostle for prominence with empty space, ruins, chic new buildings and some beautifully-restored breath-taking historic edifices. The highlight of the tour is the Synagogue on the Oranienburger Straße, the Jewish Cemetery, the Hackeschen Höfe and Otto Weidt?s workshop for the blind.