Top Architectural Sights in the City
Berlin’s architectural history is like an onion, with hundreds of opportunities to peel back the layers of its tumultuous past. Each of these famous Berlin buildings is an icon, representing key eras and events that shaped the city.
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Berlin TV Tower/”Berlin TV Tower”
No architectural guide to Berlin could be complete without a mention of the Berlin TV Tower. The tower offers a panoramic viewing point in Alexanderplatz, as well as being an iconic Berlin landmark – visible from just about anywhere else in the city.
Originally built as a broadcast tower for the East German TV network in the 1950s, the tower has since woven itself into the fabric of the city, a highlight that can’t be missed.
Nowadays you can find a restaurant and bar at the top of the tower, where you can enjoy a light bite while surveying the city.
Jewish Museum by Daniel Liebeskind
Constructed at the start of the new millennium, The Jewish Museum and Garden of Exile is an architectural representation of the Jewish experience over time.
The museum houses fascinating exhibitions celebrating the Jewish contribution to modern history, but visitors go as much for the building itself as for its contents.
Designed along a deconstructed Star of David, the Museum is a great example of the creativity of Berlin’s modern architecture. Without easily discernible floors, the exhibitions snake up and down the building in a zigzag of sloping floors. Two vertical “voids” run from top to bottom, illuminating the space while disorientating visitors. While in the building you are never far from a sliver of window – signifying the ongoing hope of the Jewish people.
Particularly worthwhile is a visit to the Holocaust Tower. This formidable space is designed to evoke the sense of isolation and fear that Holocaust victims would have experienced. It is a testament to the power of architecture to put us in the shoes of others.
The seat of the German parliament, the Reichstag building, has been through more change than most government buildings. The Reichstag has lived through violent protests and destruction in the 1930s, to abandonment during division and – finally – renovation with a fresh vision for the unified future of Germany.
Visits are not complete without a look around the renovated dome – a symbol for transparency and hope in modern Europe. Reservations are required, and you’ll need to bring your passport for entry.
While not strictly in Berlin, Sanssouci Palace is a fantastic example of German imperial architecture from the 18th century.
Located in the Unesco World Heritage site of Potsdam (where you will also find at least 19 other imperial residences), 250-year-old Sanssouci Palace was originally the summer residence of Frederick the Great. French for “carefree palace”, the name is fitting once you set eyes on its fine gardens, vineyards and gilded state rooms, which are open for visitors to explore.
Take a whole day to explore the best of Potsdam’s palaces and gardens with a private guided excursion from Berlin.
Topography of Terror
Housed in the repurposed KGB headquarters, the Topography of Terror is a must-see for anyone interested in the chequered history of Berlin.
The actual exhibition spans the courtyard and new building, where you’ll find a photographic journey through the timeline of the Third Reich and following years.
One of the highlights, though, is the underground cells on which the new museum stands. These were originally used to house and torture prisoners during the Cold War, and have been preserved for visitors. While it makes for a chilling experience to see the cells for yourself, it certainly brings the content of the museum’s exhibition to life. Looking for more cold war and WW2 sights in Berlin? Have a look at our guide to the city’s historical sights.
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