A guide to Berlin’s architecture
Steeped in history, oozing with cultural richness and moving to a electric techno bohemian coolness, its little wonder why Berlin is often lauded as the Coolest City on the Planet. Berlin even makes grey cool! Yet, it is the architecture that make this city sing. These are just some of the cities architectural highlights from the ever-changing city of Berlin. Please note, this guide to Berlin`s architecture is best read whilst listening to Paul Kalkbrenner‘s fantastic laid back techno movie soundtrack from Berlin Calling.
Charlottenburg Palace (1695-1917)
Ensemble buildings in Baroque to Rococo architectural styles blend perfectly to make up the Charlottenburg Palace (1695-1917), symbolising the turbulent architectural and social history of Germany. The gardens and park are amazing. Try to walk up the main path back to the palace as night falls, it takes on a magical appearance. Check out Restaurant Schlossgarten for lunch and dinner, the goulash served with German knodel/ dumplings is delicious.
Norman Foster’s magnificent glittering glass-doomed re-imagining of the Victorian-style Renaissance Baroque Reichstag (1992-1999) beautifully connects the past with the present. If you have time on your hands, book a reservation at Feinkost Kaefer – next to the dome – for amazing afternoon tea.
Bauhaus Archive (1976-1979)
The striking and groundbreaking modernist Bauhaus Archive (Bauhaus-Archiv) Museum of Design, the embodiment of arguably the twentieth century’s most important college of architecture, design and art. Built by Walter Gropius, founding architect of the Bauhaus movement. It is easy to see why the building was used as a backdrop to a dystopian future world in such films as the political thriller V for Vendetta and the avante garde science fiction Aeon Flux. If your in the indulgent mood why not try the famous Watermelon Man cocktail or the Besame Mucho – a delectable blend of cherry, chocolate and orange, at Bar am Lützowplatz, just a few minutes walk away.
© Rae Allen / CC BY (desaturated from original)
Berlin Wall (1961)
The Wall was once a symbol of oppression during the Cold War, but now it is an icon of freedom and surely one of the worlds largest ongoing pieces of public art. Graffiti, messages and symbolism adorn the remaining concrete sections. It is here that you sense that art critic Emilie Trice was right when she claimed Berlin “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world.” For a vivid insight into the walls history, check out the GPS-integrated Mauer Tour.
Potsdamer Platz (1992-2000)
Legendary German-Austrian filmmaker, Fritz Lang would have recognised the corporate futurism of Berlin’s metropolitan heart, with the grand dominance of modern concrete and shimmering steel. Yet it is the 25 storey Kollhoff-Tower with it old-New York brick style that offers much more. Look beyond the pastiche of its external fabric and you will find the fastest passenger lift in Europe, reaching a top speed of 492 metres per minute, which hurtles skywards and to one of Berlins most beautiful views, courtesy of the Panorama Point 100-metre viewing platform. And if you love this view, check out the panorama view from the terrace at the Park Inn, especially the view it affords of the The Fernsehturm – Berlin’s iconic TV Tower.
Rotaprint Complex (1957-1960)
For the Brutalist architecture fans out there, you would be hard pushed to find a more impressive piece of architecture than Klaus Kirsten’s design for the former printing press manufacturer’s headquarters; now a location for work, art, and community. With its accidental, naked, and bare concrete unfinished modular design, its hard to miss it from a mile away. For the best view of the Rotaprint complex go to the side of the Lidl supermarket next door. And don’t miss the great food at amazing prices in the Kantine Cafe within the complex.
Tempelhofer Freiheit/ Tempelhof Freedom (1927-2010)
More brutalist architecture, but this time on a huge scale. Big enough to host 500 football matches simultaneously the former Albert Speer-designed Tempelhofer Airport was built in 1927, and at one time was the second largest building in the world. An ambivalent mix of limestone, steel and reinforced concrete. Described by World-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster as “The mother of all airports”, Tempelhofer Freiheit is a vaste urban park with 300 hectares (3000000 m²) of recreational space right in the heart of Germany’s capital. If your a skateboarder, cyclist, rollerblader or runner this is the place to go. There is even kite boarding and kite surfing courses courtesy of Berliner Kiteschule. And, in the warmer months, when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the wildflowers are in full bloom, the park is filled with a seemingly constant throng of people who come to enjoy the numerous open-air events, such as the renowned Berlin Festival. But Tempelhofer is not just about sport and events, it is also a place for relaxation, picnicking and bbqing (there are designated areas).
What you cannot miss when visiting Tempelhofer Freiheit is the architecture. It is a must-see, and for the architecture fan there is plenty to indulge in, including Ernst Sagebiel’s stunning monumental eighteen meter high entrance hall. Guided tours are a great way to introduce yourself to this fascinating and truly unique experience, especially as you will get to see the check-in facilities, the huge system of tunnels and air-raid shelters, film bunker, ballroom and the sports facilities of the American Air-Force.
Stay at Park Inn by Radisson Berlin City-West Hotel or Park Inn by Radisson Alexanderplatz Hotel for a memorable stay. Our Innsider’s guide to things to do in Berlin gives you more hot tips on how to see the city from a different angle!