Mitte: the central district of Berlin
After the Second World War, the centre of Berlin was almost completely destroyed. The Mitte district was divided between East and West Berlin. Many houses in the area were reconstructed only in the 90s.
After the unification of Germany, this district became popular among the bohemian audience; artists, sculptors and musicians alike all but rushed here. There were many empty dilapidated houses with a nominal rent in the historical centre of the city. Thanks to the influx of people of art, dozens of art galleries and museums have opened in Mitte; and street art and theatrical performances have become very popular in the area.
The vibrancy of the district, its colourful lifestyle and central location made it attractive for wealthy citizens. In response to that, luxury shops, gourmet restaurants and trendy bars began to open in Mitte. Headquarters of international companies and embassies of many countries have moved here as well. Nowadays, Mitte is the most expensive district in Berlin. Buying an apartment here will cost an average of 6,880 euro per square metre, according to Immowelt’s 2022 data.
Total area 26 m² 1 bathroom
Total area 43 m² 1 bathroom
Total area 137 m² 3 bedrooms
Built in 2022 Total of 29 apartments
Total area 96 m² 2 bedrooms
Total area 95 m² 1 bedroom
Total area 73 m² 2 bedrooms
Total area 74 m² 1 bathroom
The Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude)
The Reichstag is the historic building of the German parliament. It was constructed in 1894. The parliament of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic had sessions there until 1933. The Reichstag was designed by Paul Wallot, an architect from Frankfurt. According to the architect’s vision, the building’s massive appearance should serve as a reminder of the empire’s absolute power. The four towers of the Reichstag represent the countries that have formed the German Empire in 1871: Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler took charge of a new coalition government and became Chancellor of Germany (Reichskanzler). The Reichstag was dissolved and new elections were scheduled for 5 March 1933. However, six days before the elections, a fire broke out in the Reichstag building, the dome suffered considerable burns, and the plenary hall was badly damaged. The National Socialists blamed the Communists for setting the Reichstag on fire and called it a sign of the «communist uprising.» Some historians believe that it was a provocation, planned by Hitler’s supporters in order to crack down on their political opponents. The day after the fire, Reich president Paul von Hindenburg signed a decree on the restriction of civil rights and freedoms; the Communist Party was officially banned in the country.
Despite this, the National Socialists did not receive an absolute majority of votes in the elections; they got only 288 mandates out of 647. So it was decided to cancel 81 mandates of the Communists. Very soon, all political parties in Germany, except for the National Socialist one, were dispersed or declared self-dissolution. After these events, the parliament lost all political significance; and its rare meetings were moved to the Kroll Opera House. Parts of the Reichstag, which were not damaged by the fire, housed the administration of the parliament and the library until the beginning of 1939.
During the Second World War, the Reichstag building was used as a base for the German air force. In 1941, the corner towers of the Reichstag were converted into anti-aircraft towers and the building itself served as a bomb shelter. Some of the rooms were used as infirmaries. Last days of the war saw fierce battles for the Reichstag, which became the main symbol of Nazi Germany. On 1 May 1945, Soviet soldiers raised the Victory Banner over the Reichstag. The capture of the Reichstag by the Soviet army symbolised the surrender of Nazi Germany.
As a result of air raids and the subsequent assault, the building was badly damaged. After the division of Germany, the Reichstag ended up on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany, next to the Berlin Wall. In 1954, due to the danger of collapse, the remains of the dome were blown up, and some of the bas-reliefs were removed from the facade. The restoration of the once grandiose building began. The repairs were finished only in 1973. The restoration of the dome was abandoned completely, while the plenary hall, on the contrary, was fully restored in hopes that one day, after the reunification of Germany, there would be enough seats for all members of the united parliament. The restored building was used for historical exhibitions.
The day after the unification of Germany, on 4 October 1990, the first meeting of the German parliament (Bundestag) was held in the Reichstag building. In 1991, the Bundestag in Bonn moved to the Reichstag building as well. In 1993, the Reichstag was reconstructed by an English architect, Lord Norman Foster. According to his project, a unique grandiose dome was erected, inside of which there were two spiral staircases 230 metres long. Lord Forster managed to preserve the historical appearance of the building while at the same time creating enough room to accommodate the modern parliament of Germany. The present-day Reichstag also has a wall of memory with the original inscriptions left by Soviet soldiers who stormed Berlin in 1945. Since 1999, the Bundestag meetings have been held in the restored building. The Reichstag is now the most visited parliament building in the world.
The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
The Brandenburg Gate is a famous architectural monument, which is located in the eastern part of the Pariser Platz. Like the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Big Ben in London, the Brandenburg Gate is the architectural landmark of Berlin and the city’s symbol. This is the only surviving gate out of the 18 city gates Berlin had.
By order of the German Emperor Frederick William II, the Brandenburg Gate was built on the western outskirts of Berlin in 1789–1791. The triumphal structure was erected to commemorate the peace concluded after the Prussian invasion of the Netherlands in 1787. Therefore, its original name was the Peace Gate (Friedenstor).
The Brandenburg Gate was designed by a German architect Karl Gotthard von Langgans. As a prototype, he used the front gate of the Acropolis of Athens — the Propylaea. Later, under the influence of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and his architectural school, this style was called Prussian Hellenism.
Atop the gate is the Quadriga — the sculpture of the ancient Greek goddess of peace Eirene, who is riding an ancient chariot drawn by four horses. In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte solemnly entered Berlin through the Peace Gate after successive victories. Later, he ordered the sculpture to be taken to Paris as a war trophy. However, after 8 years, Eirene was won back and returned to Berlin. Since 1814, the ancient Greek goddess has been holding a Prussian iron cross instead of the original olive branch. She has also acquired a new name — Victoria, or the goddess of victory.
The statue of Eirene-Victoria was completely destroyed during the Second World War. In 1956–1958, the original appearance of the famous gate was restored along with the sculpture using the preserved original casts.
During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate was on the border between East and West Berlin as part of the Berlin Wall. After the unification of Germany, the gate became a symbol of the German nation’s reunion. Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl rode through the gate in 1989.
The Brandenburg Gate is the monumental entrance to the famous Unter den Linden boulevard, which is a very popular promenade along a beautiful linden alley.
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden (which literally means «under the linden trees») is perhaps the most renowned street in Berlin, famous for its palaces, museums and squares. The boulevard attracts many tourists, because some of the key attractions of the city are located here, such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral, the Humboldt University and the Berlin State Opera. Famous German poet Heinrich Heine liked to stroll down this boulevard when he attended Hegel’s lectures in Berlin. Additionally, Mark Twain once wrote that Unter den Linden was in fact «three streets in one.»
The boulevard got its name from a linden alley planted in 1647 by order of Frederick William I of Brandenburg, who was an avid hunter. At that time, it was a riding path leading from the Berlin Palace on the island to the royal hunting grounds located on the site of today’s Tiergarten park. The Great Elector of Brandenburg wanted to be able to admire the alley on the way to the hunting grounds. In 1770, by order of Frederick II, mansions and spacious houses for aristocrats and wealthy citizens were built along the alley. What once was a dusty road became an elegant and prestigious street.
The boulevard begins at the Palace Bridge, decorated with sculptures made from Carrara white marble. This is the place where all the main symbols of Prussia are located: the Palace of William I, the Opera, the Arsenal, the University, the Crown Prince’s Palace, the Princesses’ Palace, the equestrian statue of Frederick the Great. The Arsenal is the oldest surviving building on Unter den Linden. It was built between 1695 and 1730. Nowadays, it houses the German Historical Museum. The Opera House, erected in 1742, was the first public theatre in Germany.
Unter den Linden has become a favourite promenade of the locals. It is not uncommon for the entire family to go for a walk there, usually taking their pets with them. There are numerous expensive hotels, banks, fashionable shops and trendy restaurants on Unter den Linden. It is worth mentioning two notable cafes: one of them is located near the Opera and has been known since the days of the GDR; the other, named «Einstein», is located on the boulevard itself.
Alexanderplatz or «Alex», as Berliners call it, is named after the Russian Emperor Alexander I. In 1805, Alexander I arrived in Berlin in order to get Prussian support in the war against Napoleon. The solemn meeting of the Russian and Prussian monarchs took place on this square, which was called Thor Platz at that time. The negotiations resulted in an agreement on joint actions within the framework of the Anti-French coalition. To commemorate the union, the Prussian king Frederick William III issued a decree renaming the Thor Platz to Alexanderplatz. The daughter of Frederick William III would later become the Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I.
Alexanderplatz was in ruins after the Second World War. The reconstruction of the square began in 1966. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, new residential and commercial buildings were erected here, and tram lines were launched. In the near future, according to the plans of a German architect Hans Kollhoff, 11 high-rise buildings will be constructed on the main square of East Berlin.
Many of the city’s sights are located on Alexanderplatz: the World Clock, which shows all of the planet’s time zones; the Friendship of Nations fountain; the Marienkirche, which is the oldest church in Berlin; the Rotes Rathaus, which is a town hall with an 84-metre tower; and the famous Neptune fountain.
The Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm)
Not far from Alexanderplatz is one of the key symbols of the city — the Berlin TV Tower or, as the locals call it, the Alex Tower (Alex-Turm). This is the main landmark of Berlin, which is visible from any part of the city. The Berlin TV Tower is the tallest building in Germany (with a height of 368 metres) and the fourth tallest building in Europe.
The grand opening of the Berlin TV Tower took place in 1969. The event was planned to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the GDR. The tower was supposed to embody the superiority of the socialist system: in 1969, this building was the third tallest in the world, right after the Ostankino TV Tower in Moscow (with a height of 540 metres) and the Empire State Building in New York (with a height of 443 metres).
The Alex Tower is one of the architectural symbols of Berlin. The ball of the tower slowly rotates around its axis, making a complete revolution in 60 minutes. Inside, there is a restaurant, a bar and a panoramic platform. More than a million tourists visit the tower every year.
The TV tower has acquired a lot of funny names over the years. When the sun falls on a steel ball, crowning the tower, a cross-shaped reflection appears on the ball. Berliners used to call it the «Revenge of the Pope» because of the wide-spread atheism in the GDR. The tower was also called the «Church of St. Walter», alluding to the head of the GDR, Walter Ulbricht, who conducted the building’s opening. After Ulbricht’s death, the tower received another nickname — «Ulbricht Memorial Church» (in answer to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in West Berlin).
The Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)
The Berlin Cathedral is the largest Protestant church in Germany. It was constructed in 1905. The cathedral is located on the Spreeinsel — an island on the river Spree, which is sometimes also called the Museum Island due to the many museums located there.
The architecture of the majestic building is reminiscent of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican — a result of the rivalry between Protestants and Catholics. The ornate decorations of the cathedral are considered an exception among traditional Protestant churches, distinguished by modesty and austerity.
The Berlin Cathedral is not only the main church of the German Evangelists, but also the burial vault of the royal Hohenzollern dynasty. There are 70 burials in the cathedral’s crypt, including the luxurious sarcophagus of the Great Elector of Brandenburg Frederick William I and his wife Dorothea.
The Gendarmenmarkt is an Italian-styled square in Berlin, which is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the city. It was designed by the court architect Johann Nering at the end of the 17th century. At that time, it was part of the Friedrichstadt’s suburb, founded by order of the Prussian king Frederick I. Its inhabitants mainly consisted of French Huguenots, favoured by the king’s father, Frederick William I. In 1701, the construction of two identical churches were planned on the square: one for German Lutherans (the German Cathedral) and another for French Calvinists (the French Cathedral).
The Gendarmenmarkt acquired its modern look under Frederick II, when two domed towers of these cathedrals were built according to the project of Karl von Gontard. It is believed that he drew inspiration for the project from the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, which also had two identical domed cathedrals. Between the cathedrals, the Royal Drama Theatre was built, which was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Nowadays, the building serves as a concert hall.