Historic sites in Berlin

For those seeking to discover this famous city, there’s an amazing selection of historic sites in Berlin to explore. Our Berlin historic sites map will help you get underway, along with our selection of some of the best historical places Berlin has to offer.

The modern city of Berlin was first noted in the early 13th century, its humble origin as a small settlement meant it was of little importance at the time. However, its excellent location led to a slow and gradual growth right through the middle ages. Berlin became a member of the Hanseatic League and was the seat of the electors of Brandenburg. By the 18th century the city was one of the most important political and cultural centres of the region and, with German reunification in the 19th century, Berlin became the capital of the German Empire in 1871. World War Two brought destruction and devastation to the city and, during the Cold War that followed, Berlin became a vital pressure point in this ideological struggle.

Today, the city is a fascinating modern metropolis which still boasts a vast array of historical attractions and there's simply loads to see in Berlin. From the remains of the Berlin Wall to the famous Brandenburg Gate and moving memorial to the Holocaust, the city provides an array of interesting things to visit.

Once you’ve explored the historic sites of Berlin you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. Our database of Berlin’s historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other historic sites in Berlin, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Berlin: Site Index

Photo by CxOxS (cc)

Berlin Stasi Prison

An infamous East German prison which operated during the Cold War, the Berlin Stasi Prison is a memorial to those who were persecuted there.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Berlin Stasi Prison, also known as the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, was an infamous East German prison run by the East German Ministry of State Security (the Stasi) during the Cold War.

Originally a canteen, in 1945 the Berlin Stasi Prison site became a detainment camp named 'Special Camp No. 3' run by the Soviet Secret Police. Transformed into a prison in 1947, it was taken over by the Stasi, also known as the MfS, in 1951.

Following the Second World War, East Germany and East Berlin were under the occupation of Soviet Russia as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Stasi were the official security forces of this state. The Berlin Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen became the remand detention centre of the Stasi, housing anyone considered to be hostile to the communist GDR. Prior to the building of the Berlin Wall, this even included West Berliners, such as the lawyer Walter Linse, who was kidnapped and taken there in 1952.

Once the Wall had been erected, many of the prisoners were attempted escapees. The Berlin Stasi Prison was notoriously brutal, with inmates being kept in tiny cells and subjected to torture to extract confessions.

The Berlin Stasi Prison was disbanded in the autumn of 1989 as the GDR began to falter. It was finally closed on 3 October 1990, when East Germany was once again united with the West. Today, the Berlin Stasi Prison is a memorial to those who were detained there and is a stark reminder of the atrocities carried out during the Cold War. Tours are offered and visitors can see a film about the prison.

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Berlin Wall

One of the most famous historic sites in Berlin, the Berlin Wall split the city and was a dramatic symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Berlin Wall was an 87 mile long concrete barrier between East and West Berlin, a symbol of the Cold War and an embodiment of the so-called ‘Iron Curtain’ between eastern and western Europe.

Originally just a barbed wire fence erected within 24 hours on 13 August 1961, a more robust, concrete version of the Berlin Wall was built on 15 August 1961.

The origins of the Berlin Wall can be found following World War II, when what remained of Nazi Germany was divided between the Allied Powers, being the Americans, British, French and the Soviet Union. Berlin, which sat in the Soviet sector, was similarly divided between the four nations.

However, when differences arose between the Soviet Union and the other three countries as to their approach to reconstructing Germany, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin declared the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and in August 1961, erected first a barbed wire barrier and then a concrete barrier, closing the border between east and west Berlin to stop Berliners from the east escaping to the other Allied controlled areas of the city.

The Berlin Wall was a matter of great controversy throughout its existence, with world leaders continually calling for it to be torn down, including John F Kennedy’s famous declaration of “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s 1987 speech when he implored, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!".

The fall of the Berlin Wall finally occurred on 9 November 1989 and the wall was almost completely dismantled in the days and weeks that followed.

Very few segments of the wall remain. The largest, 1.3 kilometer, section can be found at the open air East Side Gallery, although small sections are dotted throughout the city. The Berlin Wall is featured as one of our Top Tourist Attractions of Germany.

Photo by Andrey Belenko (cc)

Berliner Dom

Built in the early 20th century, during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Berliner Dom is an impressive cathedral and was the church of the German monarchy.

DID YOU KNOW?

Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is an early twentieth century cathedral built during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Constructed between 1894 and 1905, ornate and crowned with an imposing dome, Berliner Dom contains the Hohenzollern royal crypt which is the final resting place of, amongst around a hundred others, Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg.

Berliner Dom is open to the public for tours and audio guides are included in the admission price. This impressive cathedral is featured as one of our Top Ten Visitor Attractions in Germany.

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Brandenburg Gate

Among the most popular historic sites in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is a Romanesque structure modelled on the ancient gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. It is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin

DID YOU KNOW?

The Brandenburg Gate is a famous landmark in Berlin built between 1788 and 1791 which once served as a city gateway. Commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia it stood in the entrance to boulevard Unter den Linden, which led to the city palace.

The Brandenburg Gate was designed by Karl Gotthard Langhans and built in a Romanesque style similar to the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, with six Doric columns on each side.

Whilst King Frederick William II intended the Brandenburg Gate to be a symbol of peace, different peoples have attached numerous meanings to it throughout its history. The Nazis adopted the Brandenburg Gate as a symbol of their party during their reign in the 1930's and 1940's and it was also a potent reminder of the Cold War when it fell into the no-man’s land within the Berlin Wall. During this time, the Brandenburg Gate formed a focal point of many politically charged rallies and speeches, including visits by American Presidents John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

A more positive symbolic attachment was formed in 1990, when, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many viewed the Brandenburg Gate as emblematic of German reunification. Today, visitors from around the world come to see the Brandenburg Gate and its ornate carvings, including its dramatic depiction of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, driving a horse drawn chariot. The Brandenburg Gate features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Germany.

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Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was a prominent symbol of the Cold War and is among the best-known historical sites in Berlin. Today the original gate is in the Allied Museum and a replica stands on the site.

DID YOU KNOW?

Checkpoint Charlie was an important crossing point in the Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989.

The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie were prominent symbols of the Cold War. At the time, West Berlin was controlled by the American, British and French forces and East Berlin by the Soviet Union.

In a bid to prevent the ongoing migration of East Berliners to the west, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin erected the Berlin Wall, closing off East Berlin from the rest of the city.

Checkpoint ‘C’, nicknamed Checkpoint Charlie based on the NATO phonetic alphabet, was the only place where Allied forces were allowed to cross the border and, at its location at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße, was also the most visible checkpoint along the wall.

Checkpoint Charlie was made up of a watchtower and barriers erected by the Soviet forces, while the American forces originally had only a temporary wooden shack followed by a temporary metal structure.

Checkpoint Charlie was the site of many stand offs between the Soviet and American forces, including the October 1961 dispute over the checking of the travel documents of US officials, which culminated in both sides amassing tanks at the checkpoint.

However, it was the tragic death of attempted East Berlin escapee, Peter Fechter which attracted mass protest and some of the most poignant imagery of the time. The teenager was shot by Soviet guards as he tried to flee to the West and lay dying in the no-man's land between East and West Berlin before the world media.

The original Checkpoint Charlie is housed at the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf, but the site now displays a replica where the original once stood as well as information about the era. Nearby is a small private museum about the checkpoint called ‘Haus am Checkpoint Charlie’.

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German Resistance Memorial Centre

A lesser known historic site in Berlin, the German Resistance Memorial Centre is a monument and museum to those Germans who fought against the Nazis.

DID YOU KNOW?

The German Resistance Memorial Centre or “Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand” in Berlin in Germany is a monument and museum to those who fought against the National Socialist government led by Adolf Hitler – the Nazis – before and during World War II. In particular, it commemorates the attempted assassination of Hitler and subsequent attempted coup led by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg on 20 July 1944, the so-called “July 20 Plot”.

The July 20 Plot
Together with a group of civilians and military personnel led by General Friedrich Olbricht, Stauffenberg developed a plot to assassinate Hitler. On 20 July 1944, he successfully detonated the bomb at Hitler’s headquarters, known as the Wolf’s Lair. At first, Stauffenberg was convinced the plan had worked and went on to try and achieve a coup in Berlin, desperately trying to convince others that the Fuhrer was dead. However Hitler had actually survived and, by the end of the day, Stauffenberg and most of his counterparts were arrested as news of this filtered through. This event was made into the 2008 film “Valkyrie” starring Tom Cruise.

The Centre
The German Resistance Memorial Centre is located in the former Bendler Block in Berlin’s Mitte district, once the diplomatic quarter. As the headquarters of the Army High Command under Nazi rule, this was both the site where the July 20 Plot was planned and where its members were executed by firing squad.

Today, the German Resistance Memorial is located on a street formerly called Bendlerstrasse and now renamed “Stauffenbergstrasse”. The courtyard of the German Resistance Memorial Centre, where the executions took place, has a memorial statue. This bronze statue depicts a man with bound hands.

The German Resistance Memorial Centre Museum explores not only the July 20 Plot, but the whole issue of resistance, especially against National Socialism, but also in a wider context. Displaying thousands of documents and photographs, this exhibit offers an interesting insight into different elements and examples of resistance throughout history.

However, the focus of the German Resistance Memorial Centre Museum is the history of opposition to Nazi Germany, including the events in which National Socialism flourished and the attempts made to overthrow it. There are audio guides to the site and guided tours take place weekends at 3pm.

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Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz

One of the most infamous of all historical attractions in Berlin, the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz was the site where the Nazis planned the Holocaust. Today the site hosts a moving memorial to these terrible events.

DID YOU KNOW?

Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz was the site of the infamous Wannsee Conference in which the Nazis planned how to carry out the “Final Solution”, the plan to murder the Jewish population of Eastern Europe.

On 20 January 1942, fifteen senior members of the Nazi government and of the SS met at Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz. Chaired by the head of the Reich Security Main Office Reinhard Heydrich,, this group of men determined the course of the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe which would come to be known as the Holocaust.

Instigated by leader of the Nazis, Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust would see over six million Jews murdered as well as members of other minorities, homosexuals, handicapped people and anyone else considered by the Nazis to be “racially inferior”.

Today, Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz provides a moving memorial to the Holocaust as well as an in-depth history of the rise of the Nazi party, the growth of anti-Semitism and the atrocities committed against the Jews.

Photo by Lauren Manning (cc)

Jewish Museum - Berlin

The Jewish Museum in Berlin examines the history of the German Jewish community over the course of 2,000 years. It examines all aspects of the history of Jews in Germany set our through chronological presentations.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Jewish Museum in Berlin in Germany chronicles the history of German Jews over the course of two millennia. Housed in an incredibly modern building, the Berlin Jewish Museum displays historical objects, documents, photographs, multimedia presentations and even computer games relating to different periods of Jewish history and culture.

The exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Berlin are arranged chronologically and cover various themes such as the living conditions of German Jews over the centuries, the role of Jewish women, tradition and change and the meaning of emancipation.

The Berlin Jewish Museum also looks at the issue of persecution, in particular during the Nazi era and the Holocaust, offering an insight into both the overall historical context and the lives of individual victims of the atrocities.

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Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

A popular tourist attraction, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a famous Berlin landmark dedicated to Kaiser William I.

DID YOU KNOW?

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a Romanesque style church which was originally built in the 1890’s and dedicated to Kaiser William I by his grandson Kaiser William II.

Although the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was severely damaged in a bombing raid in 1943, during World War II, remnants of its original architecture clearly emerge, despite the fact that it was rebuilt between 1959 and 1963.

In its current incarnation, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, with its attached belfry, chapel and foyer is a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming from around the world to view its stunning frescos and its poignant memorial hall.

Free guided tours are available every day except Sunday at 1:15pm, 2:30pm and 3pm.

Photo by Wolfgang Staudt (cc)

Reichstag

The Reichstag Building is the seat of the German parliament and was previously the building used by the German government and Weimar Republic. Guided tours are available, but must be booked well in advance.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Reichstag Building started its life in 1894, when it served as the seat of the German Parliament, then known as the Reichstag. Designed by architect Paul Wallot during the reign of Emperor Wilhelm I, the Reichstag building contained several pioneering architectural elements, including a steel and glass copula which was the first of its kind.

Wilhelm I was succeeded by Wilhelm II by the time the Reichstag was completed in 1894 and, despite this new leader’s opposition to the institute of parliament, the Reichstag survived his reign and was the site where the politician Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the institution of the German Weimar Republic in 1918. It served as such until 1933, when a fire tore through it, damaging it severely.  However, it was the socio-political consequences of this latter event which would have the most lasting effects.

The ruling National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazis, blamed the fire on communist Marinus van der Lubbe and used the incident as an excuse to carry out a purge of any perceived traitors as well as banning the Communist Party altogether.

The Reichstag was heavily bombed during the Second World War and emerged as a ruin, the effects of which were exacerbated by its neglect during the Cold War. Whilst parts of the original Reichstag building, including its famous copula, were destroyed, it once again took centre stage in world politics on 3 October 1990, when it was the venue of the German Reunification Ceremony.

Reconstruction of the Reichstag followed and was completed in April 1999. It now houses the current German parliament, the Bundestag, and also acts as one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions. Guided tours are available, but must be booked in writing well in advance.

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The Altes Museum

Hosting a range of ancient collections, the Altes Museum is one of the most popular historic sites in Berlin and is part of the National Museum.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Altes Museum is part of Germany’s National Museum and is located in Berlin. Displaying part of the National Museum’s collection of classical antiquities, even the building of the Altes Museum has been built in a style inspired by Ancient Greece.

One of the main collections at the Altes Museum is its Etruscan Art. It also exhibits a series of Roman portraits including those modelled on of the sarcophagi of Caesar and Cleopatra.

It is worth noting that the National Museum has made several changes to the arrangement of its classical antiquities collection and many pieces have moved to the Neues Museum.

Photo by Thomas Angermann (cc)

The Berlin Flak Tower

One of the more hidden historic sites of Berlin, the Berlin Flak Tower is a World War II anti-aircraft station and bunker built to protect the city from aerial attack.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Berlin Flak Tower in Humboldthain Park is a seven storey bunker originally built under Hitler’s orders to protect Berlin from aerial attacks during the Second World War. In fact, in 1940, Hitler planned to build six such flak towers.

Three flak towers were constructed and, after the war, the only Berlin Flak Tower to survive was the Humboldthain tower. The rest were destroyed and even the surviving Berlin Flak Tower has suffered severe damage.

During World War II the lower floors of the Berlin Flak Tower were also used as a bomb shelter for thousands of the city’s population. Only two floors are currently open to the public and 90 minute tours are provided by the Berlin Underground Association.

If you go, ensure to wear comfortable shoes and plenty of layers as it can get quite cold (even in summer). Visitors must be at least 14 years of age and under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult.

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The Holocaust Memorial - Berlin

A moving memorial in the heart of Berlin, the Holocaust Memorial is a vast granite maze covering 19,000 square metres which commemorates the European Jews murdered by the Nazis.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is an installation commemorating the genocide of the Jewish people perpetrated under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

The Holocaust was an attempt by Hitler to exterminate the Jews and any other people who he considered “racially inferior” in what he called the “Final Solution”.

The Holocaust Memorial is a monument to the six million European Jews who died in the Holocaust. Made up of a vast dark granite maze and a subterranean information centre which has details about the victims, the Holocaust Memorial is a moving site.

Photo by Olivier Bruchez (cc)

The Neues Museum

Part of Germany’s National Museum, the Neues Museum has a huge collection of pre-historic, Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek artefacts. It is one of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Neues Museum in Berlin is part of Germany’s National Museum and, following a reconstruction project, is now the home of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the Collection of Classical Antiquities and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History.

Within the Neues Museum’s Ancient Egyptian collection, one of its most famous pieces is the bust of Nefertiti, wife of Ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh Akhenaten. It also houses a large collection of Armana artwork.

Further fascinating pieces at the Neues Museum include its display of Trojan antiquities and the prehistoric skull of the Neanderthal from Le Moustier in southwest France.

Overall, the Neues Museum offers a comprehensive display of historical and archaeological exhibits from throughout ancient history and around the world. Guided tours are available and audio guides are included in the admission price.

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The Pergamon Museum

An interesting historic site in Berlin, the Pergamon Museum displays ancient artefacts as well as a collection of Islamic art.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Pergamon Museum is a large and varied museum in Berlin housing three different exhibitions.

One of the collections at the Pergamon Museum is part of the Classical Antiquities, known as the Antikensammlung. This collection includes mostly Greek and some Roman pieces ranging from jewellery to sarcophagi, sculptures and even remains from buildings. However, it is the reconstruction of the second century BC Pergamon Altar, one of the sites from the ancient city of Pergamon and with its Hellenistic fresco depicting the battle of the Giants and the Gods, which forms one of its most famous attractions.

The largest collection at the Pergamon Museum is that of its Museum of the Ancient near East or ‘Vorderasiatisches Museum’, which covers over 2,000 square feet and around six thousand years of history. From reconstructions of Babylonian monuments such as the Ishtar Gate, the facade of the throne hall of King Nebuchadnezzar II and the Tower of Babel to ninth millennium BC reliefs from the Assyrian palace of Kalchu, this is a fascinating exhibit.

The Pergamon Museum also contains a Museum of Islamic Art or ‘Museum für Islamische Kunst’ in its southern wing where it displays everything from Islamic jewellery to architectural decorations.

Please note that recent reconstruction projects have meant that some of the exhibits of the National Museum have been moved to the Neues Museum.