Berlin the once divided capital of Germany, has been re-united for more than 25 years. Yes, it really has been that long since we witnessed those unforgettable scenes of the Berlin wall being torn down. In the last two and a half decades the city has become almost unrecognisable from its previous cold-war self. It’s array of buildings offer visitors a glimpse of the past and a view of the future. From the imposing Reichstag building, to the many new futuristic buildings that line the river. From the traditional cobbled streets of East Berlin, with traces of communistic era architecture, to Check-point Charlie, which reminds visitors just how real and relatively recent the East West division was.
Today business is booming in the capital, a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down. We take a look at how the business traveller can discover the city in just a few hours.
A good starting point to explore the city is the Potsdamer Platz. It has its own stop on the U-Bahn (The underground metro system) if you’re not confident with using the underground take a taxi, or depending on where your hotel is located you might prefer to travel on foot. Our advice would be to ask your hotel for a free map of the city, if at any time you’re unsure where you are, a quick glance at the map will keep you heading in the right direction. Better still if you have a smart phone with mapping and GPS use this to navigate the city – just check the data roaming charges with your provider before you leave the UK.
The Postsdamer Platz is home to the brightly lit Sony Centre. Various restaurants and bars can be found inside the Sony Centre. Look for The Ritz Carlton hotel, if you stand facing the hotel and look to your right, you will see remnants of the original Berlin wall. Only fragments remain but the wall comes complete with storyboards written in both German and English, helping to give a sense of what life was like on each side of the wall. Take a few moments to read the story boards, they will help you gain perspective on just how far the city has come in such a short space of time. From here head up to the Holocaust memorial – a vast monument made up of 2,711 concrete slabs called stelae. According to the artist, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. The memorial is free to visit and you are invited to wander around the controversial monument whilst making up your own mind on how it makes you feel.
The World famous Brandenburg Gate is just one block from the memorial. The gate is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace, built between 1788 and 1791. Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace. Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession, then later when the Nazis ascended to power, they used the gate as a party symbol. The gate is now completely closed to traffic and a wonderful square has been created, in recent years Presidents Bill Clinton and Barak Obama have made speeches here. Stand where they stood and admire the Brandenburg Gate for yourself.
The Reichstag building is just a short walk from the Gate. Opened in 1894 to house the Imperial Assembly of the German Empire. The building was abandoned in 1933 and wasn’t fully restored until after the German unification of 1990. The Nazi parliament left after a fire spread through the building and never returned, rumour has it the Nazis started the fire so they could suspend rights provided for by the 1919 Weimar Constitution in an effort to weed out communists and increase state security throughout Germany. The building, having never been fully repaired since the fire, was further damaged by air raids during the second world war. During the Battle of Berlin in 1945, it became one of the central targets for the Red Army to capture due to its perceived symbolic significance. Today, visitors to the building can still see Soviet graffiti on smoky walls inside as well as on part of the roof, which was preserved during the reconstructions after reunification.
Next stop Museum Island and Berlin Cathedral. It’s not an island in the conventional sense, as you simply walk across a short bridge to reach it, not surprisingly it takes its name from the Museum and galleries located here. Just as the island isnt really an island, the cathedral isnt really a cathedral - Its full title is The Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church of Berlin, but its known locally as ‘The Cathedral’, which is ironic as the Berlin Cathedral has never been a cathedral as it has never been the seat of a bishop. It’s impressive and imposing non the less. With an original history traceable back to 1451 it’s also one of the oldest buildings in Berlin.
Just around the corner is the Alexanderplatz and the Fernsehturm, or ‘The TV Tower’ as it’s more commonly known. Its height of 368 meters makes it the tallest structure in Germany. The tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of the country and it’s often featured in the opening shots of films set in Berlin. Due to its location near Alexanderplatz, the tower is occasionally called Alex Tower. What better way to end a sight-seeing tour of Berlin than with a panorama of the entire city. Late night admission is just 13euros and the tower is open until midnight.
For help planning, or organising your business trip to Berlin, please speak to one of our expert travel consulants.