Top Five Historic Attractions in BerlinFebruary 6, 2015 12:50 pm
Berlin is known and loved as being a vibrant and largely modern city who’s recent, wartime history is ever-present in its architecture and culture. However, there is so much more to discover about Berlin’s past and its historic buildings that date further back than WWII, so we’re taking a look at our top five to share with you some of our favourites.
Museum Island was recently awarded a status of UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Berlin’s most important areas for championing the arts and sciences within its five famous museums. The island and its edifying inhabitants date back to 1830 when the first museum, the Altes Museum, was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III to showcase the royal art treasures. Ten years later it was decided that the area would be enlarged into a cultural centre when the Neue Museum, the Alte National Gallery and the Bode Museum followed suit, with the Pergamon as the last joiner.
Despite dating back to the early 19th century, however, the original buildings were actually destroyed by the bombings of WWII and the collections were divided by the East and West. Since being restored and reopened over the past decades, the Museum Island is now one of the most culturally important attractions in Berlin – and well worth a visit.
The Berliner Dom is one of Berlin’s most iconic historic attractions and stands proud on the horizon with its blue dome. A Baroque Cathedral built in the 1890s – 1900s it sits beside it’s neighbouring museums on Museum Island and it was built on the site of a 15th century church which served the Hohenzollern family and their court. Although the Church we see today has in fact been remodelled and demolished three times, it was designed to look like St Peter’s Church in Rome, and you can no doubt see the similarities in its façade and dome structure with its Italian Renaissance style.
You must go inside to see the stunning décor and interior from the intricate painted dome ceiling to the huge pipe organ with its 7,000 pipes over a century old. The former royal family, the Hohenzollerns, are mostly all buried in the church and visitors can see the tombs of Germany’s old dynastic rulers, including Frederick I’s sarcophagus and elector Johann Cicero’s embellished tomb.
Church of St. Nicholas
A truly historic building, the Church of St. Nicholas is the oldest church in Berlin (older than Berliner Dom!) and has now been turned into a museum dedicated to representing its history and importance in Berlin’s past. The Nikolaikirche, as it’s called in German, sits within an area of restored Medieval buildings in Mitte, Berlin, and dates back to the 1220s.
The Church of St. Nicholas was originally a Catholic Church, before becoming a Lutheran Church in the 1530s and onwards, dedicated to serving the locals and acting as the council church up to the 1970s when it was re-purposed as a museum. Visitors can also appreciate the stunning architecture and double spires which were re-built after the church suffered bomb damage in 1944.
The Brandenberg Gate is arguably one of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks and stands as a symbol of unified Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. However, it actually dates further back, to the late 1700s, commissioned by Wilhelm II to act as the city gate. The design you’ll notice is not typically Baroque, as common throughout other historic buildings in the city, instead it’s styled on Greek mythology. Did you know the gate was even moved temporarily to Paris under Napoleon’s occupation of Berlin in 1806? Thankfully it was returned to its original home after the victorious Battle of Waterloo, however the name Pariser Platz where it’s located, has stuck.
Visitors can admire this iconic landmark and enjoy being in one of the most popular squares in all of Berlin, right at the end of the grand boulevard Unter den Linden. It’s a lovely promenade to walk back into the heart of the city once you’ve visited this significant historic monument.
Another of Berlin’s 18th century historic buildings is the Charlottenburg Palace, the largest palace in Berlin which dates back to 1695. Its name derives from Sophie Charlotte, wife of Frederick III, Elector of Brandeburg, who used the palace as her summer retreat. Having undergone expansion and development over the years, it features a stunning cupola and orangery. Owned and lived in by the upper class and aristocracy over the years, the palace is full of lavish décor and interiors for visitors to see – restored to as they were in their hey-day.
We recommend the porcelain gallery, the glass bedchamber and the rococo style rooms – not to mention the priceless collections of porcelain. Don’t forget to explore the park and gardens which were designed in a French Baroque style and are a welcoming rural retreat in Berlin. Keep your eyes peeled for the mausoleum and the Belvedere.
With the Berlin Pass you can enjoy free entry into all the museums on Museum Island, as well as free entry to the Berliner Dom and St Nicholas Church. Find out more, here.