Berlin Royal Cathedral.
Europe,  Germany

A Berlin city walking tour

Berlin Royal Cathedral.
Berlin Royal Cathedral.

 

During my recent visit to Berlin I went on a city walking tour. Thanks to our amazing tour guide I learnt more about Berlin city in three and a half hours exploring the city than I ever did at school.

Are walking city tours worthwhile?

When my friends first suggested a city walking tour I wasn’t too fussed, but in the end I found it amazingly interesting and at times I actually got a bit choked when our guide shared some very emotional wartime stories.

We started our walking tour at Museum Island, which is home to the Altes and Neues (old and new) museums, which we learnt were mostly saved from bombing during the war in order to try and preserve some heritage.

Reminders of the World Wars

The walls and pillars are still pockmarked with bullet holes, and I thought it was good that they hadn’t repaired them as they serve as a good reminder.

During our tour we moved around the city, visiting the Royal Cathedral and the TV Tower, which houses a revolving restaurant and has a brilliant view of the city. We also saw the National Memorial to the Victims of Tyranny and War: A temple-like building that has been used as a war memorial since 1931. Inside, there is an installation by local artist Käthe Kollwitz entitled Mother with her Dead Son, which was installed in 1993. She lost family in both wars and her sculpture sits among wreaths. The ashes of a soldier and a victim of the concentration camps are buried beneath.

 

Berlin's Holocaust memorial.
Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.
Memorial to victims of war and tyranny, Berlin.
Memorial to victims of war and tyranny, Berlin.

Visiting the Berlin Wall

Our tour also took us to Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall, which now, ironically, has to be protected from ‘wall pickers’ who take chunks to sell on the Internet.

We visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was built in 2005 by Peter Eisenman and consists of 2711 concrete slabs. It’s in a very central position so you can’t miss it and you can walk through the maze of slabs that tower above you. It’s a chilling memorial to the Jewish people who died so unnecessarily and it makes you feel vulnerable and lost and the uneven ground makes you feel unsteady. It’s a chilling reminder of how victims in the war must have felt.

Our tour ended at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which until the fall of the Berlin Wall was isolated and inaccessible. It’s a great place to end the tour, as it was a big icon during the fall of the wall and over the centuries it’s stood there, it’s been considered an icon of peace.

 

Berlin Wall
Memories of a different era…
The Berlin Wall.
The Berlin Wall.

A trip to the Reichstag Building’s roof terrace and dome

We enjoyed our walking city tour so much that we were inspired to explore even more, so we also booked a walk around the Reichstag Building’s – the German Parliament – roof terrace and dome.

We booked an evening slot for 10pm, but we set off with plenty of time to spare because we’d been warned we’d have to pass through airport style security before entering.

You’re taken up in groups and led to the huge glass dome, which looks down into the Plenary Chamber. If you book a slot at the right time this gives you a chance to watch parliament in session.

There is a huge mirrored structure that plunges down the middle of the dome, directing light down to the Plenary Chamber and during our visit we also discovered that the building is powered by biofuel.

A visit to the Reichstag Building isn’t just for fans of politics; it’s a really impressive building and well worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about Berlin city’s present, as well as its past.

 

Reichstag Building
The Reichstag Building in all it’s glory at night.
Reichstag Building - Mirrored structure looking down into plenary chamber.
Looking down into Plenary Chamber.

 

Over to you! Have you visited Berlin city before, and if so, what stood out for you? Are you a fan of city walking tours or have we inspired you to try one out for the first time? Let us know in the comments below…

Laura works for a charity as a communications manager and uses as much of her holiday as possible to travel the world. She loves to go on European city breaks as well as longer trips further afield and is keen to see more of the USA and South East Asia...

2 Comments

  • Ania

    I love Berlin and have had a good look around the city and a walking tour on a couple of trips there. There’s still so much left to see, though, judging by this article! There are some very nice places to visit, and it’s also important that so much of the bad side of its history has been preserved for future generations.

  • Keri

    Laura’s post has really got me wanting to do a trip to Berlin now Ania! I’d not really given it much thought but it sounds like an amazing place to visit and learn about.

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