Berlin in 3hrs ? You Bet!
Everything you need to know about visiting the heart of Berlin in 3hrs (Brandenburg Gate, Bundestag Parliament Building, Soviet Memorial, Jewish Memorial and location of Hitler’s final bunker). Find the map at the end of this article.
Total Cost: FREE
1.Brandenburg Gate (1/2 hr)
The absolute symbol of Berlin and probably the first landmark that comes to our mind when we think of monuments in Berlin.
Get down at the ”Brandenburger Tor” Metro station and take the exit towards the Brandenburg Gate (follow the directions inside the metro station). If you start early (before 9am), you will skip the tourist hoards as shown in the pic.
The gate was originally built in 1791 by the Prussian emperor Friedrich Wilhelm II while taking design inspiration from the Acropolis in Athens. At the top is a statue of ‘Victoria‘ (also known as the ‘Quadriga ‘) with a 4 horse chariot – the roman goddess of victory. This statue was taken by Napolean and placed at Paris. After Napolean’s empire was wiped out the statue was bought back to Berlin. The gate was later used by the Nazi’s as a party symbol and after the fall of the Nazi’s the gate was almost completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt again. The Brandenburg gate has played various roles across German history with different empires and republics.
Take all the pictures you need and we move on to the next site.
PS: At the exit of the Metro, you will find the Hotel Adlon on the left – It’s famous these days because that is where MJ dangled his baby outside the window.
2. Bundestag – Parliament building (aka – Reichstag) – (1hr )
Walk straight through the Brandenburg gate, take a right turn and you will see the Bundestag building with a glass dome.
The good news is that all of it is FREE, yup 100% FREE. There is also a free audio-guide available for most major languages. This guide automatically detects your position inside the dome and explains accordingly – pretty awesome tech. You also get unparalleled views of the city from the top. The guide explains all the important buildings in view.
Unluckily for me there was a parliamentary session on that day and only the dome area was open for visitors. But on the other hand I got a chance to take the photo of Chancellor Angela Merkel while she was speaking inside the debate hall. Pretty incredible luck and where else in the world can you take a photo of the head of state from inside a parliamentary building(German police are very cool that way).
Sometimes you can get a spot without reservations (especially during off season) as well but I would not recommend taking the risk.If you don’t have reservations and cannot get in then just explore the complex surrounding the building (There is a huge open ground in front where one can picnic – honestly how many parliaments in the world are this cool.) and take some cool shots of the place.
3.Soviet memorial (15 mins)
This location is just a 8-10 min walk from the Bundestag, located inside a public garden called Großer Tiergarten.
Built in 1945 right after the war ended, This impressive structure was built by the soviets to commemorate the 80,000 soviet soldiers killed during the battle of Berlin and is a must see.
1 million Russian troops took part in what is now known as the final assault on the Third Reich leading to the end of the war in Europe.
Berlin was later divided into 4 zones (Russian-British-American and French). This memorial stood in the British zone, although its construction was unanimously supported by all.
4. Jewish holocaust memorial and its visitor center (1 hr)
aka Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.
A 10 min walk from the soviet memorial is the Holocaust memorial right in between the Brandenburg gate and Hitler’s final bunker. Completed recently in 2005, it spans across 19,000 m2. Eisenman wanted to create an illusion of instability in an apparent system of order.
The ground level keeps changing, at times you are taller than the walls and at times much shorter, it is a weird illusion.There are no names or any explanation on the walls, they are completely blank slabs of concrete. For detailed info, it is necessary to visit the visitor center (under ground the monument) to truly understand the horrors of the holocaust. The center also contains names of 3 millions Jews killed out of the total 6 million.
PS: Between the path from the Soviet memorial and the Jewish memorial you will also find small installations of the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism and the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism .
5. Hitler’s Final bunker (10 mins)
A 5 min walk from the Jewish memorial is the site of Hitler’s Final bunker. Well, there is nothing left of this site. All you will find is a car park. Hitler would have never imagined his final resting place would turn into a non-glamorous car park.
You will find groups of tourists scouring the area.
There are many conspiracy theories about Hitler’s death. But the most widely accepted one is that he committed suicide along wife his wife Eva Braun. For more info on Hitler’s last few days watch the film Downfall – Der Untergang in German. Incredible acting, captivating story telling.
This ends the tour of Berlin in 3hrs. If you are running short on time or want to include as many sites as possible in 1 day then this is the best place to start. All the places are walk-able and next to each other.
Very few cities have held a pivotal role as much as Berlin in the last century. Today Berlin is the hip capital of Europe, affordable rent, cheap food, artists galore,young population and a massive startup scene. Berlin has everything a mega-city desires and more.
Check out the map below:
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