The Jewish Museum in Berlin is one of the most-frequented museums of Jewish arts, culture and history in the world, with nearly one million visitors per year. A visit to the museum is an opportunity to pay homage to over two thousand years of Jewish history in Europe, and to recognize both historical and contemporary Jewish contributions to Germany. In addition to its stunning architecture and vast permanent collection, regularly rotating temporary exhibits are also on display. While the museum offers visitors a chance to confront the horrors of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, it also provides a meaningful alternative by presenting the myriad highs of Jewish history and culture.
In the 1970s academics, historians and activists began to petition for a museum dedicated solely to Jewish history in what was then West Berlin. A debate raged for over a decade, with some believing that the collection should be housed in the existing Berlin Museum, and others demanding that the Jewish experience should be given a higher profile and a discrete location, with the latter group emerging victorious. The baroque 1735-era Kollegienhaus was repurposed to become the home of the ambitious new project, and an architectural competition was launched in 1988 to choose a design for a new building to be built onsite.
Visit the museum
Monday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
*Please plan sufficient time for the security checks at the museum entrance.
Family Ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children) 14 Euros
Jewish Museum Berlin
Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin (map) Public transport:
By Ubahn: U1 or U6 to Hallesches Tor
U6 to Kochstraße
By Bus: M29, M41, 248
Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American of Jewish descent, won the competition with his ultra-modern, twisted metal zig-zag of a structure, designed to contrast with the eighteenth century Kollegienhaus and prepare the visitor for an experience during which they will encounter disturbing images and narratives. He says of his winning entry, “the new design, which was created a year before the Berlin Wall came down was based on three conception that formed the museum’s foundation: first, the impossibility of understanding the history of Berlin without understanding the enormous intellectual, economic and cultural contribution made by the Jewish citizens of Berlin, second, the necessity to integrate physically and spiritually the meaning of the Holocaust into the consciousness and memory of the city of Berlin. Third, that only through the acknowledgement and incorporation of this erasure and void of Jewish life in Berlin, can the history of Berlin and Europe have a human future.”
When the building was completed in 2000, the empty structure became a tourist attraction even before the museum was opened one year later! Libeskind has gone on to become one of the most celebrated architects of the twentieth and twenty first century, designing the Denver Art Museum, the Manchester Imperial War Museum, the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin and most famously, the World Trade Centre redevelopment.
Visitors enter the Jewish Museum through the Kollegienhaus, and gain access to the Libeskind building through an underground passage. There one confronts three distinct narratives, or axes, representing Jewish history in Germany, emigration to other parts of the world and the Holocaust. (Top tip: It is important to note that you will enter the main exhibit in the basement, and you then must ascend a long stairwell to the top floor. From there, you’ll experience the museum from the top down – this can be slightly unclear, and people do report getting confused!) The permanent collections showcases fascinating artifacts from Medieval Germany, the Age of Emancipation (a time of prosperity and social harmony in the nineteenth century), details the Jewish war effort during World War One and chronicles the terror of the Holocaust. The collection is displayed in a stark, minimalist way that matches the somber tone of the subject matter. Audio guides are available for 3 Euro, and are highly recommended (Top Tip: arrive early, as they tend to sell out for the day by noon, and are then only available after an hour+ wait).
This austere approach is contrasted by the often-lighthearted temporary exhibits, which are frequently presented in a fun and accessible manner. Past exhibitions have included, “Chrismukkah: Stories of Christmas and Hanukkah,” “The Whole Truth … everything you always wanted to know about Jews,” and “Kosher & Co: On Food and Religion.” The current exhibit, launched in October 2014 and running until March 2015, is entitled “Snip It! Stances on Ritual Circumcision” (cheekily presented with a banana in the logo).
While those with Jewish heritage will undoubtedly be keen to visit, the museum is an important stop on any Berlin tourist’s itinerary.
If you have ever gazed upon a modern cityscape and wondered why certain buildings, facades and gardens look the way that they do, you will want to head to the Bauhaus Archive for some answers. This museum and library, often referred to as “a temple of design,” is dedicated to the Bauhaus School, one the twentieth century’s most significant arts institutions. It is well worth a visit for anyone who is interested in modern architecture, twentieth century painting and post 1920’s design.
The Bauhaus Archive/ Museum für Gestaltung is a repository for art, documents, sculpture and literature that relates to the Bauhaus School, the highly influential school of architecture and design that operated in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin between 1919 and 1933. Founded by Walter Gropius, an architect regularly cited as one of the pioneers of modern architecture, the school was a hotbed of creativity and an important institution in Germany’s liberal interwar period. The Weimar Republic abolished censorship, and as a result the country experienced a surge of “radical experimentation in all of the arts.”
Bauhaus and the art
Artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger flocked from around Europe to the Bauhaus School to create, debate and workshop new ideas. They were highly influenced by the work of late Victorian British artists William Morris, who aimed to eliminate the gap between function and form in everyday objects. According to Morris, this meant that even the most mundane item should be beautiful, but for the Bauhaus School artists differed on this point. For them, buildings and objects should stress minimalism and functionalism instead of decoration; art and technology working together seamlessly without compromising their individual importance.
By removing what they felt was needless ornamentation, the Bauhaus adherents felt that they could help to question and eliminate class differences. Though the two styles are often conflated in contemporary times and can at times appear similar, Art Deco was all about luxury and privilege while the Bauhaus aesthetic emphasized function, simplicity and equality between rich and poor.
The rise of National Socialism saw the School face harsh criticism, as their aesthetic was criticized for being “un-German” owing to its lack of ornamentation and preference for flat-roofed buildings. By 1933 the Bauhaus School was forced to close by the Gestapo, who felt that their work was “degenerate” and influenced too heavily by Jewish culture. However, since that time, Bauhaus design and architecture has clearly gone from reviled to revered.
By 1960 Walter Gropius founded an archive to collect and conserve materials relating to the School and its affiliated artists. Members of the movement donated pieces and gave their support for a museum, and the current building was designed by Gropius and constructed between 1971-79. The Bauhaus Archive has since attracted millions of visitors, both to view its collection and to appreciate the stunning bespoke structure in which it is located.
While the museum is small, it houses an important permanent collection and features rotating special exhibits four times per year. Due to space constraints, the trust is only able to showcase 35% of their archive at any one time, and so Bauhaus admirers will be happy to know that a new extension is currently in a planning phase. It will be opened in 2019, in time for the centenary of the founding of the School.
Whether you are an amateur architecture buff, a hobby painter or a seasoned arts professional, this museum is worth a visit!
Consistently topping Berlin’s list of “must-see” attractions is the Zoologischer Garten, more commonly known to English speakers as the Berlin Zoo. This world-class institution is much more than an unparalleled menagerie of exotic animals – it is a historical landmark, a hive of scientific study and a chance for visitors and students to learn about the winged, hoofed and clawed creatures with which we share our fragile planet. With 1,500 different species and 20,500 animals, you’ll think you’ve stumbled onto Noah’s Ark in the centre of an exciting European capital.
The Berlin Zoo was opened to the public in 1844, located what was then far from the city centre on the far edges of the Tiergarten, the city’s largest public park. Despite its then-inconvenient location, Berliners flocked in droves to view animals completely unfamiliar to the average European – elephants, peacocks, kangaroos, water buffalo and dozens of others. Over the last half of the nineteenth century, majestic themed buildings – the Antelope House, the Indian-inspired Elephant House, the Egyptian Ostrich House and the Japanese Wader House – were constructed by some of the day’s finest architects. A visit to the Zoo in the Prussian era was a grand event indeed, and must have seemed incredibly glamorous and exciting to Berliners circa 1890!
In 1913 the Aquarium was constructed, adding exotic sea life to an animal cast of thousands. Featuring three floors of fresh and saltwater fish, reptiles galore, amphibians, and a large number of invertebrates, the building itself – including its mosaics and demi-reliefs of dinosaurs – is well worth a closer look.
World War II left lasting scars throughout all of Berlin, but the Zoo has a truly tragic wartime past. At the outbreak of the war, the zoo was home to nearly 2000 animals of 400 species (and an additional 2500 birds). Heavy bombardment from 1941- 44 saw most of the buildings destroyed or badly damaged, and the Zoo as a functioning institution ceased to exist. In 1944, the Zoo flak Tower was constructed, and the surrounding area was used as one the last major fortifications against the Red Army.
None of this was easy on the animals, and sadly, most perished. By the end of the fighting only 91 animals remained alive – including 2 lions, 10 baboons, a hippopotamus, 2 hyenas, an Asian elephant, a single chimpanzee and 2 storks. However, in the postwar years zoologists and architects came together to create new animal enclosures, policies and programs that have placed the Zoo on the cutting edge of in-captivity breeding success, particularly of endangered species that other zoos find very hard to replicate.
The Zoo today
As a result of this scientific achievement and fantastic international reputation, the Berlin Zoo is regularly lauded as one of the most ethical and advanced zoos in the world. Visitors clearly agree – this is the most visited zoo in Europe year after year. Guests are treated to the world’s largest collection of animals on display in specially designed enclosures that are meant to mimic natural habitats as closely as possible.
Vistors to the Zoo can feast their eyes upon monkeys of all species, polar bears, wolves, apes (including gorillas and orangutans), king penguins, hippopotamuses, lions, tigers, rhinos and over 1400 others. Feeding times are scheduled throughout the day (available online here), and so it is usually possible to see the animals in an active and engaged mood!
Currently, the Berlin Zoo is home to a few adorable babies – including a baby black rhino, a few tiny zebras and even a precious kangaroo joey. The Zoo’s breeding successes mean that new arrivals are expected regularly, so ensure that you pay the little ones a visit. If you are bringing a wee one of your own, rest assured that everything on site is child-friendly, from the menus at the café to the Streichelzoo children’s petting zoo, a favourite for all ages.
Whether you are a zoo fanatic or a newcomer to the joys of animal appreciation, the Berlin Zoo is truly one of the finest – and most historically interesting – zoos on the planet. Enjoy your urban safari!
Admission, Location and Opening Hours:
The Aquarium and the Zoo can be visited separately or together on a joint ticket. Admission prices for adults are 13/20 Euros (zoo alone/joint ticket) while students pay only 10/15 Euros and children 6.50/10 Euros. Berlin Welcome Card holders will receive an additional 25% discount (as well as a host of other benefits), so it is worth checking them out!
The Zoo is located directly beside the train station that is its namesake, and is serviced by many buses, U-bahn lines and the S-bahn.
Opening Hours vary throughout the year depending on daylight. Check the Berlin Zoo’s official website for current operating hours.
Whether Berlin is just one stop on your travel itinerary or the sole destination for a weekend city break, escaping the metropolitan hustle and bustle and spending time in nature is good for your mind, body and soul. Thankfully, Berlin is home to one of Germany’s largest urban parks, the Großer Tiergarten, a 210-hectare green space filled with gardens, small lakes, dense foliage and tucked-away locations perfect for having a picnic.
While the Tiergarten is now an integral part of Berlin’s urban landscape and a stop on nearly every visitor’s itinerary, it was first utilized in the early 16th century as hunting grounds solely for royalty and noble guests. However, in 1742 Friedrich II (1712-1786) decided that the park would be better suited as a Lustgarten (pleasure garden) open to all of the people of Berlin. He hired the elaborately-named George Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to transform what was a private forest into a Baroque wonderland complete with flowerbeds, sculptures and water features.
By the mid 19th century, change was afoot again and the entire park was redesigned in homage to the style of Victorian English flower gardens, and many of the attractions and Prussian monuments seen today were added. Despite being badly damaged during World War II and neglected in the postwar period, a massive revitalization project started in 1955 has brought the park back to its former glory, and a visit to the “green lung of Berlin” is a must-visit for every tourist.
Top attractions inside the park
While a walk through the park is beautiful and relaxing in its own right, you may want to visit some of the structures and monuments located within its borders. The famous statue to Queen Louise, the beloved Prussian queen, is a lovely place for photos, and more adventurous visitors may choose to scale the 67-metre tall “Victory Column,” built in the 1870s to commemorate victory in the Prusso-Danish War of 1864. For a few Euros, sightseers can climb to the top and take in a breathtaking vista of the capital.
Culturally minded guests will want to visit the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cutures), a stunning mid-century modernist building constructed for an international architecture exposition in 1957, given to Berlin as a gift by the Americans. The centre is now lauded as “Germany’s national centre for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary arts, with a special focus on non-European cultures and societies,” and it is well worth checking out their programme of events.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Berlin Zoological Garden, first opened in 1844 and home to the largest array of different species in the world! As one of the world’s most popular zoos, it receives 3 million guests per year, all clamoring to see the over 1500 different species inside. The zoo has a storied history and was nearly destroyed in WW2, but now maintains successful breeding programs and partnerships with numerous universities and research organizations.
Visiting Year Round
The Tiergarten can be enjoyed year-round. The spring is a time of budding blossoms, fresh grass and chirping birds, while visitors in the summer will witness what seems like all of Berlin heading to the park to sunbathe, stroll and socialize at the park’s many summertime Biergartens. The colder months bring their own benefits – in autumn, people come from around the world to experience the changing colours of the park’s countless trees and trample through crunchy carpets of fallen leaves. During the winter months the temperature may drop far below freezing, but the frost covering ground and the frozen Neuer See (the small lake at the park’s centre) can be enjoyed while on a cozy stroll, best navigated with a hot cup of mulled wine in hand to keep your temperature – and your spirits – high.
How to get there:
Public transportation: closest S-Bahn train station: Tiergarten (S5, S7, S75), Bellevue (S5, S7, S75), closest U-bahn train station: Potdamer Platz, or take Bus 200.
The month of November in Berlin tends to be cloudy and cold with frequent periods of rain and some risk for snow. November, however, is still a good time to be in Berlin. Towards the end of this month you can enjoy the opening of the many Christmas markets in Berlin and some alternative Christmas markets.
Early in the month the afternoon high temperatures are mostly in the lower 50s f (10-11C) while the overnight and early morning lows are in the lower 40s f (5-6C). Early in November you may still see some afternoons reaching the upper 50s f (14-15C). As the month progresses daytime highs will more likely be in the low to mid 40s f (6-7C) while the early mornings will see lows in the mid-30s f (1-2C) with a few days falling into the mid-20s f (-3 to -4C).
Expect about 18-19 days to be cloudy or mostly cloudy with some form of precipitation likely. Light to moderate rain is most likely this month, however, the risk for snow increases from about 5% early this month to over 20% by the end of the month.
The sun is getting lower in the sky during November and the duration of daylight is growing shorter from about 9.5 hours early in the month to only 8 hours near the end of the month.
A good umbrella is a must plus some winter clothing including at least a medium-weight jacket or coat early this month, however, more winter attire, including a heavier coat with gloves and warm hats will be needed for later this month.
November is a good time to see Germany’s capital with one of our private Berlin tours. You can book any of our regular walking tours or we can create a customized tour to suit your groups’ interests and schedule.
Located in a coveted position near the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz is a bustling hive of activity in central Berlin – the perfect place to catch a film, sip a latte or shop for some designer duds. Once a cultural and social deadzone owing to its location in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, the Potsdamer Platz of the 21st Century has thrown off its grim communist past and embraces fashion, entertainment and commerce in a big way!
Potsdamer Platz has a long history as both a public gathering place and a rural crossroads. People from around Europe have been trading at this very site since the seventeenth century. Unsurprisingly, the square derives its name from the city of Potsdam, approximately twenty-five kilometres southwest, as historically it was where the road from that city snaked joined to other major Berlin roads. By the 1930s, the once sleepy country road had developed into the busiest automobile junction in Europe, only to be completely destroyed in World War Two.
In 1961 the Berlin Wall was built directly through the centre of the once iconic square, owing to its strategic position at the nexus of the American, British and Russian sectors of East and West Berlin. As a result, the area was unremarkable and abandoned throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.
Modern structure of today
But after the fall of communism, throughout the 1990s things were changing in a big way. For over a decade, Potsdamer Platz was the largest construction site in Europe, with mega-companies like Sony bidding for a now-desirable spot in the newly envisioned consumer mecca. The architects sought to design a gathering place for the modern, unified Berlin – one that would cast a nod to the square’s parochial beginnings while signaling to the world that the former ‘East Berlin’ was open for business.
Potsdamer Platz is now home to over a dozen modernist skyscrapers, a full-sized shopping mall, the largest 3D film theatre in Germany (also, original movies in English can be seen here), cutting-edge art and historical exhibits (including pieces of the Berlin Wall), as well as countless restaurants, shops and service providers. What was a rural crossroads and marketplace in the distant past is once again a place for people of all cultures and nationalities to meet, mingle and shop.
Chances are, if you are in Berlin for more than a brief stopover, you will find yourself wandering through this modern crossroads with a look of awe on your face – and with daily visitor numbers topping 100, 000, you’re certainly not alone!
++Extra Tip:If you like to see the Potsdamer Platz from above, consider taking a ride in the supposedly fastest elevator in Europe to the PanoramaPunkt at the Kolhoff Tower. It’s located right opposite of the DB tower on Potsdamer Strasse and it’s open daily from 10am-8pm. Admission is €6.50 (adults), €5 (children), FREE (kids aged 6 and younger).++
This post will focus on Checkpoint Charlie, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, and other historic locations you will find nearby. We will provide details about the when to visit, how to get there, and what to expect.
Checkpoint Charlie was Berlin’s best known crossing point between what was before 1990 communist East Berlin and the American-controlled sector of democratic West Berlin. In 1961, the East German government unexpectedly constructed a wall along its borders to restrict the flow of East Germans trying to permanently flee East Berlin.
Several checkpoints were erected, each laced heavily with barbed wire and carefully guarded by East German troops. They had instructions to shoot anyone trying to illegally cross over from East Berlin into West Berlin. More than 1,300 East Berliners died trying to escape via other means and locations along the wall.
In response to the East German Government sealing off East Berlin, the Americans built their own checkpoints. The three American checkpoints, Checkpoints A, B & C, were named using the phonetic alphabet. Checkpoint A was known as Checkpoint Alpha, Checkpoint B was Checkpoint Bravo and Checkpoint C was Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known of the three because it was the only checkpoint through which diplomatic personnel, American military and non-German visitors could pass into East Berlin.
Unlike the East German checkpoint border house and guards, the American checkpoints were not meant to restrict the movement of people between East and West Berlin. They were mainly there to inform people in no uncertain terms that once they crossed the checkpoint into East Berlin, they were no longer in a democratic society.
This section will provide details about how and when to visit Checkpoint Charlie, what you should know before arriving, and the best times to visit both the historic site and the museum.
Best Times to Visit
As with most historic locations, Checkpoint Charlie can get very busy during certain times of the day/week. Although the landmark itself doesn’t have any operational hours to worry about, anyone looking to avoid the crowds might want to consider the following details. Visitors who have been to this site report that it can get very busy during the middle of the day and in the afternoon. Some travelers have noted that Checkpoint Charlie is usually pretty crowded in the morning as well, making it difficult to choose a good time to visit.
We recommend coming early in the morning (between 7 am – 9 am) or later at night (between 5 pm – 8 pm) to avoid the busiest times. This location is usually far less crowded after the sun sets, but it’s also a much more difficult to see the checkpoint after dark. When it comes to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, you’ll need to keep the following hours in mind:
9 am – 10 pm
Open 365 days a year
This museum is open for 13 hours a day, making it easily accessible for most visitors. That said, much like Checkpoint Charlie itself, there are times when this attraction becomes more popular than usual. Even then, there aren’t many incredibly busy hours at this stop.
The best time of day to visit is either in the morning (9 am – 11 am) or at night (5 pm – 10 pm). Additionally, if you can avoid going during the weekend, you probably won’t have to worry about the crowds. The museum is not very busy early in the week (Monday/Tuesday), so visitors can come pretty much whenever they want on these days.
What to Expect
Visiting the site of the replica of the Checkpoint Charlie border house is free to do. It is located outdoors near Friedrichstraße 43-45 (map). You will also see the world-recognizable billboard signs warning people that they were leaving or entering the American Sector. At the “border house” you will see ‘soldiers’ posted. They are in fact actors and for a few euros, the “soldiers” will pose with you. If you want to see the original Checkpoint Charlie border house and signs head to the Allied Museum. An analysis of reviews on TripAdvisor reveals that visiting the Checkpoint Charlie Border House isn’t for everyone. It has a 3 ½ star rating and most people find a visit to this site to be just an average experience. Many reviewers state that this location is a bit touristy, while other reviewers felt that a quick visit to the site was worth the time and the experience was heightened with a visit to either the nearby Checkpoint Charlie museum or the Outdoor Photo Gallery and the Black Box Exhibit (see below). While a trip to the border house won’t take you long, you can expect to spend around 2 ½ hours at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. There is a lot to see and do at this location, and most visitors find themselves exploring for at least an hour or two. With an overall rating of 3 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, this attraction seems to be hit or miss with most visitors.
Guests who have been here indicate that the museum is full of interesting and informative exhibits about Checkpoint Charlie. Some reviewers said they were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of items on display. The only common issue that most people have is the price, but you can get a great deal on tickets with a Berlin tourist pass. Check our tickets section below for more information.
If you want to see the border house, the photo gallery, the black box exhibit and the museum, make sure to set aside at least 3 – 4 hours for the entire outing. Please keep in mind that photos are generally not allowed inside the museum, but you can get permission to do so. For more information, check our ticket section below.
How to Get Here
No matter which transportation you use, this map will provide specific directions to Checkpoint Charlie from anywhere in the city.
Checkpoint Charlie and its nearby museum are both located near Friedrichstraße 43-45 in Berlin. There are several ways to get here, but one of the easiest options will be to take either a bus or the subway. Visitors will find the Kochstraße transit stop right down the street from the landmark. This stop is serviced by bus lines M29 and N6, as well as the U6 subway train. For more information, check out our post detailing how to navigate the Berlin transit system.
If you are considering taking a hop-on-hop-off Berlin bus tour, keep in mind that most (or all) include a stop at or very near to Checkpoint Charlie. For more information, make sure to read our post about Berlin bus tours.
The Checkpoint Charlie Museum is also called the Mauermuseum (Mauer meaning “wall”), because it covers the history of both Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall. There are many exhibits and objects to see including original artifacts used in some of the most well-known and ingenious escapes from East Berlin. Admission
€14.50/Adults | €9.50/Students (18+)
€7.50/Students (7-18) | Kids under 6 FREE
€6.50/Social Ticket | €9.50/Disabled Ticket
Registered handicap helpers get in free
€5/Audio Guide | €5/Photo Approval
Lockers are available for a deposit of a €2 coin which is returned when you retrieve your items. A gift shop and café are located inside.
This museum has been collecting historic artefacts for decades, and they have amassed quite an impressive collection which spans through the entire history of this location. There are four main exhibits, each one focusing on a different story about the Cold War.
This exhibition tells the tale of the Berlin Wall from its construction in 1961 to its eventual fall. Using a series of images, original objects and text from throughout the historic period, this display provides a look at what things were like in Berlin while the wall was in place.
This display depicts both sides of the divided city and how each side was seen during the Cold War. Each side of Berlin is compared and contrasted in terms of how they saw themselves and how they were seen by others.
Learn more about the most well known border crossing along the Berlin Wall. This exhibit provides a detailed look at the checkpoint from its creation to the end of its use, including several images and details about the many demonstrations and escape attempts that took place here.
Although there were a lot of tragic stories revolving around the Berlin Wall, an interesting result of the border were all of the creative escape attempts. This exhibit tells the tale of many different escapes – both successful and failed – and the impact they had on the lives of Germans.
One of the best ways to experience Checkpoint Charlie is to take a tour. Several companies offer tours of this landmark, providing the historic details necessary to understand why the location is so important. For more information, read our post about Berlin walking tours.
You can also take an audio tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum for only €5. To learn more about this option, read our section about museum tickets. Alternatively, you may want to consider doing a self-guided tour by checking out some of the nearby exhibits.
In addition to all of the incredible exhibitions on display at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, you will also find a few notable exhibits near the landmark itself. These locations are pretty popular with visitors, some even indicating that they are more enjoyable than the border house itself.
The Black Box
At the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, across from the north side of the Checkpoint Charlie Border House, you will see what looks like a temporary pop-up space. It is in fact a permanent exhibition space called the Black Box. This small but very-well curated exhibit is an excellent and less expensive alternative to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Inside the Black Box, there are 16 media stations, a small movie theater, documents, and original objects to demonstrate the East-West conflict that dominated the international political arena after World War II.
The exhibits, consisting of old news reels and newspaper articles, photos and videos offer a trip back in time. The explanations of what you are seeing are very informative, but not as overwhelming as the texts at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It is less than half the price of the Museum and is a concise and well-designed way to learn about the Cold War in a variety of medium.
€5/Adults | €3.50/Reduced rate
€2/Students up to age 18
Kids 14 and under are FREE
Hours: 10am – 6pm
Open every day of the year
Note: Plans are in the works for a new Cold War museum to be built on the site, but as of 2018, the Black Box is still there.
Outdoor Photo Gallery
Running along Friedrichstraße, Zimmerstraße, and Schützenstraße is a series of 320 informational panels that include 175 large-format photos accompanied by written narratives (in English and German). The gallery focuses on three themes: the daring escape attempts at the border crossing, information about other memorial sites, and lastly the dramatic showdown between Soviet and American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961 (see a 2 minute video).
Along Zimmerstraße you can see actual remains of the Berlin Wall. All of these photos and the stories they tell are free to visit.To see more remnants of the Wall throughout Berlin, consider taking a Berlin Wall Tour. Check our tour section for more information.
Other Nearby Attractions
Within 10-15 minutes by foot are many interesting attractions that can easily be combined with a visit to Checkpoint Charlie. Please take advantage of our free self-guided tour of Things to do in Mitte which includes some of the following sites:
The Weather in Berlin in October – October finds the temperatures falling fairly rapidly in Germany’s Capital City with mostly cloudy skies and fairly frequent rainy days; however, there are still nice days here, especially early in the month.
Early October afternoons are fairly mild with high temperatures averaging around 17-18C (the low to mid 60s F). As the month progresses the afternoon temperatures will fall through the month to 11-12C (into the lower 50s F) by the end of the month. At times early in the month, afternoon temperatures can still reach 21C (70 F) or more and by the end of the month overnight lows can dip below 7-8 C (the mid-40s F) at times and occasionally to 2-3C (into the mid-30s F).
The risk for rain increases as the temperatures drop with about 16-17 days, overall, seeing some rain. Of these rain days about 9 will have just light rain or drizzle, about 6-7 days have moderate to heavy rain, and about 1 day every-other year will see some snowfall.
No visit to Berlin is complete, without exploring the atmosphere of the best Berlin flea markets. Some markets take place every day. Others take place on a weekly basis. Some are dependent on the weather. If you like to explore the different culinary delights, buy some fresh produce, explore local arts and craft, or just browse, a visit to Berlin’s markets will open your eyes to Berlin’s many subcultures, neighborhoods and its people. And it’s FREE.
Here is our take on the best Berlin flea markets:
Turkish Market at the Maybachufer – On Tuesdays and Fridays from 12-6pm, you can visit the Turkenmarkt. From Turkish and Mediterranean culinary delights, to fresh garlic, ginger or herbs, to other fresh produce, tasty lunch or afternoon snacks, or garments, this market invites you for a delightful stroll along the Landwehrkanal (a canal). The closest U-Bahn station is Schönleinstrasse (U8) or Kottbusser Tor (U1) (map).
Marheinekeplatz Markthalle – This indoor market hall is open Mondays through Saturdays from 8am at least 6pm. It’s an experience back from Old Europe when you walk past the many stands of fresh cheeses, breads, fruits and flowers from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. There is also a bookstore and café to relax, an art exhibition, and a restaurant. You will certainly get a community feel here. The closest U-Bahn station is Gneisenaustrasse (U7) (map). More more info, click here.
Winterfeldtmarkt – On Wednesdays from 8am-2pm and Saturdays from 8am-4pm, this outdoor market at the Winterfeldtplatz in Schöneberg will enchant your desire for seasoned and locally grown produce wool fabrics, or arts and crafts. This is where the high-end chefs do their produce purchase. There are plenty of vendors selling snacks as well. The closest U-Bahn stations are Kurfürstenstrasse (U1), Büllowstrasse (U2), and Nollendorfplatz (U3, U4) (map). Read the reviews of this market on TripAdvisor.
Flea market at Mauerpark – This flea market at the Mauerpark is a nice activity for a sunny Sunday. From second hand clothes, jewelry, or East German memorabilia, or food vendors this market can be more a get-together of Berlin’s subcultures. If you are lucky, you’ll get so experience the karaoke show as well. Closest public transportation is tram train stop Wolliner Str. (M10), or U-Bahn stations Bernauer Strasse (U8) or Eberswalder Str. (U2). If the East German memorabilia tickled your interest for the Berlin Wall and East Berlin, check out our FREE self-guided tour here.
Between Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie in the Wilhelmstraße, there is a large building in shell limestone with hundreds of windows – the former Ministry on Aviation. The building opened in 1936 and is used today for the Department of Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany.
It was conceived as the Ministry of Aviation, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium”, and has 2,000 offices and about 603,000 square feet. This was Berlin’s largest office building but, unlike the skyscrapers in American cities of that time, it has only five stories, but several courtyards and a huge hall, three stories high. At the main entrance is a large cour d’honneur like in a castle. The shape of the building has more in common with a traditional European palace, that with a modern office building.
The ministry combined civil and military aviation, namely the reorganization of the German Air Force after the restrictions for Germany as a consequence of World War I. Hermann Göring, Minister for Aviation and a pilot of the German Air Force or “Luftwaffe” in World War I got also hold of the German aircraft industry and aerial defense. Clearly, this ministry was conceived to prepare another war.
Even though modern architecture was banned in Nazi-Germany, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is a modern building. The architect, Ernst Sagebiel, used steel framework and reinforced concrete. The shell limestone and the relatively small windows with a traditional German crossbar pretend traditional crafts. The building was also a public project to create work and it was finished in less than two years. In this aspect it was part of the NS propaganda of economic recovery. Later, Ernst Sagebiel was responsible for the construction the Berlin Airport Tempelhof, then the largest building in the world. The airport was only finished after World War II and is now out of service. Sagebiel, who spent his career during the Third Reich designing buildings for aviation in Berlin and other German cities, cultivated a relatively simple and functional architectural style, which is referred to as “air force modernism”.
After the war, the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” found itself in the Soviet occupation zone and October 7th 1949, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was officially founded in this building. The new socialist state used it as the “House of the Ministries”. The government commissioned a 24 x 3 meters (75 x 9 feet) mural made of tiles (China from the traditional factory in Meißen) and named “Aufbau der Republik” (“Constitution of the Republic”) which is still there and landmarked.
After Unification of Germany
After the unification of Germany, it was the seat of the “Treuhandanstalt”, (“trust agency”), the agency in charge of privatizing the East German enterprises that had been nationalized. The first CEO of this “Treuhandanstalt”, Detlev Rohwedder, was assassinated by an allegedly left extremist terrorist in April 1991. Later, the “Treuhandanstalt” moved to another building at the Alexanderplatz and its former seat was named “Detlev Rohwedder Building”. After some years of renovation, the former Ministry on Aviation now houses the Federal Department of Finance. The administration of the “Bundesrat” (the second chamber of the German Parliament) with its main building just around the corner on the Leipziger Straße is in the adjacent wing of the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium”.
In a way, the huge “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is a kind of monument of Nazi-architecture, the importance of modern technology for the regime and the preparation of World War II right at the beginning of the NS-government. But there are some memorials in- and outside the building.
In the 1970s, the GDR-government honored the German officer Harro Schulze-Boysen with a memorial in his former office. Harro Schulze-Boysen, who had worked in the “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” and spied for the Soviet Union in the hope to accelerate a victory over Hitler, was executed in 1942.
In June 17th 1953, there was an uprising of workers of the construction site of the Stalinallee (today Karl-Marx-Allee) that spread all over the country and was brutally suppressed by the East German police forces and Soviet troops. One demonstration took place at the “House of the Ministries”. Today, there is a memorial at the building, on the corner of Leipziger- and Wilhelmstraße.
The “Reichsluftfahrtministerium” is one of a few NS-buildings in Berlin that are used for public administration in Berlin. Its plain functionality made it apt for different political systems.