Visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum
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.
What is Checkpoint Charlie?
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.
Plan Your Visit
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.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum Tickets
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.
- €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.
- Admission is free if you have a Berlin Pass and the Berlin Welcome Card. Both passes also include a free hop-on, hop-off bus tour which you could use to get here. If you aren’t sure if you should buy one, check out our helpful post comparing tourist passes in Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum Exhibits
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.
Take a Checkpoint Charlie Tour
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.
Nearby Exhibits and Landmarks
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: