Berlin is a buzzing metropolis. Germany’s capital city offers visitors and residents a wide and varied choice of exciting highlights and activities. Famous as a mecca for lovers of art and culture, Berlin also has a number of buildings that equal the architectural highlights of cities like Paris, Madrid and London.
The Reichstag – Making Democracy Transparent
The Reichstag in the heart of Berlin is one of the German capital’s most photographed buildings. Designed by Paul Wallot and completed in 1894, the original building was topped by a splendid dome that, along with the main hall, was partially destroyed in the arson attack in February 1933, a month after Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, marking the beginning of one of the darkest chapters in German history. The building suffered further damages during World War II. The Reichstag was finally restored in 1973, though without its dome and many of the decorative elements on the building’s façade.
Reichstag Berlin 1870, Source: By The original uploader was Rainer Zenz at German Wikipedia (Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons.), via Wikimedia Commons
When star architect Sir Norman Foster won the commission to design and rebuild the dome in 1993, he created a large glass dome that affords a 360-degree view of the Berlin cityscape as well as an interior view of the debating chamber. Open to the general public and accessible via a double helix of ramps, the dome is a beautiful and powerful symbol of a transparent democracy.
Reichstag Berlin, Source: Aconcagua (Eigenes Werk) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) oder CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Two Buildings, One Architect
Only a few hundred yards from the Reichstag, the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) is another of Berlin’s architectural highlights.
Central Station Berlin, Source: Ansgar Koreng / via Wikimedia Commons
The imposing glass-and-steel structure is Europe’s largest multi-level interchange station. From excavating the building pit to the inauguration in 2006, construction took almost eight years.
Central Station Berlin interior, Source: By User:Orderinchaos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Meinhard von Gerkan, the architect who designed the Hauptbahnhof, also created another one of Berlin’s architectural highlights – the Tempodrom. A multi-purpose event venue that hosts concerts and parties as well as tradeshows, the Tempodrom is famous for its striking roof design reminiscent of a big-top circus tent.
Tempodrom Berlin, Source: By Axel Mauruszat (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
When the Tempodrom was founded in the 1980’s, that’s exactly what it was – a circus tent used as a concert venue. In its original location in the Tiergarten, the venue was considered a security risk when the German Chancellery was built in the immediate vicinity. As an interim solution, the Tempodrom was temporarily relocated to a site near the Ostbahnhof until the new building was completed in 2001.
Tempodrom Berlin, Source: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Late Baroque Architecture in the Heart of Berlin
Next on the list of architectural highlights is the Humboldt University’s main building on the Unter den Linden boulevard in the centre of Berlin.
Humboldt University 1855, Source: Wikimedia
Designed by Johann Boumann and completed in 1753, the building was originally commissioned by the Prussian king Frederick the Great as a residence for his brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, who lived there until his death in 1802. After the Prince’s widow died in 1808, Frederick’s successor Frederick William III donated the building to the newly founded university.
The building suffered extensive damage during World War II, but was restored to its original design in two phases in the post-war era and classed as a listed building in 1975.
Humboldt University today, Source: Christian Wolf, www.c-w-design.de [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Architectural Ensemble on Strausberger Platz
Not quite as historic as the Prince’s Palace on Unter den Linden, the ensemble on Strausberger Platz is another eye-catching architectural highlight.
The buildings were designed by the famous East German architect as prime examples of the Stalinist or ‘wedding-cake’ style, with plenty of small design features and lavish tile designs on their exterior façades.
Central Berlin façades, Source: Central Berlin
To complement its iconic buildings, Strausberger Platz also features a stunning wrought-iron water fountain created by the artist Fritz Kühn.
Of course, this is only a small selection of Berlin’s many beautiful buildings, compiled with the hope of inspiring you to explore for yourself the German capital’s architectural splendour.
Strausberger Platz, Source: Central Berlin