The View from Above

Let’s talk about a mistake most people make when visiting Berlin. It has to do with one of Europe’s most important landmarks, which I can almost touch from my bedroom window (with an emphasis on “almost”, because I’d need 600 metre long arms to actually reach it). Apparently people think they need to enter the Fernsehturm in order to have the best view in Berlin.

A quite expensive (13 euros!) miscalculation, if you ask me. What’s the view of Berlin worth, if the tower itself – which I dearly love, don’t get me wrong – is not included? Therefore I’ll give you my Top 7 of the best views in Berlin, all of them very special locations. None of them will cost you more than a little extra breath as your climbing to the top.

7. Dome of the Reichstag

Not the most surprising listing, this one. But it would be a shame to miss it just because it’s too obvious. The days when visitors had to queue up in front of the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament, are over. You can just sign up online, pick a day and time that suits you, and make sure you bring your passport. It doesn’t cost you a single euro, and you get to have a look inside the historical parliament building before walking the circular pathway to the top of the dome.

The free audio tour will tell you exactly which interesting building in the centre of Berlin you’re looking at and why the Reichstag has such an important place in the history of German democracy and unity. Let me give you a few clues: it was built in 1894, ruined during World War II, reconstructed (including the new dome) in the 1990s and became once again the meeting place of the parliament in 1999.

Platz der Republik 1, Mitte

6. Humboldt Box

Hard to miss when visiting Berlin: the brand new palace that is now being constructed next to the Berliner Dom. Quite a project (at the cost of more than 550 million euros!), but one day the Museuminsel will have its Stadtschloss back.

If you want to know more about this palace and the Palast der Republik, which the GDR built after demolishing the old Stadtschloss, do visit the freely accessible Humboldt Box – this strangely shaped object in front of the new palace. There are pictures, movies, architectural models and volunteers who are more than happy to tell you about the history of this location. Take the elevator to the restaurant on the top floor and you’ll have an amazing view that takes in the Dom church, the Museuminsel, the Spree river and the new palace.

Schloßplatz 5, Mitte

5. Ahrensfelder Berge

This is a very special one and actually only recommended for Berlin experts, rather than the first- or second-timers. Not only because the drive to Marzahn, one Berlin’s less popular districts (to put it mildly), takes ages, but also because the city ‘centre’ will be very, very far away from the top of Ahrensfelder Berge.

However, this 114.5 metre high ‘mountain’ is an excellent location for a view over the countryside surrounding Berlin, and to see ALL of Berlin from above, rather than just a section. This might just be one of the most silent and remote places in the entire city. Once you’ve made it to Marzahn, I would advise to combine your trip with a visit to the museum apartment in nearby Hellersdorf and a walk in the historic centre (with windmill and goats!) of Marzahn.

Ahrensfelder Berge (Marzahn)
Take the tram to Betriebsbahnhof Marzahn. Cross Landsberger Allee to get to the foot of a mountain. From here you can take the stairway to the top of Ahrensfelder Berge.

Museum apartment (Museumswohnung)
Hellersdorfer Str. 179 Hellersdorf

The country side road up the Ahrensfelder Berge.
Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

4. Klunkerkranich

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to my next spring and summer in Berlin is Klunkerkranich. This rooftop bar is located on a parking deck of a shopping mall in Neukölln, and can only be entered by taking the elevator to the highest level of this parking garage. You follow the ramp up and one level higher you’re at the open air bar with arguably the best view in all of Berlin.

It’s up to you whether you want to just enjoy the view for a few minutes, but I would recommend spending a few euros and adding a drink to take in the great, laid-back atmosphere on top of the amazing outlook over the city. Klunkerkranich is also open in winter, but during the colder months you might want to run into the inside bar rather than stay and enjoy the view.

Neukölln Arcaden
Karl-Marx-Straße 66, Neukölln

Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

3. Teufelsberg

There’s a secret competition going on between the two highest ‘mountains’ of Berlin, the Teufelsberg in the far south and the Arkenberge in the far north. At the time of writing, the Teufelsberg is estimated to be 120.1 metres high, while the Arkenberge measures 120.7 metres. A sad loss for the Teufelsberg, but fortunately it has another USP: the remnants of the Field Station Berlin, a listening station that the US troops left behind in the 1990s. The equipment has long been removed, but the buildings and radar domes are still there.

If you want to look at the towers from the outside and gaze over Berlin and the big green area of the Grunewald, you don’t have to enter the Field Station and pay the quite hefty entry fee. There’s the 99 metres high Drachenberg right next to the Teufelsberg, which you can just walk up. If you can spare a few euros, however, it’s totally worth it: the buildings and radar towers are filled with beautiful street art and a paradise for UrbEx lovers.

Take the S-Bahn to Heerstraße and follow the Teufelsseechaussee. It will lead you to the Drachenberg and the Teufelsberg. The Field Station is accessible 365 days a year.

Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

2. Flak Tower in Volkspark Humboldthain

When walking up the hill in Volkspark Humboldthain, a beautiful park in the district of Gesundbrunnen, it may take you a while to realise there’s something on top of it. Slowly, you start to make out the concrete structures through the trees, rising high above you. You climb a little further, take a few stairs, and suddenly you’re standing on the remnants of one of Hitler’s most important constructions to protect Berlin during World War II.

This is a ‘Flakturm’ (a Flak Tower), one of three that Berlin once had. Just like the other two, this tower was blown up in the late 1940’s – though not as thoroughly as the others. When standing on top of it, you’ll notice what an excellent location this was to spot enemy bombers. You can even go inside the tower, which had space for 15,000 civilians. Berliner Unterwelten has made the ruins accessible and now offers tours from April to the end of October.

Volkspark Humboldthain
Take the S-Bahn to station Gesundbrunnen and exit the station at the Brunnenstraße. Volkspark Humboldthain is right in front of you, on the opposite side of the road.

Berliner Unterwelten
Brunnenstrasse 105, Gesundbrunnen

The Flak Tower in Volkspark Humboldthain.
Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

1. TanzSuite – PanoramaLounge

My absolute no. 1, for multiple reasons. First of all, this dancing school/bar is located in one of the GDR towers at Strausberger Platz, my favourite square in the heart of Berlin (not just because I live here). This means it’s an excellent excuse to get inside one of these architectural highlights of Berlin. Second, it is very close to Alexanderplatz and therefore the Fernsehturm will feature very prominently in any pictures you take. Third, there are no tourists here. Just ring the bell downstairs and take the elevator to the top floor. Order a drink at the bar and enjoy the amazing view.

TanzSuite – PanoramaLounge
Strausberger Platz 1, Friedrichshain

Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans

Other than that

And in a city as big as Berlin, there are obviously many, many more possibilities to enjoy a great view from above. If you don’t mind paying a little more, you could also consider the panorama terrace of the Park Inn Hotel at Alexanderplatz, or the Panorama Punkt in one of the ‘skyscrapers’ at Potsdamer Platz. The ‘air balloon’ (Weltballon) near Checkpoint Charlie and the Victory Column/Siegessäule in Tiergarten are also quite special locations to enjoy a panoramic view over Berlin.