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Places

Explore Berlin in the footsteps of the Wall

If you’d like to immerse yourself in the time when Berlin was a divided city, here are six recommendations for to explore.

On the evening of November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall that divided Berlin fell. Here are six recommendations for destinations and experiences that will transport you from now to then in the footsteps of the Wall. 

 

Photo: Shutterstock

Party atmosphere on “the death strip”

Mauerpark today is home to Berlin’s largest weekend flea market, attracting thousands of visitors as they hunt for a bargain, enjoy street food, musicians and incredibly popular karaoke in an amphitheater. It’s hard to imagine that this festive location was once known as “the death strip,” a no-man’s land between the two sides of the Wall, laden with mines, watchtowers, miles of anti-vehicle trenches, guard dogs, trip-wire machine guns, monitored closely by armed guards. Only the most desperate dared to attempt to cross this treacherous zone.

Mauerpark

Bernauer Straße 63, Berlin

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Contemporary art in a classic setting

A stone’s throw from Potsdamer Platz, just across from where the Wall stood until 1990, s Martin Gropius Bau – a leading European museum of modern, contemporary and photo art, displaying over 20 major exhibitions each year. The neo-Renaissance bulding housing the museum is considered one of the most beautiful in Berlin. This year, the Gropius Bau will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall with an international art exhibit, “Walking Through Walls,” which views German reunification in a global context with the aid of artists such as Jose Dávila, Mona Hatoum, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Christian Odzuck, Anri Sala and Regina Silveira. “Walking Through Walls” runs from 12 September 2019 to 12 January 2020.

Gropius-Bau

Niederkirchnerstraße 7, Berlin

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Photo: Ostel

Spend the night in the DDR

If you’re game to take a closer look not only at what life looked like in the former DDR, but also how it felt and smelled, you can book a room at Ostel. All the rooms in this unique hostel are housed in an authentic 1970s “Plattenbau” – a building constructed from concrete slabs. Appropriately enough, it’s furnished East German-style with patterned wallpaper and gloomy carpets.

Ostel

Wriezener Karree 5, Berlin

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Prison stories

Sometimes it can be difficult not to wallow in Ostalgie (nostalgia for the former DDR), feelings that many Germans, despite everything, still harbor. To avoid falling into the trap of over-romanticizing the DDR, you can visit the former Stasi prison in Hohenschönhausen, which is now a combined museum and memorial. The guides are former guards and prisoners who give eyewitness testimony to some of the terrors that took place in this infamous state security prison.

Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen

Genslerstraße 66, Berlin

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Photo: Shutterstock

Lunch in no man’s land

One definite must-see is a visit to the East Side Gallery. This is the famous graffitied section of the Wall where the so-called Fraternal Kiss painting of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker remains just as passionate today – as documented by the nonstop merrily clicking tourist cameras. Make sure you arrive with an appetite. A short walk along the Wall brings you to Holzmarkt, the quirky urban oasis where the much-hyped hidden foodies’ restaurant Katerschmaus serves modern, delicious food on the banks of the River Spree. And be sure to step out on the terrace, so you don’t miss the unmistakable TV Tower, with its views from the former East to the old West.

Katerschmaus

Holzmarktstraße 25, Berlin

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Photo: Berliner Unterwelten

Go underground

Over 70 tunnels were constructed under the Berlin Wall, and around 300 individuals managed to escape through them. The Berliner Unterwelten-Museum, as this conglomeration of tunnels and bunkers is now called, offers a unique experience descending into the chilly air beneath the Bernauer Straße underground station and through some of the walkways. There, amid over seven escape routes only a few hundred meters apart, you can almost feel the fear and desperation of those prepared to risk it all.

Berliner Unterwelten, Tour M

Brunnenstraße 105, Berlin

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