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Berlin travel guide — Berlin tourism and travel information

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about Berlin

Berlin [bɛrˈliːn] is the national capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,387,404 inhabitants (as of September 2004; down from 4.5 million before World War II, and on the decline since German reunification in 1990).

Berlin is located on the rivers Spree and Havel in the northeast of Germany. It is enclosed by the German state (Bundesland) of Brandenburg, and it constitutes a state of its own.

Berlin sights

Even though Berlin does have a number of impressive buildings from earlier centuries, the city today is mainly stamped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the governments which had their respective seat in Berlin — namely the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the GDR, and now the reunified Germany — initiated ambitious construction programs, each with its own distinctive character. Berlin was devastated by bombardments during World War II, and many of the old buildings that were left were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both the West and the East. Much of this destruction was caused by overambitious architecture programs, especially in order to build new living or business quarters. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no other city in the world offers Berlin's unusual mix of architecture, especially 20th century architecture. The city's tense and unique recent history has left it with a distinctive array of sights.

Not much is left of the actual Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain near the Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree preserves a portion of the Wall. It is still possible to tell if one is in the former eastern or western part by observing the architecture. In the eastern part, many Plattenbauten can be found, thanks to Eastern ambitions to create complete residential areas with fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools per block. Another difference between former east and west is in the design of little red and green men on pedestrian crossing lights (Ampelmännchen in German); the eastern versions are a popular icon in tourist products.

Berlin history

Early settlements

At about 720 two Slavic tribes settled in the Berlin region. The Heveller settled at the river Havel with their central settlement in Brennabor which later has bacome the town of Brandenburg. Close to the river Spree in todays borough of Berlin Köpenick the Sprewanen were found.

The Heveller founded another place at the river Havel in about 750. This (todays Spandau). Spandau and Köpenick which had been protected with barriers around 825, had been the major settlements and later towns in the area until the early 11th century.

Berlin and Cölln

Berlin itself is one of Europe's younger cities with its origin in the 12th century. The city developed out of the two settlements Berlin and Cölln on both sides of river Spree in todays borough Mitte. With the date October 28th, 1237 Cölln is first documentary mentioned, Berlin in 1244. Unfortunatly the great town center fire damaged most written record of those early days in 1830.

Both cities formed a trade union in 1307 and participated in the Hanse. Their urban development parallel took place for 400 years until Cölln and Berlin finally unified under the name of Berlin in 1709, including the suburbs Friedrichswerder, Dorotheenstadt and Friedrichstadt.

Not much is left of these ancient communities, although some remainders can be near the Rotes Rathaus and the Klosterkirche close to todays Alexanderplatz.

Urban development between the 15th and 17th century

The first City Palace had been built at the embankment of the river Spree from 1443 to 1451. At that time Berlin-Cölln counted about 8,000 inhabitants. In 1576, the pest killed about 4,000 people in the city.

During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Berlin's number of inhabitants shrank from 10,000 to 6,000.

In 1640 Frederick William took regency in the principality of Brandenburg. During his government Berlin reached 20,000 inhabitants and became significant among the cities in Central Europe for the first time.

A boulevard with six rows of trees was put on between the park Tiergarten and the Palace in 1647. The boulevard is called Unter den Linden.

Some years later (from 1674 on), the Dorotheenstadt was constructed in a bow of the river Spree northwest of the Spree-island where the Palace was situated. From 1688 on the Friedrichstadt was built and settled.


In January 18, 1701, Frederick III was crowned King Frederick I in Prussia and made Berlin the capital of the new kingdom of Prussia.

In 1709, Berlin-Cölln was joined together with 'Friedrichswerder', the 'Dorotheenstadt' and 'Friedrichstadt' under the name of Berlin, with 60,000 inhabitants.

Weimar Republic and Third Reich (Third Empire)

The overall impression one gets when visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting the many ruptures of Germany's difficult history in the 20th century.

Although it was the residence of the Prussian kings, Berlin's population did not greatly expand until the 19th century, mainly after becoming the capital of the German Empire in 1871. It remained Germany's capital during the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis' Third Empire; it was therefore a primary target in the Allied air raids of World War II.

The divided city

After World War II, Berlin, just like Germany itself, was divided into four sectors by the Allies: one each for the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. The Soviets occupied East Berlin, and the other three occupied West Berlin. Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet sector of Germany and became a natural focal point of the opposing sides in the Cold War. Starting on June 26, 1948, Stalin's "Berlin Blockade" of West Berlin led the western countries to supply it through the Berlin Airlift.

The Soviet sector of Berlin, East Berlin, became the capital of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) when the country was formed from the Soviet sector in 1949. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), formed from the other three sectors, had its capital in Bonn. On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed, splitting West Berlin from the rest of East Germany.


The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. By the time Germany reunified in 1990, the Wall was almost completely demolished, with only small sections of ruins remaining, and once again Berlin was made the capital of a unified Germany.

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Berlin real estate

City Travel Guide comes with Berlin real estate guide with several tips on home valuation, realtors comparison, secrets on finding the "right" home, loans guide and other helpful real estate advices. Our partners also maintain Berlin property for sale and rental listings, real estate laws and reviews. We will try to help you with buying property in Germany, choosing real estate agents, property finders, relocation help, and information for English speakers wanting to buy real estate in Berlin.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Berlin".

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