By: Steven Wright
One of the things I adore about European cities are the public squares. The magic of a car free, pedestrian area with restaurants lining the perimeter, a gathering place with booths selling artist works, street food, product launches and a “happening place” kind of presence, a place where you can relax and people watch. Potsdamer Platz is a visionary modern public square.
Potsdamer Platz is central to most of Berlin. During WWII, it became one of the most bombed areas due to its proximity to the Reichstag and other government buildings, leaving the area virtually flattened after the war. Post WWII, it became no man’s land, the area of great divide between East and West Berlin. After reunification, this area became one of the largest construction sites in Europe, leading to a total rebirth of this desirable locale.
Today’s Potsdamer Platz is both a community and a destination. There are brilliant modern condominiums and office towers lining the streets, high end hotel chains, restaurants and shops, museums and theatres, an Arkaden (mall) and even a casino can be found here. Extremely connected with links to the S&U Bahn, buses and DB bike rentals.
There are 3 skyscrapers dotting the corner, along with the entrances to the train station, and replicas of the first ever traffic lights in Europe. This corner is like no other in Berlin, the buildings are large and imposing, but are also incredibly beautiful both in colour and shape, creating a new gate into Potsdamer Platz. No. 1 houses the “Panoramapunkt” viewing platform, located 100 m above ground level, which is accessed by riding Europe’s fastest elevator (8.65 metres per second).
On the south side of Potsdamer Strasse find the Arkaden. On the lower level find one of the best food courts I have seen, filled with fresh fish, sandwiches, even a grocery store. Lots of great shopping continues on the main and upper level. Caffé e Gelato is a must stop for a cappuccino and an amazing Gelato treat. Behind the Arkaden is the Speilbank Berlin casino and a beautiful place to sit and relax overlooking “Untitled (Boxers)”, 1987 by Keith Hering.
On the north side find what I consider to be the pièce de résistance, the Sony Centre. Best to enter through the DB office tower at the east end, you will notice a path that is lit with an amazing blue light, on the right notice the restored parts of the Hotel Esplanade, which was moved 75 metres to its new home after surviving the war. The historic location of the Berlin Wall has been incorporated into the site; look for the metal markers across the grounds.
Looking down the walkway you are drawn into a large circular opening, surrounded by buildings holding up a huge canopy of glass and metal, the site is awe inspiring. The Sony Centre houses many great restaurants that have patios overlooking the square, an English language movie theatre with IMAX, a Lego store, Sony store, and the Filmhaus Berlin. The Sony Centre becomes even more beautiful at night when the canopy is lit up brilliant colours that can be seen from all over the city. Find a seat around the fountain for people watching, red carpet premieres, concert performances and much more. I find myself visiting Potsdamer Platz multiple times each trip to Berlin.
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin