Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie

Frank O. Gehry's DZ Bank

By Steven Wright

Berlin is full of destinations for tourists to visit, there is something for absolutely everyone. This walking tour is only 4km and the route would only take an hour to complete, but with all the highlights on this tour I would suggest you would need most of the day to take in all these sites and attractions.

Start under the Sony Centre canopy at Potsdamer Platz, grab a coffee and a snack at the Arkaden before heading off. Check my post on Postdamer Platz for more information. Turn left on to Ebertstrasse, as you are walking down the street you will see the start of Tiergarten on the left side of the street.

At Hannah-Arendt Strasse, you have hit your first stop (or maybe it hits you): the Memorial to all the Murdered Jews in Europe. Immediately you are drawn in by the overwhelming size of all the black stone pillars lined up across the entire site. As you enter and start to walk through the pillars, the perspectives are amazing as you look down the long path to the other side. The pillars get taller as you get to the centre and the ground slopes downward, you find yourself lost in the maze. As the sounds outside are muted, there is a feeling of a presence here, that stays with you as you reflect on the significance of this site.

Continue down Ebertstrasse, you will be approaching the Brandenburg Gate, when you get to the front look down into Tiergarten to catch a glimpse of the Siegessäule, Berlin’s Victory Column in the centre of the park. Walk past the Brandenburg Gate (you will be back in a bit) and continue on to the next stop the Reichstag. Turn left onto Scheidemannstrasse to get to Platz der Republik.

As you approach the Reichstag you will notice the line forming up the stairs, this may discourage some tourists, but I insist its worth the wait. (If you speak German, there is a person who will go through the line escorting German nationals to the front.) Once you enter the building there is a security check before you are ushered into a large elevator destined for the roof. Once there you are drawn to the glass dome by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Walk up and down inside for an incredible view of the city. At the bottom there is a historic account of this imposing building’s history. Notice the council chamber below through the window and mirrored column, signifying the transparency of today’s German Parliament. Then walk to all four corners for the best view of Berlin.

After exiting the Reichstag, head back to the Brandenburg Gate. As you pass through the gate you will be in Pariser Platz. This is a great area to get the best pictures of the gate. My favorite building in this area is the DZ Bank building at Pariser Platz 3 designed by architect Frank O Gehry. While the building is unassuming from the outside, the real treasure is found inside. Although this is not really a public place you can go through into the reception to catch a glimpse at a masterpiece. Looking into the office building you can see Gehry’s reference to fish in the scale like glass ceiling over the cafeteria and the roof of the building, the reference continues in the back of the building with a huge structure over a staircase that look like organs. Its an inspiring space to be in.

From Pariser Platz head down Unter de Linden towards the TV Tower in Mitte. Take in the beauty of the old buildings, souvenir shops and restaurants. At Fredrichstrasse turn right. There is more shopping and high end retailers along the way. At Fredrichstrasse 71 you will find department store Quartier 206, designed by architect I.M. Pei. Whether you are in market for a Louis Vuitton bag or not, this store is a must see. When you enter, you are overwhelmed by the shine of the black and white stone tiled floors and the sheer beauty of the interior, don’t forget to look up to see the amazing glass ceiling made of Pei’s signature triangular pieces. You feel the elegance in this space.

Continue down Fredrichstrasse to one of the cold war access points between East and West Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie. This museum is dedicated to the history of this corner and the bravery and determination of Berliners who attempted to cross from East to West Berlin. The exhibits include many of the secrets and contraptions people used to gain access, risking their lives in many ways to do so. A must see.

Click to see my photo gallery of the Glass Ceiling walking tour

Germany Posts:
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin


7 thoughts on “Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie

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