This article is about the city in Germany. For other articles on subjects named Berlin, see Berlin (disambiguation).

Berlin is the national capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,389,450 inhabitants (as of 2002; 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 state colors are red/white/red with a black upright bear which is a symbol of the city. The bear of West Berlin, which was adopted for the re-unified city bears a regular crown, whereas the East Berlin bear's crown had been made of bricks (sic!).

Table of contents
1 Politics of Berlin
2 History
3 Sights
4 Culture
5 External links

Politics of Berlin

Formerly a part of Mark Brandenburg, Berlin has been a separate state since 1920, making it one of the three city states among today's 16 German Bundesländer.

Berlin is governed by a Regierender Bürgermeister ("governing mayor"), who is mayor of the city and head of the Bundesland at the same time. Presently, this office is held by Klaus Wowereit; for earlier mayors, see the list of Mayors of Berlin. The city and state parliament is called the Abgeordnetenhaus or House of Representatives, while the executive branch is the Senat or Senate, with Senators holding ministerial portfolios. The current government consists of a coalition of the social democrat SPD and the socialist PDS.

Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs called Bezirke, which have been merged of the previously existing 23 boroughs with effect from January 1, 2001. For a map and a list of the old and new borough names, see Boroughs of Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate (June 2003)


Main article: History of Berlin

Berlin was founded around 1200 as two cities, Berlin and Cölln, which only united in 1307. Berlin is therefore quite old; however, not much is left of these ancient communities, although some remainders can be seen in the Nikolaiviertel near the city hall. Instead, the impression one gets visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting mainly the many ruptures in Germany's difficult history in the 20th century.

After having been the residence of the Prussian kings, Berlin didn't grow large until the 19th century, especially after becoming the capital of the 1871 German Empire. It remained Germany's capital in the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis; it was therefore a primary target in the air raids of World War II.

After the city's separation in two, East Berlin was the capital of the GDR (East Germany), while the FRG (West Germany), had its capital in Bonn. An island of the western world in the territory of the east, West Berlin was the natural focal point of the two blocks of the Cold War. In 1948, the "Berlin Blockade" led to the Berlin Airlift. On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed between East Berlin and West Berlin.

The wall fell on November 9, 1989. By the time of the German reunification in 1990, the Wall was gone completely and Berlin was made the capital of all of Germany again.


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. On the one hand, 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. On the other hand, Berlin was devastated in the 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 in overambitious architecture programs, especially in order to build new living or business quarters. Although not much is left of the actual Berlin Wall (for remainders see the West Side Gallery, on the Eastern side of the Spree, near the Oberbaumbruecke, one can usually still tell by the architecture if one is in the former eastern or western part. In the eastern part a lot of plattenbaus can be found, thanks to Eastern ambitions to create complete residential areas, with fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools per block.

West Berlin

  • Kurfürstendamm with the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), which lies at the very beginning of Kurfürstendamm, on Breitscheidplatz (underground station Kurfürstendamm). The church was bombed out in World War II and its ruin has been preserved in the damaged state.
  • Tiergarten (Berlin's largest park, a masterpiece of classic park building, largely deforestated by 1948 because it served as a source of firewood for the devastated city), Tegel, and Grunewald Forests.
  • Kreuzberg, both the borough and the hill which is (contrary to the Insulaner or the Teufelsberg, a natural elevation), Insulaner and Teufelsberg (both made of WWII debris).
  • Rathaus Schöneberg with John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, whence John-F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech.

Reichstag (Summer 2000)

Mitte (historic and modern center)

  • Alexanderplatz
  • Berliner Dom
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Cathedral of St. Hedwig (St.-Hedwigs-Kathedrale)
  • Checkpoint Charlie, remains and a museum about one of the crossing points (albeit restricted to Allied forces) in the Berlin Wall. The museum exhibits interesting material about people who devised ingenious plans to leave the East.
  • Fernsehturm, the TV tower, the highest building in the city with almost 1200 ft. (In Berlin, the building of skyscrapers is out of question for historical reasons, although some of the new buildings at Potsdamer Platz are fairly high)
  • Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the most beautiful square in Berlin
  • Nikolaiviertel, with the Nicolaikirche
  • Palast der Republik, old East German parliament building, seen by some as ugly, but it does have its history and positive connotations (concerts took place there in the 80s). Located where the Berlin City Palace used to stand.
  • Potsdamer Platz, an entire quarter constructed from scratch after 1995. Strangely American and a must-see for people who like modern city planning.
  • Reichstag building, the old and new seat of the German parliament, renovated by Sir Norman Foster. Features a glass vault in which you can walk around and watch the parlamentarians from above.
  • Rotes Rathaus, the town hall
  • Scheunenviertel, formerly the slums of Berlin, but today the place of alternative culture, with countless clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes holds the New Synagogue in the Oranienburger Straße (originally built in the 1860s in Moorish style with a large golden dome, and reconstructed in 1993) and the Hackesche Höfe, a conglomeration of several buildings around several courtyards, nicely reconstructed after 1996. The Scheunenviertel was a center of Jewish culture before the Nazis came about.
  • Straße des 17. Juni, connecting Brandenburger Tor in the East and Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the West, commemorating the uprisings in East Berlin of June 17, 1953. Features the golden Siegessäule (Statue of Victory), which used to stand in front of the Reichstag.
  • Unter den Linden is the street that heads east from the Brandenburger Tor. Many classicistic buildings are lined up on both sides of the street. Humboldt University is partly located there.



Opera Houses



Universities of Applied Sciences


After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many houses partially destroyed in World War II and not yet rebuilt were situated in the city center (formerly the western part of East Berlin). They became a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and counter-culture as well as many nightclubs, including the world-famous Tresor, which is one of the most important Techno clubs in the world. Especially the occupation of deserted houses by people of alternative lifestyles has boosted this development. Berlin has a rich art scene, even though it is increasingly coming under financial pressure, because rents have been increasing since the German government moved back to Berlin from Bonn.

External links

States of Germany:
Baden-Württemberg | Bavaria | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bremen | Hamburg | Hesse | Mecklenburg-Vorpommern | Lower Saxony | North Rhine-Westphalia | Rhineland-Palatinate | Saarland | Saxony | Saxony-Anhalt | Schleswig-Holstein | Thuringia