Wow, Berlin’s got a tonne of fantastic buildings! Here’s my self-guided walking tour of Berlin architecture that shows off the city’s eclectic side. There’s a load of glass, brick and render out there …
1. Modern Berlin architecture at the Hauptbahnhof
A homage to glass, the multi-storey central train station (Hauptbahnhof) combines style and function and has itself become a Berlin landmark since opening in 2006. Wander amongst its many levels, try not to get lost by mixing up your S-Bahn with your U-Bahn (or was that just me?), and admire the precision of its sleek design as well as its punctual train departures.
From the Hauptbahnhof, walk south for 2km through Tiergarten to Potsdamer Platz, where you’ll find the very cool Spy Museum, some Berlin wall remnants, and my next piece of fancy Berlin architecture, the Sony Center.
2. The Sony Center’s wondrous glass roof
The Sony Center is home to a wondrous glass roof that reflects and refracts in the multitudinous glass edifices below.
It inspires lot of staring upwards. And plenty of picture-taking.
The Sony Center is also home several places to eat, some funky big screens, and a random pond.
Enough of the glass, the next stop is one of Berlin’s rapidly changing neighbourhoods, Prenzlauer Berg. It’s a good hour away from the Sony Center on foot, so you can let the train take the strain by hopping on U-bahn (Underground) line U2 from Potsdamer Platz to Eberswalder Straße.
3. Prenzlauer Berg
Part shabby chic, part gentrified, Prenzlauer Berg isn’t big on major Berlin landmarks, but it IS the place to go for renovated 19th century architecture. Think a fusion of pastel-painted facades, and you’re there.
One building that’s escaped the swooping of the paintbrush is the red-bricked Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery turned arts/museum/cultural complex.
The Kulturbrauerei also houses a Sunday street food market. Yum.
Plus, there’s this rather convenient Liebe (love) sign. Now if that’s not an invitation for a self-timer photo, I don’t know what is 🙂
Comfy shoes at the ready for this next bit … walk for around 3km south and east of the Kulturbrauerei through Prenzlauer Berg, via the Volkspark Friedrichshain, to the boulevard of Karl-Marx Allee.
4. Karl-Marx Allee, Friedrichshain
Karl-Marx-Allee is the example of Berlin architecture that made me decide Communist-era apartment blocks were the epitomy of cool. OK, maybe not ALL Communist-era apartment blocks, but definitely these.
The first seven- and eight-storey apartment buildings went up in a matter of months in the 1950s, a feat of labour-intensity designed to show Communist engineering and construction prowess.
The grandeur and uniformity of this 2.3km tree-lined boulevard has stood the test of time, and the high-ceilinged apartments are as much in demand now as they were back in the 1950s. A tenancy on Stalin Boulevard (as Karl-Marx Allee was then known) in that era signified you as a mover and a shaker in the former East Berlin.
Karl-Marx Allee ends at Frankfurter Tor. If you’re hungry by now (I know I was!), head right from here into the bustling streets of Friedrichshain, with cafes, bookstores and bike shops galore. I can recommend Fine Bagels at the Shakespeare & Sons bookstore on Warshauer Strasse.
Keep heading towards the river for the final stop on this Berlin architecture tour – the Oberbaumbrücke, East Side Gallery and surrounds.
5. Oberbaumbrücke and surrounds
The Oberbaumbrücke over the River Spree is another red brick wonder of Berlin architecture. Walk across the bridge under its uniform arches, ride over it on a bright yellow U-Bahn train (yup, that is an oxymoron), or under it on a river cruise.
Back when Berlin was divided, the bridge marked a checkpoint between East and West. Nearby is the longest stretch of remaining Berlin wall, now the East Side Gallery arts project.
During the time of my visit (July 2016), one side of the wall had a tear-inducing temporary exhibition on Syria, featuring powerful images and stories from a land blighted by war.
The area either side of the Berlin Wall was once a no-mans land, but is now a property developers dream.
With fancy new apartment blocks, a new music arena under construction, and a bright turquoise office building, it’s all going on in this part of town.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to take pics of cranes criss-crossing the skyline, this is where you need to be.
Berlin architecture summed up: diverse
There’s seemingly a gazillion architectural styles and projects in Berlin. The forthcoming Humboldt Forum promises to be another exciting development, which means only one thing: I’ll need to go back!
Have you been to Berlin? Which were your favourite architecture sites? Share your know-how below 🙂