- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- German Phrases
Berlin Wall Walk
The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) came down more than 20 years ago, but it still manages to be a major tourist draw. How does a structure no longer standing affect the city even in its absence?
When the Wall fell on November 9, 1989, it followed massive protests, an astonishing amount of community organizing, and the prayers of thousands in both west and east, all of whom couldn't quite believe such a momentous event was happening in their lifetimes. Many had felt the same way 28 years earlier, when the East German government, in an attempt to keep their beleaguered citizens from leaving, built the wall practically overnight. Now, except for a few sections left standing, all that remains of one of history's most notorious symbols of postwar oppression and imprisonment is a line of cobblestones wending its way through the streets of Berlin.
Follow the Cobblestones
To get beyond the overly commercialized stretches of the former Wall, like East Side Gallery or Checkpoint Charlie, just look down. Follow the cobblestone line, marked every so often with a metal plaque bearing the words "Berliner Mauer 1961-1989." The path illuminates the effects of the Wall on the city: it cut through neighborhoods, bisected narrow streets, and sliced lives in half.
Two Berlin Wall Walks
Friedrichshain to Treptow via the Oberbaumbrücke and the Flutgraben
Starting at the East Side Gallery, cross the Oberbaumbrücke, a former border checkpoint, and turn left at Schlesische Strasse. There's no sign of the Wall here, but ubiquitous graffiti and crumbling buildings make it easy to imagine isolated Kreuzberg when it stood. At Am Flutgraben, you'll pick up the trail again, and up ahead is the Grenzwachturm (border watchtower). Stop at the nonprofit art collective Flutgraben e.V., which hosts infrequent exhibitions. Turn right to follow the Flutgraben (small canal) south until you reach an overpass, part of an elevated railway that used to lead to the prewar train station Görlitzer Bahnhof. Now, the railway is a park connecting Treptow with Görlitzer Park, the site of the old station and a meeting point for anarchist groups and revolutionaries before the Wall fell.
Bernauer Strasse to Bornholmer Brücke via Mauer Park
Behind Nordbahnhof (S-bahn), follow Bernauer Strasse to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, located in the former "death strip," where a church was blown up by the East because it was an obstruction to guards and an alleged hiding place for those trying to flee. Follow Bernauer Strasse until you reach the corner of Schwedter Strasse, then take the path that cuts through Mauer Park. Also in the former death strip, the park has one of the best flea markets in town. At the park's northern end, Schwedter Strasse turns into the Schwedter Steg, a footbridge over an impressive chasm of connecting train tracks and S-bahn lines. Turn around for a spectacular view of the TV tower. Head down steps on your left and continue along Norwegerstrasse. After going under the famous Bornholmer Brücke, take the flight of steps up to it. This is where East Berliners overwhelmed the Wall checkpoint and became the first to push through to West Berlin.
Iconic East Berlin
Many East Berlin designs have crept into daily life here, such as the figure that appears on the crosswalk traffic lights. The stocky East Berlin Ampelmann ("streetlight man") wears a wide-brim hat and walks with an animated gait. The Ampelmann has been adopted by all crosswalks in Berlin, not just those in the former east. He also adorns coffee cups and T-shirts, and there's even candy made in his image. Entire gift shops are dedicated to him, such as those found in the Hackesche Höfe in Mitte and the Arkaden mall at Potsdamer Platz.
The Brandenburg Gate may be the city symbol for Berlin tourism, but the soaring East German television tower, the Berliner Fernsehturm, is an enormously popular silhouette for Berlin-based companies' logos, nightclub flyers, and ads. You can buy T-shirts, messenger bags, and pillows emblazoned with the image, which was once referred to as the Tele-spargel (TV asparagus) for its spindly shape.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Germany for Less! Flights to Berlin From 545 R/T ASAPTickets.com
- Save in Berlin: Book 3 Nts in May Fr $179+/Nt Save with Expedia, $25/night less
- Look no Further! Berlin Hotels Fr $236+/Nt Travelocity
- 4-Star Berlin Sale! 4 Nts + Air Fr $1402 Expedia
- Hot Deal on a 9 Nt Cruise! Viking River Cruises Fr $2,706 Expedia