Knocked down more than a quarter of a century ago, the Berlin Wall remains the most emblematic symbol of the Cold War. Some sections of this former concrete barrier can still be seen in Berlin, evoking a dark time of division, repression, and longing for freedom.
While visiting the remains of the wall and its memorial sites, you’ll be able to understand the Cold War-era spying between the East and the West, hear stories about families who spent years separated, and learn how the East German secret police operated, among other key-facts.
So, if you’re seeking to delve into Germany’s turbulent past and learn about the most significant events in the world’s history, a tour of the Berlin Wall is a must.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’re breaking down all of the essential information you need to know before taking off on a Berlin wall tour.
Read on to discover which sections of the Berlin Wall you can see, the best time for visiting, useful tips, and more!
Berlin Wall Tour: Essential Information & Tips For Visiting
An Overview Of Berlin Wall’s History
The Berlin Wall was an imposing concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Measuring 96-mile in length, the wall was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) with the purpose of keeping “Western fascists” from entering East Germany and threatening the socialist state.
Referred to as the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by GDR authorities, the wall completely separated West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin.
So, in short, West Berlin was formally controlled by the Western Allies (the United States, Great Britain, and France) and entirely surrounded by Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. With the closing of the East-West sector boundary in Berlin, the majority of East Germans could no longer travel or emigrate to West Germany.
After weeks of civil unrest, the government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. That night, Berliners herded to the wall, drinking beer and champagne, and used hammers and pick to knock away chunks of the wall. Demolition officially began on the 3rd of June 1990, and the reunification of East and West Germany was made official on October 3, 1990.
Is It Possible To Visit The Berlin Wall?
The Berlin wall fell in 1989, but there are a few sections standing still throughout Berlin, and it’s possible to visit these remains for free. In fact, the wall is one of Berlin’s most visited attractions.
What Can You See During a Berlin Wall Tour
Here’s a list of the key sites where you can see the Berlin Wall:
- East Side Gallery: Located along the Spree River, this is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. This section of the wall is covered in hundreds of graffiti paintings and was transformed into the world’s largest open-air gallery. A must-see mural is “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”, by Dmitri Vrubel, which depicts the Soviet politician Leonid Brezhnev kissing the leader of the GDR, Erich Honecker.
- Berlin Wall Memorial: Running along both sides of the famous Bernauer Straße, the Berlin Wall Memorial was created in 1998 to document the history of the division of the city into East and West Berlin. The site includes the last remaining piece of the wall, as well as an open-air exhibition that depicts the history of Germany’s capital between the wall being built and being torn down.
- Potsdamer Platz: In 2008, the last original segments of the Berlin Wall in Potsdamer Platz were torn down. Six sections were preserved and later erected at the entrance to the Potsdamer Platz station, and can be seen by visitors. Around the corner, you’ll find one of the last watchtowers left standing in the city.
- Bösebrücke: Located on the border point of Bornholmer Strasse, Bösebrücke is the historic bridge that German people crossed at 11:30 pm on November 9th to reach West Berlin. Some remains of the Berlin Wall can be seen from the bridge.
- Topography Of Terror: The Topography of Terror is a history museum housed in the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. There, you’ll come across documents and photographs that depict the crimes perpetrated throughout Europe during WWII. Another highlight of the museum is a 0,12-mile surviving section of the wall.
How Much It Costs To Visit The Berlin Wall
Visiting the remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall is free of charge. However, if you opt for taking a private tour of the wall, you’ll likely have to pay a certain amount. Note that prices vary according to the tour.
What Are The Best Berlin Wall Tours
Cold War Walking Tour: Led by local guides, participants are taken to catch a glimpse of Berlin’s most notable Cold War Sites, and learn about Germany’s capital at the time of the division. Highlights of a typical Cold War guided tour usually include the East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and hidden areas of the “Death Strip”.
Berlin Wall Underground Tour: Back when the German capital was a divided city, citizens risked their lives by digging tunnels in order to escape from East to West Berlin. In total, more than 70 tunnels were started, but only 19 were successful. Some of the tunnels are open to the public, making it a unique way to learn about the history of the wall, and the human stories of daring escapes.
Bike Tour: Berlin is one of the world’s most bike-friendly destinations, with plenty of routes leading to iconic landmarks and history-filled sites. Several of the wall’s traces, for instance, can be seen while cycling through the city.
Bike tours of the Berlin Wall take participants to explore significant sites including the East Side Gallery and other remnants of the wall, Checkpoint Charlie, The Palace of Tears (checkpoint Friedrichstraßeand), ghost stations, and even the death strip between the two main barriers of the “Berlin Mauer”.
World War II Tour: The Berlin Wall was built only in 1961, but tensions between the USSR and the USA rose shortly after the end of the Second World War, during the first phase of the Cold War.
A great way to truly understand the geopolitical, and ideological tension of the Cold War, is to go on a World War II Tour. While visiting sites like the Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, and the bunker where Hitler committed suicide, you’ll be able to learn how everything began, and what catapulted this other conflict.
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