Perhaps the most iconic structure in all of Germany, this 18th-century neoclassical monument dates all the way back to 1788. It stands on the site of a former city gate, that marked the start of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg an der Havel. The gate has been the site of many major historical events. In recent years the gate has been a symbol of hope , unity and peace, far removed from its tumultuous past.
Although the gate survived the mass destruction of WW2, it was badly damaged. The columns were riddled with bullet holes and only one of the horse’s head from the original quadriga survived. It is now kept in the collection at the Märkisches Museum.
The Brandenburg Gate also has a special place in Berlin Marathon history. The “Run Free Marathon”, or “The Run of Unity” (“Das Lauf der Einheit”), were among the names given to the Berlin Marathon in 1990. Just three days before the official reunification of Germany, the course of the Berlin Marathon passed through Brandenburg Gate. Runners poured, many of them with tears in their eyes, through the German capital’s most famous landmark.
This momentous occasion was something something special; total strangers from around the world hugged each other and wished each other guten tag. It became evident that mass participation sport was something unique and unifying; a form of celebration, the likes of which the world had never seen before! In 1990 East German native (and now Boston Marathon legend) Uta Pippig took a poignant victory in the ladies race in a time of 2:28:37, while Steve Moneghetti of Australia was the fastest finisher in 2:08:16 a world leading time for the year so far.
2. East Side Gallery
An open air gallery in the heart of Berlin, the East Side Gallery is a series of murals painted directly onto 1,316 m of what remains of the Berlin Wall. The Gallery consists of 105 paintings, created in 1990, by artists from 21 different countries. It was painted on the east side of Berlin, on the “hinterland mauer”, which closed the border to West Berlin. Broadly considered a monument to the fall of the Berlin Wall. This symbol of European Unity attracts some 3 million visitors a year. Particularly iconic segments of the wall include Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss, and Birgit Kinders’s Trabant Breaking Through the Wall.
The gallery is a unique and memorable way to experience the infamous Berlin wall. If you do go, be sure to pack a camera, to capture some of the postcard famous images for yourself. Warschauer Straße and Ostbahnhof railway stations offer excellent start points for a walk along the gallery, which could be the perfect short walk, to stretch your legs following a marathon effort.
3. River Tour of Berlin
After a leisurely walk through the East Side Gallery, which sits on the banks of the river, what better way could there be to discover Germany’s first city, than on a boat tour of the River Spree?
The Spree runs from a small pond in the Lusatian Highlands close to the Czech border. It was on the banks of the Spree that the historic centre of Berlin was built. To this day, the most famous kilometres of the river are those which flow through the centre of Berlin. A River Spree boat cruise can be a superb way to cram in many of the architectural and historical highlights of the city into a short period of time. After the East Side Gallery, the river passes Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), the Reichstag, and the Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg).
Other highlights of the River Spree include Museum Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site, ‘Museum Island’ gets its name from the complex of internationally significant museums, which all feature as part of the Berlin State Museums, that occupy the northern part of the island. Oberbaumbrücke (Oberbaum Bridge) is a double- deck bridge. With its iconic Brick Gothic style towers, the bridge itself became iconic as another part of the boundary between East and West Germany.
More recently, in 2004, the Badeschiff, a floating swimming pool, was opened in the East Harbour section of the River Spree. It allows a clean and safe swimming experience in the river environment, which is otherwise far too polluted and treacherous to permit safe bathing.
Home of the German parliament, the Reichstag is perhaps one of the most recognizable buildings in world politics. Completed in 1894, the Reichstag was designed by German architect Paul Wallot, and styled after Memorial Hall in Philadelphia. After the turbulent start to the 20th Century; the Reichstag stood in ruin by the end of the Second World War. It wasn’t until 1956 in fact, that it was decided the Reichstag should be restored. The official reunification ceremony (3rd October 1990) was held at the Reichstag building, once again cementing its place at the heart of German politics.
The Reichstag is now the second most visited attraction in Germany. Among the most popular reasons to visit, is the view from the huge glass dome on the roof. Designed by Norman Foster, the dome harks back to the cupola, that originally featured on the Reichstag before the war. The huge glass dome offers an incredible 360 degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The dome is open to the public, and the debating chamber of the German parliament can be seen below. An environmentally friendly and energy efficient design, the dome has a mirrored cone at its center. This cone directs sunlight into the building, reducing the need for electric lighting.
Known as the green lung of the city, Tiergarten Park is Berlin’s most popular inner city park. The history of the park can be traced back as far as 1527. Tiergarten Park has been at the heart of Berlin city life for centuries. In summer the park is popular with joggers, cyclists, walkers, and, of course, those who want simply to relax in the sun. In winter, it is sometimes possible to go ice skating on some of the park’s ponds.
The park is home to Germany’s oldest Zoo. The Berlin Zoological Garden was opened in 1844, and these days is the most visited zoo in Europe. Each year, more than 3.3 million visitors, from all over the world, pass through the gates.
The park is home to some of the City’s most notable statues and monuments such as, The Victory Column and several WW2 memorials, including the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism. It is also close to some of the city’s other most notable sites, such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, and the central square, Potsdamer Platz.
The Berlin Marathon starts (and finishes) on Straße des 17. Juni, which runs east–west through heart of the Tiergarten. So perhaps the Park would be the perfect place for a warm up jog, before your big day, or a gentle walk the day after to relive your marathon highlights.
Let us know what your highlights off Berlin are in the comments below. Perhaps we’ll see you there next September!