Alexanderplatz: Berlin’s most vibrant square
Alexanderplatz, or Alex as it is called by Berliners, is one of the most popular squares. This has a lot to do with the weird shiny marble on a large stick, better known as the famous landmark, the Fernsehturm. But not all. Alexanderplatz is also popular among Berliners, just for the square. During the golden twenties Alex was the place to be. They went there for drinking, betting and partying. And today the square still is very lively and vibrant.
View on Berlin
The best view to check this out is of course, high up, inside the Fernsehturm. You will get a great view at the square and the rest of the city center. And if you take the elevator down, don’t be surprised if Alex has pretty colors all of a sudden. Play along, and get your own crayon to paint the pebbles with toddlers, squatters and men walking their dogs.
On warm and sunny days some Berliners put crayons in buckets, place old couches on the square and than something magical happens to Berlin Alexanderplatz. Men walking their dogs start drawing alongside tourists, toddlers and squatters. After the whole square is filled with art, they chill out on the couches. In other cities nothing happens with crayon on the street, but in Berlin, and especially, Berlin Alexanderplatz, people grab the colors, start mingling and create street art straight away. Everything is possible at Alex.
Berlin Alexanderplatz has always been the place to be. In the golden twenties after a hard days work Berliners went to Berlin Alexanderplatz. The place was incredibly noisy: cars honked loudly, trams went on and of and there was a lot hustle and bustle in the surrounding cafes. Alfred Doblin wrote about it in his famous book Berlin Alexanderplatz. His main character Franz Biberkopf plunges into the rough world of Berlin Alexanderplatz and drowns in his misery. This famous novel made the square even more well known.
During the Second World War the golden days of Berlin Alexanderplatz seems to be long gone, when it gets heavily hit by bombs. Nearly all of the buildings on the square and its surroundings were demolished. After the war it was replaced by a very different type of buildings: plattenbau, the infamous east-German concrete building style. The difference between the buildings of pre war and after war Alexanderplatz is imminent.
One would think the square lost its charm because of this change. However, although its looks changed dramatically, Berliners still love the place. And it is still a place where Berliners shop, drink, hustle and chill.
Punkers at Alex
One of the reasons for this is the nearby Fernsehturm. The Fernsehturm and Alexanderplatz are not only beloved by tourists, but also by squatters and punkers. In the late seventies and early eighties punkers already liked to hang out on the square and eat at the buffet restaurant below the Fernsehturm. The Stasi even put cameras on the square to watch what they were doing at Berlin Alexanderplatz, but that didn’t stop the punkers from going there. You can see this for yourself at the Stasi-museum, that still shows old pictures of what the cameras filmed on the square.
1805: named after Russian Emperor Alexander I in honor of his visit to Berlin
1920s: most popular square of Berlin
1929: publication of novel Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin
1945: Alex is demolished
1980: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15,5 hour adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz
1989: 4th of November the largest peaceful demonstration in the history of East Germany
360.000 people daily visit the square
The Fernsehturm, erected in 1969, is Berlin’s most famous landmark. The GDR-government was very proud of the Fernsehturm, but not so pleased with it when the sun was shining. When the sun is shining on the tower, a radiant cross appears on the Fernsehturm. Berliners call this ‘the Popes revench’ because the GDR-government was very anti-religion.
Berlin Alexanderplatz has much more to offer. The nearby Marien kirche (church, built in 1292) has a very interesting and weird fresco. Disintegrated bodies that look like E.T dance with men in colorful robes on the walls and pillars of this Berlin church. This Totentanz (dead men’s dance) was created in the Marien Kirche when the Black Death hit Berlin (1484).
One of the most beautiful fountains in Europe is the Neptunbrunnen in Berlin. The Roman god of water Neptune stands in the middle of the fountain near Alexanderplatz. In his hand he holds his trident. And he stands on a bronze Musselshell. Four powerful tritons (messengers of the sea) with horse legs carry him.
Another interesting place to be is close by: the statues of the fathers of communism Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. They overlook Rotes Rathaus and the hustle and bustle of Berlin Mitte when children and their parents try to climb on their lap.
More Mitte on Place to be:
The Friedrichstrasse is the perfect street to gawp and aw at the prestigious windowsills full of expensive cars, clothes and interesting books. You will find bookparadise Dussmann here, as well as glamorous Galerie Lafayette, luxurious hotels and restaurants.
At the Holocaust monument architect Peter Eisenman depicted the horrors that victims of the Holocaust experienced. His maze of grey concrete shows us how terribly organized the brutal acts during the Second World War were. The maze looks just as organized as the Nazi’s, with it’s slabs of concrete, but is chaotic at the same time.
The Humboldthafen shows how dynamic Berlin is. What used to be no-man’s-land, now turns into an area with modern architecture. In the Cold War Humboldthafen was quite a sinister place to be. The first victim of the Berlin Wall fell at Humboldthafen. Gunter Liftin tried to swim from East to West but was killed during his flight.
Policemen carefully walk around the New Synagogue of Berlin. Quite understandable if you know what happened to the Jewish community of Berlin during the Second World war. The few Jewish buildings that survived the war are cherished. Now, the new synagogue shines in the sunlight.
Rosa Luxemburg Platz has a very bloody history. In the twenties of the last century the communist party had their headquarters at the square of Rosa Luxemburg Platz. They often fought with the Nazi’s in this area. Police officers kept a keen eye on both sides, which were the key ingredients for a major row.
The Scheunenviertel is gallery heaven. After the fall of the Berlin Wall many artists moved to this area and that is still visible. Kunsthaus Tacheles was one of the most famous galleries of the area. The Scheunenviertel still has a lot of galleries. Many art galleries can be found in the August Strasse, Oranienburgerstrasse and Rosenthaler Strasse.
Imagine what it is like to be separated by a brutal wall for decades. The Berlin Wall ran straight through the lifes of Berlin families and friends. A lot of people entered and left East Berlin by train. The place where Berliners met and said goodbye soon got a new name: Tranenpalast. Because of the many tears (tranen) that flowed here.
Unter den Linden was build to make visitors look in awe at the buildings. It was set up to show that Berlin was no longer a village, but a big city. The street was filled with landmarks by the Berlin royalty. If you walk along Unter den Linden you will stare at the Schlossplatz, Altes Palais, the Princessinenpalais and Kronprinzenpalais.
A cemetery where the Berlin Wall ran through and battles of life and death took place. The Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin is a beautiful 18th century graveyard with graves of marshals and officers. Invalidenfriedhof seems to be peaceful and quiet, but that changed in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected right at this graveyard.
The Fernsehturm, build in 1969, is Berlin’s most famous landmark. The GDR-government was very proud of the Fernsehturm, but not so pleased with it when the sun was shining. When the sun is shining on the tower, a radiant cross appears on the Fernsehturm. Berliners call this ‘the Popes revench’ because the GDR-government was very anti-religion.
You can still feel the awkwardness and fear of the Cold War at Checkpoint Charlie. It was the main checkpoint to cross the border between West and East Berlin for foreigners during the Cold War. Some Berliners tried to flee the city through Checkpoint Charlie and died there cold and alone.
The Bundestag is the stage where democracy failed poorly and rose out of it’s ashes again, after the Cold War. When the Bundestag was built in 1894, democracy was on the verge of collapse. No one knew how to govern the country because there was hardly any experience with governing Germany.
The Brandenburger Tor at the end of Unter den Linden became the symbol of reunited Germany and Berlin. Between 1961-1989 the Berlin Wall surrounded the Brandenburger Tor. East Berlin was on one side – a couple of meters further was West Berlin. It was quite tragic, especially because the Brandenburger Tor had originally been the representation of triumph.
Berlin life starts at Charite. A lot of Berliners are born in this remarkable building with red bricks. Charite is one of the best known and pretty hospitals of Berlin. But Frederic the first didn’t build it in 1710 to celebrate new life, but out of fear for the upcoming plague.