Your essential tour for a comprehensive, chronological understanding of Germany’s capital city. We will trace Berlin’s history from its 13th-century origins as a village on the banks of the river Spree, finding the few legacies that remain of the medieval town, through to the 18th-century rise to power of the Prussian King Friedrich the Great and the development of a city demographically unique in Europe.
We will see the legacies of the migrant communities who made Berlin their home during the Age of Enlightenment: from the Gendarmenmarkt, a testament to the influence of the French Huguenots upon the city, to the Jewish quarter with its striking New Synagogue.
We’ll explore Museum Island, built up over a century of social and political change and featuring some of the city’s most remarkable Neo-classical architecture, as well as visiting the impressive basilica of the Berliner Dom, the resting place of several members of the Hohenzollern family who ruled Prussia for centuries.
Berlin, though, is the city where twentieth-century history was made, and we’ll explore its brief but resonant years as the Imperial capital of Germany under the last of the Hohenzollerns to rule, Kaiser Wilhelm II. We’ll visit the Reichstag, seat of government under the Kaisers (and see its combination of 19th-century architecture with the renowned glass dome built by Sir Norman Foster after the fall of the Berlin Wall which once flanked the building).
Upon the 1918 abdication of Wilhelm II toward the end of World War One, Berlin experienced one of its most turbulent decades as the 1920s fostered the liberal outlook and world-renowned nightlife for which the city became known during the era of the Weimar Republic – we can stroll along Friedrichstrasse, the one-time Cabaret Mile, where Marlene Dietrich rose to stardom. Simultaneously, however, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist party began their rise to power.
We’ll discuss not only Berlin’s years as capital city under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945, seeing one of the largest pieces of Third Reich architecture to remain standing – the former Headquarters of Hermann Goering and his Luftwaffe – but also the devastation of the Battle for Berlin which could end only with Hitler’s suicide. We’ll stand directly above the location where Hitler took his life in his bunker underneath the gardens of the Reich Chancellery – today a stone’s throw away from Berlin’s remarkable Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, which we can explore together.
Subsequent to the end of the Third Reich, the divided city became the boiling point of the Cold War: we’ll visit Checkpoint Charlie, find the remnants of the Berlin Wall and discuss some of the most daring escapes made over, under and through it.
We’ll stand in the former ‘death strip’ of the Wall – something inconceivable until not so long ago – and find ourselves in the centre of a city which has recovered remarkably from a traumatic and remarkably recent past.
A stroll through Potsdamer Platz will encapsulate the rapidity of Berlin’s return like nothing else. And if anything symbolizes Berlin’s tenacity, it’s the Brandenburg Gate, built toward the end of the 18th century and traversed by Napoleon’s troops not so long thereafter. In 1933, it became the site of Hitler’s inaugural torchlit parade, and stood in tatters at the end of World War Two only to find itself squarely in the middle of the no-man’s-land of the Berlin Wall. Crossing through the Gate will surely be one of the highlights of our tour!
Whether you’re visiting Berlin for the first time or wish to see how it’s changed since your last trip, this tour will give you all of the city’s must-see locations and their narratives in a compact stroll punctuated by plenty of chances to sample some local delicacies as we go. So let’s go!