We are often asked for advice on what are some of the must visit GDR Berlin sites for those who want to learn more about East Germany in Berlin.
So we asked our learned listeners and supporters of the Radio GDR podcast (the only English language podcast focused on East Germany) to give us their suggestions on GDR Berlin sites and they are numerous. In this blog post, there will be something for everyone. For the first time Berlin visitor to those of us who have explored the Haupstadt many times. I have lost count how many times I have visited Berlin and I am always finding new GDR Berlin sites to visit. (For instance on my last trip in March I saw the GDR era memorial to the International Brigades who fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War.)
We are also including recommended guided tours of GDR Berlin Sites (see bottom of blog post.)
Essential GDR Berlin Sites for Visitors.
Everything you need to know about what GDR Berlin Sites to visit during your trip to Berlin.
The Berlin Wall
David Knight – Nordbahnhof Station – which incidentally has a great little mini exhibition about the ghost station that it was at the time of the DDR.
Shane Whaley – The Berlin Wall Memorial and Death Strip. For me the most important GDR site in Berlin because the viewing platform and recreation of the death strip shows how difficult it was to escape from East Berlin. There is also a very informative exhibition on the site too and it is free!
Rebecca MH – East Side Gallery.
Hohenschonhausen Stasi Prison
Gillian Cox – The Stasi Prison is a must-see for anyone interested in DDR history. Additionally, just walk the streets of East Berlin and look for “ghost” lettering on the walls. The gourmet restaurant where you ate dinner may have once been a state-owned store or office.
Donna Ketchup – Höhenschönhausen Prison was the most interesting and poignant experience of a recent trip.
Berlin Wall Memorial (including death strip.)
The Palace of Tears
Mary Freer – The Palace of Tears is interesting, free, central and doesn’t take up too much of your day. Shows how a ‘border crossing’ worked and how miserable an experience it could be.
The Berlin TV Tower
Mary Freer – I’m a huge fan of the TV Tower. Book a window table, just before dusk on every visit. Not hugely informative on the DDR but still has some of the internal design and obviously the exterior. I have to admit I love watching Berlin literally unfold beneath me. Looking at the big Stalinist streets, plattenbauen, figuring out the path of the wall. Imagining what a DDR citizen would think of what they saw.
The Stasi Museum (Normannensstrasse.)
David Knight – The Stasi Museum was literally the most fascinating place I’ve been for years.
Ian ‘Arsenal’ Douglas – I especially loved The Stasi Museum which was packed with information & atmosphere plus just walking around Alexanderplatz & Karl Marx Allee.
Pierre Stromberg – Without question, everyone should visit the Stasi Museum in Berlin which is its former headquarters. As an added bonus, many scenes in the hit TV series Deutschland 83 and Deutschland 86 were filmed there.
Alltag der DDR (Every day life in the GDR) Exhibition
Simon Hamid – Everyday life in DDR exhibit at the kulturbrauerei. It’s a great exhibit! It’s free and you can enjoy walking through Prenzlaur Burg to get there!
Ernst Thalmann Park
CW Pete – Ernst Thalmann Park in Prenzlauer Berg! It’s sad and unkempt, but definitely a poignant experience.
Alex Winson – Ernst Thalmann Park is worth a visit, surrounded as it as is by old tower blocks… his statue is regularly vandalised with graffiti sadly, but it’s a DDR era memorial that still survives.
Simon Hamid – DDR museum on the banks of the River Spree is also interesting.
Check out our Radio GDR podcast interview with the director of the DDR Museum Gordon von Godin.
Karl Marx Allee
Matthew Chandler – Walk down Karl Marx Allee and stop by Cafe Sybille. You’ll still see some old Genossen popping in as they live in the flats. They also a little exhibition about the building of the flats. Not sure what Sybille will be like after the renovation. Don’t forget to stop off at the International cinema. Sadly, Cafe Moskva is closed now.
Other notable Karl Marx Allee sites:
Karl Marx Buchhandlung
Alex Winson – Mauerpark has to be on there for the fleamarkets and the section of the wall.
Friedrich Jahn Sportpark
Shane Whaley – I am told this iconic soccer stadium from the days of GDR is getting demolished and rebuilt. The stadium possesses some of the best retro floodlights. Now the home of Dynamo Berlin so an added bonus to visit.
Alex Winson – Trabi-World and the Trabi Musuem are aimed more to the tourist side of things but I still found them interesting, and if you can drive one of the Trabants you really are having a DDR experience!
CW Pete – Easy walk from the S-Bahn. Beautiful and somber.
Museum Apartment Berlin –
Richard Himan – may only be open on Sunday afternoons.
Michael Brune – Think you can also call and make a special appointment. Think the guy who manages the flat lives nearby and really enjoys showing it. Interesting spot.
Richard Himan – If you’re up for a tour then the Berliner-Mauerweg trail is a great way to explore the old border, particularly outside the city.
You can start and finish sections close to the Stadtbahn. Along the route you will find information ‘steels’ detailing events that happened there.
Alex Winson – Mauer Museum I found fascinating although you’re lodged in the tourist trap at Checkpoint Charlie then so prepare to be streetsmart!
Alex Winson – Tempelhof is worth a wander about on a nice day, watch the kestrels hovering and take in the atmosphere of the hub of the Berlin airlift.
Richard Himan – The Tempelhof tour is worth taking if you can, you get to see the building close up, including some of the USAF appropriated areas (including the basketball court)
Water Tower, Prenzlauer Berg.
Donna Ketchup: Sit and enjoy a coffee in this lovely neighbourhood or in summer visit the oldest beer garden in town, Prater.
Watch Tower – Potsdamer Platz
Mary Freer – We enjoyed visiting the GDR watchtower just off Potsdamer Platz. A quick visit for an explanation then a chance to climb inside.
Allied Air Museum
Katie Brown – The allied air museum which gives a lot if info about the Berlin air lift and displays a spy tunnel.
John Paul Kleiner – Marzahner Promenade. Great way to get the feel for the GDR’s largest prefab district. From central Berlin, take S-Bahn 7 (Ahrensfelde) to Marzahn Station. From there it’s a short walk to the Promenade, a pedestrian mall flanked by apartments with shops/restaurants and decorated with some great GDR-era public art.
Roger Melis Exhibition
John Paul Kleiner – and here’s what looks to be an amazing exhibit of photos by Roger Melis, one of the GDR’s best “art photographers”, running now to July 28th 2019
Rebecca MH – Nordbahnhof (small exhibition on the ghost stations.)
Marx and Lenin Statues
Marx and Lenin monument opposite the Dom.
Rebecca MH – the area around Frankfurter Tor in Friedrichshain is an example of some typical GDR staedtebau.
Karl Marx Buchhandlung
Made famous by the final scenes in The Lives of Others.
Rundfunk der DDR – East German Radio HQ and studios.
Also home of Radio Berlin International which broadcasted in several languages including English.
Check out this blog post which reviews a visit and tour to Nalepastrasse