Last month I had an amazing opportunity to visit Berlin, one of Europe liveliest and fastest growing capitals. During my brief stay there, I have visited quite a bit of history, culture, architecture and tasted a little bit of nightlife, trying to make the most of the time available. Needless to say, my camera was working overtime, and I have compiled a list of some of Berlin’s top sights(the ones i had time to visit) for everyone to enjoy.
Top Berlin locations you don’t want to miss:
1. Brandenburg Gate – The best known of all Berlin’s symbols, the Brandenburg Gate is located in the middle of the Pariser Plats, surrounded by embassies. Quadriga, a four horse chariot, driven by Victoria, Roman goddess of Victory stands proudly on top of the gate. The actor in the square was kind enough to pose, giving overall photo a nice context.
2. Reichstag – Of all the buildings in Berlin, the Parliamentary Building (Reichstag) is probably one of the most symbolic. It was erected in 1884-94, destroyed by arson in 1933, bombed during World War II, and finally in 1994-9 transformed into one of the most modern parliamentary buildings in the world. The framing was chosen deliberately to catch the passer by and the phrase “Dem Deutchen Folk” (to the German people). I guess I just liked the symbolism. In addition, I strongly suggest that if possible you go and visit the Reichstag dome.
It gives a great view over Berlin, as well as a peek into the parliamentary chamber. The dome is open at the top, in order to allow the dissemination of debates throughout the country. Did I mention that it looked amazing ?
3. Victory Column (Siegessäule) – A 62m Victory Column, situated in the middle of the Tiergarten park, erected to commemorate three Prussian victories (against Denmark(1864), Austria (1866), and France (1871)). On the top of the column stands a 35ton statue of the goddess Victoria.
A brief view from the victory column towards the central Berlin makes you quickly forget all of those nasty steps going up. Just make sure you pack some quality wide-angle lens as well as some telephoto. The panorama on the left was made with Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens.
4. Museum Island – features one of the most important museums of ancient art and architecture in the world – The Pergamon Museum – hosting ancient wonders such as Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, and Ishtar Gate. Other museums on the island are Old (shown in photo to the right) and New Museum, Old National gallery, and Bode Museum.
I have taken a photo of an art student painting the statue. I like the way he stands out among the columns breaking their pattern, and reinforcing the composition.
In front of the old museum lies Lustgarten park, where one of the largest and the most lavish churches in Berlin is situated – Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom). The cathedral truly dominates the lustgarten square, and the fountain created a nice halo contributing to the scene.
5. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Kurfürstendamm – is one of the most haunting symbols of the terrors of war. The night lighting contributes to the already eerie look of the church. Shot the photo using knee as support.
The church tower (which was the only thing remaining from the original church) stands side by side with a newly erected tower. I like this photo as these two towers are a testimonial to a human nature describing both sides: the dark destructive one, as well as the light and creative one shedding a light of hope for peace and prosperity.
6. Checkpoint Charlie - A checkpoint well described in the spy novels, and a place that has inspired many authors in their work. This was one of the crossings between east and west Berlin. It is here that the Russian and American border guards faced each other. Hence the panel of an American soldier looking to where used to be East Berlin. Also on the other side is a corresponding image of a Russian soldier looking towards former West Berlin. The area north of the checkpoint is covered with plaques, detailing the history during the period of the Berlin Wall. The guards will be happy to pose for a small fee.
7. Soviet Monument - A giant Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten is a silent, yet powerful reminder of the sacrifice of the 300,000 Red Army soldiers who have given their lives to liberate Berlin. I like how the flowers lead the eye into the photo, and how the people in front of the monument add a sense of scale.
8. Around Alexanderplatz – The TV tower at Alexanderplatz is a tallest building in Berlin. It is 365m high, and a kind of hard to miss. Rather than taking a flat on portrait i have opted for a different viewpoint. The flowers provide foreground interest, while the tower is blurred, yet easily recognizable in the background. I am quite pleased with the overall result.
9. Tiergarten – Tiergarten is the largest park in Berlin, and a favorite promenade place of many Berliners. This photo was taken at Neuer See, one of its hidden gems. I wanted to capture its beauty, however, I wanted to use a different perspective. Finally I have opted to use reflection in the lake to portrait the sky.
10. Berlin Wall - being in Berlin, and not taking a photo of Berlin Wall ? I don’t think so. Not much of it is left nowadays, save for 2 locations. This one is just beside the building of finance ministry, yet during World War II it was occupied by German air force (luftwaffe). Interestingly enough it was one of the buildings that survived the allied bombings.
There it is, folks, my top 10 photo destinations in Berlin. For more locations, as well as some other photo ideas, please refer to the map below. Note that you can get more information, as well as photos, by clicking individual placemarkers.
View Berlin Photo Highlights in a larger map
I hope you will enjoy this Berlin travel and photo guide as much as I have enjoyed compiling it. Happy shooting.