21 Famous Monuments on Unter den Linden

21 Famous Monuments on Unter den Linden
Share

The famous Unter den Linden Avenue, which saw the victorious troops of all the regimes that shaped Germany's history from the Hohenzollerns to the German Democratic Republic, stretches from Berlin Castle to the Brandenburg Gate and includes some of Berlin's most beautiful historical buildings and monuments. Here are the 21 most famous monuments on this avenue.

A short history of the famous Unter den Linden Avenue

In the 16th century, this avenue was still a simple dirt road connecting Berlin Castle with the Tiergarten, then a royal hunting reserve.

As early as 1648, when Germany was suffering from the consequences of the Thirty Years' War, Frederick William, faced with the devastation of the castle and the Tiergarten, ordered the creation of new avenues and the planting of new gardens. To this end, he sent his architects and gardeners throughout Europe to gather new ideas and rebuild the city centre. On the return of his representatives, the avenue was built in Dutch style and the hunting trail was dressed with a thousand walnut trees and a thousand lime trees, hence the name Unter den Linden (Under the Linden). 

The avenue suffered greatly from raids and bombings during the Second World War. It was later rebuilt during the socialist period. It was only after the reunification of Germany that the avenue was redesigned and embassies, shops and large hotels were built or renovated.  

21 places, buildings and monuments worth seeing on Berlin's most beautiful street

1. 18th March Square (Platz des 18 März)

It was not until the fall of the wall in 1989 that the square between the Brandenburg Gate and the Tiergarten was finally able to welcome passers-by again. It was here that Ronald Reagan's 1987 speech "Tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachev" was held. A memorial plaque was placed there in his honour. 

Successively called Platz vor dem Brandenburger Tor then Hindenburgplatz (in honour of former president Paul von Hindenburg), it was renamed to its present name in 2000. The 18th of March has been an important date twice in German history: first in 1848 when Prussian armies attacked revolutionaries in Berlin during the German revolutions of 1848-1849 and again in 1990, during the first democratic elections in reunified East Germany.

2. The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

Brandenburg Gate

Inspired by the monument at the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, this majestic 30-metre-high neoclassical gate, consisting of 12 columns and crowned by an ancient four-horse-drawn chariot (Quadrige), is one of the symbols of the city of Berlin.

Sent by Napoleon to Paris as booty after the crushing of Prussia, the Quadrige, still packed in crates, was recovered by German troops during their victory over France in 1815 and reinstalled at the Brandenburg Gate.

Legend has it that Hitler turned the tank to the west to demonstrate his desire to conquer France, but this is only a legend... the Quadrige did not move and was in fact badly damaged.

After World War II, the Brandenburg Gate was in the Soviet sector. The construction of the Wall in 1961 placed it in the middle of no-man's-land, making it inaccessible. It was at the Brandenburg Gate that more than 100,000 people gathered on the evening of 22 December 1989 and the Wall was opened.

3. The Pariser Platz

This place was known simply as the "square" until 1814. It was only when Prussian troops and the Allies invaded Paris after the fall of Napoleon that it was renamed Pariser Platz, in memory of this triumph over Paris.

As a result of air raids and heavy artillery fire during the Second World War, all the buildings around the square were reduced to ashes - only the Brandenburg Gate remained. After the war, with the construction of the Berlin Wall, the square became part of NO MAN'S LAND.

After reunification, there was a broad consensus that Pariser Platz should once again become an important centre of Berlin, and the French embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom were rebuilt there, as well as the Adlon Hotel and the Academy of Arts.

4. Adlon Hotel

Built in 1907 and one of the most famous hotels in Europe, the Adlon Hotel has welcomed many celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker, Herbert Hoover and Michael Jackson (who caused a few frights by holding his 9-month-old baby Prince Michael II in the empty 5th floor).

During the Second World War, the hotel continued to function and some parts were used as a military hospital. The hotel survived the war, well almost: it was not bombs that damaged it but a fire on the night of May 2, 1945 started by drunken Soviet soldiers.

With the construction of the Berlin Wall, the hotel was demolished, along with all the other buildings in Pariser Platz, giving way to the no-man's-land between the GDR and the FRG. It was not until 1997 (90 years after the inauguration of the original) that the hotel was rebuilt.  

5. The Russian Embassy

It is a huge building of austere luxury from the Stalinist era, built after 1945 on the site of the former embassy of the Tsarist Russia.

The exterior is rigorously symmetrical and decorated with statues of the heroes and symbols of the working class. The interior is in the same style and consists of a huge hall crowned by a dome, where international meetings were once held. There are very comfortable rooms and even a swimming pool, it seems!

6. The historical library of the city (1780)

A baroque building inspired by the Viennese court, this magnificent library was built to house the works of Frederick the Great. The library of the castle having become too small, it could no longer accommodate all the works of the Prussian rulers.

The building was heavily damaged by the attacks of the Second World War and was only rebuilt in 1969, the exterior aspects of the original building were respected.

7. Humboldt University

Founded in 1809 by Wilhelm von Humboldt, it is the oldest university in Berlin. No less than 29 Novel Prizes have been taught there!

The list of its best-known teachers and students is almost enough to trace the intellectual, scientific and political history of Germany: Fichte, Hegel and Feuerbach, Albert Einstein and Max Planck, not forgetting Heinrich Heine, but also Otto von Bismarck and Karl Marx.

Go in there and you will see Marx's famous quote: "Philosophers have tried to explain the world. Now it must be changed."

8. The bronze statue of Frederick the Great (1851)

Statue of Frederick the Great in Berlin
Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in Berlin (Gino di Ogni, Wikimedia Commons)

Throning with panache on his horse, looking towards his castle, Frederick II wears his military uniform with an ermine coat and his characteristic bicorne - one can also see his many decorations. The pedestal is adorned with two carved bands representing the life of the king and each of the corners of the pedestal represents a cardinal virtue.

In order to be protected during the Second World War, the monument was encased in cement. The statue was moved to Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam in 1963 and finally returned to Unter den Linden in 1980. 

9. The Hotel de Rome

Situated on Bebelplatz, next to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, this elegant luxury hotel is unique in that it has been housed in the former headquarters of a bank since 1889.

10. Bebelplatz

Faculty of Law  of the Humboldt University on Bebelplatz
Faculty of Law of the Humboldt University on Bebelplatz

Very famous square in Berlin, where the State Opera House, Humboldt University and St. Edward's Cathedral (oldest Catholic church in Berlin) are located. It is named after August Bebel, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the 19th century. The Bebelplatz is especially famous after the book burning on May 10, 1933, which took place on the square (see next point).

11. The empty Library

In the middle of the square, this memorial recalls the book-burning event of 10 May 1933 - the infamous night when groups of young Nazis, at the instigation of Minister Joseph Goebbels, burned 20,000 books by Jewish, Marxist or pacifist authors considered to be propagating a non-German spirit.

A work by the artist Mischa Ullmann, the empty library recalls this event in German history. Passers-by can see a bookcase with empty shelves under a glass plate on the floor. A verse by Heine is engraved: "Where books are burnt, men are burnt in the end". 

12. The opera (Staatsoper)

According to Voltaire, the building housed "the most beautiful voices and the best dancers". The opera house Unter den Linden is an impressive building in classical Prussian style (1743) which contributes to the grandeur and fame of the Unter den Linden avenue. 

A cultural heritage of Berlin, the building has often suffered from the ravages of time and movement. Fire (1843), renovations, bombings, the building has been continuously closed and reopened. The last time it closed for renovation was in 2010, only to reopen 7 years later. In total, it has been rebuilt 7 times !

13. The Saint-Edwig cathedral

This cathedral is the oldest Catholic church in Berlin (1773). It is dedicated to the patron saint of Silesia and Brandenburg (St. Hedwig of Silesia) and honours Silesian Catholic immigrants who came to Berlin.

During the period of terror before the Second World War, Abbot Bernhard Lichtenberg prayed publicly for the Jews during the services on the evening following Kristallnacht. He was later imprisoned by the Nazis and died on his way to Dachau. His ashes were transferred to the crypt of St. Edward's Cathedral in 1965.

The architecture of the cathedral is not universally praised: the Belgian writer Camille Lemmonier describes the building as "an awful church under a cheese bell" in his impressions from his trip to Berlin.

14. The memorial dedicated to the victims of war and tyranny (Neue Wache)

Neue Wache Berlin
Neue Wache, Berlin (Ansgar Koreng, CC by 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

After the First World War, this former guardhouse was converted into a memorial to the victims of the First World War. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was installed there but was only inaugurated in 1931 (the authorities waited until the foreign troops had left German soil). 

Since 1933 it has been Germany's main memorial to the "victims of war and tyranny".

Sheltered behind its columns stands, under the light falling from the roof, a reproduction of a moving sculpture "The Mother and Her Dead Son" by the artist Käthe Kollwitz (who gave her name to the beautiful Kollwitzstraße in Prenzlauer Berg), made by the latter after the death of her son on the battlefields of the First World War. 

15. German History Museum

As early as 1952, many political figures called for the creation of a museum dedicated to German history. It was in 1987, when Germany was still divided, that Helmut Kohl decided to set up this museum, which would be housed in the buildings of the former Berlin arsenal. 

In 1990, when Germany was reunited, the Federal Government transferred the collections and headquarters of the former "Museum of German History" founded by the GDR to the new Museum of German History. 

Thirteen years later, the Sino-American architect Leoh Ming Pei added a new building to it, which is very interesting to see (on the left side of the building, a little to the rear). His vision: to add light, transparency and movement.

16. The Kronprinz palace (1732)

Originally built in Baroque style, the building was modified to become the house of Frederick II - then Crown Prince (Kronprinz in German). It was then the residence of the Crown Prince until the abdication of the Kaiser, which was then closed by the Nazis. Bombed during the Second World War, it was not rebuilt until the 1950s to accommodate state guests from the GDR. It was in this palace that the signing ceremony for German reunification took place in the 1990s.

The palace is one of the few monuments in Berlin connected with Prussia's royal past.

17. The former Kommandantur (Die alte Kommandantur)

Next to the Kronprinz Palace and opposite the German Historical Museum, it is a baroque building dating from the 18th century where the commander of the city's garrison was housed. 

After the Second World War, the building was destroyed to make way for the Foreign Office of the former East Germany. 

With the reunification of Germany, the Alte Kommandantur was rebuilt by a German company on the basis of pre-war photographs and testimonials (the original plans having been destroyed). Its construction was completed in 2003. 

18. The Castle Bridge (Schlossbrücke)

Above the Spree rises the Schlossbrücke. Built between 1821 and 1824 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the style of classicism, it connects the Berlin Palace with the Brandenburg Gate. The monumental figures of the three-arch bridge were created a few years later in remembrance of the wars of liberation.

These statues depict warriors and goddesses of victory. After the Second World War, the badly damaged bridge was restored, and in 1983-1984 the statues that had been removed were reinstalled.

19. The Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) 

Berlin Cathedral

Triumphant on Museum Island, the Berliner Dom is Berlin's historic protestant church. If we call it "Berlin Cathedral" in English, it is a linguistic error because the church is not a cathedral in the strict sense of the word - it has never been the seat of a bishopric. 

The aesthetically pleasing building houses the family crypt of the Hohenzollern dynasty, the baptismal font by Christian Daniel Rauch and the Petrus mosaic by Guido Reni. The cathedral organ with more than 7000 pipes is a masterpiece and one of the largest in Germany.

It is possible (and highly recommended) to climb the 270 or so steps leading up to the Dome to admire the view of Berlin Mitte.

20. Berlin Castle (formerly Palast der Republik)

The former Berlin Castle, which was built in 1451 and was the residence of the Hohenzollern family, was bombed during the war and partially destroyed.

Seeing it as a symbol of the former aristocracy, the GDR government decided to demolish it and replace it with the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik), a building of smoked glass, metal and marble in the purest socialist style.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the building was closed due to asbestos. The German parliament finally decided in 2002 to destroy the palace and rebuild the old castle identically.

21. Marx Engels Forum (statue of Marx)

Created by the authorities of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1986, the park was named after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the Communist Party Manifesto in 1848 and considered the founders and theorists of the Communist movement. It is in this park that the famous statue of Marx and Engels is located. In reality, the park is not on Unter den Linden, as it is located just after the Spree.

Raphaëlle
Raphaëlle Radermecker

Author

With a curious personality and a passion for well-chosen words, writing and discovery are my two passions. Berlin intrigues and fascinates me, with its cultural and artistic richness, its modernity and its ability to constantly renew itself.

These articles may be of interest to you
The 7 Most Spectacular Escapes across the Berlin Wall

The 7 Most Spectacular Escapes across the Berlin Wall

You had to be creative to escape from the Berlin Wall. In a cow, a suitcase, a balloon, discover the 7 craziest techniques!

Why is the Berlin Bear on the Coat of Arms of the City?

Why is the Berlin Bear on the Coat of Arms of the City?

Coat of arms, statues and souvenirs - the bear is the emblem of Berlin. Since when and why? Find out the story behind the symbol!

Berlin's Olympic Stadium (1936) - A Famous Nazi Monument

Berlin's Olympic Stadium (1936) - A Famous Nazi Monument

Place of the "Olympic Games of Shame" in 1936 - Discover and visit one of the most important monuments of the Nazi era!

Share