Once stretching more than 150 kilometres to divide East Germany and West Germany, the Berlin Wall today is a fragmented reminder of the city’s sobering past as well as a symbolic display of victory over oppression. You can explore what remains of the historic wall in a variety of ways, and doing so should be an integral part of any visit to this now vibrant and harmonious metropolis.
The construction of the infamous Berlin Wall began in the dead of night on August 12, 1961, during the Cold War, and the wall remained in place for 28 years. Its builders, the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), were intent on creating a barrier to cut off West Berlin and to stop the citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West.
On November 9, 1989, in a spectacular show of unity between East and West Berliners, the tear down of this much-hated wall began, and the city became whole once more. The best-preserved section of the wall is the 1.3-kilometre stretch near the city centre on Mühlenstrasse, called East Side Gallery, which is not only a memorial to freedom, but also the largest open-air gallery in the world, with more than 100 brightly painted murals adorning the once drab and dire concrete structure.
Also, don’t miss the Berlin Wall Memorial on the historic site of Bernauer Strasse (take the S-Bahn to Nordbahnhof), where you can gain fascinating insight into those sombre days at the Documentation Centre and view a preserved section of wall, a watchtower and the Chapel of Reconciliation. Adventurers keen to explore the full length of the former wall can hike or cycle the signposted Berlin Wall Trail, which follows the route of the former border’s fortifications. The trail is divided into 14 sections to allow convenient entry and exit to nearby public transport.