Alexanderplatz in Berlin
Over the centuries, the history and destinies of Russia and Germany have been intertwined in an amazing way. This is best exemplified by Alexanderplatz in Berlin, the city’s most unusual square, named after Emperor Alexander I. Here in the east center of the capital of Germany, monuments of the past, faceless architecture of the GDR, and modern buildings blend together.
“Alex” (as the citizens succinctly call one of the most popular squares of the main German metropolis) goes back to the XIII century. At that time this place was outside Berlin, protected by a fortress wall. Here, at the eastern Oderberg Gate, the trade routes from the Hanseatic cities on the Baltic Sea were connected.
A cattle market and place of execution
In 1272 a leper hospital and the adjacent Chapel of St. George were built on the site of present-day Alexanderplatz. In addition, a fortified wall concealed the frontal area from the eyes of the inhabitants of the capital. At least two public executions per year were carried out here between 1391 and 1448. The Thirty Years’ War reduced the population of Berlin and many houses were burned and destroyed.
To improve the defense, Friedrich Wilhelm decides to build a new ring of the fortress. The area in front of the Oderberg Gate (now called Georgentor) becomes part of the city. For a small fee, the Grand Elector sells plots of land, and residential houses and manufactories appear on the square. The cattle fair, which existed until 1681, is converted into a Sunday market.
In 1701 Georgentor is renamed Königstor (Royal Gate) and the place in front of it is called Thor Platz (Torplatz). By 1800 about 700 families were already living in this area, the members of which were craftsmen, retired soldiers, workers and merchants. The southern part of the square is used for parades, while the northern part continues to be used for trade.
Torplatz becomes Alexander Square.
On October 25, 1805, Russian Tsar Alexander I arrives in Berlin. The purpose of the monarch’s visit is to gain support for Prussia in the war against Napoleon. The ceremonial meeting of the heads of the two powers was held at Torplatz. As a result of the negotiations an agreement was signed on joint actions within the framework of the anti-French coalition. To mark the alliance, Friedrich Wilhelm III issues a decree, according to which Torplatz receives the name of a high-ranking guest and is henceforth called Alexanderplatz.
Alexanderplatz in the 20th century and today
The beginning of the last century was a time of prosperity of the square. Large department stores, office buildings, and developed transport links made Alexanderplatz an important part of the German capital. In 1936, some 35,000 cars crossed the site daily. The end of World War II saw the eastern center of the city in ruins.
By 1958, the area that became part of the GDR was cleared of the remains of destroyed structures and turned into a pedestrian zone. The global reconstruction began in 1966. After the completion of urban planning works the area of Alexanderplatz was 80,000 m2. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, new residential and commercial buildings were erected on Alexa. Streetcar lines appeared again. In the near future, according to the plans of architect Hans Kohlhoff, 11 skyscrapers will adorn the main square in eastern Berlin.
Today Alex is one of the busiest and most visited places in the German capital. Along with the train station, parking lots, office buildings, shopping malls and hotels, it houses the city’s famous landmarks.
World Time Clock
A huge chronometer designed by the industrial designer Erich John, appeared in 1969. The full name of the ten-metre-high structure, World Time Urania, comes from the fact that during the demolition of the ruins of Alexanderplatz, workers discovered the Urania Column (the prototype of today’s weather stations). This discovery was the basis for the idea of an unusual clock system.
On a mosaic laid out on the asphalt in the shape of a wind rose, the column is 2.70 m high and 1.50 m in diameter. Attached to it is a rotating cylinder, which is a polygon with 24 faces. Each of them symbolizes a time zone of the planet. The aluminum plates show the names of cities and the schematic outlines of countries. Above the clock an abstract model of the solar system describes circles.
The Fountain of Friendship
In front of Galeria Kaufhof the streams of the “Friendship of the Peoples” fountain, created in 1969, gush into the sky. The water in the highest part of the cascade of 17 diamond-shaped bowls flows into the two-level pool. Rainbow splashes are reflected in the glass crystals, which generously decorate the spiral structure. Because of the abundance of ceramics, enamels and colorful ornaments, the 6-meter fountain was nicknamed the “Brooch of the prostitute”.
Berlin TV Tower
The main viewing platform of the capital can be seen from anywhere in the city. The television tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) was opened on October 3, 1969 – shortly before the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the German Democratic Republic. In the eyes of Walter Ulbricht, President of the State Council, the construction, built in four years, was the epitome of the superiority of the socialist system.
The height of the reinforced concrete structure is 368 m. The middle steel part with a diameter of 32 m is in the form of a ball. The sun’s rays falling on it produce a pattern that resembles a cross. Residents of East Berlin called this optical effect a revenge of the Pope on the atheist GDR.
Today the Berliner Fernsehturm is an architectural symbol of the German metropolis. At a height of 207 meters there is a restaurant, which slowly rotates around its axis, and one floor below there is a panoramic platform. Two high-speed elevators bring hundreds of tourists every day. The ticket price is 15.50 euros. A VIP-ticket (no waiting in line) costs 19,50 Euro.
St. Mary’s Church
Next to the TV Tower is Berlin’s oldest church, the Marienkirche. The date of construction of the Evangelical Church is shrouded in the mists of time. According to historical chronicles, the parish, built on foundations of brick and cobblestone, already existed in 1294. The Neo-Gothic appearance of the building with Neoclassical and Baroque elements was acquired at the end of the 18th century by Carl Gottard Langgans, the architect of the Brandenburg Gate. The last reconstruction dates back to 1970.
The interior of the church is decorated in the Gothic style. The most important parts of the interior are the magnificent pulpit by Andreas Schlueter (1702) and the organ, behind which Johann Sebastian Bach played his fugues. The main attraction of the tower hall is the partially preserved fresco “Dance of Death”, which appeared after the epidemic of plague that swept the city in 1484. The temple is open to visitors from 10:00 to 16:00 (January to March) and from 10:00 to 18:00 (April to December).
Red Town Hall
This three-storey, 100 m long red brick building with its 84 m high clock tower and flagpole is one of the most popular sights in the metropolis. The Neo-Renaissance-style building appeared on Alexanderplatz in 1861. According to the architect Hermann Weseman, the monumental building was supposed to embody the dignity of the inhabitants of the capital.
Since the reconstruction of Rotes Rathaus in 1958, the city council of East Berlin has met there and, since 1991, the mayor and senate of the united Berlin. From Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., visitors may visit the foyer, the ceremonial hall, the armorial hall and the column hall.
A magnificent example of neo-Baroque architecture, the Neptune Fountain, provides refreshment in the area between the Red Town Hall and St. Mary’s Church. The idea for its construction was Friedrich Schinkel’s. But the Prussian architect did not have time to carry out his project. Sculptor Reinhold Begas undertook the construction of the structure in bronze. The opening of the masterpiece took place on November 1, 1891. After World War II, the fountain was dismantled, and in 1969 it was installed at the new place.
On the red granite curb, half-naked beauties sit languidly, symbolizing the main rivers of Prussia: Elbe, Rhine, Vistula and Oder. On the three-storied foundation stands a basin. At its center stands the bearded king of the oceans, holding a massive trident in his left hand. The lord of the elements is surrounded by playing babies, crocodiles, crayfish, snakes, turtles and sea chimeras.
The Alexanderplatz area is beloved not only by tourists, but also by shoppers from all over the world. Here are a neighborhood of small stores as well as large shopping centers. Opposite the Uranium Clock is Saturn, Germany’s largest home appliance and electronics retailer. Next to the station is one of the oldest department stores in the city – Galeria Kaufhof, which first welcomed customers in the early 20th century.
On an area of 35,000 m2, visitors can stroll freely through a well-organized world of fashion, perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, watches, household and sports goods. On the first floor is the famous gourmet delicatessen Galeria-Gourmet. Friendliness, customer orientation and comprehensive services are part of the concept.
Berlin’s largest megamall, the Alexa arcade, is also on Alexanderplatz. Behind its pink facade on four floors you’ll find 180 stores selling clothes, shoes and accessories from such democratic brands as S. Oliver, Esprit, H&M, Comma, Gerry Weber, Gabor and Betty Barclay. A huge selection of home appliances and multimedia offers Media Markt. The upper level is occupied by fast food restaurants.
If you’re convinced that exclusive brands cost a fortune, you’re wrong. At Maxx outlet, you can buy a Karl Lagerfeld jacket for 80 euros or Joop! shoes for 60 euros. On three floors customers can find men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and shoes, sports goods, cosmetics, perfumes, leather goods, eyeglasses, household items and kitchenware. Prices for all items are discounted by 20-75%.
Where to go and how to get there
The main square in eastern Berlin is one of the central transportation hubs of the city. It has the same name train station and connects the routes of regional trains, trains, subways, buses and streetcars.
- S-Bahn. Train S3, 5, 7, 9 to the station
- U-Bahn. Subway lines U2, 5, 8 to
- Bus lines TXL, 100, 200, M48 to Alexanderplatz/Memhardstr., 248 to Alexanderplatz/Grunerstr.
- Streetcars M2, 4, 5, 6 to Alexanderplatz/Dircksenstr.
- Driving: Drive: Coordinate for navigation 52° 31′ 18.905″ N 13° 24′ 47.574″ E. There are three underground parking lots within walking distance of the square:
- Garage at Alexanderstraße 1 for 655 spaces. The price is 2 € per hour. For visitors of Galeria Kaufhof department store who made purchases for more than 20 € the first hour of parking is free (when showing the parking pass at the cashier).
- RathausPassagen on Grunerstraße 5. Price: 1 € for the first hour, 1.5 € for 2 hours and more.
- Parking at the Alexa mall for 1,600 spaces. For the first hour you pay 1 €, further 1,5 €.
And of course you can get to Alexanderplatz by an alternative cab – a bike rickshaw. The driver of this exotic vehicle will drive you to Aleksanderplatz and will tell you about sights and will acquaint with interesting and useful tips.
The long history of Alexanderplatz
Alexanderplatz is not only one of the main cultural sites of the German capital, which is recommended to see it live every visitor. In addition to the above, Alexanderplatz is a major transport hub of Berlin, as well as a territory in which history and modernity are in harmony.
The long history of Alexanderplatz
This square is located in the metropolitan district of Königstadt . It is the only Berlin square that has not changed its location since the 13th century. Until the 17th century Alexanderplatz was located outside the city wall and played a role not only as a market place where cattle were sold, but also as a place where executions were carried out, so the citizens nicknamed it “the Devil’s Garden”. The first houses were built near the square in the early 15th century.
It got its present name Alexanderplatz after the Russian Tsar Alexander I. By the order of the Prussian governor in 1805 the military alliance between Russia and Prussia against the famous French emperor was immortalized. The solemn conclusion of the alliance took place in October of the same year on the above mentioned square.
In the middle of 19th century it became a big transport hub. Near the end of this century, the Sunday market was closed.
At the beginning of XX century Alexanderplatz experienced its own heyday. Big department stores appeared, subway stations were actively built, streetcar and railway tracks were laid. In the early 20s of the last century the reconstruction of the square begins.
In 1945, during the battles in the city, it was completely destroyed. In the second half of the 1960s Alexanderplatz was rebuilt according to the designs of famous architects such as Schulz and Cheshner . Since the square was in East Berlin, it was reconstructed in the style of socialism.
The intention of the architects was to create a pedestrian zone on the square, but also to create a venue for large-scale events. For these reasons, cars began to bypass Alexanderplatz, and tramways running along the square were eliminated. The square grew several times over. It is to this period of time the appearance of most of the modern buildings in this place belongs.
Since the 1970s Alexanderplatz became the main square of the capital of the GDR. After the unification of West and East Germany at the very beginning of the 1990s the square underwent considerable changes again, after which streetcar lines appeared there again in 1998. The last reconstruction of Alexanderplatz began in 2006 and lasted until 2017.
Alexanderplatz railway station
Alexanderplatz is a bustling interchange for traffic. There are 3 main roads, 4 streetcar tracks, and 3 branches of the Berlin subway pass underneath the square itself on several levels.
Alexanderplatz railway station
In its north-eastern zone is a railroad station called Alexanderplatz . It appeared on the city map in the early 1880s, and 30 years later a subway platform was built at the station. Its reconstruction was completed only in 1998. There are several railway platforms, as well as 4 tracks. The first platform accepts electric trains as well as long-distance trains, while the second accepts high-speed trains. The structure itself has a metal base in the form of an arch with walls made of glass.