My Weekend in Berlin - Part 2: Sightseeing

Autumn Larsen
Autumn Larsen
June 12, 2024

In my last blog post, I talked about how to plan for an overnight trip, using my experience visiting Berlin back in March as an example. In this post, I am going to share some of the places my friend and I visited while we were there and encourage you to visit them, as well! Part of my advice for planning an overnight trip was to make an itinerary of places to see, so hopefully some of these places from our itinerary will make it onto yours.

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

The Brandenburg Gate was a must-see for me when we visited Berlin – it’s one of the most iconic symbols of Germany and Berlin. In fact, in the subway (U-Bahn) station at the site, there’s a whole pictorial history of the structure on both walls, starting from 1791 on one side and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall on the other. And yes, the signs include English, like nearly every attraction in Berlin. 

One interesting fact in the gate’s history is that Napoleon Bonaparte was the first to use it for a triumphal procession and took the quadriga on top (the horses, chariot, and goddess) with him to Paris! Of course, they were returned to the gate after Napoleon’s defeat and remain there today.

The Brandenburg Gate itself does not disappoint. It’s one thing to see pictures, but standing in front or under the gate and taking in its magnitude and details from every angle is something that can only be done in person. Something I didn’t know until walking through the gate is that scenes from Greek mythology are carved into the stone on the interior of the columns, which are apparently known as “metopes.” 

During the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate symbolized the division between East and West Germany, but since its fall, it has stood for German reunification and the unity of Europe overall.

Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer)

Another important historical structure to visit in Berlin is the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s located next to a graveyard, which is also a nice area to walk around in. However, the graveyard and memorial do not connect, so no matter what Google Maps says, keep on the sidewalk until you reach the actual memorial, and do not try to cut through the graveyard.

I recommend visiting this site in the daytime, but if you end up like us and get there at dusk, don’t worry—the informational signs light up at night. 

In addition to reading about the site and its history, you should also take a few minutes to stand and imagine yourself in the shoes of a German living on this street during this time: what was it like? The shock of looking out your window one day and seeing graves unearthed and moved, the chapel taken over by soldiers, and the beginnings of a wall that would split Berlin for the next 28 years. Then, later, the grief of being separated from your loved ones, both alive and dead, if you were on the opposite side of the wall from the graveyard. Reflecting on history is important; that’s what these memorials are for: to remember.

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Autumn Larsen

Autumn Larsen

My name is Autumn Larsen, and I am an Environmental Studies major and German Studies minor at Mount Holyoke College, but in Spring 2024 I am studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany in the ES and Sustainability program! 

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