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4 out of 5 stars
1 hour
Hit the open water for a chance to see the numerous historical sites and modern attractions Berlin has to offer. Enjoy complimentary cheese and wine as well.
From 26.90 per person
5 out of 5 stars
1 hour
Enjoy a piping hot, gourmet pizza on a leisurely cruise down the river Spree. You’ll pass central Berlin and the most famous monuments in the city.
From 26.40 per person
5 out of 5 stars
1 hour
Munch on delicious cake and sip a steaming-hot coffee as you cruise through the open water. See incredible landmarks, take pictures, and relax for an hour.
From 21.50 per person
5 out of 5 stars
Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Learn all sorts of historical oddities, factual curiosities and native wisdom on the Best of Berlin Walking Tour. Listen to the thoughts of several locals.
From 25 per person
3 hours
Friday and Saturday
Seek out those lesser-known spots where the best street art hides
From 12 per person

Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse: A Legendary Street of Many Secrets

If you are a World War II or Cold War history buff, your visit to Berlin will fall short of a deliciously satisfying conclusion unless it includes a day on Friedrichstrasse (Friedrich Street), a legendary two-mile thoroughfare replete with a past that includes an era of lovely bourgeois homes at its southeastern origins in the early 1800s; a commemorative strip of old bricks and a museum marking the site of a chilling Cold War staredown between two of the world’s super powers; a historically significant and evocative train station; and, in juxtaposition, a Manhattan-like expanse of upscale shops, posh restaurants, and glittering theaters, including the important Metropol Theater, founded by Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht in 1873 and housed in the Admiralspalast.

Before you can lace up your walking shoes or rent a bicycle, however, you’ll need a place to stay. There are diverse hotels and inns in the area, convenient to Friedrichstrasse: the contemporary Mediterranean-style Mandala Suites, the NH Jolly Berlin - Friedrichstrasse, and the Unter den Linden Hotel, just to name a few. (If circumstances prevent you from staying nearby, Friedrichstrasse is easily accessible by train from anywhere in the city.) Once you’ve managed to shake off jet lag, you’ll be refreshed and ready, willing, and able to be enthralled.

At the southern end of Friedrichstrasse, in the district of Kreuzberg, is Mehringplatz, a square that is actually a circular plaza known in the early 18th century as the Rondell, modeled after Rome's Piazza del Popolo, with a center column marking the southeastern city limits, and surrounded by a peaceful neighborhood of genteel homes. Today Mehringplatz continues its struggle to recover from World War II bombing raids which left it a muddy field with burned-out shells of buildings strewn in its midst like concrete cadaver bones.

The next few blocks of Friedrichstrasse are rundown and tired, reflective of the endemic economic hardship in all cities caught in the indifferent crossfire of war. The residents and shop-owners here cling to their dreams of transforming their neighborhood into the commercial activity and subtle beauty of its earlier life.

A few blocks on is Zimmerstrasse, the cross street where, for almost 30 years, the notorious Berlin Wall crossed Friedrichstrasse to mark the boundaries between East and West Berlin. This was also the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the heavily guarded and barbed-wire-protected passageway with its ever-vigilant prison guard towers between the East and West Berlin borders. It was at Checkpoint Charlie that American and Soviet forces, in heavily armed tanks with engines running, faced off in an unnerving 18-hour battle of wills in October 1961, shortly after the Wall’s installation. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev negotiated a peaceful end to the impasse and, one by one, each side’s tanks alternately, and very slowly, backed off. Today a trail of embedded bricks salvaged from the Berlin Wall marks the barrier’s former location. You’ll want to devote more time to the nearby Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, which is an important repository of Berlin Wall artifacts and detailed information about it and Checkpoint Charlie, whose colloquial-sounding name belies its terrifying past.

Wend your way north, and after a few more blocks, the heart of history’s misery yields to the grand vista offered by the glorious reincarnation of the city’s former business and entertainment epicenter, where more than 1.1 million square feet of retail space were added in the 1990s. Current occupants include Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques, the audio and visual masters Bang & Olufsen, and the chic Galleries Lafayette, a European luxury store with a glass façade and striking atrium designed by architect Jean Nouvel. Friedrichstadtpassagen, an indoor mall more resembling an opulent palace, is an architectural gem, as is its neighbor Quartier 206, an Art Deco wonder designed by I. M. Pei that is home to more glitzy designer boutiques. You might enjoy having lunch at a cozy French bistro or quaffing a robust German lager at a casual pub in the district.

Further north, you will find yourself at the threshold of the district of Mitte, in what was formerly East Berlin (the Wall was actually tipped from the southeast to the northwest). Just past the intersection of Friedrichstrasse and the stately Unter den Linden Boulevard, home to the famous Grand Hotel, is the stalwart Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, or train station, built in 1882 to serve as the hub between East and West Berlin for city, suburban, and underground trains. After the Wall divided the city, West Berliners actually entered East Berlin to transfer trains, although they could not —and probably had no desire to — venture out of the station, unless they had the necessary papers to go through a customs hall called Tränenpalast and enter East Berlin. Tränenpalast means "Palace of Tears," where families and friends sorrowfully parted following too-brief reunions to return yet again to their respective sectors. The train station, which also served as a fortified checkpoint, has undergone a massive restoration, extending its life for decades.

Just a jaunt west down Unter den Linden Boulevard is the Brandenburg Gate, a famous Berlin landmark that once again welcomes visitors to the city after serving for 30 years as a sealed-off fortress, ostensibly to protect the city from invasion, although those on the inside believed it was constructed to prevent a mass exodus to the west.

Beyond the somber train station, Friedrichstrasse crosses the River Spree into what once was a hotbed of bawdy bars and clubs and numerous brothels, whose more sophisticated moniker was "pleasure palaces." Today this northern terminus of Friedrichstrasse is the main artery of Berlin’s diverse and internationally recognized theater district, where you’ll find the Admiralspalast; the Friedrichstadtpalast, a grand chorus line revue; and the Berliner Ensemble at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. At Oranienburger Tor, Friedrichstrasse bids you auf Wiedersehen and points the way to another lively and colorful —and youthful — world of hip and hot nightlife.

But that’s another story....