Potsdamer Platz is Berlin’s newest city quarter, built in the 1990s on land once severed by the Berlin Wall. Some of the world’s finest architects – Renzo Piano, Helmut Jahn, and Rafael Moneo among them – collaborated in this modern reinterpretation of what had been Berlin’s answer to Times Square in the 1920s. To get a sense of the district’s dimensions and how it fits into the city layout, head to the (1) Panorama Punkt (Potsdamer Platz 1; www.panoramapunkt.de) on top of the brick Kollhoff building at the corner of Alte Potsdamer Strasse and Potsdamer Strasse.
Back on level ground, turn right on Alte Potsdamer Strasse and steer toward the historic (2) Haus Huth (5 Alte Potsdamer Strasse), the only original Potsdamer Platz building left. On the top floor is the stylish and free Sammlung DaimlerChrysler, a gallery of abstract, conceptual, and minimalist art. Ring the bell.
Turn left and find yourself facing the (3) Potsdamer Platz Arkaden (www.potsdamer-platz-arkaden.de), one of Berlin’s few indoor shopping malls and home to heavenly ice cream at the upstairs Caffe & Gelato. Carry your cone to the mall’s far end and exit onto (4) Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, a small square ringed by theaters, a nightclub, a casino, and the Rafael Moneo–designed Grand Hyatt Hotel whose popular Vox Bar pours 240 different whiskeys. Walk along Eichhornstrasse, past Jeff Koons’ metallic blue (5) Balloon Flower sculpture, to the corner of Potsdamer Strasse.
The warped-looking yellow buildings on your left are Berlin’s finest concert halls, the (6) Berliner Philharmonie (Herbert-von-Karajan-Strasse 1; www.berliner-philharmoniker.de) and the Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall), both with exquisite acoustics. Designed by Hans Scharoun, they are part of the (7) Kulturforum, (Culture Forum), a complex of world-class museums and cultural venues. The most important is the vast (8) Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) (www.smb.spk-berlin.de/gg) where you can mingle with European masters—Dürer to Titian, Rembrandt to Gainsborough—working between the 13th and 18th centuries.
Cross Potsdamer Strasse and turn right for a closer look at Helmut Jahn’s (9) Sony Center (www.sonycenter.de). Its central fountain plaza is a great people-watching spot and free Wi-Fi zone topped by a tent-like glass roof that’s illuminated at night. Kids frolic in the (10) Legoland Discovery Center, an indoor playground, while film buffs are drawn to the (11) Museum für Film & Fernsehen, an engaging multimedia romp through German film and television history; there’s even a room of rare Marlene Dietrich memorabilia.
On the left, past the video screen, you can see a peculiar relic from the Prussian days, the opulent (12) Kaisersaal (Imperial Hall), a fancy restaurant that was once part the Grand Hotel Esplanade where Berlin’s high society cavorted in the 1920s. Wizardly technology moved it some 82 yards (75 meters) while the Sony Center was constructed. Its café-bar is a nice place to wrap up your tour.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.