One of Europe’s most powerful landmarks, this German symbol dates back to 1791 and has played a huge role in the country’s political culture ever since.
This towering 30-metre-high neoclassical archway in the heart of the city is an iconic feature of Berlin—and it has long played a role in German history. Modelled on the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, the Brandenburg Gate was built back in 1791 as a symbol of peace standing at the entrance point to the grand boulevard Unter den Linden.
Since then it has become an iconic landmark both in peace and in war. Napoleon marched through the gate into Berlin when he trounced his Prussian foes in 1806, before seizing its crowning statue of Victoria, the Goddess of Victory, and taking it home to France as his reward.
When the Nazis came to power, it became a tool of nationalist propaganda symbolising a strong and united Germany. US President Reagan stood here in 1987 to famously demand that Soviet premier Gorbachev “tear down this wall”. And when the Berlin Wall did fall just two years later, the gate once again came to be regarded as a symbol of the country’s unity.
The gate is made of five passageways, above which are lined a series of friezes depicting famous scenes from Greek mythology. Look out for informative signs which will tell you more about the history of the gate in the context of the country’s politics and its culture over the course of the last two centuries. If you come at night or even for the city’s New Year celebrations, you’ll see the gate brightly lit up, which makes for a particularly impressive spectacle.
Before you walk through the gate itself, head for the Raum der Stille (Room of Silence). This is a bare, plain room where all kinds of people are encouraged to come together, resolve their problems and talk—signifying the Gate’s contemporary role as a symbol of unity and peace.
Located between the Reichstag building and the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate is found directly across from the Tiergarten. It is also close to the city’s major shopping street Friedrichstrasse. Easy to reach on public transport, it is served both by S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations.