Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Cold War Sites in Berlin

Berlin Icon
Berlin was at the heart of the Cold War. And nothing physically cemented the division between East and West more so than the Berlin Wall. Now more than 30 years on, despite an initial desire to remove all traces of the Wall, there are portions of the wall still standing in the original position. The highly controlled communist state relied on an oppressive and brutal security apparatus, of detention centres and prisons. Some of these have been transformed into documentation centres with moving exhibitions about the atrocities of the Cold War era in Berlin. For those interested in this period of European history, there is still a lot to experience in the German capital. From fragments of the Wall to museums about life in East Berlin. From Stasi Prisons to attractions using state-of-the-art technology to tell the story of a divided city.

Berlin TV Tower

With a total height of 368 metres, Berlin’s TV tower is the most visible and distinctive feature on the city’s skyline. Even visible from some of the suburbs. The tower was erected by the East German government as a show of strength and power of the Communist regime and city. Built between 1965 and 1969, to replace the Berlin Radio Tower that looks a bit similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the TV Tower is still the tallest structure in Germany. And the third highest human-made structure in the European Union. At the top, there is a viewing platform and a revolving restaurant.

Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Stasi Prison

In what had been a canteen and food store in an industrialised area of north east Berlin, post war fell into the Soviet Occupation zone. In June 1945 the Soviet Secret Police created a detainment and transit camp known as ‘Special Camp No. 3.’ At the end of 1946 the facility became the main Soviet Secret Police prison. This was subsequently converted into a Stasi Prison in 1951. Guided tours are available in German and English, some of the German tours are still conducted by former detainees.

Bernauer Strasse Wall Memorial

Along the 1.4 km length of Bernauer Strasse is the most extensive memorial to the Berlin Wall. An open-air exhibition that uses archival sound and image to detail all aspects of the history of the border strip and living in a divided city – on the ground, where it all happened. A 70 m section of the Wall has been reconstructed, with watchtower. Although visitors are free to start and end at any point, the Visitors Centre at the corner of Bernauer and Garten streets is a good place to start.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, a border crossing between East and West on the Berlin Wall, is surely one of the most iconic sites from the Wall. Not only was this the site of a stand-off between the Soviets and the Americans in October 1961, many attempts to escape East Berlin were made here. Not surprising then it has been the setting in many films and novels, including James Bond in Octopussy and ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’. The booth, barrier, flag and the sandbags are based on the original checkpoint.

Cold War Museum

Advertised as the first ever Cold War Museum, here visitors learn about the Cold War in a high tech, futuristic setting. Permanent exhibits include archive film showing key players such as Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl. With the aid of original artefacts including a Soviet-era rocket, a Telex machine and Cold War spacesuit, the various exhibits explore the central themes of the Cold War, namely the Space Race, nuclear disarmament and Espionage. A VR option allows visitors to go back in time to a divided Berlin. You get to follow an East German Border guard as he attempts to escape to the West.

DDR Museum

The DDR Museum offers visitors an immersive experience of life in the German Democratic Republic. From sitting in a typical East German living room to an interrogation room. From taking a drive in Trabi to being inside a prison cell. Visitors are encourage to touch interact with objects in three themed areas and 45 topics to get an idea of everyday life behind the Berlin Wall and the workings of the state and its security apparatus. This is the largest museum focused on the GDR in Berlin.

East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

At 1316 m long this is the longest complete section of the Berlin Wall still standing. Soon after the wall came down, 118 artists from 21 countries painted such images as a Trabant breaking through the wall’, Eric Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev locked in a brotherly socialist kiss. In September 1990 it was formally opened as a an open air gallery, which given its length makes its the longest open air gallery in the world.

GDR Watchtower

Built in around 1971, this is the last standing watchtower of its kind. There were an estimated 200 of these towers along the length of the Berlin Wall. The concrete towers replaced earlier towers built using wood. From their vantage point a few metres above the ground GDR soldiers would watch over the inner wall of the Wall. The octagonal shape gave the guards a 360 degree view. The tower was recently renovated and visitors can climb the column to the observation deck.

Humboldt Forum

Following the reunification of Germany and considerable debate, it was agreed to partially reconstruct the great Baroque Berlin Palace to provide a new cultural space in the city. Opened in 2021, the venue hosts numerous permanent and temporary exhibitions. Some of these exhibitions explore 800 years of history at this extraordinary site, from monastery to royal palace to Cold War Palace. The Forum houses four museums, including the Ethnological Museum and the Asian Art Museum.

Marienfelde Refugee Transit Camp

By the end of the 1940s already thousands of people were fleeing the Soviet Occupation Zone. Established in 1953 the Berlin refugee transit camp, one of three in West Germany, was the first point of arrival for refugees from the GDR. Today the site is both a memorial to the 1.53 million men, women and children who passed through here and a museum for their plight. Seven exhibits with around 900 objects tell the story from the decision to leave the GDR to being integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany.


Built between 1884 and 1894, this iconic building with its glass dome has been home to the parliament of the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and for the National Socialists – until it was destroyed by fire in 1933. Renovation was completed in 1999, and it is now the second most visited attraction in Germany. It is possible to climb to the top of the dome, visit the Plenary Chamber and have a meal at the Rooftop restaurant. The Reichstag is free to visit, but advance registration is required. Take a guided tour that includes registration.

Stasi Museum

The Stasi Museum in Berlin is housed in what was the main building of the East German Ministry of State Security, the so-called House 1. The highlight is the office of Erich Mielke, who was Minister of State for Security and head of the Stasi from 1957 until 1989. Using original artefacts used by Stasi operatives and their informers, such as bugs, hidden cameras and weapons, exhibits explore the power and influence the Stasi had in trying to control the East German population. Some parts have been left in much the same state as they were left when activists entered the building in January 1990. Guided tours are offered in German and English.

Teufelsberg Listening Station

Teufelsberg is an artificial hill created out of rubble brought from the destroyed Berlin city centre after WWII. In the 1950s the Americans began erecting antennas and other equipment to create their listening station. This ended at the end of the Cold War and the site is gradually falling into disrepair. You can pay to enter the site and just wonder around, including climbing up to the randomes. But without any information panels, the visit is a bit aimless. A knowledgeable guide explains the historical context of the site, but also the various features therein.

The Wall Museum @ East Side Gallery

In an old warehouse building next to the Spree River at the Oberbaumbrücke and the southern end of the East Side Gallery, is one of the best Berlin Wall experiences in the city. Do not let the themed restaurant below it put you off. The story of the Wall, from the end of WW2 to its fall in 1989, is told here in great, graphic detail with over 100 displays, including historic film footage, interviews and testimonies of victims and border guards, objects and artefacts from the period as well as interactive displays.

TimeRide Berlin 1985

Take a virtual bus ride into East Berlin sometime in 1985. After an introduction to orientate you in history, you will be introduced to three guides and their connection with East Berlin. You choose one, are given a virtual reality headset and enter a room that replicates the inside of a bus from the 1980s. Your VR journey begins as the bus pulls up to Checkpoint Charlie. After formalities are complete you experience a 30 minute virtual ride through the streets of Berlin. ending at the Palace of the Republic. A must!

Tränenpalast - Palace of Tears

Located at the Friedrichstraße train station, Tränenpalast is a former Cold War border crossing facility between East and West Berlin. Because the station was only accessible to West Berliners, the facility was used only for westbound crossings between 1962 and 1989. Poignantly, the now accepted name refers to the many tears shed when East Berlin residents bid farewell to their West German visitors. From 1990 until 2006 the check point was used as a nightclub, only declared a federal memorial site in 2008. A museum opened in September 2011, using original artefacts, documents, photographs and audio-visual material to tell the story of Berlin during the Cold War.