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Mauerreste der Berliner Stadtmauer in der Littenstraße
Historische Berliner Stadtmauer © wikimedia, Foto: Albrecht Conz (CCBY-SA2-0)

Ancient City Walls

A bit of the medieval past that you can touch

The Berlin Wall, which divided the city for over 50 years, is not the only historic wall you can discover in Berlin. Probably the most important witness to the medieval twin cities of Berlin and Cölln, the remains of the ancient city wall from the 13th century can be found between the Amtsgericht Mitte, the Parochialkirche and the historic restaurant "Zur letzten Instanz".

City Wall as a Building Material

If you walk along Littenstraße, you'll soon come upon the striking reddish-brown walls made of lime mortar, field stones and bricks, added to and restored over the centuries. About 120 metres of the former 2.5 km city wall remain, partially disguised as the rear walls of houses, a fact that became clear when the wartime ruins were being cleared in 1948.

From City Wall to Excise Wall

By the 18th century, the city wall no longer served to mark the city limits of Berlin. Another wall was built around the growing city to serve as an excise tax wall to levy tariffs on goods entering and leaving the city. You may have noticed that many of Berlin's stations and squares have the word "Tor" ("gate") in their name, such as Hallesches Tor and Schlesisches Tor. These names are reminders of the old city gates in the customs wall which originally stood near the stations. Between 1867 and 1870, the excise wall and most of the city gates were torn down. Only three were left standing at the time and two of those were destroyed in the Second World War. The only gate from this wall that still stands is the Brandenburg Gate, once on the western edge of the city. The gate also includes the buildings that were once used to collect the customs duties and excise taxes. Remains of the excise wall can be found next to the Brandenburg Gate and at Hanoversche Straße 9. After unearthing the foundations of the excise wall in the 1980s, a portion of the wall was reconstructed in 1987 along Stresemannstraße.