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tourists taking pictures at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin Friedrichstraße © visitBerlin, Foto: Artfully Media, Sven Christian Schramm

Checkpoint Charlie

The scene of espionage thrillers

From Octopussy to The Spy Who Can In From The Cold: the history of espionage in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie.

The history of Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the setting for many thrillers and spy novels, from James Bond in Octopussy to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Located on the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, it is a reminder of the former border crossing, the Cold War and the partition of Berlin. The barrier and checkpoint booth, the flag and the sandbags are all based on the original site – and are a popular subject for photos. It’s no wonder that Checkpoint Charlie is one of the sights of Berlin that you really should see.

Where did Checkpoint Charlie get its name?

The name Checkpoint Charlie comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie). After the border crossings at Helmstedt-Marienborn (Alpha) and Dreilinden-Drewitz (Bravo), Checkpoint Charlie was the third checkpoint opened by the Allies in and around Berlin. 1945 the allies divided Berlin into four sectors - France controlled the north-western, England the western and the USA the south-western parts of the city. The Soviet Union as allocated to the whole of the eastern part of Berlin. 

What happened at Checkpoint Charlie in 1961?

Checkpoint Charlie became the most famous crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin. On 22 September 1961, Allied guards began registering members of the American, British and French forces before trips to East Berlin and foreign tourists could find out about their stay there. Once the checkpoint was designated a crossing point for members of the Allied armed forces, a month later in October 1961 it became the scene of a tank confrontation. American and Soviet tanks took up position and faced each other with weapons primed.

Tip: The augmented reality app Cold War Berlin brings this moment in history to life in three dimensions. You don't have to be on site at Checkpoint Charly to visualize the 3D model of the border crossing. Historical photos, films and radio reports complete the offer. You can download the app in German or English for free in all app stores.

Checkpoint Charlie as the scene of numerous escape attempts

Checkpoint Charlie was not only an important Cold War site, but also witnessed numerous attempts to escape from East Berlin. An open air exhibition on the corner of Schützenstraße and Zimmerstraße tells the story of those that failed and those that succeeded. An installation by the artist Frank Thiel and a commemorative plate also mark the memorial.

When did Checkpoint Charlie close?

The checkpoint booth was removed on 22 June 1990, about half a year after the wall opened in November 1989. The original booth now displayed in the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf. Later on a copy of the first guard house was built on the site of Checkpoint Charlie, a much smaller booth than the one removed in 1990.

Who is the soldier at Checkpoint Charlie?

The pictures of the soldier at the site of Checkpoint Charlie today is the  former US army tuba player Jeff Harper. His picture is part of a series of photographs, taken to commemorate the last Allied soldiers in Berlin in 1994. There are no soldiers "guarding" Checkpoint Charlie today. So you won't be able to get your passport stamped, but you can take a picture.


Checkpoint Charlie today

Nearby to the former border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie you can find out more about the Berlin Wall: in the informative museum, in the panorama of an autumn day in 1980 or with a fast-paced tour in a Trabant along where the wall used to be.

For a very special view of Checkpoint Charlie and the city’s scenery, you can go up in the Hi-Flyer tethered balloon.

How do I get to Checkpoint Charlie?

Checkpoint Charlie is located on Friedrichstraße. You can get there easily by subway. The closest train stations to Checkpoint Charlie are Stadtmitte and Kochstraße. But you can also take the bus 200 to Stadtmitte, which also is fun way to add some free sightseeing to your Berlin excursion.