The Tränenpalast, Checkpoint Charlie, the former entertainment district and shopping are all part of Friedrichstraße in Berlin. But there’s a lot more besides.
Friedrichstraße is Berlin’s north-south axis and runs in a straight line through Mitte and Kreuzberg. It is 3.5 kilometres long and one of the city’s most important arterial roads. Today, you can stroll and shop here, visit the famous Checkpoint Charlie border crossing or one of the theatres.
From an entertainment district to a shopping area: the history of Friedrichstraße
Friedrichstraße is named after Elector Friedrich III, who ruled here from 1688 to 1713. In his day, the road was surrounded only by fields, pastures and farmland – until the royal estates were sold and work started on building Berlin’s suburbs with paved roads.
By the time of the Second World War, with music halls, theatres and the famous Wintergarten variety theatre, Friedrichstraße had become Berlin’s most famous – and notorious – amusement district.
When Berlin was partitioned, the wall cut through Friedrichstraße as well. Today at this exact spot – the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing – there is a replica of the guard house that you can visit. Another crossing point in GDR times was Friedrichstraße station. In the glass pavilion – known as the Tränenpalast, or palace of tears – there is an exhibition on the border crossing.
Building projects after reunification turned the section of Friedrichstraße between the station and Checkpoint Charlie into a popular shopping district. Today, there are many new buildings such as the Friedrichstadtpassagen with designer boutiques, offices and restaurants. Quartier 207 contains the department stores Les Galeries Lafayette with French fashion, lifestyle accessories and a delicatessen department with specialities from France. Designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, it has an impressive transparent glass façade and an atrium that narrows towards the ground. The neighbouring Quartier 206, where you can shop in elegant designer boutiques, is built in the extravagant Art Déco style.
The entertainment district is still there, north of the station, where the Friedrichstadt-Palast and Admiralspalast still put on variety shows and spectacular revues. Only a few minutes’ walk away is the Berliner Ensemble – one of the most prominent theatres in Germany, famously established by Bertolt Brecht.
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