The most beautiful square in Berlin? The most beautiful north of the Alps? Take a look for yourself at Gendarmenmarkt.
Once, soldiers matched here, but today Berliners and tourists stroll across the square. It’s said to be the most beautiful public square in Berlin, and perhaps the most beautiful north of the Alps. The ensemble of the concert house and two church buildings embellished with towers is in perfect harmony. In summer, orchestras play the most beautiful classical melodies at the Classic Open Air, and in winter the square transforms into a winter wonderland with a Christmas market.
The history of Gendarmenmarkt
The Friedrichstadt quarter was built by Friedrich I at the end of the 17th century according to plans by Johann Arnold Nering. Its main residents were Huguenot refugees from France, which is why the French Protestant community was given one church on the square, and the Lutheran congregation the other. The square got its name from the “Gens d’armes” cuirassier regiment, whose stables there were demolished by Friedrich II. Between the two churches, a new theatre, now known as the Konzerthaus Berlin, was built.
Right in the middle of the square, in front of the Konzerthaus, is a statue of the poet Friedrich Schiller. It was not until twelve years after the foundation stone was laid that the monument was unveiled. After the Second World War, the square lay in ruins. In the 1970s, the East Berlin government had it rebuilt in its current form. Having been renamed Platz der Akademie in 1950, Gendarmenmarkt got its old name back in 1991 after reunification.
A dome, not a church
Gendarmenmarkt took on its current form under Friedrich II – with a harmonious architectural ensemble planned by Georg Christian Unger. Carl von Gontard embellished both the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche and the Lutheran church with almost over-dimensioned domed towers. Although the towers are called the Deutscher Domand the Französischer Dom (“Dom” means “cathedral” in German), they are not churches. They are simply called that after the French word for a dome.
The Deutscher Dom now houses the Bundestag’s exhibition on German parliamentary history Milestones – Setbacks – Sidetracks. The Path to Parliamentary Democracy in Germany. The Französischer Dom contains the Huguenot Museum. The lower part of the building is still the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche.
A famous resident – E.T.A. Hoffmann
The poet E.T.A. Hoffmann once lived here, and he recorded city life in his story My Cousin’s Corner Window. He liked to spend his time in the Lutter & Wegner wine tavern, where his actor friend Ludwig Devrient is said to have unintentionally invented the German word for sparkling wine, “Sekt”. Today, the wine tavern is only two street corners away from the original building.
Classic Open Air
Every summer, Gendarmenmarkt is the romantic setting for the Classic Open Air series of concerts. On the steps of the Konzerthaus, the orchestras play lively classics while the sun slowly sets on a balmy summer’s evening.
During Advent, a charming Christmas market is held at Gendarmenmarkt. The lovingly decorated wooden booths offer traditional handicraft items and delicious Christmas specialities.