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Altstadt von Bernau in Brandenburg
Altstadt Bernau © visitBerlin, Foto: Arlene Gärtner

Old town of Bernau

Medieval gem and socialist model city

The S-Bahn takes you from Pankow to Bernau in just minutes. During a walk through the small town, you can still see what life was like in the Barnim, the name for this historic region in Brandenburg.

Hussite festival and sword fights
In and around Berlin, Bernau is especially known for its Hussite Festival. Every year in June, people in medieval clothes gather in Bernauer Stadtpark, turning it into a market fair with tournament. Knights demonstrate their riding skills, while other eagerly peddle their wares. Another medieval spectacle is the annual sword-fight meeting in March, where swordfighters demonstrate the martial arts of different cultures and epochs.

Sights from 700 years of history
Like Berlin, Bernau was founded in the 13th century. The town developed quite a reputation far beyond Brandenburg for its cloth and its beer and it flourished. Even today, the impressive 8m (26 ft.) city walls and the ramparts testify to the defensive measures once taken to protect the city. When the Bohemian Hussites threatened to take the city in 1432, it was the sturdy defences offered by the city wall that helped Bernau win the battle. Along the wall, there are small alleyways that take visitors back in time. Of the three city gates that once stood, only the Steintor remains, now serving as one of the two locations of the local museum where you can learn all about medieval life in Bernau, weapons, guild symbols, and the medieval art of beer brewing. The second location is located in the Henkerhaus or “Hangman’s House”, which tells the history of executions in the town as well as everyday life here from the 17th to the 19th centuries. There is also the market square with the neo-classical town hall and a sixteenth-century church with an altarpiece from the school of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Socialist Model City
Many houses in the inner city had been half-timbered buildings from the early 19th century that had become rather derelict by the 20th century. Under the post-war East German government, it was decided not to restore the old houses, but instead to tear them down and replace with modern prefab buildings. The result was Bernau is now home to a mix of typical GDR high-rise housing estates and historically significant buildings.