From an empty wasteland to a popular shopping and nightlife district: Potsdamer Platz in the heart of the city.
Two angels running across a large grey space, a huge empty wasteland in the city. The only thing standing in this no-man’s land is a wall. High-rise skyscrapers, bustling activity everywhere, people strolling through a shopping centre, going to the cinema and sitting in cafés. If you see the 1987 film "Wings Of Desire" and look at Potsdamer Platz today, it’s hard to imagine that it’s the same place.
Since reunification, what used to be a wasteland with the Berlin Wall running through it has become a completely new neighbourhood. It’s a must for anyone visiting Berlin, because there are restaurants, cinemas, theatres, shopping centres and modern architecture.
Potsdamer Platz today
The term Potsdamer Platz is an imprecise one. Actually, it’s only the square next to Leipziger Platz, but Berliners have come to refer to the whole area as Potsdamer Platz.
The Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, with their many shops, are a popular place for shopping. You can take the fastest elevator in Europe up to the Panoramapunkt in the Kollhof Tower, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Berlin skyline. The Legoland Discovery Center with around four million Lego bricks is great fun for all the family.
The Filmhaus in the Sony Center
Every February, Potsdamer Platz is at the centre of the Berlinale, the Berlin film festival. But that’s not the only time of year when it attracts film fans. The CinemaXX is a large multiplex cinema, and the CineStar only shows films in their original language. The IMAX shows blockbusters on a huge screen. At the Arsenal, art-house enthusiasts can get their fill of experimental works and cinema classics. The Museum für Film und Fernsehen offers a fascinating trip through the history of cinema and television in Germany. On the central reservation of Potsdamer Straße in front of the SonyCenter, the Boulevard der Stars commemorates great German actors.
Where the first traffic lights stood: Potsdamer Platz in the past
The square gets its name from the Potsdamer Tor, the gate that stood on the main road from Berlin to Potsdam since the 18th century. The square’s heyday was the early 20th century, when it was bustling with life and roaring traffic. In 1924, the first traffic lights in continental Europe were installed to guide the buses, trams, coaches and cars. The cultural elite met in the cafés and restaurants around the square.
The Second World War left the square devastated, and not only that, it was the point where the Soviet, British and American sectors met. It was then divided by the Wall, which meant it spent more than 40 years in neglect – a wasteland between the East and the West. The only building not destroyed by the bombs was the Weinhaus Huth in no-man’s land next to the remains of the Hotel Esplanade. At the end of the 1980s, a 1.6-kilometre stretch of maglev track was built at Potsdamer Platz.
The rebirth of Potsdamer Platz
After reunification, the unique opportunity arose to built a complete new district in the centre of the city. In 1991, the competition to design Potsdamer Platz and Leipziger Platz was won by the architects Heinz Hilmer and Christoph Sattler. The concept was based on the “European city” model, which explicitly rejected dense concentrations of high-rise buildings.
In 1993, work began on the construction of the DaimlerChrysler Quartier, based on the master plan by the architects Renzo Piano and Christoph Kohlbecker. The buildings were designed by international star architects including Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Arata Isozaki. In only five years, Europe’s largest building site was transformed from nothing into a new urban centre. Helmut Jahn’s Sony Center, completed in 2000, has a cool, futuristic aesthetic which contrasts with the DaimlerChrysler Quartier. In early 2004, the elegant Beisheim Center opened at the Lenné-Dreieck.
A journey back in time at Potsdamer Platz: take a look down
If you happen to be at Potsdamer Platz, take a look downwards, because a metal strip laid in the ground marks the route of the Berlin Wall.
And directly in front of the Deutsche Bahn Tower, you can take a trip back in time. Laid in the ground is a giant QR Cobble, a digital cobblestone. Scan it with the QR scanner on your mobile and experience an interactive trip through time with historical panorama views.
Winter wonderland at Potsdamer Platz
Every winter, Potsdamer Platz turns into a giant winter wonderland, with Europe’s biggest toboggan run, an ice rink, Bavarian curling and an après-ski party cabin.
On the south side of the Potsdamer Platz is the Kulturforum, where you will find important museums and institutions including the following:
- Staatsbibliothek (State Library)
- Gemäldegalerie (Gallery of Paintings)
- Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts)
- Neue Nationalgalerie (currently closed)
Parking at Potsdamer Platz
There are large underground car parks beneath the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden and the SonyCenter.