In the heart of Tiergarten Park, the Siegessäule (Victory Column) with its golden statue is one of the city’s must-see sights – complete with panoramic views!
From Brandenburg Gate, the broad boulevard Straße des 17. Juni leads west through the centre of Tiergarten Park. If you stroll down it for around twenty minutes, you reach a major intersection – a vast roundabout known as the Großer Stern. And right at the heart of the roundabout, you can find the Victory Column.
Incidentally, in 2008 this was where Barack Obama gave a speech in the year before he was elected President of the United States.
History of the Victory Column
Work on the column began in 1864. Designed by Heinrich Strack, the column was initially intended to celebrate Prussia’s victory in the Second Schleswig War against Denmark that same year. By the time the column was finished in 1873, Prussia was also celebrating victories in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 to 1871. In the wake of those military successes, the Kingdom of Prussia successfully united Germany as an imperial power under the Prussian crown. The Wars of German Unification, as these three wars are known in Germany today, were originally commemorated by a column of three segments topped with a bronze sculpture. The bronze reliefs and mosaic frieze decorating the columned plinth also recount the story of founding the German Empire.
The Victory Column first stood on Königsplatz square (today Platz der Republik, in front of the Reichstag Parliament building). In 1938–39, under Hitler’s plans to transform Berlin into his world capital Germania, the column was moved just over 1.5 km to the west to its present location. At the same time, a fourth section was added, raising the column to a height of 67 metres. The Victory Column survived the Second World War largely unscathed. In the mid-1980s, it was then restored and is now listed as a heritage site
Did you know that Otto von Bismarck was in charge of unveiling the Victory Column?
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The bronze sculpture at the top of the column weighs 35 tons and measures 8 metres and 30 centimetres. Created by Friedrich Drake, this figure represents Victoria, the goddess of victory, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike. She is holding a laurel wreath in one hand and, in the other, a spear as a military standard, decorated with an iron cross set in a wreath. Since her helmet is adorned by an eagle, the goddess can also be read as symbolising Borussia, the personification of Prussia. Locals, though, have a less respectful nickname for this gilded bronze statue and call it the Goldelse, the “Golden Elsie”.
A panoramic view
The Victory Column’s viewing platform is set directly below the figure of the goddess – at the top of a spiral staircase of 285 steps. With the staircase narrowing as its approaches the top, this climb requires a reasonable level of fitness and is nothing for the faint hearted.
But the view from around 51 metres up is well worth it! From here, you can enjoy panoramic views across the spreading Tiergarten Park and much of the city. And since the viewing platform is open nearly all year round, this is the ideal spot to enjoy the city with all your senses – with the wind in your hair and Berlin at your feet!
Sights in the vicinity: