Berlin’s Spandau Citadel, the impressive Zitadelle Renaissance fortress, has a chequered history – from military fortress to cultural and concert venue.
Spandau Citadel, the Zitadelle Renaissance fortress, is just ten minutes’ walk from Spandau’s old town. Today, the old sixteenth-century Citadel hosts a wealth of cultural events – from medieval festivals and banquets, to concerts, plays and performances.
Yesterday: An impenetrable fortress
As you enter the impressive fortress, it’s easy to imagine the sounds of the past – the neighing of horses and shouts of the medieval knights. In these walls, the Renaissance era truly comes alive! The Citadel was constructed in the sixteenth century to protect the city of Berlin. As a defensive fortress, it was designed symmetrically with four bastions connected by four walls of equal length, leaving no blind spots for attackers to hide. The four bastions are called Queen (Königin), King (König), Crown Prince (Kronprinz) and Brandenburg.
The site originally held a thirteenth-century castle. Since the surviving Julius Turm tower was part of that complex, it is now Berlin’s oldest building – and at 34.6 metres high, it is still Spandau’s signature sight. The Julius Turm is open to the public, and the top level offers truly stunning views across Spandau and the River Havel.
The Spandau Citadel is one of the best preserved Renaissance fortresses in all of Europe – and strolling across the grounds inside, history seems to come alive!
Today: A modern cultural centre
Yesterday’s military fortress has become today’s cultural centre – with exhibitions, festivals, concerts, puppet theatre, the popular bat cellar and exhibition, as well as medieval and jousting festivals.
The Spandau Citadel was first opened to the public in 1989. Since then it has hosted a wide range of events – from theatre to international pop music.
Museum and tours
Even if the Citadel fortress is only just over a mere four hundred years old – the fortress site has many stories to tell from the last 1000 years. A Slavic settlement excavated by archaeologists dates from around 1050, the oldest traces of human life here.
To find out more about the site, you can visit the Citadel’s varied exhibitions. The west curtain wall shows the remains of a Slavic wall and the later stone castle, while the Commander’s House focuses specifically on the history of the fortress. The Archeological Window offers an insight into the middle ages, and showcases medieval Jewish gravestones thought to have been taken from the Jewish cemetery as building materials. The new setting for the display from late 2015 now allows visitors a closer view of the exhibits.
The regular tours on offer provide a fascinating introduction to the fortress and site. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from March to October, there are three tours a day to choose from (in German). Some tours are offered in English and other languages, and a multilingual audio guide is always available.
But the Citadel is not only about history – it is also a magnet for bat experts and fans! Every year, the fortress provides a winter home to around ten thousand bats. Not surprisingly, one absolute visitor highlight – especially for children – is the vaulted bat cellar, where you can see around 200 flying fox bats. The cellar exhibition is also dedicated to these winter guests. The cellar is open every day, and you can register in advance for one of the popular guided ‘bat tours’ through the vaulted corridors.
Citadel Music Festival
Every year in summer, the Citadel hosts major national and international names at the Citadel Music Festival, which regularly attracts up to 10,000 fans. Against the backdrop of the illuminated fortress complex, the festival has a very special atmosphere – and this unusual setting only adds to the thrills of the music.
During the festival, the Citadel also holds a lively night market with artisan stalls offer a wide range of goods and bargains.
For families and children
Every year, the Spandau Citadel holds a children’s festival with an array of magical events, especially for its youngest visitors! It also regularly hosts puppet theatre shows for children aged three and over. In addition, the fortress offers children’s workshops and many children’s tours along the corridors in the thick fortress walls.
Find out more at www.zitadelle-spandau.de
Information for school classes
Free entry for school classes (with up to two teachers); official confirmation from the school required.
Find further information here