Not just one, but rather two false cathedrals plus a magnificent concert hall make this Berlin’s most beautiful – and most photogenic – square: Gendarmenmarkt. Its history mirrors the exceptional story of Berlin, but today it is the finest address in town. There are many reasons why you should not miss out on this marvelous plaza in the heart of Berlin Mitte.
Through the ages
Gendarmenmarkt was built during the late 17th century, at a time when many Protestant Huegenots from France settled in the area. Back then it was called Esplanade, later Lindenmarkt. Prussian king Frederick I gave permission to both the German Lutheran community and the French Protestant community to build a simple church each towards the opposite corners of the square. Some 80 years later two identical domed towers were added to both churches, giving rise to the colloquial names the two buildings still hold today: Deutscher Dom (“German Cathedral”) and Französischer Dom (“French Cathedral”). The big National Theatre that had just burnt down was replaced with the Royal Schauspielhaus – today’s Konzerthaus – in 1821, designed by famous architect Karl-Friedrich Schinkel, who also did most of the planning for museum island. The square’s gorgeous architectural ensemble was born.
Down the years the historic developments of both Prussia and later Germany were mirrored in this square; as in 1848, when it became the centre of the street battles surrounding March Revolution. On the occasion of his 100th birthday in 1859 a sculpture of German national poet Friedrich Schiller was erected and parts of the square were renamed in his honor. The Nazis removed the monument in 1936 in order to have more space for pompous military parades. Not until 1988 did marble Schiller return to his original site. Gendarmenmarkt and the surrounding buildings including Konzerthaus, German, and French Cathedral were heavily damaged during World War II and were rebuilt only decades later. Berlin Mitte was part of the GDR back then, whose officials had decided to rename the square Platz der Akademie. It was here that the GDR government made its last appearance in the political arena – to the thunder of Beethoven’s 9th.
Class and Culture
Today it is Gendarmenmarkt again, after the horse stables of the “Soldier King” Frederick-William I which stood here in the 18th century. Thanks to the classicist architectural ensemble of Konzerthaus as well as German and French Cathedral the square is often named Berlin’s most beautiful plaza. Thus it comes at no surprise that it is often being used as a film set. Beautifully restored Konzerthaus is a prime address for classical music in Berlin, hosting regular concerts of the biggest orchestras, famous soloists, and the best conductors. You can find out about upcoming events online. Französischer Dom is home to a Huguenot museum today, as well as a panorama platform offering great views of the city. Deutscher Dom on the opposite side hosts a permanent exhibition on parliamentary democracy in Germany. Locals and visitors also like to hang out on Gendarmenmarkt because of the excellent choice of restaurants surrounding the plaza. You can find everything from affordable pizza to two-star Fischers Fritz at The Regent hotel. There is quite a bit of nightlife, too, with numerous bars including Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt, which is somewhat of a Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Nightclub Bricks in the basement of Hilton hotel makes for endless nights and there is even an exclusive spa and fitness club on the square: Place of Holmes.
A winter and a summer night’s dream
Truly romantic is a visit at Gendarmenmarkt during winter when what might well be the capital’s most amazing christmas market opens its gates. All through December the square is then being turned into a winter wonderland. But summer makes for great events, too: Classic Open Air are a number of beautiful concerts under the open sky with everything from Schubert and Chopin to The Lord of the Rings and Titanic.
In conclusion, Gendarmenmarkt is an absolute must-see on your trip to Berlin. From Industriepalast Hostel just hop on the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz and from there take subway U2 to Hausvogteiplatz.
Have a great time discovering a most beautiful plaza,
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.