It is a place with many stories to tell: People were dancing and partying here, made history; it lay in ruins but today is all shiny and new, representing a modern Berlin of glass, steel, and concrete: Potsdamer Platz.
Located only slightly south of Brandenburg Gate and Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Platz attracts both tourists and locals. Surrounding the impressive Sony Center, boutiques and malls, cinemas, stages, and theaters can be found. Hotels and skyscrapers touch the sky here and make the square a cosmopolitan center of the city. Thus it is hard to imagine that not even 30 years ago the area was nothing but a wasteland.
In the beginning the square lay actually outside the borders of Berlin: Separated from neighboring Leipziger Platz by the Berlin Toll Wall, Potsdamer Platz was sort of the gateway to the town. Even back then it was an important traffic hotspot: a five-armed junction led the way to all directions, though mainly towards summer residence Potsdam (therefore the name). in 1838 a main line railway station was opened and soon the place became an important terminal for travelers and goods – Berlin’s gateway to the world. So when in the late 19th century Berlin overlooked the entire German Reich as its capital, Potsdamer Platz had long become a subscenter of the grown city. Luxurious hotels like Fürstenhof or Grand Bellevue Hotel where the finest of the metropolis, and art cafes like Josty gave the area a bohemian atmosphere. Also, Berlin’s first subway line started here in 1902.
After the First World War Potsdamer Platz developed into a popular entertainment hotspot of the Golden Twenties. The louche Haus Vaterland with its movie theaters, restaurants, and dancehalls was even one of the largest amusement palaces in entire Europe. When imagining all the nightclubs and theaters, fancy coffeeshops and restaurants – Rheinterassen even offered and hourly thunderstorm simulation full of show effects – and an ill-reputed red light district, we can easily call Potsdamer Platz a Las Vegas of the 1920s. To make sure the square would cope with the increasing traffic density, the city placed Germany’s the first traffic light here in 1924, too.
The twist came, as with many things, in World War II. Having been entirely bombed out the former glory was left in ruins. Resulting from the separation of East and West and the erection of the Berlin Wall 1961 the site became a no man’s land within the death strip, right in the shade of the wall. Remains of buildings were bulldozed on both sides and disappeared entirely. What had been Germany’s most vivid square became a wasteland on the outskirts of two separated cities.
Only the fall of the wall in 1989 changed the situation practically overnight: The wall was torn down, streets were tarmaced, and Pink Floyd played their legendary show The Wall here, back then the biggest concert in rock music history. Following Berlin’s reunification Potsdamer Platz found itself suddenly right in the center of a metropolis – a location that was honored with cockily controversial construction projects around the millenium.
Today skyscrapers with sparkling glass facades shape the image of what is probably Berlin’s most modern square. Neighboring Sony Center with its breathtaking glass-and-steel dome is home to a number of restaurants and bars, as well as a couple of movie theater. Shopping malls like Potsdamer Platz Arkaden or LP12 Mall of Berlin attract shoppers and the surrounding stages starr famous shows like the Blue Men Group or Berlin-musical Hinterm Horizont. There is a big underground railway station here that connects subways and main line trains and the rooftop of Kollhof-Tower has one of the city’s finest panoramic view points. It is true that some Berliners see the area’s development into a skyline city of the 21st century critically, still Potsdamer Platz is an absolute must-see and should not be missed when visiting the capital.
Berlin’s oldest subway line U1 does not stop here anymore, but still you can reach Potsdamer Platz in a convenient 15 minute train ride from Industriepalast Hostel. Enjoy discovering one of the world’s most exciting squares and see you soon, here in Berlin,
Blogger at Industriepalast Hostel
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.