Berlin Cold War History Tour

Explore the deep divisions between East and West Berlin during the 20th century
From US$531 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • Karl-Marx-Allee
  • Hansa Quarter
Photos & Highlights
  • Examines history of Cold War Berlin through an architectural lens
  • Led by local architect or historian
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Tour Description
As Europe began to rebuild following the wreckage of the Second World War, Berlin was instead cleaved in two: East Berlin, under Soviet control, and West Berlin, an “island of democracy” deep inside East German territory. On this 3-hour Berlin Cold War tour we will join a local architectural historian for an in-depth comparison of East and West. We'll focus mainly on buildings and landscapes to build a compelling picture of a divided city and fractured years.

A Model Project of Soviet Architecture

We begin our discussion in the east side of the city, at Frankfurter Tor on Karl-Marx-Allee. A striking example of Berlin's boulevards, this avenue reminds us that part of the history of the two Berlins is recorded in the naming and renaming of streets and sites. Stalinallee’s immense boulevard was the primary focus of East Germany’s post-war development project, attempting to reorganize Berlin’s urban landscape and stressing the political and visual importance of the city center. In the shadows of the Frankfurter Tor’s twin towers, we will discuss the 1950 decision by communist East German leadership to do away with the “cosmopolitan fantasies” of modernist, decentralized planning and to create instead a monumental architecture capable of embodying the promise of a new socialist society.

The West’s Response: Democracy and Commerce

After uncovering the layers of meaning in the architecture of the former East, we will hop on Berlin’s historic S-Bahn train line and cross to the West. Here, we will explore West Berlin’s response to the communist model of Stalinallee: the reconstructed Hansa Quarter.

In this neighborhood, in ruins since the Second World War, a host of internationally prominent architects designed a series of individual, overtly modernist buildings scattered across the green, park-like area. We'll discuss how the spaces and structures embody Western principles of freedom, individuality, and the non-authoritarian order of democracy and the marketplace.

Berlin Cold War Tour

By the end of our time together we will have investigated how architecture and urban planning in Berlin were one of the main fronts in the political and ideological struggle of the Cold War. We'll also be newly equipped with an insightful perspective that will transform the way we see the city thereafter.

For help planning your visit to an icon of the city’s Cold War history, see our guide on how to tour the Berlin Wall, or join us for our Berlin Wall tour.
Where You'll Start
(4.78) 64 Reviews

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Robert was a very good guide and did a great job explaining the deeper story behind the architecture in the eastern and western sides of Berlin. We also learned a lot from his explanations of life growing up in East Germany. Overall, it was a great tour!
Igor gave us an indepth review of life behind the wall. He corrected many of our misconceptions, and gave us a much better idea of how politics and finances drove construction decisions during the Cold War. The time just flew by!
Dora was extremely knowledgeable and thorough in her explanation of the history of the Cold War, the cultural differences between the sectors and the aftermath. Her supplemental presentation of photos and maps also helped with a true understanding of the events of the time. She was extremely engaging. I highly recommend her.