In the Berlin district of Mitte, a green area of about 6 hectares was created after the Second World War. It is bordered by Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, Alexanderplatz train station, Rathausstraße and Spandauer Straße.
The square was named after the most famous building that stands there: “Park am Fernsehturm”. Here are the Berlin TV Tower, St. Mary’s Church, the Neptune Fountain and the Red City Hall borders the square. Water cascades and flower beds shape the park, which was created in 1965-73.
I walked around the area around the TV tower and took a closer look at the most important buildings.
Red City Hall
The Red City Hall is the seat of the Governing Mayor of Berlin, the meeting place of the Berlin Senate and the seat of the Senate Chancellery. So here is the political center of the city of Berlin.
Emergence of the Red City Hall
The design of the present city hall was made by Hermann Friedrich Waesemann in 1859. The town hall was built in 1860-71. The old city hall had to be demolished first for the new building. The medieval courthouse, a part of the old city hall, was demolished in 1871. Parts of the building were built in the Babelsberg Park.
The construction costs for the Red City Hall were estimated at three million – yes, and as it is in Berlin, they were actually more than 10 million marks.
Very innovatively, the Red City Hall got a telephone system in 1882.
1921 saw the founding of Greater Berlin. The city council hall had to be rebuilt for 225 city council members. The last meeting took place there on March 12, 1933. During the National Socialist era, meetings were no longer held in the Red City Hall. There were now 45 councilors, who had a purely advisory function. The mayor was assigned a state commissioner in 1934, and from 1936 the city president took over both offices. The Red City Hall was rebuilt from 1934-36 in the “spirit of the Third Reich”.
From November 1943, air raids and artillery fire caused massive damage to the building. Almost fifty percent of the City Hall was destroyed, and the Berlin City Assembly, the Berlin Magistrate and the Lord Mayor therefore initially moved to the New City Hall from the end of 1945.
The East Berlin Magistrate had the Red City Hall restored from 1951-56 according to the plans of Fritz Meinhardt. The exterior was taken over largely true to the original. The main staircase was almost undestroyed and remained intact. The upper floor was completely rebuilt. When the keys were handed over to the mayor, Friedrich Ebert, the construction worker in charge announced that all of Berlin would once be administered from this city hall. After the division of Berlin, the East Berlin City Council first used the Red City Hall. It was not until October 1991, after the reunification of the city, that the construction worker’s statement came true. Now the Red City Hall is the seat of government for all of Berlin.
Centrally located in the park by the TV tower is the Neptune Fountain.
In 1888-1891 a fountain, planned by Reinhold Begas, was built on the Schlossplatz. The Schlossbrunnen, now Neptune Fountain, was inspired by Italian and French influences and was a gift from the Berlin magistrate to Kaiser Wilhelm II.
During the Second World War, the fountain was walled in and thus survived the war undamaged. Unfortunately, in 1946, non-ferrous metal thieves damaged the figures and when the castle was blown up, further damage was caused. In 1951 the fountain was finally dismantled. The figures were put into storage and the bowl made of red Swedish marble was destroyed.
In 1969, in the course of designing the park near the TV tower, the fountain was rebuilt in a new place. The bowl was replaced by red Jawlensk granite and the figures were restored. Since then, the fountain has been called the Neptune Fountain. This was done in order to avoid any obvious reference to its past.
Today, the fountain is one of the largest and most significant fountains in Berlin. The fountain bowl has a diameter of 18 meters, the highest point of the fountain – the trident – is 10 meters high. In the center of the fountain is a rock pedestal surrounded by sea creatures. Four water-spouting tritons carry a conch shell with Neptune. On the edge of the fountain sit four women, which are supposed to symbolize the four German rivers (Rhine, Vistula, Oder, Elbe) and their characteristic landscapes.
The Neptune Fountain is not only a popular meeting place, children and tourists like to splash around with the water here in hot weather. I am thrilled every time I walk around the fountain and have the feeling that I always discover something new.
At Christmas time, there is a large Christmas market around the fountain. A visit to the square at this time of year is worthwhile.
I am curious to see whether the fountain will find its way back in front of the newly built Berlin Palace as planned. Funds for this have been approved by the federal government, but a concept for a replacement in the park at the TV tower should be in place first. There is also the alternative of building a copy of the Neptune Fountain in front of the palace.
On the edge of the park by the TV tower stands the Church of St. Mary. The parish church was built as a hall church in the brick Gothic style. The first documented mention dates back to 1294, the tower was built in 1415. Over the years, the nave was remodeled several times – for example, an organ was installed, the pulpit was moved, and the imperial box was built.
Today, St. Mary’s Church looks back on more than 700 years and is one of the few preserved buildings of the early Middle Ages in Berlin.
Entering the church, behind a glass wall in the tower hall is the mural Dance of Death. The Dance of Death is one of the oldest monuments in Berlin. Currently it is being elaborately restored and unfortunately you can not catch a glimpse.
Nevertheless, you should not miss a visit to the church. I was really thrilled. In the right aisle you can see the imperial box. The pulpit (around 1660) and the baptismal font (from 1437) are impressive and the altar really attracts the eye almost magically. Numerous tombs and epitaphs are on the church walls and pillars. I especially like the organ (1721/22). It is supposed to cover another painting, a protective mantle Madonna from the 16th century.
daily 10 am – 6 pm
Epiphany – Palm Sunday: daily 10-16 hrs.
Visitation is not possible during the service.
Guided tours on a special theme are offered once a month after worship (Sunday).
Berlin TV Tower
The center of attraction in the Park am Fernsehturm is the Berlin TV Tower. More than a million visitors are attracted to the tower every year.
The creation of the TV Tower is a construction story that suits Berlin. In addition to several unrealized but already started construction measures – which of course consumed a lot of money and time – the construction costs for the TV Tower developed indescribably high. Only the opening date could be kept.
The Berlin TV tower is 368 meters high and thus over 220 meters higher than the radio tower in Berlin. The tower has monument status.
Berlin TV Tower: Prehistory
In 1952, the European Broadcasting Conference awarded two television frequencies to the GDR. In order for these frequencies to be distributed nationwide, a large transmitter with the highest possible power was needed. Planning began, and the initial plan was to build in the Müggelberge mountains. Construction was already in full swing when it was stopped on the grounds that it would endanger air traffic from Schönefeld Airport.
A new location had to be found. In the Volkspark Friedrichshain began with the construction, which should be finished in 1964. But, the construction of the Berlin Wall combined with economic problems, caused the GDR government to cancel the seven-year plan and save. The construction was stopped.
In 1964, another attempt was made and at a meeting of the Politburo it was decided to build a tower centrally located in Berlin to the west of Alexanderplatz station. After the location had been politically determined, the architectural design was defined. In the process, care was always taken to avoid any resemblance to existing tower buildings in other countries.
Construction of the Berlin TV Tower
At the beginning of February 1965, the Central Committee of the SED approved the shape of the TV tower, and demolition work began on the site in mid-March. The cost of land purchases and compensation amounted to 6.2 million marks, and the cost of demolition was 38.8 million marks – this already exceeded the costs budgeted for it by 33 million marks.
The foundation of the Berlin TV tower was completed at the end of 1965 and work began on building the base of the tower. In October 1966, the tower was already 100 meters high and in June 1967, the shaft had reached its final height. At the same time, the preparatory work for the giant sphere began. 120 segments were made. At the end of March 1968, the segments were assembled from the bottom to the top, clockwise, at a lofty height. After that, the outer skin of the sphere was covered, thermal windows were installed for the observation deck and the restaurant, and the sphere was closed on October 7, 1968.
Now the antennas and the interior fittings were still missing. After 53 months of construction and at a cost of 132 million marks, Walter Ulbricht opened the TV tower on October 3, 1969. A few days later, the public was allowed to enter the tower for the first time. At the beginning of 1972, the two pavilions at the foot of the Berlin TV Tower were completed.
In the meantime, the Berlin TV Tower has been renovated several times and the forecourt has been redesigned.
Visit Berlin TV Tower
There are two elevators that take visitors up the tower. 15 people can ride at the same time and reach their destination in 38 seconds. Special highlight, you can look through a window in the elevator ceiling into the illuminated elevator shaft.
The observation deck is located at a height of 203.78 meters. A maximum of 120 people are allowed on the viewing level at the same time. Display boards help you identify the buildings below the Berlin TV tower. If the visibility is good, you can even see Tropical Island, 60 kilometers away, from up there.
One floor higher, at a height of 207.53 meters, is the Telecafé. The outer part of the floor rotates 360 degrees in one hour. This allows the maximum of 200 visitors to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The restaurant’s kitchen is located at the base of the tower for fire safety reasons. The kitchen team delivers the food by elevator.
All other floors in the sphere of the TV tower are used for technical equipment.
What I didn’t know…
The shape of the Berlin TV tower is part of the “Sputnik iconography” of the GDR. It is symbolically associated with the success of the Soviet space program. The sphere is supposed to represent the satellite, which is carried to the sky by the rocket (shaft of the TV tower).
Viewing area and restaurant
March-October: 11- 22 h
November-February: 10-24 h
Admission fees (as of 2020):
Viewing floor (for 45 minutes with fixed admission time)
Viewing floor (for 45 minutes, without admission time)
Restaurant (duration 1,5h)
Discounts are offered.
Note: Wheelchair users and persons with current walking disabilities are not allowed to visit the TV tower. Only those who can use the escape route without assistance may go up.
Current information on the Website.
Questions about the Berlin TV Tower
For visitors to the Berlin TV Tower, there are underground garages at Alexanderplatz. Parking is also available on Otto-Braun-Strasse.
The entrance to the tower is directly opposite the Alexanderplatz train station.
There are only evacuation stairs, which are not accessible to the public.
The length of stay in the restaurant and the tower is currently limited due to the hygiene concept in force. The observation deck may be visited for 45 min, the restaurant for 90 min.