Bernau is located just a few kilometers northeast of the Berlin city limits in the Barnim district. A trip to the city is ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and offers some beautiful and interesting destinations.
The legend of the origin of the city
In 1140, according to legend, the Ascanian Albrecht the Bear caused the founding of a city. This is said to have happened because of the following story:
After a hunt in the heath north of Berlin, Albrecht had a beer poured for him at a rest stop in an inn. He is said to have liked it very much and so he decided to found a town on this spot.
He ordered the inhabitants of the villages Schmetzdorf, Lindow and Lüpenitz to move to the new town. The town was named Bärnau after its founder.
However, to this day there is not a single documentary evidence that Albrecht the Bear actually stayed in the later Mark between the Elbe and Oder rivers. At that time, the Slavic Lutizes ruled the area around Bernau. However, nothing is known about Slavic beer production.
What you really know
Archaeological findings have proven that settlements existed in Bernau as early as 7000 BC. However, it took a long time before a town was founded. Only at the beginning of the 13th century the existence of a city can be proved. However, hardly anything is known about it, because the town fires in 1406 and 1484 destroyed all documents.
In the Middle Ages, Bernau was known far beyond the borders of the Mark Brandenburg. Especially the beer of the town is said to have been among the best beer of the Mark. It had a long shelf life, tasted good and thus developed into a popular sales product. In the 17th century, the town sold a good 30,000 tons of beer annually.
In 1598, when the plague raged in the town, over 1100 townspeople died. The Thirty Years’ War also hit the town hard. The town became impoverished and desolate. Only when French religious refugees (25 families) were settled in the town by Frederick III, life and the economy began to flourish again. To this day, buildings from this period bear witness to the positive economic development in the town.
Bernau experienced a further economic upswing with the connection to the railroad. The Berlin-Eberswalde railroad line has been leading into the town since 1842, and in 1924 the connection was followed by the city express railroad from Berlin.
Bernau after the Second World War
The Second World War spared the city almost completely, despite its proximity to Berlin. In April 1945, the Red Army captured the city.
In the 1980s, the problem arose in the city that many of the half-timbered buildings in the old town were in serious need of renovation. The city administration found renovation too expensive, so they were torn down and replaced with new prefabricated buildings.
After the political changes in Germany, Bernau lost its status as a district town in 1993 and was incorporated into the Barnim district. The city has officially borne the addition near Berlin since 1999 to distinguish itself from other places with the same name.
Excursion tips in Bernau
Bernau’s old town is not big and you can easily explore everything on foot. We present some interesting places here. But there is much more to see!
Walk along the Bernau city wall
The city wall of the city was built in the 13th/14th century and completely enclosed the city. For the construction of the wall, which was up to 8 meters high and 0.5-1.5 meters wide, natural stones were used, some of which were shaped by the last ice age. Today, about 1.3 kilometers of the wall are still preserved.
The Bernau city wall was planned as a fortification and protected the city, for example, from attacks by the Quitzows and Pomeranians in 1402 and Hussites in 1432. There were only three city gates leading into the city. Today only the Stone Gate is preserved, which is connected with the Hunger Tower by two battlements. In addition, there were two round towers and 42 lughouses (defense towers). The Powder Tower, the Hunger Tower and remains of the Lughäuser can be discovered during a walk along the wall.
One of the highest fortress towers in the Mark Brandenburg stands in Bernau. The 29-meter high and 7.5-meter wide Powder Tower was once part of the town’s defenses. Loopholes still bear witness to this today.
A ladder was used to get into the watchtower. The entrance is about 7 meters above the ground. Inside the tower you could get from one floor to the next also only with the help of wooden ladders.
The tower must also have been used as a dungeon. From the entrance on the second floor you can see into a dark hole. The room below was only accessible with a ladder or a rope.
In 1885, the old mill gate had to be torn down. It had become dilapidated and carts could hardly pass through it.
The newly built gate was inaugurated at the end of May 2013. Today, it is so wide that even the fire department fits through it without any problems.
A listed residential house from the first half of the 18th century is located at the city wall of Bernau. The half-timbered house was built in post-and-beam construction and the current plaster facade was applied only in the 19th century.
The executioner lived in this house until the middle of the 19th century. He was not only the executioner, but also the town’s veterinarian and knacker.
Today, a department of the Bernau Museum of Local History is located here. This deals, appropriately for the house, with the topic of executioners. Another focus of the exhibition is the attack of the Hussites on Bernau.
In front of the executioner’s house there is a modern monument. This was erected for the victims of the witch trials in Bernau. Between 1536 and 1658, 25 women and 3 men are said to have been accused of witchcraft in Bernau. They were found guilty, tortured and killed. The memorial has commemorated this since 2005.
Tuesday-Friday: 9-12h and 11-17 h
Saturday, Sunday: 10 -13 h and 14-17 h
Closed: Ascension Day, Christmas holidays, Mondays
Stone Gate and Hunger Tower – Bernau Museum of Local History
A landmark of Bernau is the striking stone gate, one of the last preserved city gates of the city. The view from the Külzpark, which lies in front of the old city fortifications, is already impressive. But if you go through the gate to the square in front of it, a mighty gate rises in front of you. The gate is connected by a battlement with the hunger tower next to it.
You can get a particularly good insight if you visit the Bernau Museum of Local History, which is located in the Steintor. This can be reached via a short but very steep staircase that leads to the upper battlement. There you get your ticket and if just few visitors are there, it can even happen that you have a friendly escort who explains everything in detail.
The Upper Ward in the Stone Gate served to secure the gate from the 15th – 17th centuries. At the same time it formed the connecting corridor to the Hunger Tower, which was used as a prison.
Today, the museum of local history uses the small rooms and corridors for its exhibition. A focus of the exhibition are weapons from the past, from the crossbow to the repeating rifle you can discover a lot here. In the armory there are pieces of equipment of the medieval armament of the Bernau citizens. In Bernau there existed a special form of “taxation” of citizens entitled to brew, who had to appear armored in case of defense. If a citizen entitled to a bride died without male offspring, the town received his armor. Some of these armors can be seen in the collection.
Another focus of the Bernau Museum of Local History is the subject of Bernau crafts. Guild signs, tools, utensils as well as wedding and souvenir ribbons from the life, work and customs of the Bernau craftsmen are shown. Exciting for us is the part of the exhibition dealing with Bernau beer. Here are shown bottles, mugs and serving equipment.
On the second floor of the stone gate we could then learn about Bernau’s textile production, which played an important economic role for the city from the 14th to the 19th century.
The Hunger Tower was the conclusion of our sightseeing tour. The battlements lead to a staircase. Directly there opens the so-called fear hole. The prisoners were lowered into this hole with a winch 8 meters deep into the prison. A wooden staircase leads up to the tower. A tour allows a great view of the city.
Heimatmuseum Bernau bei Berlin — Steintor
16321 Bernau bei Berlin
May – October
Tuesday – Friday: 9-12h. and 14-17 h
Saturday, Sunday, holiday: 10-13 h and 14-17 h
Herz-Jesu-Kirche (Church of the Sacred Heart)
From the Hungerturm we had already discovered the 66 meter high tower of the Catholic parish church. The church building from the year 1907/08 stands near the train station and forms a prominent landmark in the city due to its high tower.
Standing in front of the church, which was built in the brick Gothic style, the large rose window above the entrance immediately catches the eye. Unfortunately, the church was closed during our walk through Bernau and so we could not take a look inside the single-nave hall church.
Börnicker Str. 12,
16321 Bernau bei Berlin
St.Mary’s Church Bernau
Just before the end of the opening time we arrived at the Protestant church St.Marien in the old town. A visit to this church should definitely be planned during a visit to Bernau.
The first church building of St. Mary’s Church was probably a structure from 1240, built in the style of a Roman basilica. Only 40 years later, a new church was built in the Gothic style, which was later rebuilt into a hall church.
Originally, the church had a fieldstone tower, which was replaced by a brick tower in 1846. The tower has a height of just over 57 meters.
Today you can see a hall church, which was extended on the north side by a second aisle. The four-nave nave has a hall ambulatory chancel.
Entering the nave, the first sight is a beautiful late Gothic winged altar. This probably comes from the school of Lucas Cranach the Elder from the time around 1520. 39 figurative and 68 pictorial representations are depicted.
I was also very impressed by the pulpit. It is richly decorated with carved elements. Two particularly impressive carved figures of Christ and Mary from around 1500 dominate the image of the pulpit basket.
If you look around a bit more closely, you will discover many beautiful works from different centuries, for example a sandstone relief (beginning of the 15th century), offering chests (16th and 17th century) and the pews (16th and 17th century). I was particularly impressed by the gallery in the northern aisle. It was built in 1614 as a clothiers’, cobblers’ and servants’ choir and has 75 paintings on the parapet depicting the Old Testament. On the walls of the church you can also see remains of paintings in the church, which were discovered during the interior restoration.
16321 Bernau bei Berlin
Easter to Thanksgiving daily from 14-16 h