Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science. Its economy is primarily based on the service sector encompassing a divers range of creative industries, media corporations, and convention venues. Berlin also serves as a continental hub for air and rail transport, and is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries include IT, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, biotechnology, electronics, traffic engineering, and renewable energy.
Berlin is home to renowned universities, research institutes, orchestras, museums, and celebrities, as well as host of many sporting events. Its urban settings and historical legacy have made it a popular location for international film productions. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts, public transportation networks and a high quality of living.
Berlin’s history has left the city with a highly eclectic array of architecture and buildings. The city’s appearance today is predominantly shaped by the key role it played in Germany’s history in the 20th century. Each of the national governments based in Berlin—the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, and now the reunified Germany—initiated ambitious (re-) construction programs, with each adding its own distinctive style to the city’s architecture. Berlin was devastated by bombing raids during World War II, and many of the buildings that had remained after the war were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East Berlin. Much of this demolition was initiated by municipal architecture programs to build new residential or business quarters and main roads.
The eastern parts of Berlin have many Plattenbauten, reminders of Eastern Bloc ambitions to create complete residential areas that had fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools to the number of inhabitants.
The Museum Island in the River Spree houses five museums built from 1830 to 1930 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Restoration and the construction of a main entrance to all museums, as well as the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss on the same island is costing over 2 billion Euros since reunification. Also located on the island and adjacent to the Lustgarten and palace is Berlin Cathedral, emperor William II’s ambitious attempt to create a Protestant counterpart to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A large crypt houses the remains of some of the earlier Prussian royal family. The church is now owned by the Protestant umbrella Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK). Like many other buildings, it suffered extensive damage during the Second World War and had to be restored. Berlin’s best preserved medieval Church of St. Mary’s is the 1st preaching venue – Memorial Church being the 2nd – of the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO), a Protestant regional church body. St. Hedwig’s Cathedral is Berlin’s Roman Catholic cathedral.
Unter den Linden is a tree-lined east–west avenue from the Brandenburg Gate to the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss, and was once Berlin’s premier promenade. Many Classical buildings line the street and part of Humboldt University is located there. Friedrichstraße was Berlin’s legendary street during the Roaring Twenties. It combines 20th-century traditions with the modern architecture of today’s Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz is an entire quarter built from scratch after 1995 after the Wall came down. To the west of Potsdamer Platz is the Kulturforum, which houses the Gemäldegalerie, and is flanked by the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Berliner Philharmonie. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a Holocaust memorial, is situated to the north.
The area around Hackescher Markt is home to the fashionable culture, with countless clothing outlets, clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes the Hackesche Höfe, a conglomeration of buildings around several courtyards, reconstructed around 1996. Oranienburger Straße and the nearby New Synagogue were the center of Jewish culture before 1933. Although the New Synagogue is still an anchor for Jewish history and culture, Oranienburger straße and surrounding areas are increasingly known for the shopping and nightlife.
The Straße des 17. Juni, connecting the Brandenburg Gate and Ernst-Reuter-Platz, serves as central East-West-Axis. Its name commemorates the uprisings in East Berlin of 17 June 1953. Approximately half-way from the Brandenburg Gate is the Großer Stern, a circular traffic island on which the Siegessäule (Victory Column) is situated. This monument, built to commemorate Prussia’s victories, was relocated 1938–39 from its previous position in front of the Reichstag.
The Kurfürstendamm is home to some of Berlin’s luxurious stores with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at its eastern end on Breitscheidplatz. The church was destroyed in the Second World War and left in ruins. Nearby on Tauentzienstraße is KaDeWe, claimed to be continental Europe’s largest department store. The Rathaus Schöneberg, where John F. Kennedy made his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech, is situated in Tempelhof-Schöneberg.
West of the center, Schloss Bellevue is the residence of the German President. Schloss Charlottenburg, which was burnt out in the Second World War and largely destroyed, has been rebuilt and is the largest surviving historical palace in Berlin.
The Funkturm Berlin is a 150 m (490 ft) tall lattice radio tower at the fair area, built between 1924 and 1926. It is the only observation tower which stands on insulators, and has a restaurant 55 m (180 ft) and an observation deck 126 m (413 ft) above ground, which is reachable by a windowed elevator.