Berlin is a city capable of combining history and modernity, and also of continually re-inventing itself with neighbourhoods that have undergone profound changes. This is the case of Potsdamer Platz, an area of Berlin that has lived through moments of both popularity and decline.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Potsdamer Platz was a lively square with nice shops, big hotels and trendy cafes. It was also a major point of transit and a hub for the exchange of goods, with five important intersecting roads bustling with tens of thousands of people and all kinds of vehicles.
Like many other areas of Berlin, it was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. With the construction of the wall, "buffer" areas were left without buildings, and underwent a slow decline that lasted 40 years.
In 1989, after the fall of the wall, Berlin re-emerged as a city with plenty of space to fill, and so architectural stars from all over the world competed to make their mark.
Potsdamer Platz became the centre of attention of internationally renowned architects such as Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers,Arata Isozaki and Helmut Jahn, who set to work raising skyscrapers and buildings in the 1990s, turning PotsdamerPlatz into a cutting-edge district with shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants and offices.
One of the most photographed spots on PotsdamerPlatz is the Sony Center, which houses offices, shops, restaurants, cinemas and entertainment venues. It consists of seven buildings, but the most recognisable and instagrammed element is the dome of sails that rotate and change colour, which recall the image of Mount Fuji from afar and are especially beautiful at night.
The best place to admire the dome from above is from the Panorama punkt, a vantage point at a height of 100 metres that can be accessed by the fastest lift in Europe. It is free to go up, and there is also a bar where you can eat a slice of cake while admiring the Berlin skyline.
If you have children, the Legoland Discovery Center in the basement of the Sony Center is a destination at Potsdamer Platz not to be missed. It is a kind of amusement park for small children, where you can build, dismantle and play with the famous coloured bricks - there are over 5 million bricks available! There are also other small attractions, such as a miniature reconstruction of Berlin. There is a fee to enter, but it's a good way to spend a rainy afternoon!
Potsdamer Platz was named after the gate of the same name, which led to the town of Potsdam, where King of Prussia Frederick the Great (1740) chose to live. Like the other 18 historic entrance gates to Berlin, the Potsdam gate was a way to monitor the entrances and exits from the city, as well as to demand the payment of duties for goods being transported. The most famous of these gates is the Brandenburg Gate, which still remains to this day and is located about 1 km away.
Potsdamer Platz was very busy at the beginning of the twentieth century. With five roads intersecting, there were so many vehicles passing through it that the first traffic light in the city had to be built there! It seems that at its peak more than 100,000 people, 20,000 cars and horse-drawn carriages as well as thousands of bicycles passed through the square every day!
Today you will find a small tower with a clock and a horizontal traffic light exactly where the traffic lights of the past once stood.
Berlin's first railway station was built in Potsdamer Platz in the late 1800s, which served as the terminus of the train line leading to Potsdam.
Today the modern underground station houses the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines.
If you are at the Brandenburg Gate, you can walk (about 1 km). Otherwise there are many means of transport that can take you to the area: underground, rail, taxi, bus... If you come by car, you can park in one of the many paid car parks in the area.