During East Berlin’s forty-year existence, while Unter den Linden was allowed to represent Berlin’s glorious past, the area northeast of the Spreeinsel as far as major transport hub Alexanderplatz, was meant to represent the glories of a modern socialist capital city. It’s easily located thanks to its gigantic Fernsehturm, or TV Tower, and there’s almost no trace of an earlier history. Postwar rebuilding projects saw whole streets and neighbourhoods vanish under vast and dreary concrete plazas and buildings housing missable shops and cafés. Exceptions include two large prewar buildings, the Rotes Rathaus, seat of Berlin’s administration, and the Marienkirche, Berlin’s oldest church.
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Looming over the Berlin skyline like a giant olive on a cocktail stick, the Fernsehturm (Television Tower) is Western Europe’s highest structure. This 365-metre-high transmitter was built during the isolationist 1960s, when East Berlin was largely inaccessible to West Germans, and was intended as a highly visible symbol of the GDR’s permanence. Having outlasted the regime that conceived it, the Fernsehturm has become iconic, and though few would champion its architecture, it does have a certain retro appeal. The tower provides tremendous views (40km on clear days) from the observation platform and the Tele-café. There are usually long queues to go up – early evening is your best bet.