Exploring Berlin’s suburbs completes a picture of the city, but is not always attractive, as this is where many of the city’s blandest Cold War building projects have survived. Particularly in the east, old socialist silo-like apartment blocks and soulless shopping precincts appear more desperate-looking in comparison to flashy new post-Wende buildings. However, the sprawling working-class district of Lichtenberg, a mid-1970s model neighbourhood just southeast of Friedrichshain, is home to two sights of vital importance to anyone with an interest in oppression in the GDR, particularly by its secret police, the Stasi. Their headquarters at Normannenstrasse and prison at Hohenschönhausen are both preserved as haunting monuments.
All the other particularly worthwhile suburban destinations are on Berlin’s rural fringes, particularly Grunewald forest and adjacent Wannsee lake in the southwestern corner of the city, which is famed for its summertime bathing beaches but sadly also as the location of the Wannsee Villa, where a Nazi conference initiated the Holocaust.