Berlin is the capital of Germany and one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.5 million people, it is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany on the banks of Rivers Spree and Havel, it is the centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has about six million residents from over 180 nations. Due to its location in the European Plain, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one-third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes. First documented in the 13th century and situated at the crossing of two important historic trade routes, Berlin became the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (1417–1701), the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). Berlin in the 1920s was the third largest municipality in the world. After World War II, the city was divided; East Berlin became the capital of East Germany while West Berlin became a de facto West German exclave, surrounded by the Berlin Wall (1961–1989) and East Germany territory. Following German reunification in 1990, Berlin was once again designated as the capital of united Germany.
Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media and science. Its economy is based on high-tech firms and the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, research facilities, media corporations and convention venues. Berlin serves as a continental hub for air and rail traffic and has a highly complex public transportation network. The metropolis is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries also include IT, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, clean tech, biotechnology, construction and electronics. Modern Berlin is home to world renowned universities, orchestras, museums, entertainment venues and is host to many sporting events.Its urban setting has made it a sought-after location for international film productions. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts and a high quality of living. Over the last decade Berlin has seen the emergence of a cosmopolitan entrepreneurial scene. Since the reunification on 3 October 1990, Berlin has been one of the three city states in Germany among the present 16 states of Germany. The city and state parliament is the House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus), which currently has 141 seats. Berlin's executive body is the Senate of Berlin (Senat von Berlin). The Senate of Berlin consists of the Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister) and up to eight senators holding ministerial positions, one of them holding the official title "Mayor" (Bürgermeister) as deputy to the Governing Mayor.
Berlin is the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The President of Germany, whose functions are mainly ceremonial under the German constitution, has his official residence in Schloss Bellevue. Berlin is the seat of the German executive, housed in the Chancellery, the Bundeskanzleramt ("White House" of Germany). Facing the Chancellery is the Bundestag, the German Parliament, housed in the renovated Reichstag building since the government moved back to Berlin in 1998. The Bundesrat ("federal council", performing the function of an upper house) is the representation of the Federal States (Bundesländer) of Germany and has its seat at the former Prussian House of Lords. The relocation of the federal government and Bundestag to Berlin was completed in 1999, however with some ministries as well as some minor departments retained in the federal city Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. Discussions to move the remaining branches continue. The ministries and departments of Defence, Justice and Consumer Protection, Finance, Interior, Foreign, Economic Affairs and Energy, Labour and Social Affairs , Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Food and Agriculture, Economic Cooperation and Development, Health, Transport and Digital Infrastructure and Education and Research are based in the capital.
Berlin hosts 158 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many think tanks, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations. Due to the influence and international partnerships of the Federal Republic of Germany as a state, the capital city has become a venue for German and European affairs. Frequent official visits, and diplomatic consultations among governmental representatives and national leaders are common in contemporary Berlin.
The Fernsehturm (TV tower) at Alexanderplatz in Mitte is among the tallest structures in the European Union at 368 m (1,207 ft). Built in 1969, it is visible throughout most of the central districts of Berlin. The city can be viewed from its 204 m (669 ft) high observation floor. Starting here the Karl-Marx-Allee heads east, an avenue lined by monumental residential buildings, designed in the Socialist Classicism style. Adjacent to this area is the Rotes Rathaus (City Hall), with its distinctive red-brick architecture. In front of it is the Neptunbrunnen, a fountain featuring a mythological group of Tritons, personifications of the four main Prussian rivers and Neptune on top of it.
The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic landmark of Berlin and Germany, it stands as a symbol of eventful European history and of unity and peace. The Reichstag building is the traditional seat of the German Parliament, was remodeled by British architect Norman Foster in the 1990s and features a glass dome over the session area, which allows free public access to the parliamentary proceedings and magnificent views of the city.
The East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibition of art painted directly on the last existing portions of the Berlin Wall. It is the largest remaining evidence of the city's historical division.
The Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square in Berlin the name of which derives from the headquarters of the famous Gens d'armes regiment located here in the 18th century, is bordered by two similarly designed cathedrals, the Französischer Dom with its observation platform and the Deutscher Dom. The Konzerthaus (Concert Hall), home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, stands between the two cathedrals.
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 is continuing. 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. 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 Golden 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. The nearby New Synagogue is the center of Jewish culture.
The Straße des 17. Juni, connecting the Brandenburg Gate and Ernst-Reuter-Platz, serves as the 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 is the largest 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.
The Oberbaumbrücke is Berlin's most iconing bridge, crossing the River Spree. It was a former East-West border crossing and connects the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. It was completed in a brick gothic style in 1896, whereby the center portion has been reconstructed with a steel frame after having been destroyed in 1945. The bridge has an upper deck for the Berlin U-Bahn line U1.
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. It directly borders the German capital Berlin and is part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, 24 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Berlin's city center. Potsdam was a residence of the Prussian kings and the German Kaiser, until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and cultural landmarks, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssouci, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-World War II conference between the victorious Allies, was held at another palace in the area, the Cecilienhof. Babelsberg, in the south-eastern part of Potsdam, was a major film production studio before the war and has enjoyed success as a major center of European film production since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Filmstudio Babelsberg is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world.
Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germany in the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges, the University of Potsdam and more than 30 research institutes in the city. The area around Potsdam shows occupancy since the Bronze Age and was part of Magna Germania as described by Tacitus. After the great migrations of the Germanic peoples, Slavs moved in and Potsdam was probably founded after the 7th century as a settlement of the Hevelli tribe centred on a castle. It was first mentioned in a document in 993 AD as Poztupimi, when Emperor Otto III gifted the territory to the Quedlinburg Abbey, then led by his aunt Matilda. By 1317, it was mentioned as a small town. It gained its town charter in 1345. In 1573, it was still a small market town of 2,000 inhabitants. Potsdam lost nearly half of its population due to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). A continuous Hohenzollern possession since 1415, Potsdam became prominent, when it was chosen in 1660 as the hunting residence of Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg, the core of the powerful state that later became the Kingdom of Prussia. It also housed Prussian barracks.
After the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Potsdam became a centre of European immigration. Its religious freedom attracted people from France (Huguenots), Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. The edict accelerated population growth and economic recovery. Later, the city became a full residence of the Prussian royal family. The buildings of the royal residences were built mainly during the reign of Frederick the Great. One of these is the Sanssouci Palace (French: "without cares", by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, 1744), famed for its formal gardens and Rococo interiors. Other royal residences include the New Palace and the Orangery. In 1815, at the formation of the Province of Brandenburg, Potsdam became the provincial capital until 1918, however, interrupted and succeeded by Berlin as provincial capital between 1827 and 1843, and after 1918. The province comprised two governorates named after their capitals Potsdam and Frankfurt (Oder).
The traditional towns in the governorate were small, however, in the course of the industrial labour migration some reached the rank as urban districts. The principal towns were Brandenburg upon Havel, Köpenick, Potsdam, Prenzlau, Spandau and Ruppin. Berlin was the official capital of Prussia and later of the German Empire, but the court remained in Potsdam, where many government officials settled. In 1914, the Emperor Wilhelm II signed the Declaration of War in the Neues Palais. The city lost its status as a second capital in 1918, when Wilhelm II abdicated at the end of World War I. At the start of the Third Reich in 1933 there was a ceremonial handshake between President Paul von Hindenburg and the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on 21 March 1933 in Potsdam's Garrison Church in what became known as the "Day of Potsdam". This symbolised a coalition of the military (Reichswehr) and Nazism. Potsdam was severely damaged in bombing raids during World War II.
The Cecilienhof Palace was the scene of the Potsdam Conference from 17 July, to 2 August 1945, at which the victorious Allied leaders (Harry S. Truman; Winston Churchill and his successor, Clement Attlee; and Joseph Stalin) met to decide the future of Germany and postwar Europe in general. The conference ended with the Potsdam Agreement and the Potsdam Declaration. The government of East Germany (formally known as the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)) tried to remove symbols of Prussian militarism. Many historic buildings, some of them badly damaged in the war, were demolished. When in 1946 the remainder of the Province of Brandenburg west of the Oder-Neiße line was constituted as the state of Brandenburg, Potsdam became its capital. In 1952 the GDR disestablished its federative states and replaced them by smaller new East German administrative districts. Potsdam became the capital of the new Bezirk Potsdam until 1990. Potsdam, south-west of Berlin, lay just outside West Berlin after the construction of the Berlin Wall. The walling off of West Berlin not only isolated Potsdam from West Berlin, but also doubled commuting times to East Berlin. The Glienicke Bridge across the Havel connected the city to West Berlin and was the scene of some Cold War exchanges of spies. After German reunification, Potsdam became the capital of the newly re-established state of Brandenburg. There are many ideas and efforts to reconstruct the original appearance of the city, most remarkably the Potsdam City Palace and the Garrison Church.
Potsdam was historically a centre of European immigration. Its religious tolerance attracted people from France, Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. This is still visible in the culture and architecture of the city.
The most popular attraction in Potsdam is Sanssouci Park, 2 km (1 mi) west of the city centre. In 1744 King Frederick the Great ordered the construction of a residence here, where he could live sans souci ("without worries", in the French spoken at the court). The park hosts a botanical garden (Botanical Garden, Potsdam) and many buildings:
• The Sanssouci Palace (Schloss Sanssouci), a relatively modest palace of the Prussian royal and German imperial family
• The Orangery Palace (Orangerieschloss), former palace for foreign royal guests
• The New Palace (Neues Palais), built between 1763 and 1769 to celebrate the end of the Seven Years' War, in which Prussia celebrated its victory in holding off the combined attacks of Austria and Russia. A century later in 1866 in the Seven Weeks War Prussia defeated Austria and ended three centuries of Habsburg dominance in Germany. It is a much larger and grander palace than Sanssouci, having over 200 rooms and 400 statues as decoration. It served as a guest house for numerous royal visitors. It is now housing parts of University of Potsdam.
• The Charlottenhof Palace (Schloss Charlottenhof), a Neoclassical palace by Karl Friedrich Schinkel built in 1826
• The Roman Baths (Römische Bäder), built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Ludwig Persius in 1829-1840. It is a complex of buildings including a tea pavilion, a Renaissance-style villa, and a Roman bathhouse (from which the whole complex takes its name).
• The Chinese Tea House (Chinesisches Teehaus), an 18th-century pavilion built in a Chinese style, the fashion of the time.
Three gates from the original city wall remain today. The oldest is the Hunters' Gate (Jägertor), built in 1733. The Nauener Tor was built in 1755 and close to the historic Dutch Quarter. The ornate Brandenburg Gate (built in 1770, not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin) is situated on the Luisenplatz at the western entrance to the old town.
The Old Market Square (Alter Markt) is Potsdam's historical city centre. For three centuries this was the site of the City Palace (Stadtschloß), a royal palace built in 1662. Under Frederick the Great, the palace became the winter residence of the Prussian kings. The palace was severely damaged by bombing in 1945 and demolished in 1961 by the Communist authorities. In 2002 the Fortuna Gate (Fortunaportal) was rebuilt in its original historic position, which marks the first step in the reconstruction of the palace.
The Old Market Square is dominated today by the dome of St. Nicholas' Church (Nikolaikirche), built in 1837 in the classical style. It was the last work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who designed the building but did not live to see its completion. It was finished by his disciples Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Persius. The eastern side of the Market Square is dominated by the Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus), built in 1755 by the Dutch architect Jan Bouman (1706–1776). It has a characteristic circular tower, crowned with a gilded Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders.
North of the Old Market Square is the oval French Church (Französische Kirche), erected in the 1750s by Boumann for the Huguenot community.
Another landmark of Potsdam is the two-street Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel), an ensemble of buildings that is unique in Europe, with about 150 houses built of red bricks in the Dutch style. It was built between 1734 and 1742 under the direction of Jan Bouman to be used by Dutch artisans and craftsmen who had been invited to settle here by King Frederick Wilhelm I. Today, this area is one of Potsdam's most visited districts.
North of the city centre is the Russian colony of Alexandrowka, a small enclave of Russian architecture (including an Orthodox chapel) built in 1825 for a group of Russian immigrants. Since 1999, the colony has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
East of the Alexandrowka colony is a large park, the New Garden (Neuer Garten), which was laid out from 1786 in the English style. The site contains two palaces; one of them, the Cecilienhof, was where the Potsdam Conference was held in July and August 1945. The Marmorpalais (Marble Palace) was built in 1789 in the style of classicism. Nearby is the Biosphäre Potsdam, a tropical botanical garden. Another district of Potsdam is Babelsberg, a quarter south-east of the centre, housing the UFA film studios (Babelsberg Studios), and an extensive park with some historical buildings, including the Babelsberg Palace (Schloß Babelsberg, a neo-Gothic palace designed by Schinkel).The Einstein Tower is located within the Albert Einstein Science Park, which is on the top of the Telegraphenberg within an astronomy compound.