Berlin's Potsdamer Platz: The Complete Guide

Everything You Need to Know about Potsdamer Platz

Berlin Potsdamer Platz Sony Center

GettyImages / LuisPinaPhotogrpahy

One of the busiest squares in Berlin, thus all of Germany, Potsdamer Platz is Berlin's attempt at a commercial center.

The neon dome of Sony Center is a showstopper, towering over the largest international cinema in the city, restaurants, museums, offices, and a modern fountain. Nearby, Europe's first stoplight and a piece of the Berlin Wall hint at the square's varied past. And below ground, transport bustles in the form of trains, S-Bahns, U-Bahns, and walkways.

Potsdamer Platz attracts up to 100,000 visitors a day. Discover what brings people to this destination within Berlin.

History of Potsdamer Platz

This square was originally known as Platz vor dem Potsdamer Tor and stood before Potsdamer Tor (Potsdam Gate), one of 14 city gates of Berlin. It was a busy trading post in 1685 and pointed toward Friedrich the Great's palace in Potsdam, giving it the name.

A railway stop arrived in 1838 and was accompanied by the development of restaurants and shops. During Berlin's era of excess in the 1920s, Potsdamer Platz was the place to be for the creative set.

This was all destroyed during WWII when the square was almost totally obliterated. The ruins were divided between the Soviet, British and American sectors as a border triangle. The arrival of the Berlin Wall in 1961 formalized the division and the square became the widest point in the death strip. All of the buildings left in “no man’s land” were torn down.

Shortly after the Wall fell on November 9th, 1989, the area between Potsdamer Platz and Pariser Platz hosted the largest rock concert in history. Pink Floyd performed “The Wall” right here.

This was quickly followed by massive construction throughout the 1990s. Both overground and underground, the square was rapidly developing into a hub. The northwestern area became the modern Sony Center and high rises jutted into the sky around it. Once again, Potsdamer Platz was one of the busiest squares in Berlin.

Things to Do in Potsdamer Platz

Sights to See: Sony Center is a marvel. People are drawn under the ever-changing colors of its dome to stare in wonder, while beneath people hurry between the CineStar Berlin (largest English-language cinema in Berlin) or Legoland for the kids or Deutsche Kinemathek (Museum for Film and TV).

Steps away visitors can find the world-class Gemäldegalerie, Music Instrument Museum, Philharmonic, or fan favorites like the German Spy Museum. Modern sculptures abound, many from the Daimler Art Collection.

Continue slightly downhill past Europe's first stoplight created in 1924 and remnants of the Berlin Wall, sadly now covered in gum. Make your way between the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe and Tiergarten, Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), and onto the Reichstag for a view of the city center through its glass dome.

Events: Berlinale, Berlin's premier film festival, is a star-studded affair and Potsdamer Platz rolls out the red carpet for the big nights in February.

Berlin's Festival of Lights re-colors the dome of Sony Center as well as the surrounding buildings in October.

This is also one of the first Christmas Markets to open in Berlin. There is a sledding hill, ice rink, and tons of little stands selling gifts and treats.

Shopping: The Mall of Berlin is one of the newest and chicest in Berlin and offers all of the top brands, as well as seasonal events. Potsdamer Platz Arkaden is also moments away.

Food: This area is booming for fast-casual eateries. Expect to pay slightly higher prices for convenience. For the most choice in the smallest area, Mall of Berlin's food court offers something for every palate.

Or you can elevate your dining experience with a meal at 2-Michelin star FACIL and at the Ritz-Carlton. Or you can literally rise above the city in a speedy elevator up to Panoramapunkt cafe.

Where to Stay in Potsdamer Platz

The luxurious Ritz-Carlton within Potsdamer Platz is undoubtedly the nicest accommodation in the area, but certainly not the cheapest. The Mandala Hotel and Grand Hyatt are similarly fancy options.

However, it is not necessary to stay in Mitte to experience the highlights of Berlin. With the city's fantastic transport system, it is better to stay where the people actually live and visit these tourist hot spots during the day.

How to Get To Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz is well connected to all points within the city. Its station caters to regional and international travel.

The S-Bahn (Berlin city trains) and U-Bahn (metro) have a stop at Potsdamer Platz which connects to a comprehensive web of lines throughout the city. Buses at street-level offer another layer of connection. BVG, Berlin's public transport company, offers an invaluable route planner to help you navigate routes and transport times.

There is minimal parking available, but there are many roads that lead to Potsdamer Platz with a few parking garage options.

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