Berlin's East Side Gallery

The Berlin Wall is a Piece of Art

East Side Gallery Berlin
••• René Erhardt

The East Side Gallery in Berlin is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall still standing. One of the major tourist attractions of the city, it is now an memorial for freedom with artistic contributions from artists around the world.

The History of the East Side Gallery

After the wall fell in 1989, hundreds of artists from all over the world, among them Keith Haring, came to Berlin to transform the grim and gray 1.3 km long wall into a piece of art.

They covered the east side of the former border, which had been untouchable up to then, with more than 100 paintings by 118 artists from 21 different countries.This section is referred to as the Kunstmeile (art mile).

The murals reflect the turbulent German history, and many bear the slogans of peace and hope. Bright cartoon faces from Thierry Noir have become a symbol of the city and one of the most iconic paintings is "Der Bruderkuss" by Dmitri Vrubel, which shows the fraternal kiss between former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German Prime Minister Eric Honecker. Another favorite is Birgit Kinder’s "Test the Rest" which shows a Trabi bursting through the Wall.

More recently, there have been some negative updates. In July 2006, a small section of the wall was moved to offer access to the River Spree from the new monster stadium, O2 World, which hosts everything from Madonna to the Eisbären, Berlin's hockey team.

Again a section was removed in March 2013 to make way for luxury apartments. Some of the artists' work was destroyed without notification and the consumerism touching such an important memorial rankled the community. Peaceful demonstrations (including an appearance by the one and only David Hasselhof) delayed the work, but the section was eventually removed.

Today, the wall is still an impressive stretch between Ostbahnhof and the stunning Oberbaumbrücke running along the River Spree. The removed sections do allow better access to the river and there are food stands and a cafe, plus souvenir shops. The Eastern Comfort Hostelboat claims this idyllic location as its home.

The Restoration of the East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is the largest open-air gallery in the world and an international memorial of freedom. Unfortunately, big sections of the wall have been damaged by erosion, graffiti, and trophy hunters, who chip off little pieces to bring home as a souvenir. Please, don't do that.

Right in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009, these paintings were restored and preserved. This work is periodically updated.

Tips For your Visit to the East Side Gallery

Start your tour of the East Side Gallery at Ostbahnhof (Eastern Train Station) and walk alongside the wall until you reach the bridge, Oberbaumbrücke. Warschauer subway station.lies on this side of the bridge and is another option when approaching East Side Gallery. .

  • Watch the bike path! This popular stretch of sidewalk is quite narrow near the bridge and gawking tourists need to watch the bike lane across the line and listen for the bells of speeding bicyclists..
  • Avoid the crowds by visiting the memorial at night. While your pictures may not be as crystal clear, they will be without the thousands of milling tourists. Plus the river and bridge are beautifully lit at night.
  • . If you want to avoid the overpriced eats set against the river in the removed sections, get a bite at Ostbahnhof which offers all the typical fast food options. I can also recommend Scheers Schnitzel on the Friedrichshain side of the bridge. If you are still hungry, cross over Oberbaumbrücke to Kreuzberg and let your stomach run wild.

Address: Mühlenstrasse 45-80, Berlin - Friedrichshain
Getting There: Ostbahnhof (line S5, S7, S9, S75) or Warschauer (U1, S5, S7, S75)
Cost: Free

Check out More Free Things to Do in Berlin.