Berlin – where the streets have a story to tell in the form of art. It is the city where the roadside paintings speak louder than the road signs.
There is something special about street art. It is an expression of rebellion, it spreads the message to the masses with or without words; it often portrays the truth.
Historically, art emerged at times that were perhaps the most troubled. That happened with Berlin too.
Berlin is the capital city of Germany, but it is better known for its intense history and it being within the Soviet zone post the World War II. There was once a wall within Berlin that divided the city and separated the East and the West. It was the Berlin Wall. Not much remains of the wall, but the graffiti covered East Side Gallery was once a part of the Berlin Wall.
History about the Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery
The historical gift of the World War II – the Berlin Wall is not functional anymore, but the graffiti on it will live for a long time.
The Berlin wall was built to restrict movement and emigration of people from East Europe to West Europe. Because of this, it was also called the Wall of Shame.
In 1989, there was a period of civil unrest in Berlin because of the revolutions in the nearby Hungry and Poland. Towards the end of 1989, the East German Government announced that the movement from East to West and vise versa would no longer be restricted. To celebrate, the people of Berlin climbed the wall and over the next days many of them cut away parts of the wall as a souvenir of the fall of the wall.
In 1990, artists from all over the world painted on the remaining east side of the Berlin Wall. These paintings express revolution, celebration of the change and a new hope for the future. More than everything else, the paintings celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and collectively form the East Side Gallery of Berlin.
The above is a very quick snapshot of the history of the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery. If you want to know more, then go borrow your nephew or niece’s history book, or check out the information on Wikipedia.
Berlin is one of the most visited historical destination on a typical first timer’s itinerary for visiting Germany. It is also one of the most popular European street art city.
Berlin Travel Video
This post is just about the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery, which by the way is one of the top things to do in Berlin. In case you want to catch a quick glimpse of what I did in Berlin alone, check out this video.
This video will also give you an idea about the Molecule Man statue and the Holocaust Memorial (a.k.a. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). By the way, if you do visit the Holocaust Memorial, please don’t climb on top and click selfies like a “cool dude” – it is one of the top things that Berlin tourists should avoid.
Good news – there is no entry fee and you can view all the artwork at the East Side Gallery for free. If you’d like to get a little more out of your visit to the East Side gallery and around, then I suggest the below tours that are affordable (and I have handpicked them for you):
- Berlin Alternative City Tour – 3.5 hours tour of Berlin’s coolest street art, districts, backstreets, urban conflict zones, visit the East Side Gallery, O2 World and Mediaspree.
- Berlin Reunited and Revived – 4 hour alternative tour through Berlin’s neighborhoods – Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain. Visit the East Side Gallery and the Turkish Market.
The above two tours do not include the cost of public transport since most of the visitors buy a 5 day or 7 day public transport card that includes the S Bahn train, U Bahn train, tram and buses.
Alternatively, you can book a bicycle tour that will take you to the East Side Gallery AND also include the bike rental cost so that you can save money:
- Berlin: Poor but Sexy bike tour: 3 hour bike ride that will help you discover the alternative side of Berlin, experience the hipster scene and nightlife.
- 3.5 Hour Bike Ride – Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain – explore fantastic scenery along the River Spree and discover Berlin’s alternative lifestyles, anecdotes, history and much more.
Please read all the details of the trip to know what’s included before you book.
Photos of the Street Art at the East Side Gallery
I’ll start with the most popular photo of the East Side Gallery – the Kiss. Even if you’re not into street art or have no idea about Berlin, I’m pretty sure you would have seen this picture at some point in your life. It is so famous; it is kind of like a landmark. Lonely Planet has put it on the number one spot in their article about top experiences in Berlin.
There was a long queue of people next to it who wanted their picture next to this famous work of art. Of course visiting this particular spot for a photo is a part of literally everyone’s Berlin itinerary. After all, this art-piece is iconic. Luckily, I bumped into my friend (the German Backpacker) who clicked my picture here.
The Kiss on the East Side Gallery may be the most famous painting, but in my opinion it is not the best. (Do you want to kill me now?). Here are some of the other artworks that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The above two are a part of a very large painting. The entire painting couldn’t fir my frame but here is my attempt.
The below pictures were actually a part of just one massive painting. I think it was my favorite one out of all. Check it out.
Somewhere near this, was also a painting with just handprints of different colours. I also saw a man who was standing here and making music with plumbing pipes. Ever thought you could make music with them? Yes, Berlin gets more and more strange but I love it.
I loved this next one because there were many faces on a background of bright colors.
Here are some other paintings that I really enjoyed in no particular order.
The East Side Gallery has an inner lane where most people don’t go. That that lane leads to this. There is an area where the walls are on both the sides, and it was my favorite part of the East Side Gallery. This spot is perfect for a panoramic or a 360-degree picture but sadly the battery for my 360-degree camera ran out.
How to reach the East Side Gallery
Berlin is well connected with underground trains, metros, trams and buses. Like most of the German cities, the metro lines in Berlin are also called S Bahn and U Bahn.
To reach the East Side Gallery, you can take either S bahn or U Bahn. The nearest S Bahn station is Ostbahnoff, which is a big intersection. You can also arrive here by U Bahn at Oberbaumbrücke station. Oberbaumbrücke is the name of a double decker bridge that goes over Berlin’s river Spree and it is actually a historical landmark. If you have seen the movie Run Lola Run, you’d recognize this bridge.
Where to go after the East Side Gallery
Depending on how you arrive at the East Side Gallery, you can visit the below mentioned places that are nearby:
If you reach the East Side Gallery by U Bahn, then you will surely pass this the Oberbaume Bridge. As mentioned in “how to reach” section, this bridge is a historical landmark and looks gorgeous.
Molecule Man Statue
If you stand in the walking pathway tunnel that’s under the Oberbaumbrücke, on one side there is the East Side Gallery and on the other side you will notice the molecule statue in the middle of the river Spree. There is a viewing platform that’s close to the Molecule Man statue, so that you can take a closer look and a good photo.
Treptower Park is beyond the Molecule Man statue and you should consider visiting it if the weather is sunny. Yes, there is a lot of history associated with this park but for me the most interesting part about this park is that there is an abandoned amusement park inside it. That amusement park was once called Spreepark.
Where to Stay in East Berlin
While I was in Berlin, I stayed at my friend’s place near Schlesisches Tor U Bahn station and for me the location was perfect. It was close to everything interesting! In fact, I liked East Berlin so much better than the rest of the city. The middle part of Berlin (Mitte) was super fancy and looked very new. Here are some suggestions that are based on what I heard from other travelers and friends:
Hotel Eastern Comfort – Hotelschiff
This place is right behind the East Side Gallery and is pretty cool because it is a boat that’s permanently stationed on the river Spree. Looks pretty cool, no?
It didn’t appear to be a luxurious place, it had a hostel kind of a vibe. It has dorm room inside the cabins and they look pretty cool. I would have loved to stay here! The price per night is €16 for dorm and €58 – €68 for private cabins. You can click here to read the reviews about this place on TripAdvisor.
Other Hostels in East Berlin
Budget Hotels in East Berlin
If hostels are not your thing, then you can check out these budget hotels in East Berlin which are rated good – Die Fabrik on Schlesische street, Arcadia Hotel on Frankfurter Allee, Junker’s Hotel on Gruenberger Street and Hotel Goldmarie on Warschauer Street. All these places are similarly priced between €60 – €80 per night.
Luxurious Stylish Hotels in East Berlin
East Berlin isn’t really about luxury but is so much about art. If you have a little more money, then you should totally check out the super arty MEININGER Hotel East Side Gallery. MEININGER is actually a hotel chain in Berlin but in this section I’m recommending the one that’s right next to the East Side Gallery.