This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2014. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
Berlin is a special place for me.
My mother was born there and her family left West Berlin for Australia just after the wall went up. When I visited the place of my ancestry in December 2013, I was both fascinated and shocked to learn about the wall that divided Berlin for 28 years from 1961 – 1989.
Many sections of the Berlin Wall have been destroyed or removed, but there are parts that still stand, and one particular section, named East Side Gallery for the murals and graffiti art that adorn it, has been used as a canvas for artistic expression since 1990.
Many of the artworks portray the feelings of fright, uproar, and relief that Berlin’s inhabitants experienced during these terrifying moments in the city’s history. They bring emotional meaning to the remnants of this dividing scar crossing Berlin.
East Side Gallery map guide:
O – Ostbahnhof Station
W – Warschauer Straße Station
E – East Side Gallery start and end points
M – The Wall Museum
B – Oberbaumbrücke (Oberbaum Bridge)
Where to find East Side Gallery in Berlin:
East Side Gallery is positioned beside the road on Mühlenstraße, which follows along the bank of the Spree River. It runs between Oberbaum Bridge and Ostbahnhof Station, and it stretches for 1.3km (0.8 miles) making it the longest open air gallery in the world.
Some of the more famous East Side Gallery murals:
- “The Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel: One of the most iconic images on the East Side Gallery, this mural depicts the famous socialist fraternal kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker. The artwork has become a symbol of both the division and the eventual reunification of Germany.
- “Test the Rest” by Birgit Kinder: This vibrant mural features a colorful Trabant car breaking through the Berlin Wall, symbolizing the desire for freedom and the reunification of the city.
- “Es geschah im November” (“It Happened in November”) by Kani Alavi: This mural captures the moment when the Wall fell in November 1989, a pivotal event in German history.
Tours of the Berlin Wall
If you’re interested in learning more about the Berlin Wall, it might be worth taking a Cold War Berlin walking tour. This will allow you to get a guided commentary on the history of East Side Gallery, as well as visiting other Cold War landmarks like Checkpoint Charlie and a former DDR watchtower.
The Wall Museum
In 2016, The Wall Museum opened on the riverside next to Oberbaum Bridge. This museum features interactive exhibits including personal stories of those who lived through this tumultuous period, news reels from the era, artifacts and audiovisual displays, all of which offer an understanding of the Wall’s construction and its impact on the city.
Visiting East Side Gallery is a moving experience that allows you to glance into Berlin’s complex past. Remember that East Side Gallery is not just a tourist attraction, but a historic monument that tells a story of the people who resided there during difficult times. Please respect the artwork and refrain from defacing the murals.