There is nothing attractive about Potsdamer Platz and I rarely ever pass by. It’s disconcerting in contrast to the residential neighborhoods of Berlin. The generic formula – skyscrapers, lots of steel and glass, franchise chain restaurants – has transformed this particular area into a fortress of solitude.

Notwithstanding the lack of human interaction (and not counting bumping into confused tourists), the square is impressive at night. The Sony Center especially. I remember someone telling me that the whole thing used to be Europe’s largest construction site. I guess the results are, to some extent, deserving of that record. That was in 1991. What was the Potsdamer Platz before that?

The Second World War left a devastated place, which then became the “border triangle” between the Soviet, British and American sectors. The Wall divides the square as Potsdamer Platz spends more than 40 years in slumber; an urban wasteland between East and West. The only intact building in the no man’s land is the Weinhaus Huth next to the remains of the Hotel Esplanade. At the end of the 80’s, a magnetic train was used on Potsdamer Platz on a 1.6 km long route.

You will still see the memorials and remains of the Wall there. The Wall resulted in a deathlike isolation of the square. When it finally fell, a new opportunity opened up to investors who could now acquire lucrative land right in the middle of new Berlin. They probably wanted to compensate for the slow city development due to the history and fast forwarded to a ridiculously futuristic concept.

The new Potsdamer Platz was intended to connect Berliners, give them a new quarter. But it became more like Times Square; touristy and with a lack of a neighborhood. Maybe the roaring 20ies inspired the re-construction of post-war Potsdamer Platz, but today,  nothing roars around here. Office workers are smoking cigarettes. Suppliers chat with security people. In the late afternoon, young cinema-goers come, later tourists who visit the “Blue Man Group” by bus load.

And although many Berliners hate what the lifeless slab of concretes have become, Berlin has done it again: in 2018, Mercedes Platz across the Spree in Mitte / Friedrichshain is just as cold and bleak. A stadium, a new cinema and a Five Guys: a nothingness of consumption. If you really want to experience Berlin, I suggest making a detour around these anonymous tourist purgatories.

6 thoughts on “ Potsdamer Platz ”

  1. I remember, that during construction of the area they set up the “Infobox”: a building of its own, a 60m long, hideous behemoth balanced on stilts, that rose from the construction site’s muddy soil. I used to visit the information center as a kid a couple of times to learn about the construction. In hindsight, what was not astonishing, is that I could barely picture the dimensions, but, as it turned out, as an East Berliner this site would never mean anything to me apart from being a bloated, cold office city that happened to have the once fun Imax theater and one of the best ice cream parlours out there. However, both have gone the way of the dodo.

  2. The Posdamer Platz doesn’t look very undergound, though I like your photos. Where can I meet a lot of hip Australian people in Berlin? I’m desperately looking for illegal raves without German people, any recommendations? Cheers, Ben

  3. Ben, the Potsdamer Platz is not at all underground. It’s quite the most touristy spot in Berlin.
    As for the rest: that’s quite the type of subtle trolling that I can truly appreciate, but I won’t bother replying. If you actually need to know where to find Australian people and raves without Germans: probably Australia.

  4. For those who want to relive the hole construction of the Potsdamer Platz there is a great Movie of it: “80000 Shots” from Manfred Walter. Impressive 80000 Stop-Motion Film of the Potsdamer Platz from destroying the Wall in 1990 till 2000. I have seen it for rent in the Filmkunstbar Fitz Caraldo or you can buy it in Manfred Walters († 2011] former shop ASA90 (Neuköln) :) enjoy!

  5. I have a hard time understanding why so many tourists want to go there, somehow it has achieved some kind of top-10 status in guidebooks or Berlin mythology, I think mainly based on the cold war situation and the proximity to Brandenburger Tor rather than what’s there today. (Then again, in Paris I made a point of visiting La Defence). I’m curious to see if finishing the reconstruction of Leipziger Platz will bring more life to the general area, but as it’s mainly more offices and shops I doubt it.
    To add to Sebastian’s Tipp: also check the film Berlin Babylon about the construction of the complex in the 1990s, with music by Einstürzende Neubauten.

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