Berlin’s building boom

Despite a construction boom; remnants of Eastern bloc regulation; high levels of public housing; and heavy World War II bombing, Berlin still boasts some wonderful architecture well worth seeing.

Wandering through Berlin, it’s easy to see how the appearance of the city today is largely a direct result of the tumultuous role it played in 20th Century Germany.

The other key influence is an astonishing building boom that, for the past few years, has produced a skyline of cranes and literally thousands of construction sites across the city.

Despite all this, Berlin still has some remarkable architecture and incredible attractions.

Here are some of our favourites:

Brandenburg Gate

An iconic landmark of Berlin and Germany, the Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch that stands in the western edge of the city centre in the Mitte borough.

It marks an historic gateway to Berlin.IMG_0002

Altes Museum

Berlin’s oldest museum is located in the UNESCO-listed heritage site known as Museum Island.

It was built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel – Prussia’s most influential architect – and houses the city’s Classical Antiquities collection.

Completed in 1830, the Altes Museum is one of the most important buildings of the Neoclassical era. An inscription on the striking building reads: ‘Friedrich Wilhelm III has dedicated this museum to the study of all antiquities and the free arts, 1828’.IMG_0036

Humboldt University

One of Berlin’s oldest universities, this prestigious institution was founded on 15 October 1810[5] as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt

The university has produced 29 nobel prize winners.

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Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral is located on Museum Island. Sitting in he River Spree, the island houses five museums built between 1830 and 1930 and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.

The Cathedral was finished in 1905, but its eye-catching dome was all but destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.

It is an impressive building and a ‘must-see’ on any visit to the German capital.

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Berlin State Opera

Berlin State Opera is on the Unter den Linden boulevard in the Mitte borough. Construction of the original building on the site began in July 1741.

On August 18, 1843 the building was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt only to be badly damaged again in the Second World War.IMG_0320

This a sample only of Berlin’s architectural attractions.

Visitors to this vibrant city would be wise to also spend time at the Reichstag building; Charlottenburg Palace; the Fernsehturm (TV tower), at Alexanderplatz in Mitte; Alexanderplatz in general; and the city’s many fine museums and memorials.

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Montmartre is a lot more than just a hill

Montmartre, a 130 metre hill in the northern section of Paris, France is one of the best known attractions in the City of Light.

Crowned by the striking white-domed Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur and offering undoubtedly the best views in Paris (except from the top of the Eiffel Tower) Montmartre is part of the Right Bank in the city’s 18th arrondissement.

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The summit usually attracts big crowds of people who have either walked up more than 300 steps or taken the automatic funicular railway from the streets below.

As well as gathering around the Sacre-Coeur basilica, the crowds spill into the adjoining Place du Tertre, where portrait sketchers and caricaturists compete for space.

However, there are some wonderful experiences to be gained by leaving the crowds behind and simply wandering among the cobbled streets of one of the most historic and fascinating neighbourhoods of Paris.

Montmarte vineyard

We started in Barbes-Rochechouart, to the east of the base of Montmartre.

This is a vibrant shopping area and street market, which runs down to the famous Moulin Rouge club.

After meandering among the stalls and exploring both tiny shops and big discount stores alike, we headed for the Rue de Steinkerque, which we had been told was a quaint and lively shortcut to the terraced gardens and grassy slopes beneath the basilica.

The Rue certainly lived up to its reputation. Its shops were busy with locals, but there appeared to be few visitors.

We opted to walk to the top of the hill and went looking for the Rue Foyatier, one of the most famous street in Paris, where steps carry you directly to the summit.

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Have no doubt, Montemarte is steep and the ascent can be tough going.

But on the positive side, this is Paris – and even its stone steps are a work of art. These ones are lined by attractive lamps, handrails, trees and occasional seating.

Montemarte oozes history and many of the buildings are glorious. There are also lovely private gardens and the sight of grape vines growing on the slopes at Rue Saint-Vincent was intriguing.

Locals explained that the Clos Montmartre Vinyard still produces a few hundred litres of wine each year. Naturally, the drop is keenly sought after.

As we walked from the Sacre-Coeur through the Place du Terte, with its lines of modern artists, it was easy to visualise that the likes of Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh had either operated studios or worked in or around Montmartre.Sue in Paris

If ever there was a place to feed creativity and inspiration, this is it.

Avoiding the popular restaurants around the summit, we explored the older, church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, before heading back into the surrounding suburb – content that we had visited an outstanding attraction, but also experienced the Montmartre that many of the tourists never see.

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Don’t miss the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assissi, Italy

Although the basilica at Assissi is well known as a site for Christian pilgrims drawn to the crypt of Saint Francis, the architecture and views of the area are also a magnet for travellers.

The town of Assissi is part of the province of Perugia in the Umbria region, on the western flank of Monte Subasio.

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Along with a adjoining friary for the Franciscan order of monks, the basilica sits high on a hill, a striking landmark as you approach Assisi.

It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

Started in 1228, the basilica includes two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a tomb containing the remains of Saint Francis of Assissi.

The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy.

Overall, the basilica is an impressive site with incredible views over the surrounding countryside.

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