Exploring Charlottenburg

We chose the beautiful neighborhood of Charlottenburg here in Berlin for our first big sightseeing excursion last weekend.  The architecture and feel of Charlottenburg are very different from Kreuzberg (where we have been staying) which made for a really exciting day!  Here’s a little background on this sophisticated neighborhood:

Charlottenburg was established as an independent town in 1705 and became a burough of Berlin in 1920.  It lies on the western edge of the “inner city” and is most famous for Schloss Charlottenburg – known to us English speakers as the Charlottenburg Palace.  The palace was built in 1695 for Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, the Queen Consort of Prussia & her husband, Frederick I the King of Prussia.  In 1806 the palace was inhabited for a time by Napoleon while his army lived in the nearby town and with this came an influx of the wealthy Bourgeoisie, causing Charlottenburg’s population increased dramatically and be called “the richest town in Prussia.”  After WWII and during the Cold War, the Kurfürstendamm area of Charlottenburg became the commercial centre of West-Berlin, with many restaurants, bars & shops.
Today, it remains the most popular shopping district in Berlin.  The famous Kurfürstendamm avenue is lined with retail shops – ranging from the luxurious (Hermes, Gucci & Prada) to the European clothing staples like H&M and Disigual.  Some of the other popular sights to see in Charlottenburg are the Town Hall, the Charlottenburg Gate, the beautiful Theater des Westens, as well as many museums.

The main reason why I wanted to visit Charlottenburg was to see how “the other half lived”; by this I mean former West vs. East Berlin.  The moment we came up from the U-Bahn station (Berlin’s metro system) the stark difference between Charlottenburg and the less affluent Kreuzberg was shocking!  The bland box-like buildings that line the streets in Kreuzberg (which was part of West Berlin but lied near the Eastern border) pale in comparison to the bright and ornate white-washed buildings in Charlottenburg.  And, of course, the palace is stunning.

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We decided to save going on a tour of the palace’s interior for another day.  It was just too sunny & warm to be indoors!  So instead we took a long walk around the exterior of the huge building and wandered through the palace grounds.  The gardens were so picturesque – their expansive flower beds were lined with newly planted flowers & topiaries.  Hundreds of people were there (including a bride and groom!) enjoying the sunshine and relaxing by the pond in the back of the gardens.  Paths line the grounds (mental note to go running there someday) and lead to small bridges and more paths.  I couldn’t tell quite how large the grounds were but they seemed gigantic!

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After spending a while wandering around the garden we decided to head over to Kurfürstendamm and see the shops.  Wow.  It’s almost like going to NYC or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.  Adding to the luxurious feel of Charlottenburg are large mirrored modern buildings that are interspersed with the old architecture of the former town.  We walked for what seemed like forever past hundreds of clothing stores and a few of Charlottenburg’s famous shopping malls before giving into our aching feet and hopping on the U-Bahn to go home.

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Although we really enjoyed exploring Charlottenburg I’m not sure that we would want to live there.  It’s a little too “big city” for us – too many cars, too many tourists, etc.  But it will be an awesome place to bring family & friends!  So come visit us and we’ll take you there *hint, hint*.

Here are some more misc. photos from Charlottenburg:

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