The Berlin’s Champs-Elysées: the long boulevard “Unter den Linden” which echoes over four centuries of history.
Unter den Linden is the most famous boulevard, stretching over a kilometer from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island. In practice, the boulevard “under the linden” crosses the historic center of the city alongside the best-loved and most known places of Berlin.
On the boulevard, there are some of the main attractions of the city, so a walk up and down the Unter den Linden becomes also a small trip into German history. Originally, the elegant tree-lined boulevard was only a lane, then in 1647, Frederick William of Hohenzollern decided to extend its route to reach the hunting ground of the Tiergarten from the royal palace.
2,000 trees to shade the nobles during walks
It was always the idea of the Great Elector to shade the real street with linden trees and walnuts (about 2,000 trees spread over 6 raws) so that the carriage rides and horseback were more comfortable. In the eighteenth century, the street was enlarged by Frederick II the Great, who commissioned the construction of the buildings that still adorn Unter den Linden.
In particular: the Staatsoper, Opera of the Prussian Royal Court, whose lines are based on Greek temples (actually the current building is from 1995 but it is true to the original); St. Hedwigs Kathedrale, built on the Pantheon in Rome, this one, like the first, by Knobelsdorff; the palace for Prince Henry, the residence of the king’s brother, later destined to a university dedicated to its founder Wilhelm von Humboldt; the Alte Bibliothek with curved façade, renamed by the Berliners “Kommode” (dresser) for its resemblance to a baroque cupboard.
In the 19th century, Unter den Linden was populated with luxury shops, official buildings, and other prestigious buildings, including the Neue Wache, considered the masterpiece of Schinkel, one of the greatest European architects of the time. Built as a guard post for sentries of the royal residences, the neoclassical temple later became a monument to the “victims of war and tyranny.”
Until the lime trees flourish on Unter den Linden, Berlin will always be Berlin
Until the advent of Nazism, Unter den Linden was the way of the bourgeois walks, a bustling commercial street, the center of social life in the German capital. But this mattered little to the Nazis and they did not waste time to prove it.
Hitler and his followers believed that trees placed on the avenue narrowed the roadway which instead, according to their plans, was to host parades and torchlight processions of the regime. Simply said: the age-old linden trees were cut down. The war made all worse. Many of the magnificent buildings on the street were damaged by bombs, others went totally destroyed; Unter den Linden was reduced to a pile of rubble.
After the war, since the 60s, began the construction works but, while in the west it was decided to build new palaces, the DDR opted for the reconstruction and renovation of existing buildings. The socialist state wanted the boulevard to preserve the elegant nineteenth-century appearance, which made it necessary to plant new linden trees (the ones you see today) but this was not enough to make the Unter den Linden the fascinating site of yore.
With reunification, the reconstruction of the avenue was completed. Swept away the old regime, the famous street of the city is back again to shine. Crowded with tourists and locals, with Cafes, bars, kiosks, Unter den Linden today is the street, where old and new meet to give new atmospheres with ancient scent.
Opening hours: open air
How to reach: Metro Französische Straße (U2 ); Metro Brandenburger Tor (U55, S1, S2, S25)