The elegant baroque square got its name from Frederick William’s Gens d’Armes cavalry regiment, which had a guardhouse and set of stables for their horses here until 1782. By the end of World War II, the square had been reduced to a pile of rubble and remained in ruins until the late 1970s, when East Berlin began to rebuild.
Anchoring the square are dazzling feats of architecture like the twin cathedrals German Dome (Deutscher Dom) and French Dome (Französischer Dom), whose design was inspired by Rome’s Piazza del Popolo and Friedrich Schinkel’s imposing, neoclassical theater. Travelers have many options to explore the square, on their own or as part of half-day, full-day, group or private tours on foot or by hop on/hop off bus, limousine, boat, or bike.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Suitable for solo travelers, couples, and families.
- Admission for the Christmas market is about $1.
- The German Dome hosts art exhibitions; entrance is usually free, and a short tour is offered every hour with English audio guides available.
- For about $3.50 (children, about $1) travelers can climb the 254 steps to the viewing platform atop the French Dome for a panoramic view.
- Tickets to the live classical music concerts range from $13 to $17.
How to Get There
Travelers exploring Mitte district can find the square by walking along the main boulevard, Unter den Linden, before turning on Friedrichstrasse or at Bebelplatz. Once at Französische Strasse, the two dome cupolas will appear. Otherwise, the closest public transportation stops are on the U-2 train (Hausvogteiplatz or Stadtmitte) or the U-6 train (Französische Strasse).
When to Get There
The plaza is a joy to visit day or night. During the summer, live orchestras play classical music. In the winter, the Christmas market is a popular spectacle, staying open Christmas Eve and some days after. On New Year’s Eve, revelers celebrate at a festive gala with live bands, fireworks, and a waltz after midnight. Climb the French Dome January and February from 12:00pm - 4:00pm, and March through December, 10:00am - 6:00pm.
Book Burning and Chocolate Stay in Mitte and discover Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatier near the German Dome for hot chocolate, pastries, pie and fine chocolates—and a view of their famous cocoa sculptures of iconic Berlin monuments. Swing around the corner to a smaller square, Bebelplatz, to see the eloquent Book Burning Memorial, which commemorates the Nazi book burning that took place there in 1933, Appropriately hidden underground, look through the glass window, and spy a library with empty shelves.
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