When visiting Berlin, there are many famous locations to visit but not all of them are free. The Brandenburg Gate is one that is and is a "Must See". The Fernsehturm, the TV Broadcasting Tower on Alexanderplatz is also a "Must See" but isn't free. We visited both whilst in Berlin for three days and of the two, Fernsehturm was definitely the most spectacular.
The tower was built in the 60s by the Russian-controlled East German authorities and is, as you would expect, located in what was then East Berlin. It is at the opposite end of Unter den Linden from the Brandenburg Gate. It will come as no surprise that it was constructed as a symbol of "Communist Might", to be visible throughout West Berlin. Unlike the utilitarian architecture inflicted on East Berlin as a part of the rebuilding of the largely destroyed city, the Fernsehturm is actually a very elegant and surprisingly modern structure.
The entrance is not into the tower itself but to a circular two-storey hall to one side, linked to the tower by a walkway. On the Ground Floor below the staircase there is a central ticket desk for which you can queue to buy tickets. There are also self-serve ticket machines. On the day (a Monday) when we visited there was just a short queue and so we waited no more than five minutes to get our tickets. The standard adult ticket costs Euro12 but as we had the Berlin Visitor Ticket for all of our travel around the city, we got discounted tickets at Euro9.
The tickets are numbered and screens around the hall tell you how long you will have to wait for your turn to ride in the lift the just over 200 metres up to the viewing platform. We had to wait around 45 minutes. Whilst waiting you can climb up the stairs to the gallery overlooking the ground floor. Here there is a cafe where you can enjoy a snack and drinks whilst you wait.
When your time arrives you walk through the passageway to the tower, undergoing a security search on the way. Your ticket is presented to a turnstile (you will do the same on the way out, their way of ensuring no one gets left behind) and then it's onwards to the lifts. There are two and each has an indicator to show its current position within the tower.
Each lift takes around a dozen passengers, plus the lift operator. The acceleration is so smooth that you hardly realise you have started moving; it takes just around 30 seconds or so to climb to the viewing platform.
The platform is actually on two levels, the upper level, accessed by a stairway, is reserved for special parties and those who have paid extra to be treated as a VIP! The lower level is for us mere mortals. The whole of the circumference is surrounded by protective railings, beyond which are large, continuous windows angled outwards from the floor, through which you get an unrivalled panorama over Berlin.
Below each window is a panel describing what can be seen, or that's what is intended. Bizarrely, each panel is offset to the left from the window whose view it describes! I suppose you are supposed to move clockwise around the windows, first reading the description and then moving on, trying your best to remember what you read, to see the view itself. I found myself continually going back to reference the panel before, which does make the whole experience less satisfactory.
Obviously the view you get depends on the weather; we were lucky in having a relatively clear day on which we could see all of the famous locations such as the Tiergarten public park, the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and even out to Templehof aerodrome, used during the year-long Berlin Airlift, when the Russians tried to starve West Berlin into submission to being incorporated into East Germany.
The Fernsehturm is definitely worth a visit when you are in Berlin. The cost of entry is not exorbitant and it does provide a half hour or so of entertainment. You obviously have to pick your day as the weather is going to play a big part in your enjoyment of the experience. After the visit, there are a large number of decent restaurants and cafes nearby, in which to relax before continuing your exploration of this great city.
If you only spend a couple of days in Berlin, a trip to the top of the Fernsehturm (television tower) is worth it. The viewing platform stands at 204m above the ground and the structure can be viewed from across the city. The best way to reach it is by taking the bus or u-bahn to Alexanderplatz.
There are a couple of reviews on here already, which are pretty old now and much has changed down at the Fernsehturm.
The television tower is a prime example of Stalinist architecture constructed between 1965 to 1969, to act as a symbol of East Berlin by the former GDR government. The mast at the top broadcasts television and FM signals across Berlin and the surrounding states. Since the fall of the wall, the tower has been modernised and now handles 1.2 million visitors a year.
Making a visit
On arrival you may have to queue for a while, I guess we waited for about half an hour, annoying, but one of those things. If you can go on a week day, things may be a bit better.
During the renovations at the turn of the millennium, one major improvement was the lifts that take you to the top, which have been sped up so that the total journey time is forty seconds. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access to the tower. On a clear day, it is possible to see up to 26 miles, and it is a great way to really understand the city and how it was divided after the war. From the street it is sometimes hard to see the contrast in architecture and street layout. This brings it to life, with the history and landmarks shown clearly in English on signs underneath the windows.
One thing I would recommend, is going at lunch or dinner time and having a meal in the "Drehrestaurant" (turning restaurant). It's brilliant. The floor of the restaurant rotates 360 degrees every 20 minutes, so your view changes throughout your meal. The restaurant is also really reasonable with prices for a main course around Euro8 - Euro12.
The adult entry fee to the tower is currently Euro9.50 in 2008.
Ask a Berliner where you can get the best possible view of the city, and it's said you'll be told to go to the top of the Fernshturm.
Apparently, it's the only place where you can't see the thing itself!
Personally, I didn't think it looked any worse than any other TV tower. Let's face it, TV transmitters are not generally known for their aesthetic qualities, and in the case of these sorts of structures, it's definitely about 'size being everything'.
The Fersehturm owes its very existence to the division of Germany into East and West. The GDR needed to build a powerful transmitter in the East Berlin, the fact that it towered over the capitalist West in a show of architectural might was a bonus.
It stands an impressive 368m tall, although the observation deck is at 203m. The tower is a 250m-high concrete shaft which is topped by a stainless steel sphere, consisting of seven stories. One of these floors is the Telecaf√©, takes 30 minutes to complete a full circuit, rotating on its own axis. The pinnacle of the tower consists of a 118m TV antenna.
It was decided to construct the tower in the centre of Alerxanderplatz and, some 53 months later, in October 1969, it was operational. In 1995/96 the interior of the tower was renovated and it attracts over a million visitors annually.
This was our first port-of-call in Berlin and, as we were arriving at Alexanderplatz Bahnhof first thing in the morning when it would (hopefully) be less crowded, it seemed the smart thing to do.
Stepping out from the station, you'd expect the Fernsehturm to be easy to find, after all, it's slap-bang in the middle of the square. The trouble is, it's SO huge, that unless you look straight up, you don't really notice it, strangely enough.
TIP: it's the tall thing with the souvenir shops surrounding it and the snaking lines of gawping tourists.
I'm glad we decided to go there first thing to beat the crowds...not that we beat the crowds, but I'm sure the queues would have been horrendous come late morning/early afternoon. As it was, we had to wait quite a while. It's understandable, I suppose. The capacity at the top has a finite limit, and not a very large one, and the elevators can only take so many people at one time. I did think about asking if we could climb the 986 stairs, but not out loud.
We were trapped in the elevator with an extended family of Indians and the kids were noisily excited but luckily, the pressure sealed my ears a little and it was almost bearable - it only takes 40 seconds or so anyway. But oh how I longed for the quiet and solitude of the viewing deck. If anything, it was more crowded and noisier than on the journey up.
This is the real downside. Although the views are stunning and encompass the whole city (weather permitting), actually getting a clear view can be rather tricky. Now I'm not the type to shuffle around meekly and let all the other plebs use my space, but it was just a little chaotic and spoiled the experience a little. Still, it's not as if you ever get these sort of places to yourself, is it?
As I said, the views are stunning. Whether you look to the east and the totalitarian image of rank upon rank of massive concrete blocks standing as if soldiers on parade; or look down below to the magnificent Berliner Dom; or west along Unter den Linden through the Brandenburger Tor and on to the Tiergarten, each panorama opens up spectacularly, if you can shove your way in for a decent look, that is!
OK, I'm exagerrating a little. It was very busy, but a little patience was soon rewarded with those marvelous vistas. After all, it's only a tiny minority of people who think it's fun to stand looking at the same view for an eternity, most have a quick look, take a photo, then move on.
Of course, if it all gets a bit much for you, there's the possibility of retiring to the Telecaf√© for a light refreshment. However, if, like us, you're there before 10am the possibility is not just remote, but im. Yep, although visitors are allowed in from 9am, the caf√© doesn't open until 10am. Nice bit of planning there.
So, after a wander around and a look in all the directions, there's not really an awful lot more to do, so it was time to take the second quickest way down, and see what the shop had to offer in the way of souvenirs. naturally, there are all manner of Fernsehturm replicas in many shapes and sizes, but what struck me was the proliferation of Russian dolls, red star badges and all things CCCP. Anyone would think there used to be some sort of Soviet influence here in the past. My advice? Save your pfennigs. There are stalls and shops all over berlin selling the same stuff, only cheaper.
In conclusion, I enjoyed my trip up the Fernsehturm. It was a little crowded, and the fact that the caf√© wasn't open was a little disappointing, but the views were stupendous and it was a nice introduction to Berlin. We could look down on the city, consult our map, and pick out where we would be visiting next.
Daily Opening Hours:
March - October: 9.00 am - midnight
November - February: 10.00 am - midnight
Adults - Euro 7.50
Concessions - Euro 3.50
* For safety reasons wheelchair access is not possible.
I was lucky enough to finally get to the top of Berlin's TV Tower or 'Fernsehturm' at the start of March this year (2001). When I say top, I mean the viewing platform, which is 203m up the 365m structure. Having visited Berlin a few times over the past 8 months I had attempted to visit the tower on a few occasions, mainly giving up because of the long queues that can stretch out into Alexanderplatz. Ok, so this wasn't helped by the fact that on one occasion the lifts broke - not exactly confidence inspiring, however the tower was closed for refurbishment for a couple of months afterwards! Ok, so you probably want to know if it's worth going up for the view - the answer is - definitely! If you have explored the city on foot or on the u-bahn / s-bahn, the view from the tower can help put it all into perspective. Having, as I said, probably spent about 20 days in the city before I visited the tower I still found it beneficial, even though I know my way around the city anyway. If you are a first / one time visitor I would recommend you are patient enough to wait for a while, time permitting of course. I think we queued for about 30mins. On the viewing platform they have a description of what you are seeing out of each of the window sections along with a street plan. It would be a good way of determining what else you would like to visit. On a good day viewing range is reputedly 25 miles. Weekends be prepared for a long wait, probably better to visit Monday to Friday, also bearing in mind that there may also be people queuing for the 'Tele-cafe' which is situated above the viewing platform. I didn't bother to visit the cafe mainly because there was a queue and there are lots of reasonable places to eat locally. Unfortunately I can't remember how much it cost - I think it was about Dm10 per adult - about ¬£3.30, but I'm not sure. Opening Tim
es: May - Sept 9am - 1am Oct - April 10am - midnight Cafe: 10am - 1am daily Getting there is easy on the S or U-Bahn. Most lines run through Alexanderplatz Bahnhof (station).
Visible throughout most of the city, this television antenna is actually located in the former East Berlin, and if nothing else, it's immensely useful as a landmark from which to get your bearings. Built in 1969, the Fernsehturm is still the second tallest structure in Europe, and is nicknamed Telespargel ('toothpick') by locals. Certainly, from the ground, it is a remarkable structure, and well worth a look. Several buildings in the area around the base of the structure hold the studios of TVB – Berlin's own television channel. Supposedly, it's possible to get a lift up to the metal sphere, 203 metres above the ground, however, when I was there, the area was shrouded with fencing, and the tower was most decidedly closed to visitors. A friend of mine has visited the tower when it's open, and tells me that the view is quite remarkable, allowing incomparable views out over the city and the surrounding area, when the weather's good. He also told me that it's pretty cheap, and that there's a revolving caf√© in the metal sphere which revolves once every half an hour. Obviously then, if the place is actually open, it's definitely worth going in, though queues can apparently be long, so it would probably be best to get there early!
The Berlin TV Tower / Panoramastra√üe 1 a 10178 Berlin (Alexanderplatz). Open daily 10am-12am.