A Short Guide to Berlin Wall Museums and Memorials

by Oliver Stallwood  |  Published April 26, 2024

The Berlin Wall not only cut through the German capital, it was an emblem of a world divided during the Cold War. Here is a short guide to Berlin Wall Museums and Memorials.

(Photo: William Warby via / CC BY-SA 2.0)

It could be argued that the Berlin Wall is one of the most important pieces of reinforced concrete in history. Built in 1961 to physically disconnect West Berlin from the GDR, following the division of the city following WW2, the Berlin Wall did more than just separate a country, it put the Cold War in the deep freeze. The whole world became divided, with nuclear arms becoming a stick that would be waved over the wall, while families and friends living in the German capital wondered how they would see their loved ones again. In early November 1989 half a million people gathered at the wall in a mass protest – five days later, on November 9, this dividing line between countries, people and lives started to come down. 

Among the jubilation and tears of joy, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, graffiti-strewn concrete chunks taken down piece-by-piece. But while the wall itself is almost completely gone, pieces kept as souvenirs across the world, the divisions of the Berlin Wall still linger today, as well as the aftershocks of the global standoff that it helped to create. The two sides of Berlin have been rebuilt in recent years but the scars remain, defining the identity of its urban sprawl even today. To get a real sense of the Berlin Wall, past, present and future, there are many museums and memorials to visit in Berlin, some with an entrance fee and some free to visit. Here is a short guide to the Berlin Wall memorials and museums. 

Asisi Berlin

(Photo: Jannis Mayr © asisi)

Located inside an old industrial-looking gasometer next to Checkpoint Charlie, one of Berlin’s most famous border crossings, it would be easy to dismiss Asisi Berlin, a ‘360 Panorama’, as a slightly forgettable tourist experience. This would be a mistake. The installation by Kreuzberg wall artist Yadegar Asisi is much more than that. It is a captivating, unique artwork that tricks the eyes and transports you into a day in West Berlin in the 1980s, with the death strip looming behind, rather than a quick rundown of the history of the wall. On a Wednesday afternoon you can’t help thinking that it should be full of art buffs, rather than groups of bored-looking school kids. The visual effect of the panorama really hits you on the viewing platform, the perspective lining up to fool your eyes into thinking the petting zoo, the psychedelically-painted Mercedes and the well-worn kneipe are all really there in front of you. The experience is well worth the 11 Euro (adult) ticket and comes with a video on the life, works and thoughts of Asisi himself. Visit midweek lunchtime when it’s quiet for the best experience. 

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East Side Gallery

The name can be a bit confusing – this is not a little gallery perched on a quiet street in Mitte, with glasses of kombucha to sip while you check out GDR-era artworks. This is in fact the longest surviving section of the wall itself, a memorial in Berlin-Friedrichshain that also serves as a permanent open-air gallery. Here, you’d be best to come early morning if you want to avoid the crowds and walk along over a kilometre of murals that are constantly being repainted to cover up endless tags. Immediately after the wall came down in 1989, 118 artists from 21 countries started painting the East Side Gallery, and it officially opened as an open air gallery on 28 September 1990. Highlights of a visit are undoubtedly Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss and Birgit Kinders’s Trabant breaking through the wall. There’s not much in the way of explanations or signs which is no bad thing – this is a place to stroll and imagine yourself in history thirty or forty years ago. 

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Mauer Museum

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The Mauer Museum dates back almost as far back as the wall itself. The first exhibition ‘It Happened at the Wall’ was staged in a 2.5 room flat in West Berlin shortly after the wall’s construction, followed on 14 June 1963 by the opening of the museum at the ‘Haus am Checkpoint Charlie’, designed primarily as a protest against the concrete barrier. Even though this museum is a now one of Berlin’s best-loved tourist attractions it still has that slightly revolutionary spirit, wordy captions explaining the history of the wall’s construction alongside exhibits showing daring escapes – it’s more fun than you might imagine. There is a more serious side too, with the museum helping to document and highlight deaths and atrocities that happened after the war. The Mauer Museum should be high on the list of anyone who has even a passing interest in the history of the Berlin Wall.

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The Wall Museum

Not to be confused with the Mauer Museum (translation Wall Museum), the Wall Museum over in Friedrichshain stands next to the East Side Gallery. Mikhail Gorbachev announced the opening of the new museum on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and it opened in March 2016. The aim of this museum is to tell the entire story of the Wall, from the reasons behind its construction in the Sixties to the dramatic days in November 1989 when it finally fell. The museum is full of never-before-seen documents and films and is a fascinating insight into how the wall divided both a nation and a planet. The highlight has to be a unique multimedia experience across more than 100 screens, documenting the key moments in the history of the Berlin Wall. 

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Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse

(Photo: Brian Dooley via

Extending along 1.4km of the former border strip, the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse is a must-see. This is the site of various escape attempts, including one woman who held onto a rope out of a window, many of which were fatal, others successful, It is the only section of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved in its full depth. This is probably the only place where you can experience the various elements of the border strip as it looked at the end of the 1980s too. The Berlin Wall Memorial has an outdoor exhibition on the history of the division and the grounds also include the memorial recalling the divided city and the victims of communist tyranny, as well as the ‘Window of Remembrance’, the Chapel of Reconciliation, and the exposed foundations of a former apartment house. There is also a group of places to visit on the other side of the street, on the west side, with a Visitor Center, Documentation Center, and a viewing platform. 

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Berlin: 2-Hour Berlin Wall Tour


If you are only in Berlin for a couple of days this short tour makes perfect sense. Over just two hours you get a comprehensive background on the Berlin Wall and the events that took place around it, accompanied by stories about those who lived through it. You will trace the original path of the Berlin Wall, from Berlin Gesundbrunnen to Prenzlauer Berg, at the same time an expert local guide explaining the timeline from 1961 to the reunification in November 1989. This is about bringing the past to life, with a mix of facts, tales of human resilience and even humour in the face of this concrete dividing line. The tour also visits the Berlin Wall Memorial where you can climb the lookout to see a preserved area of the former border strip. From €23.

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East Berlin and the Wall: Walking Tour

For something a little more indepth this top-rated tour is highly recommended. During 3.5 hours you will visit Potsdamer Platz, where the wall bisected, and travel by S-Bahn from Nordbahnhof, a former ghost station, to the Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse, to see the death strip for yourself. The knowledgeable guide has plenty of stories you are unlikely to hear elsewhere, really bringing to life the era of the Berlin Wall. Finally you head to Alexanderplatz, the centre of GDR life, and on to the East Side Gallery, a section of the wall adorned with 104 murals. From €290 per group up to five.

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