More than a quarter of a century has passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the site remains one of the world’s most potent reminders of the Cold War. Little exists of the barrier that divided East and West Germany today, so taking a tour is the best way to appreciate Berlin’s most popular tourist attraction. These local Berlin Wall tours are some of the city’s best.
The Berlin Wall Bike Tour: See the wall on two wheels
Berlin’s flat streets and numerous cycling paths make it one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet. Many locals insist that the best way to see their city is from the back of a bicycle, so why not consider a bike tour while you’re in town?
The Berlin Wall Bike Tour, run by Berlin on Bike, takes in a 15-kilometer stretch between Bornholmer Strasse and Berlin’s government district. Highlights include Checkpoint Charlie, Mauer Park, and the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum, where an intact portion of the wall and a guard tower are preserved. Your knowledgeable guide will offer insight into the background of the wall, the politics of the time, and the people touched by this important period of history. Despite the dark subject matter, the Berlin Wall Bike Tour is a family friendly excursion.
The Berlin Wall Bike Tour runs every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It costs 14€, and an additional 5€ for bike hire.
Berlin behind the Iron Curtain: Tour with a wall expert
Original Berlin Walks was established in 1993, making it Berlin’s longest-operating English-language walking tour company. It only employs academically trained guides, so its Berlin Behind the Iron Curtain tour is the ideal choice for traveling history buffs.
This four-hour walking tour takes in key historical sites including Alexanderplatz, Karl-Marx-Allee Boulevard, Gethsemane Church, and the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum. Along the way you’ll gain an insight into the Soviet Union’s rise and fall, from the Second World War to the Cold War. You’ll also learn about the protests surrounding the barrier, and the circumstances that led to its eventual fall.
The Berlin Behind the Iron Curtain walking tour has two meeting points — a western point at the entrance to Zoo station and an eastern point opposite Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station — which are easily accessible from a number of hotels in Berlin. Tours leave at 10 a.m. every Friday and Monday. Tickets cost 12€ for adults, 10€ for people under 26 and retirees, and 9€ for people with a WelcomeCard or an International Student Identity Card.
A tale of two cities (Berlin Wall Walk): Intimate walking tour
If you prefer a more intimate experience, then take the A Tale of Two Cities tour with Slow Travel Berlin. This tour runs with just eight to 12 people to encourage maximum interaction with your guides and minimize the disturbance to Berlin residents. Your guides are Paul Sullivan, Slow Travel Berlin’s founder, and Paul Scraton, one of Slow Travel Berlin’s writers and the founder and editor of Under a Grey Sky website.
Together they deliver a tour that focuses on the human stories of the Berlin Wall. You’ll hear about the people who escaped their prison, and the ones who lost their lives trying. You’ll also learn about the development of Berlin since the wall came down as you stroll past former checkpoints and remnants of the border.
Allow two to three hours for the tour. It costs 25€ and includes a copy of the book “Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail.”
Under the Berlin Wall: Go Underground
For a Berlin Wall tour with a different twist, go underground with Berliner Unterwelten E.V.’s Under the Berlin Wall tour. Many people attempted to tunnel under the wall when it separated the city in 1961. In fact, more than 70 escape tunnels were made between 1961 and 1984, and more than 300 people used them to find freedom. Although when the East German police discovered the operations, the outcomes were often tragic.
You’ll begin your tour in a former civil defence shelter that is now used as a photo gallery, showcasing images from this important time in Germany’s history. You’ll then take the subway to Bernauer Strasse and travel underground, where you’ll admire the hundreds of tunnels and hear the stories of daring escapes.
Tours run all year from Thursday to Monday, leaving at 3:30 p.m. Additional tours also run during national holidays. Check the Berliner Unterwelten E.V. website for details of these. Allow approximately two hours for the underground tour. It costs 14€ for adults, and 11€ for concession tickets, including the subway transfer. Tickets are available on the day of the tour from the pavilion next to the Gesundbrunnen subway station’s southern entrance.
Walk the Wall: Self-guided multimedia tour
Touring the Berlin Wall with a group isn’t for everyone. If you’d prefer to explore the wall’s remains in your own time, then the Walk the Wall tour is for you. To take it you’ll need to rent your multimedia guide at one of Berlin’s collection points. You’ll find one at Checkpoint Charlie, another at the Brandenburg Gate, and one at the Berlin Wall Memorial. Simply look out for the silver, round pavilions labelled Mauer-Guide. Once you’re done, you can simply return the multimedia guide to any one of the collection points.
Instead of a traditional tour guide, you’ll get a touch-screen device and a headset. The electronic tour guide features a GPS navigation system to lead you to 22 historical points between the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery. Historical film footage and sound clips recreate what Berlin looked like before the wall came down.
You can rent the multimedia guide for 8€ for four hours, or 10€ for all day hire. Valid concession holders receive a 3€ discount. A 50€ security deposit applies, but this is refundable on the return of the multimedia device.
Make sure that taking one of these great Berlin Wall tours is on your itinerary when you visit Germany’s capital.