travelgrove Travel Guides

Berlin History, Germany

When people think of the history of Berlin they think mostly of the bad things that happened there in the last century.  However, the city has quite an interesting past going back to many centuries.  Before 500 A.D., the area, that is now Berlin, was included in Germania and was inhabited by Germanic tribes.  After these tribes left, Slavic peoples migrated into the area.  In the early 800’s the settlement Berolina was introduced. 

Less than 150 years later, Otto I, who was the King of Germany, took control over the people in the area of Berolina.  He founded two dioceses which were not appreciated by the pagan Slavs.  He died in 983 and this led to a Slavic uprising against the monasteries and priests.

In the 1100’s, the emperors and kings of Germany regained control over the Slavic lands.  Many of the Slavs were driven out while others were made subject to German lords.  The next few decades were spent in small skirmishes between the Slavic and German people.  Finally, Albert the Bear was given control of the area by the German emperor and he united the people.  Under his rule, the area in and around modern-day Berlin began to be cultivated and the Church of Rome became the largest religion.  At this time, too, the Slavic and German peoples began to intermarry.

During the next century, what is now the modern-day town of Berlin was founded based on the old settlement of Berolina.  Nikolaiviertel and Klosterkirche are about all that is left of the earliest days of Berlin since a fire in 1830 damaged many of the records pertaining to those days.  Over the next 400 years, Berlin began to be urbanized.  This led to much poverty. 

In 1539, the official religion of Berlin was changed to Lutheranism.  One year later, the Protestant Reformation was introduced. 

An outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in 1576 along with The Thirty Years’ War that took place in Berlin in the 17th century both caused much destruction.  In 1640, Frederick William was given control over this part of Germany.  He did much it terms of building up Berlin and promoting religious tolerance.  During this time, many refugees came to live in Berlin. 

In 1701, Frederick I named northeastern Germany the Kingdom of Prussia, announced himself king, and made Berlin the new kingdom’s capital.  Under his and his son’s, Frederick William I, rule, Berlin grew extensively. 

The next heir to the throne of Prussia was Frederick II.  He was known as Frederick the Great and under his rule, the country became a center of the Enlightenment.  Twenty-eight years later, Frederick William II, who opposed the Enlightenment, came into power and Berlin’s growth became all but stagnant.

In 1806, under the rule of Napoleon, French troops invaded Berlin and made it a self-governing state.  After the French were defeated, Berlin became part of the Province of Brandenburg and in 1827, the city was made its capital.  This made the city part of Prussia again.  After several decades of war, Berlin was made the capital of the new German Empire in 1871.  During this time, Berlin was also affected deeply by the Industrial Revolution and underwent a lot of growth during the last decades of the 19th century.

During World War I, poverty struck 150,000 of the residents of Berlin.  After the war, Germany was made a Republic but there was still much political and economic unrest.  This did not stop the city from having a booming nightlife and from being a European cultural center during the 1920’s. 

 On January 30, 1933, after much political maneuvering, Adolf Hitler was made the Chancellor of Germany and Germany’s constitution was set aside.  Berlin was made the capital of the Third Reich.  The persecution of the Jews immediately began but took a short break for the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics so that foreign leaders would not see the persecutions.  In 1938, the Jews began to be imprisoned and in 1943, the majority of the Jewish population in Berlin was sent to death camps.  Only 1200 of the 75,000 Jewish people who were still living in Berlin at the time were able to remain hidden.

 At the end of World War II, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.  This left the city divided between the Soviet communists and the Western Allies.  On top of all the damage done to the city by the war, parts of the city were dismantled by the Soviets during this time. 

In 1961, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall to separate their half of Berlin from the western half.  This caused Berlin to be a center of Cold War activity.  During the 1980’s the wall was knocked down and upon the fall of communism in 1990, Berlin became part of Germany again.  Less than a year later, Berlin was once again Germany’s capital. 

Ask our travel experts a question about Berlin

Things about Berlin you may be interested in


Read our members' reviews about Berlin

  • eratoYou must see the Berlin Bundestag
    review by erato posted more then 30 days ago
    Berlin – Bundestag/Reichstag The Bundestag is the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. The name Bundestag refers to the institution while the name Reichstag is used for the building. The architect of the original building was Paul Wallot. The foundation was laid by...
  • eratoBerlin for low budget travelers
    review by erato posted more then 30 days ago
    The famous TV Tower is situated on the Alexanderplatz with its total height of 365 m. There is a viewing platform and observation deck at 203 meters from where you can see the whole city and, if the weather is good, even farer. It is a restaurant at 207 m with a wonderful view over Berlin...
  • lindamuraWhat to do in Germany
    review by lindamura posted more then 30 days ago
    Population: Aprox. 80Mio Major Airports: Franfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), Berlin (BER, BML, TXL), Hamburg (HAM). When to Go: Typically the months of May-September are good to visit as the temperatures are not too cold. In the summer it's usually quite hot outside, but never humid so always...
view all

Read our members' travel tips about Berlin

  • eratoBrandenburg Gate
    travel tip by erato posted more then 30 days ago
    The Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of the unification of East and West Berlin as it stood on no-man's land during the cold war and was reopened in December 1989. It stands on 12 columns having Doric capitals and with The Quadria on the...
  • MadSuhEast Side Gallery
    travel tip by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    This is a site between East and West Berlin which was created after the fall of the wall. Some well-known artists have made some significant pieces of artwork like paintings with political and philosophical contents. It's very much worth...
  • MadSuhPergamon Museum
    travel tip by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    This is one fascinating place. If you are into ancient cultures and art, you should definitely go there. The most important item at this museum is the Ishtar Gate, which is simply amazing. Also they have the Pergamon Altar. There are...
view all


Members Who Have Been to Berlin

Community Galleries About Berlin

Browse our members' Berlin galleries to get a better impression of the place
show alladd gallery
the best travel deals provided by TravelZoo...
  •$508Multiple Airlines flightMultiple Airlines
    Oakland, CA (OAK)  Berlin, DE (SXF)
    03/01/2017 05:20 pm
    Berlin, DE (SXF)  Oakland, CA (OAK)
    03/14/2017 10:35 am
  •$676Thy Turkish Airlines flightThy Turkish Airlines
    Boston, MA (BOS)  Berlin, DE (TXL)
    10/31/2016 11:50 pm
    Berlin, DE (TXL)  Boston, MA (BOS)
    11/07/2016 07:00 am
  •$783British Midland flightBritish Midland
    Baltimore, MD (BWI)  Berlin, DE (SXF)
    11/17/2016 06:00 pm
    Berlin, DE (SXF)  Baltimore, MD (BWI)
    11/26/2016 11:35 am

Berlin City Ratings

  • Rating93%
    City Rank58
  • History & Culture: rated for 100%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 97%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 83%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 90%
  • Food: rated for 90%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 97%
  • Shopping: rated for 93%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 100%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 95%
Berlin is one of the "must visit" tourist destinations in the world. This rank is based on what other travelers shared about their experiences in Berlin
   Welcome to Travelgrove  register tell a friend bookmark it