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Unter den Linden: The Rise of Prussia

This boulevard showcases how an insignificant town in Brandenburg evolved into the center of a leading European empire.

Duration:   2 h

Meeting Point: at the “Rekonstruktion des Sanchi-Tores” in front of the Humboldt-Forum. Look for the orange umbrella!

Price:            20 €


Tour in a nutshell

No other street in Berlin displays the dramatic “rags to riches” transformation of Prussia quite like Unter den Linden boulevard. Every building on this street tells the story of Prussia’s impressive rise to power. On this tour, we will witness the profound influence of the military and explore key sites like the beautifully adorned Armoury and the New Guardhouse. However, the might of Prussia was not solely forged in battle. We will also discover its cultural pillars — the Old Royal Library, the opulent Opera House and the prestigious University, all erected during the reign of the celebrated King Frederick the Great and his successors. Our journey will be further enriched by grand monuments, dedicated to the generals and industrialists who elevated Prussia to a leading European power and forged Berlin into an imperial capital by the late 19th century.

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Through the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation, the marshy woodland known as Brandenburg-Prussia was ruled from a fortified island in the middle of the Spree river. As the city grew in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War, the noble Electress Dorothea sponsored the development of a suburb to the west of the old city walls. Lined with native linden trees that she selected herself, the main street became known as Unter den Linden.

On a walk through the oldest section of this boulevard, we will see how each Prussian ruler left their mark on Berlin’s classical center. Celebratory baroque structures went up as Prussia was elevated to the status of a kingdom, meanwhile the notorious Soldier King reorganized the city to reflect the efficiency of his military state. Marked by guardhouses and imposing gates, it was expanded once again by Frederick the Great into a cultural forum with an opera house and library that we can still admire today

After the French invasion led by Napoleon, the revolutionary ideas of liberté, égalité, and fraternité flipped the social fabric of the Prussian capital on its head. Romantic nationalism revived interest in the medieval past, and even sparked a political movement to unify all of German-speaking Europe. We will visit the neo-Gothic Friedrichswerder Church and inspect a sculpture of Queen Louise, an enlightened monarch who brought the Prussian crown closer to its citizens.

In this blossoming period of culture, prominent Jewish families like the Mendelssohns climbed the social ladder and became patrons of a new musical society, the Sing-Akademie, which flourished on this elegant avenue. At the same time, the Humboldt brothers passionately embraced the sciences and a new model of education that found its home in the University of Berlin. Through two hundred years, we discover how Prussia mobilized its rich natural resources, industrial technology, clever diplomacy and effective army to unify Germany as the nation state we understand today.

At the end of our journey, we will conclude by discussing the contested legacy of Prussia, and the consequences of Prussian militarism in particular.

Meeting Point

Unter den Linden: The Rise of Prussia starts at the “Rekonstruktion des Sanchi-Tores” in front of the Humboldt-Forum.  Look for the guide with the orange umbrella!

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