Welcome back to the second part of this article series, where I’ll be taking you on a virtual tour of Berlin’s 12 Bezirke and introducing you to each district’s history, reputation and attractions. Today’s article will take us to the arguably more traditional area of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.
Just like Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the borough was established in 2001 with the merging of Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf. An integral part of Berlin’s western city centre, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borders on the Mitte borough in the East and Spandau in the West. It is divided into 7 localities or Ortsteile: Grunewald, Westend, Halensee, Schmargendorf, Wilmersdorf, Charlottenburg and Charlottenburg-Nord.
Charlottenburg in particular has a long history. Initially a small village called Lietzow, it was named after Sophia Charlotte Hannover by her husband, Frederick I, King of Prussia. He even built a palace for her, which was named Schloss Charlottenburg after her death.
The district has gone through considerable changes in the past few centuries. In the 1800s, it became a residential area for the Bourgeoisie with its wide streets, spacious buildings and numerous parks. In the 1920s, it was transformed into a centre of nightlife and became a popular residence for artists and intellectuals. As was the case with much of the city, the area was heavily damaged during the Second World War but soon became an established centre of West Berlin in the post-war period.
Nowadays, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf is a fairly relaxed and middle-class area. Lacking the bars, nightclubs and Spätis found in other boroughs, younger Berliners may even be tempted to describe the district as boring. Berlin’s leading tourism site Visit Berlin claims, “Locals in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf are happy to leave other districts to don the mantle of the party place. They’d rather head the rankings as a touch more elegant and traditionally stylish than elsewhere in Berlin – as you can tell from the side streets of impressive town houses around the Kurfürstendamm boulevard and the resplendent villas in the leafy Grunewald district.”
The majority of its residents are ethnic Germans without immigrant backgrounds, but the district also flaunts its own multicultural scene through the non-German community that lives here. This population largely consists of Turks, Poles, Afro-Germans and Russians, with some even jokingly calling the district “Charlottengrad”.
The borough’s economy largely depends on retail trade. This is no surprise considering that the area is home to Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm boulevard, one of the city’s main shopping destinations.
Aside from its high-street success, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf has also gained an academic reputation. The borough is home to the Technical University of Berlin and the Berlin University of the Arts, the former being named the 46th best university in the world in engineering and technology in 2011 (according to the QS World University Rankings).
Things to do:
Some of Berlin’s most popular attractions can be found in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The Olympic Stadium is perfect for any history-lover looking to tackle the events of Nazi past – the Olympic Games were hosted here in 1936, made clear through the stadium’s neoclassic architecture. In summer, the stadium is transformed from a sporting arena into a musical one. The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Coldplay have all performed here in the past.
Teufelsberg, located in the locality of Grunewald, was once a US listening station during the Cold War and provides stunning views of the city from its 114-metre-high hill of rubble. Grunewald makes the perfect day out for those wishing to escape the chaos of central Berlin, with plenty of lakes, walking and cycling routes.
The Gedächtniskirche at Kurfürstendamm is a striking landmark not to be missed. As soon as you step into the memorial church, you leave the vibrant hustle and bustle of the boulevard behind. Visit Berlin describes it as “a memorial for peace and reconciliation” that “commemorates Berliners’ determination to rebuild after the war.”
And that was your brief introduction to the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf! Our next stop will be Lichtenberg…