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All about Berlin’s Bezirke: Marzahn-Hellersdorf

Welcome back to the fourth 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. With all UK travellers now being required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Germany, now seems like no better time for a virtual tour of one of Berlin’s most beloved boroughs.

Today’s article will take us to the former East German district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Situated in the northeast of Berlin, the borough borders Lichtenberg in the west and Treptow-Köpenick in the south. Its current population is 273,731.

A Plattenbau building. Photo: Peggy_Marco / 9339 via Pixabay.


Marzahn-Hellersdorf has a somewhat complicated history. The borough was formally established in 2001 by merging the former boroughs of Marzahn and Hellersdorf – beginning to sense a theme here? The Bezirk consists of 5 subdivisions – Biesdorf, Hellersdorf, Kaulsdorf, Mahlsdorf and Marzahn. These localities used to be their own ‘villages’ and were incorporated into Greater Berlin in 1920. Together with Lichtenberg and Friedrichsfelde, they formed the borough of Lichtenberg until 1979. Due to the development of Plattenbau housing estates and subsequent population growth in the late 20th century, both Marzahn and Hellersdorf were declared independent boroughs before being merged in 2001.

The district has a troubled history. Marzahn was once the site of a labour camp where Sinti and Roma were held during the 1936 Berlin Olympics to keep them out of the public eye. As many as 2,000 inmates were kept in the camp until 1943, when they were then deported to Auschwitz and most of them were murdered.

In the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Marzahn was the first district to be conquered by the Soviet Red Army. Following the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Neo-Nazi activity increased in Marzahn-Hellersdorf and it became a hostile area for non-ethnic Germans.


Unlike other Berlin boroughs, Marzahn-Hellersdorf is considered to have a relatively low percentage of non-ethnic Germans. In 2010, when the district had a population of 248,264 people, only about 30,000 were of non-German origin. That being said, the borough still has a particularly high number of Russian-born, Kazakhstan-born and Vietnamese people compared to other parts of the city.

Unsurprisingly, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) - successor of the GDR’s Socialist Unity Party of Germany - once dominated the politics of this former East German borough. Even in 2001, the PDS successfully garnered 51.1% of the vote in the elections for the borough assembly (in German, and you might want to take a deep breath before trying to pronounce it, the Bezirksverordnetenversammlung).

In 2016, the Left Party held the most seats in the borough assembly, followed by the AfD, SPD, CDU and the Greens. This election saw a particularly sharp rise in votes for the far-right AfD, with many citing the recent influx of immigrants as their main reason for choosing the party.

The district still possesses a ‘small-town’ atmosphere through its historical old village centres, modern suburban areas, and tranquil parks and lakes (especially in Kaulsdorf). Some even describe the area as having a rural flair – perfect for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of Berlin Mitte, even for just a few hours.

Things to do:

Die Gärten der Welt or the Gardens of the World are a popular attraction in Marzahn-Hellersdorf. There are ten gardens, each with its own international character, all kept in an area the size of 60 football pitches. The relatively close proximity of the gardens means that you could be celebrating the Japanese cherry blossom festival one moment and enjoying a Korean tea ceremony the next, before swiftly making your way to the gardens of Italy, England and China. Visit Berlin describes the gardens as ‘one of the most beautiful idylls of the city and an oasis for the soul.’

Schloss Biesdorf is perfect for anyone looking to explore the artistic and cultural side of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Renovated in 2016, the art institution is a perfect reflection of the city of Berlin through its focus on the intermingling of urban and natural landscapes. Engaging lectures, concerts and discussions with artists also take place here.

The GDR may not exist anymore, but a visit to the famous Plattenbauten will certainly make you think otherwise. These high-rise apartment blocks offer breath-taking views of the city and are both a cheaper and a more authentic alternative to the TV Tower. By taking the lift to the 21st floor of the Skywalk block, you’ll actually be able to see the TV Tower glistening in the distance!

And that was your brief introduction to the district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Our next stop will be Mitte.

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