Local’s Guide to Unter den Linden: Berlin’s Landmark Street

Have you ever strolled down the historic Unter den Linden boulevard in Berlin, Germany? Trust me, it’s a journey that will transport you back in time while immersing you in the vibrant energy of modern-day Berlin.

Picture this: grand buildings adorned with intricate façades, luscious green trees lining the boulevard, and a constant buzz of activity from locals and tourists alike.

As one of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks, Unter den Linden is not just any boulevard in Berlin. It holds so much important history. Exploring the museums in Berlin opened my eyes to this fact. It deepened my appreciation for its rich history.

My goal is to help you save time by sharing insights about this renowned Berlin boulevard before your visit, so you can also fully grasp its historical significance. Where it is, what to see, how long to spend, and much more.

Ready? Ok, let’s discover Unter den Linden together.

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What is Unter den Linden and the History Behind its Name?

yellow linden trees in fall with berlin cathedral and tv tower from unter den linden berlin germany

Right in the heart of Berlin is where you’ll find Unter den Linden, or “Under the Linden Trees.” This is a 1.5 km boulevard that stretches from the magnificent Brandenburg Gate over Schlossbrücke (bridge spanning the Spree River) to Museum Island.

It connects some of Berlin’s most cherished landmarks. The Berlin State Opera, the stately Humboldt University, and the impressive Berliner Dom, all stand proudly alongside Unter den Linden.

As you meander down Unter den Linden, a question might arise: what’s the story behind the name of this famous boulevard?

It’s a question that took root in my mind as well, leading me to dig deeper into the past, searching for the origins. And to my surprise, this is a unique Berlin street with an interesting story.

The history of “Under the Linden Trees” stretches back centuries. The name stems from its early beginnings as a riding trail.

In the 16th century, Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector, was struck by the charm of the Linden trees that lined this path, and he ordered their preservation.

It was in the 18th century when the boulevard underwent a significant transformation, becoming a symbol of enlightenment.

King Frederick the Great, an avid patron of the arts and sciences, planted even more Linden trees, turning the avenue into a hub of culture and intellect.

Poets, philosophers, and scholars gathered under the Linden trees, making Unter den Linden a vibrant epicentre of creativity and the exchange of ideas. It’s where Frederick Engels, of Marx and Engels fame, penned revolutionary ideas in a nearby café.

The name “Unter den Linden” evolved into more than just a reference to its iconic trees; it symbolized Berlin’s enduring commitment to culture, progress, and growth.

And, the story continues after World War II…

Berlin faced relentless bombardment with 80% of the city centre left in rubble. Yet, the column and statue of Frederick on Schlossbrücke miraculously survived the bombings. Local folklore believed that it was Frederick’s indomitable spirit that protected the statue, symbolizing the enduring strength and cultural resilience of Berlin.

berlin unter den linden street with top of brandenburg gate

Later, Unter den Linden was divided during the Cold War.

When the city was divided into East and West Berlin by the Berlin Wall in 1961, Unter den Linden was also affected by this division.

The eastern part of Unter den Linden, which included many historic buildings fell within East Berlin under the control of the Soviets that formed the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The western part of Unter den Linden, closer to the Brandenburg Gate was in West Berlin, which was controlled by the Western Allies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

It wasn’t until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990 that this historic boulevard was once again fully accessible without the restrictions of the Cold War era.

Today, Unter den Linden is a symbol of Berlin’s reunification of the city centre and a testament to the city’s enduring spirit.

Now that you know that history, it’s worth a visit here and doesn’t it just make you want to walk this Berlin street?

What to See on Unter den Linden Berlin Germany

1. Brandenburg Gate

brandenburg gate with statue in berlin on unter den linden boulevard

The neoclassical Brandenburg Gate was built between 1788 and 1791, featuring a Quadriga sculpture on top symbolizing victory and peace, driven by the Roman goddess Victoria.

Berliners see this iconic landmark as a symbol of unity and resilience. And once a symbol of division during the Cold War, is now a powerful emblem of reunification, and one of the popular places to visit in Berlin.

📍Pariser Platz

2. Freedom Square

memorial with photos, flowers and posters on unter den linden berlin germany

Just beyond Pariser Platz, in the middle of the boulevard, you will come across Freedom Square. This offers a space for locals to commemorate any political or social injustices around the world. At different times, I saw tributes to the war in Ukraine and a local cyclist who died.

📍Freedom Square

3. The Berlin State Library

fountain with white stone building with ivy on berlin unter den linden boulevard

The Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz) is a treasure. Not only is it one of the largest libraries in Germany housing a vast collection of books and documents, it is stunning!

Hidden away unbeknownst from most tourists is this quiet hidden gem. Oh, and if you happen to be visiting Berlin in the autumn, this is a must-visit spot to see the beautiful wall of ivy.

📍8 Unter den Linden

4. The Statue of Frederick the Great

large metal statue of solider on horse on unter den linden street

The enlightened monarch and one of Germany’s greatest leaders is prominent in the centre of the Unter den Linden. Commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III and completed in 1851, the statue was encased in cement during WWII to protect it from bombing, and it survived and remained intact.

📍9 Unter den Linden

5. The Old Palace

pink building on unter den linden in berlin

The Old Palace (Altes Palais), formerly the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Palais, once served as a winter residence for Prussian Prince Wilhelm and later German Emperor Wilhelm I. Built between 1834 and 1837, it was later reconstructed after being damaged in World War II, retaining its historic facade while gaining a modern interior. Today, it houses the law faculty of Humboldt University.

📍9 Unter den Linden

6. Bebelplatz

large palace with statues and clock on square on unter den linden berlin

Bebelpatz is most likely known for its sombre memorial to the infamous Nazi book burning that took place on May 10, 1933. The memorial features a glass square to an underground room with empty bookshelves representing a reminder that 20,000 books were burned at the hands of the Nazis.

stone road with glass to underground empty bookshelves found on unter den linden

Buildings found on Bebelplatz include:

  • The Old Library (Alte Bibliothek): the book collection dates back to 1661 and to accommodate the expanding collection, a high baroque library was constructed between 1775 and 1780, often colloquially referred to by Berliners as a “chest of drawers,” modelled after the Vienna Hofburg.
  • St. Hedwig’s Cathedral: Frederick the Great, authorized the construction of the Berlin version of the Pantheon, a Catholic church, in 1743. Unfortunately, it’s been closed for significant restoration since 2018, and it may be some time before its interior can be admired once more.


7. Berlin State Opera

pink building with statues on berlin unter den linden

The Berlin State Opera is a magnificent, fairytale-like building with stone structures, gold accents, and grand chandeliers. It hosts ballet, opera, and classical music performances, from famous composers like Mozart and Wagner.

It was commissioned by Prussian King, Frederick the Great from 1741 to 1743 and had to be rebuilt after WWII.

📍7 Unter den Linden

8. Humboldt University

stone statue of man with book on unter den linden street in berlin

A prestigious University founded in 1810 by the Humboldt brothers known for their intellect. The university offers a wide range of academic programs in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and medicine, and has a strong reputation for research. Albert Einstein and Karl Marx were among the notable alumni.

Book lovers will always find books for sale outside the entrance by the statue of Alexander-von-Humboldt.

📍6 Unter den Linden

9. The Neue Wache

stone building with 6 columns sits on unter den linden street in berlin

The Neue Wache, which translates to “New Guardhouse” in English, is a prominent neoclassical building from the early 19th century. It has served various functions over the years, including as a guardhouse and a war memorial.

Today, it houses the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny. The central focus of the memorial is the sculpture “Mother with her Dead Son,” and is free to enter.

📍4 Unter den Linden

10. Princess Garden and Popular Palace

white palace with trees and modern art on unter den linden

A small urban garden where you’ll find statues commemorating figures from Prussian and German history. It’s a tiny oasis that offers tranquillity from the crowds of Unter der Linden, and shade on a sunny day.

It’s also adjacent to the Popular Palace, now a free art gallery. Sit at the cafe and have a view of this pretty garden.

📍3 Unter den Linden

11. Crown Prince’s Palace

large stone building with pillars on unter den linden berlin germany

The elegant building known as Kronprinzenpalais was first built in 1663 as a private residence for the government but later served as the home of numerous crown princes from 1732 to 1918, giving rise to its current name. Notably, Emperor Wilhelm II was born here in 1859.

Though it faced destruction in 1945 during World War II, the palace was subsequently rebuilt. From 1968 to 1989, it functioned as a residence for state guests in East Germany. Additionally, the historic reunification documents of Germany were signed within its walls in 1990.

Today it is reserved for events, and not open to the general public.

📍3 Unter den Linden

12. German Historical Museum

pink building with view to tv tower and berlin dom on unter den linden

This is one of my favourite buildings along Berlin’s Unter den Linden, and that’s because it is just so darn pretty with its pale pink facade. Originally constructed in 1695, it served as a weapons depot for nearly two centuries, later becoming a military museum from 1883 to 1945.

Following extensive war damage, it was rebuilt, and from 1950 to 1990, it was the Museum of German History, emphasizing communism history as part of East Berlin. Since the reunification in 1990, it has evolved into an enlightening museum dedicated to European history.

Itinerary tip: every Saturday and Sunday in Berlin you will find a free art, antique and book flea market here. Don’t miss out!

📍2 Unter den Linden

13. Schlossbrücke

Schlossbrücke, or the Palace Bridge, is a Berlin landmark that spans the River Spree, connecting Unter den Linden with Museum Island.

Just like any famous bridge in Europe, it offers great views of the city landmarks. It might not be as impressive as the Charles Bridge in Prague or Pont Alexander in Paris, but it’s still a must-see and admire-the-view kind of bridge.

14. Museum Island

yellow linden trees in fall with berlin cathedral and tv tower from unter den linden berlin germany

Museum Island, a UNESCO Heritage site in Germany, offers 5 incredible museums. From Unter den Linden you will stroll past the:

  • lovely expansive Lustgarten, a picturesque park that runs alongside the Spree River
  • beautiful Berlin Cathedral (or Berliner Dom), a striking piece of architecture, stands as a testament to Berlin’s grandeur.
  • Humboldt Forum (formerly the Berlin Palace) houses a wealth of exhibitions and collections, making it a center for culture and exploration, not to mention has a rooftop where you can have amazing views of Berlin

Festivals, Museums and Restaurants on Unter den Linden

Festivals on Unter den Linden

And, one of the best times to be in Berlin is during the annual Festival of Lights! Berlin transforms many of the iconic locations along Unter den Linden, such as the Brandenburg Gate, Bebel Platz and the Berlin Cathedral, into breathtaking, illuminated works of art, creating a mesmerizing experience for all to enjoy.

2023 dates: October 6-15, 2023

Beyond souvenir shops (there are a few) look out for these other smaller museums and recommended restaurants on Unter den Linden.

Museums on Unter den Linden

  • Pilecki-Institut (Pariser Platz on Unter den Linden)
  • Erlebnis Europa (Unter den Linden, 78)
  • Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (Unter den Linden, 74)
  • Cold War Museum (Unter den Linden, 14)
  • Bud Spencer Museum (Unter den Linden, 10)
  • Zeughaus (Unter den Linden, 2)

Traveller’s tip: if you are looking to experience all of the top attractions it might benefit you to buy Berlin’s Welcome Card giving you a pass to all of the top sites.

Restaurants on Unter den Linden

As a Holidaymaker

If you’re intrigued by Berlin’s rich cultural and historical sites, delve deeper into this remarkable city by reading more Berlin articles found conveniently in one spot on my website under Travel Guide for Germany.

Feel free to ask me, a local, any questions you might have about this amazing city.

I will leave you with a couple of articles I think you might enjoy: