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Checkpoint Charlie

Once a point of tension and dramatic escape attempts, this Cold War relic is now one of Berlin's biggest tourist attractions.

Checkpoint Charlie was the main crossing point of the Berlin Wall for soldiers, foreigners and diplomats on the Allied side. The famous sign, “You are now leaving the American sector,” still stands, a relic of the Cold War that divided Berlin between 1961 and 1989. There is also a replica guardhouse, a sobering reminder of the fear and anxiety Berliners lived with on a daily basis. The site is on Friedrichstrasse, a major street in central Berlin.    

In 1961, to stem the massive exodus of its citizens, a desperate East German government built the Berlin Wall. At first it was a basic barbed wire fence, but later became a 96-mile (155-kilometer) long, solid wall of concrete. Checkpoint Charlie was a main crossing and the focal point for a tense stand-off involving Russian and American tanks in 1961. The guards at Checkpoint Charlie today, however, are not checking passports, and they're not soldiers, but actors, posing for photographs.

Pick up imitation Russian military caps and other Cold War souvenirs at the nearby stalls. To learn more about the checkpoint and the wall, visit the Museum Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie. Opened just a year after the wall was erected, it’s been documenting the stories and social implications of the “great divider” ever since. Through personal stories and evocative photographs it documents the many escape attempts over the wall. There are artifacts from some of the more daring plans, including cars with secret compartments and a hollowed-out surfboard.

The museum includes a café, though given Checkpoint Charlie sits on Friedrichstrasse, one of Berlin's main thoroughfares, finding a bite to eat nearby is not difficult. There’s also a museum shop that sells every Cold War-themed souvenir imaginable, including small chunks of the wall.

Checkpoint Charlie is easily reached via the Kochstrasse U-Bahn station.


Guide to Exploring around Checkpoint Charlie Museum


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Lodging Near Checkpoint Charlie Museum

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Select Hotel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt $60
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    4.1
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    Located in Mitte, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Gendarmenmarkt, Checkpoint Charlie Museum, and Galeries Lafayette. Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag Building are also within 1 mi (2 km).

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      Zimmerstrasse 88, Berlin
         
        4.5
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        The Westin Grand, Berlin $142
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                Novum Hotel Aldea Berlin Centrum $47
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