Once one of Berlin`s busiest squares, Alexanderplatz today is the central shopping and commercial district of Berlin Mitte. It bears no resemblance to what it looked like before World War II.
To reach it, head east from the Dorn, cross the Spree and continue along Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. The left side of die street is lined with shops, the right with a block-wide park whose main features are the Marienkirche, die Fernsehturm, and, on the right side along Rathausstrasse, the Rotes Rathaus. The church and town hall are virtually all that remain of the prewar district.
The Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), at the foot of the TV tower, is one of Berlin’s oldest parish churches. Its austere brick and stone exterior fail to give a true impression of its ornate interior decorations and furnishings. Begun in 1270 and first mentioned in town records in 1294, it was the centrepiece of Berlin’s Neumarkt (Newmarket Square) for the first century of its existence. A fire devastated the church in 1380, but it was rebuilt. The tower was added in the 16th century.
Among the art treasures inside is the Toteruanz (Dance of Death) mural—28 depictions of Death painted during an epidemic of the plague in 1485 that were uncovered in the course of restoration work 150 years ago. The church also boasts a beautifully crafted 15th-century bronze baptismal font, a Baroque pulpit from 1703, many elaborately carved stone epitaphs, and a fine Neo-Baroque organ that is used for frequent recitals.
The Fernsehturm (TV Tower), completed in 1969 and dubbed the “Speared Onion,” is 1,204 feet high. There is room for 200 people on the observation platform and for another 200 in the revolving Tele-Cafe above it, which makes one complete circle every hour. Two high-speed elevators, with altimeters for the amusement of passengers, take you up into the “onion, from which on a clear day you’ll have a view extending 25 miles. The observation and café are open daily. Expect large crowds at the weekend.
Named for its red-brick colour, the Renaissance revival Rotes Rathaus was opened for its first town council session in 1865, replacing several older town halls in central Berlin including the one that Cölln and Berlin build on the Lange Brücke when the formed their confederation in the 14th Century. Since Berlin´s enlargement in 1920, the Rotes Rathaus has served as both the borough and city town hall and is once again the seat of Berlin´s mayor, Senate, and city-state administration.