The TV Tower
The Brandenburg Gate may be the most widely recognised symbol of Germany, but the TV Tower is unmistakeably the symbol of Berlin. Like a giant sparkling disco ball in the sky, it towers over the city and may well be the most photographed object in Berlin. It is an architecturally impressive achievement and over the years has become a symbol of reunification for the former divided Germany. It has a restaurant, a panoramic observation floor with a bar and an elevator that transports visitors to the top at a speed of around 6 metres per second. The views from the TV Tower are without question, the best in Berlin. At 368 metres, it is the tallest structure in Germany, so in fact, they are also the best views in the country.
It is more than just a very tall tourist attraction however, as historically it served an important purpose. Discussions in the GDR, about the need for a TV transmission tower to manage GDR TV station signals began in the early 1950’s. Various locations were discussed, flight plans were considered and finally the location at Alexanderplatz was decided on. The TV Tower was designed by East German architect Hermann Henselmann. The giant silver sphere that is the tower’s most distinctive feature was inspired by the Sputnik 1, the earth’s first satellite, which had been launched into space just a few years before, by the Soviet Union. Henselmann’s design also suggested the sphere would be illuminated in red as a symbol of Socialism.
Construction on the ‘Berliner Fernsehturm’ began in 1965 and lasted about 4 years, before the tower became operational in 1969. Construction came with considerable challenges due to the sheer height of the tower, as well as the size of the sphere to be placed on top. Do they build the sphere and then raise it by constructing the tower beneath it, or build the tower then add the sphere at the end? Finally it was decided the only solution was to begin with the internal frame, and then follow with the external sections, piece by piece. The shaft of the tower started with a diameter of 16 metres at the base and tapered up to 9 metres towards the top. The frame of the sphere was constructed at ground level in sections, then cranes lifted the sections to the top where they were attached to the platform of the sphere.
The red and white striped antenna at the top represents transmission facilities still in place today with over 60 radio and television programs broadcasted. The TV Tower is regularly illuminated for different festivals in the city or for significant historical events. In 2006 the sphere was decorated to look like a football to mark the final of the FIFA World Cup held in Germany that year and it is one of the highlights of Berlin’s Festival of Lights, held every year in October. The TV Tower is a much beloved part of the Berlin skyline. Whether sprinkled with snow or sparkling brilliantly as the sun sets over the city, it is the city’s most precious jewel and has a special place in the heart of many Berliners.
The TV Tower is just a short walk from Alexanderplatz (right behind it in fact. The TV Tower is open daily from 9am - midnight (March to October) and 10am to midnight (November to February). Tickets prices start at €8.50 for children aged 4 - 16 and €13 for adults. There are a variety of ticketing options, and you should check waiting times because one guarantee is that there will always be a long queue. For this reason we suggest buying the tickets online. For all information regarding ticketing and visiting the TV Tower see the Berliner Fernsehturm website.