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Berlin, Berlin, Germany

A Walk Along Karl-Marx-Allee

The Stalinallee was East Germany's flagship building, meant to represent the new country

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.9 miles / 3.1 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
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Overview: The Karl-Marx-Allee is a monumental socialist boulevard built by the German Democratic Republic between 1951 and 1964 in Berlin. First named Stalinallee, the boulevard was a flagship building project for East Germany's reconstruction after World War II.

It was designed by the architects Hermann Henselmann, Hartmann, Hopp, Leucht, Paulick and Souradny to contain spacious and luxurious apartments for workers as well as shops, restaurants, cafés, a tourist hotel and an enormous cinema (the International). Today the boulevard is named for Karl Marx.

The avenue (89 meters wide and nearly two kilometers long) is lined with monumental eight-story buildings designed in the so-called wedding-cake style, the socialist classicism of the Soviet Union. At each end are dual towers at Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz designed by Hermann Henselmann. Most of the buildings are covered by architectural ceramics.

On June 17, 1953, the Stalinallee became the focus of a worker uprising that endangered the young country's existence. Builders and construction workers demonstrated against the communist government, leading to a national uprising. The rebellion was quashed with Soviet tanks and troops, resulting in the loss of at least 125 lives.

Later the street was used for East Germany's parades, like the annual May Day parade, National Day (Oct. 7) and the day when Berlin Wall went up (Aug. 13) featuring thousands of soldiers along with tanks and other military vehicles to showcase the power and the glory of the communist government. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you walk along the Karl-Marx-Allee by starting at the Alexaderplatz, you will see the newer part of the boulevard that was built from 1959-64. The residences are built in a cheap and efficient way from pre-made materials. The pavilions for shopping, food and culture around the corner of the Schillingstreet are designed in typical 1950s-'60s style.

From around the Straussberger Platz the street exemplifies the classical part known as Stalinist architecture. It was mainly built in just two years between 1951-53. At that time it was the flagship dwelling project of East Germany. The architecture demonstrates the GDR's reverence for "the workers."


Tips: How to get there?
The subway line U5 goes along the Karl-Marx-Allee. The start of the tour is also the start of the line at Alexanderplatz (U5, U2, U8). At the end of the tour you will find the stop Frankfurter Tor (U5).

Points of Interest

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Haus des Lehrers (House of the Teacher)

The House of the Teacher was built by the architect Herman Henselmann. It was the house of the education union. A large, colorful mosaic called "Our Life" by Walter Womacka wraps around the third and fourth floors of the building.

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Alexanderplatz 4, 10178 Berlin
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Kino International

This cinema, built by Josef Kaiser in 1963, hosted the premieres of the East German Film Production (DEFA). Where posters once announced what film was showing a painting now resides. It seats 551.
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Address: Karl-Marx-Allee 33
Phone: 030-24 75 60 11
Other Resources
Kino International
Landmark
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Cafe Moskau

In the 1960s Cafe Moskau was the GDR's biggest cafe and restaurant. In the '90s it was home to various nightclubs. Since 2010 it's been used as a business conference center.

The building has an atrium and from the entrance you can see a huge mosaic (15 by 9 meters) titled "From the Life of the People of the Soviet Union" by Bert Heller.

Be sure to look above the corner of the entrance--there's a sputnik. During the '60s, when the building was designed and built by architect Josef Kaiser, the Soviet Union was putting satellites into orbit.
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Karl-Marx-Allee 34 (opposite of Kino International)
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Bar Babette (Bar KMA 36)

The Bar Babette, also known as Bar KMA 36, is a part of the pavilion around the side street Schillingstraße.

There is the Cinema International, the former Cafe Moskau, a flower shop, shops and the Bar Babette. The name refers to the space's former use--it was a salon named Cosmetic Salon Babette.

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Address: Karl-Marx-Allee 36
Phone: 017638388943
Hours: Open daily from 6pm
Other Resources
Bar Babette
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Advertising on Building

Advertising as art? Yes, it is protected as a monument.

In Western Europe it became popular after World War II to place ads in public spaces. In Eastern Europe doing so didn't make sense since there was no competition between companies in communist countries. Nevertheless, such ads were a sign of a contemporary city. So the ads were financed by the government. You will find a second advertisement on the building across the street.

By the way, Tatra is a vehicle manufacturer in Kopřivnice, Czech Republic, and Balkancarpodem was a vehicle manufacturer in Sofia, Bulgaria.
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Haus Berlin and Haus des Kindes (House Berlin and House of the Children)

The classical part of the boulevard starts with the two tower buildings by Herman Henselmann. The House of the Children on the right was a department store for children's items. Just like today, the House Berlin hosted offices and apartments.
Landmark
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The Floating Ring Fountain

The Floating Ring Fountain at the center of the Straussberger Platz was inspired by the artist Fritz Kühn. From the fountain there is a beautiful view of the classical part of the boulevard.
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Palaces of the Workers

The two buildings after the fountain are also built by Henselmann. All of the facades from here down the boulevard are decorated with tiles. Built in the 1950s, the apartments were the best you could get. They even had wonderful terraces on top.
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Karl Marx

Next you'll come upon a sculpture/portrait of Karl Marx, for whom the street is now named.
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New Buildings

Although you are now in the classical section of the boulevard, you will find two exceptions just past the Marx sculpture. The building on the left was a sports center that was used for only a few years; it is now abandoned. On the right was a huge sculpture of Stalin, which was removed and replaced with a new building.
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Architectural Model

Just in front of the Cafe Sybille you will find an architectural model of the street. It is a very simplified model, but it offers a good orientation and overview.
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Block of Houses by Richard Paulick

In this block you will find more "palaces of the workers." The first floor always housed shops, cafes and restaurants; the famous bookshop Karl-Marx-Buchhandlung resided here until 2009.

On top are the living areas. On the facade you will see all kinds of illustrations depicting the workers as they built these houses in the 1950s.
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Computer Games Museum

Next up is the Computer Games Museum, which covers the evolution of computer games and video. It houses more than 300 exhibits in an interactive and experiment-friendly environment.
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Karl-Marx-Allee 93a
30-60988577
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Admission: 8 EURO
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Hours: Wednesday-Monday 10am-8pm; Closed Tuesday
Other Resources
Computer Games Museum
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Bar CSA

Bar CSA is the former office of the Czech airline CSA. It has a beautiful interior and good drinks.
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Address: Karl-Marx-Allee 96
Phone +49 (0) 30 290 44 741
Hours: Monday - Thursday and Sunday 8pm - 2am, Friday and Saturday 8pm - 4am
Other Resources
Bar CSA
Landmark
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Frankfurter Tor

The classical part of the Karl-Marx-Allee starts and ends with two tower buildings of Hermann Henselmann. The blocks next to them are built by Karl Souradny. The entire length of the classical part is around two kilometers (1.2 miles) and is protected as a monument.

The Frankfurter Tor pays homage to two cathedrals at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Landmark
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Street Lights

You may have already noticed the wonderful street lights along the boulevard. If not, take a look. They're similar to the lights of of Albert Speer along 17th June Street in West Berlin.
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Another Block

The Karl-Marx-Allee ends at the tower buildings at the Frankfurter Tor. But the Stalinallee continued for one more block. The architect here was Hans Hopp. While you will see the same style of architecture, this last part was not renovated in the 1990s. Take a look to the black or missing tiles and imagine the entire boulevard looked like this years ago.
Pictures in this guide taken by: bazillus

A Walk Along Karl-Marx-Allee Map


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About the Author

bazillus
bazillus
6 guides
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My name is Uli Schuster. I work as artist and tour guide in Berlin.

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