Why visit Checkpoint Charlie

As the most famous border crossing point between East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie was an iconic marker of territorial boundary and political division during the Cold War. Unfortunately, today there is remarkably little left to recall the atmosphere of the original Checkpoint Charlie or the structure itself, the current guard booth structure being a poor replica. It’s status as a tourist attraction has brought on a glut of souvenir shops, uniformed actors with whom you can pose photographs and a passport stamping booth. However, due to the historical significance it is worth a quick visit if you happen to be in the area.

A historically important site turned into a commercial tourist attraction with ill costumed actors playing the parts of U. S. solders and posing for a fee. No wonder the Germans call it Schreckpoint (Horror Point) Charlie. I guess it should be seen for it's historical value but it is a carnival so be prepared for a quick visit and then go on to visit other important historical sites.

MITraveler, 29 Nov 2012, USA
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Checkpoint Charlie history

The Birth of Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the sole crossing point between East and West Berlin for members of the Allied forces and foreigners. The Western check station was named Charlie, after the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet, and consisted of one wooden shed (replaced in 1980 by a larger metal structure). The nearby Eastern check station, named Border Crossing Point Friedrichstrasse, was a different matter, including not only the Berlin Wall, watchtower and zig-zag barriers, but a multi-lane shed where ...

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The Birth of Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the sole crossing point between East and West Berlin for members of the Allied forces and foreigners. The Western check station was named Charlie, after the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet, and consisted of one wooden shed (replaced in 1980 by a larger metal structure). The nearby Eastern check station, named Border Crossing Point Friedrichstrasse, was a different matter, including not only the Berlin Wall, watchtower and zig-zag barriers, but a multi-lane shed where cars and their occupants were checked.

Checkpoint Charlie Standoff

Checkpoint Charlie was made famous by the standoff between US and Soviet forces. The four powers governing Berlin (Soviet Unions, United States, United Kingdom and France) has agreed that Allied personnel would not be stopped by police in any sector of Berlin. But on October 22 1961, American diplomat Allan Lightner was stopped in his car, which had identifying license plates) at Checkpoint Charlie and his travel documents requested. A series of similar incidents occurred, the situation escalated and 5 days later, 10 Soviet and an equal number of American tanks faced off 100 meters apart on either side of checkpoint. The Checkpoint Charlie standoff ended peacefully on October 28 after a mutual withdrawal.

Checkpoint Charlie Today

The original Checkpoint Charlie guard house was relocated to the Allied Museum in 1990 during reunification. A copy of the guard house and border sign that once marked the border crossing was built, and has been subsequently replaced several times by replicas of various sizes. The reproductions have over the years tailored to tourist interest, adding pops such as sandbags and images of soldiers not present near the original.

Despite protests, developers demolished the East German watchtower of Checkpoint Charlie in 2000, the last remaining original structure at the checkpoint.

Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum

Opening two years after the erection of the Berlin Wall, near the location of the guard house, was the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum (also known as Mauermuseum). Augmented with a new building during the 1990’s, this private museum focusing on the history surrounding the Berlin Wall and contains documentation on the many escape attempts along with escape apparatus such as customised cars.

However, with an often confusing presentation of exhibits and large panels of poorly translated English text, many suggest a visit to Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum is not worth the rather expensive entry fee.

If you are interested in escape attempts and Checkpoint Charlie’s significance during the Cold War, many recommend browsing the free open-air exhibit along Friedrichstrasse rather than visiting Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

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Opening hours

Always accessible

Time to visit

30 minutes

Transport

U6 to Kochstrasse, U2 to Stadtmitte

Address

Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin, Germany