The timing of an excursion in Germany’s new government district should be wisely chosen. A rule of thumb: The best time for such a walk is early in the morning. And the closer it is to the weekend, the earlier it should be started. Such timing will save you a multitude of passersby and the loud music emanating from the speakers of a passing cruise ship on the River Spree.
A recommended starting point for our walk is the main railway station of Berlin (Hauptbahnhof). The panoramic view from the station’s gates is quite nice, although it’s probably temporary, until a huge hotel will be built there as planned. And even so, try to avoid the days when mass events fill the station area with entertainment stages.
By the way, the official name “Government district” is not accurate, because the Ministry of the German Chancellor is the only government office site here. All the other buildings belong to the federal Parliament (Bundestag).
Walking along the federal band
From the railway station, we continue going on foot southwards to the nearby river, where we turn right and walk under the Moltke bridge (Moltke-Bruecke). Our first glance should be thrown to the left at the Kanzler’s (Germany’s Premier) office building across the river. Berlin residents mockingly call the building “a washing machine”, because of its shape. The Kanzler (now Angela Merkel) and her staff occupy the 7th floor.
Our chance to see the Premier’s car going through the bridge that connects the office building with the other bank of the Spree is rather slim. Neither can we see her going out of her helicopter on her way to the building, because the heliport lawn is surrounded by a wall.
The Kanzler’s Building is the westernmost edge of the so-called “the federal government band” In German it sounds better: “Band des Bundes”. This strip of structures was designed by architect Axel Schultes, though unfortunately the fact that it’s a strip can actually be verified only by flying above the area.
We continue our walk along the riverbank, passing by the Kanzler’s office. Our general direction is now west, towards the victory column. The edge of the historic monument, which is one of the symbols of Berlin, is seen from afar. The green strip in which we walk is suitable for a picnic as well. There are also many river ducks and may take our time feeding them crumbs.
The federal concrete snake
The landscape changes as we advance westwards from green spaces to ugly high apartment buildings. We arrive at what is called by the Berliners the “Federal snake”, box-like structures designed in the architectural style called “international” or “functionalist”.
There are apartment buildings are winding like a concrete serpent between the meadows and Joachim Karnatz Street. The “snake” borders a school building, which is the last remnant of a commercial area that was situated here in the past. The government employees who moved to Berlin were supposed to live in the houses along the “snake”, but most of them refused to do so, and apartments were finally rented to “ordinary people”
We continue our way in Paul Street (Paulstrasse). We get again to a wide green area. However, this time we will not be there alone. For the park, located at the so called “the President of the Republic’s Triangle “, is always full of sunbathing or Frisbee throwing people. The Bellevue Palace (Schloss Bellevue) is seen opposite. The mansion has been used since 1994 as the official residence of the President of Republic.
Resting at the pregnant conch
The landscape suddenly changes to graffiti-soaked railway-bridges. A few meters away from here there is a pedestrian bridge across the Spree. Now we go south of the river along a narrow path back to Paul street. Soon we need to turn left (east) and walk about 300 meters in the John Foster Dulles street (Allee), a relatively busy road. However, the short noisy pause ends when we leave the street to the left, in a narrow way leading to the river. We soon reach the World Cultures’ House (Haus der Kulturen der Welt).
The structure was formerly called “the Congress Hall”. It was donated by the U.S. Government to the German people in 1957 after it functioned as the American pavilion at the Interbau, the International Fair of the construction industry, held in Berlin. The building is considered an icon of modern construction. The unimpressed residents of Berlin called it “the pregnant conch”. The building has a cafeteria where you may enjoy a cup of Cappuccino, unless you have something concrete against the architectural design of the 1950s – dark wood and a lot of bare concrete. Tip: Do not stay there too long in the midst of a steamy hot summer day.
After we rest for a while, we go back into the open air and turn right. Again we pass by the Chancellor Building, this time closely. The building looks a lot more monstrous than from a longer distance.
When the main train station is seen near us on our left, we may easily notice the embassy of Switzerland, not only due to the Cross on its roof but also because this is actually the only old building visible in a range of six miles.
The other edge of the band
How far should we continue walking? That depends on how much time we have. However, a tour through the government compound is not complete without at least passing by the legislature office blocks and the renovated Reichstag building.
On our right, we see the Paul Loebe House which contains conference rooms and offices of the German Parliament deputies. The building is connected by a bridge to Marie Elizabeth Lueders House standing on the other side of the river Spree. This building is a center of the Bundestag services, including archives and library. The building is located right where the Berlin Wall used to be. The wall’s route is marked on the floor inside the building..
The government band ends at the Lueders house. According to the original plans, the strip was supposed to be built further east, to the Friedrichstrasse train station. They were cancelled due to financial problems, but there are no signs of the change in plans.
The building of the German public broadcaster ARD is a good point to end our walking. Then we may re-cross the river Spree, on our way back to the main train station. And if the crowds of people have not yet arrived there, we could enjoy more peaceful moments again under the Moltke bridge, sitting in a nearby restaurant and watching the “washing machine” set in its daily motion.
More about the Government District, and other interesting walking routes in Berlin may be found at