Exploring Charlottenburg: a mix of old and new in central Berlin

(Part One of Two)

The traditional neighbourhood of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, named after historic aristocrat Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, Queen consort of Prussia, has long been an area associated with affluence and culture. Ever improving, this district is known for its brilliant mix of old and new, with many residents choosing to live in the area because of the unique combination of rich history and comfortable modernity.

A Long History of Affluence, Culture and Commercial Value

An independent city until 1920, Charlottenburg was then incorporated into Greater Berlin and became known as the ‘New West’ during an era known as ‘The Golden 20s’. At this time, the many theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants which populated the district gave Charlottenburg the title of Berlin’s leisure and nightlife capital.

This reputation ended with the rise of the Nazi party and the area was heavily damaged in World War II, by both air raids and the Battle of Berlin. However, after 1945, the area quickly regained its influence by becoming the commercial city centre of newly-divided West Berlin.

Charlottenburg Today: A Luxury Retail Destination and Upmarket Residential District

Post-reunification, Charlottenburg is still known as one of the most upmarket areas of the city, with high-end bars and restaurants attracting a bourgeoisie crowd of wealthy residents and visitors.

A shopper’s paradise, Charlottenburg’s famous Kurfürstendamm (often abbreviated to Ku’damm) has been likened to London’s Bond Street and Paris’ Champs-Élysées; the Ku’damm shopping boulevard is packed with designer flagship stores and boutiques, while KaDeWe is the largest department store in Europe.

Aside from being Berlin’s biggest retail destination, Charlottenburg has preserved its historic status as a diverse cultural hub. The area is home to a range of museums, hotels and theatres; an Olympic Stadium from the controversial 1936 Olympic Games; an opera house; Germany’s oldest mosque still in use; and West Berlin’s Chinatown on Kantstrasse, dubbed ‘Kantonstrasses’ after the Canton area of South China.

Of course, Charlottenburg’s most iconic landmark is the picturesque Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace, pictured above), which is the largest surviving royal palace in Berlin.

A Popular, Established Neighbourhood with a Bright Future

The ruins of Charlottenburg’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church date back to the 1890s, but today they stand alongside towering hotels and contemporary office blocks on the Ku’damm. This mix of old and new best defines the character of Charlottenburg and ultimately, Berlin’s ongoing transition from a city divided to a global-minded metropolis that is looking to the future.