Pretty much everyone knows Berlin’s most famous landmark, but actually standing in front of it is a very special experience. That’s because being able to appreciate its scale up close, in real life, is a very different experience to seeing it on television. While you used to be able to drive through the Brandenburg Gate, only pedestrians and cyclists have been able to pass through it since its extensive restoration in 2002. The car exhaust fumes had damaged the stone too much, especially since two bus routes even ran through its columns up to this point.
Together with Pariser Platz, the Brandenburg Gate forms the crowning glory of the resplendent Unter den Linden boulevard. The gate is capped off by the mighty quadriga, a four-horse chariot, driven by Victoria, the goddess of victory. Berlin locals are particularly proud of her, as she is a bona fide symbol of triumph. Napoleon had the statue taken to Paris following his victory in 1806, but the quadriga was brought back to Berlin after the allied army saw off his troops. In Berlin, locals like to say this is where the German term ‘Retourkutsche’ (which refers to a cheeky reply to an insult) comes from – as it literally means ‘return carriage’.
It’s worth visiting in the evening or at night, when the gate is illuminated by spotlights: simply stunning!