East Berlin: City of Shadows

3-Hour Tour

Gain a Vivid Picture of Daily Life Behind the Iron Curtain

Berlin Wall Memorial, Palace of Tears, Karl Marx Allee, Alexanderplatz

This Cold War Berlin tour shines a light on East Berlin behind the Iron Curtain. In 3 hours, you’ll be guided through the surviving monuments of the divided city, transporting you back to a time of totalitarian rule. You’ll learn of the East Germans’ growing discontent and the regime’s brutal suppression. Your historian guide will reveal the dialogue between Berlin’s built environment and its dark history. Along the way, you’ll also come to appreciate the economic and social divisions that still linger between the East and West sides of the German capital, more than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the country’s reunification.

Start at Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan called on the Soviet Union to, “Tear down this wall!” while taking in the bombastic architecture of the former Soviet Embassy nearby.

Pass through a key crossing point at the Friedrichstrasse train station where families being torn apart made their farewells in the office known as the Palace of Tears.

Contemplate how Berlin’s division created “ghost” stations at Nordbahnhof and resulted in tragic deaths at the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Discover the mile-long housing complex known as Karl Marx Allee, where the dream of a socialist paradise became a nightmare of deprivation, suppression, and paranoia.

At the former Stasi Headquarters, learn how East Germany’s secret police recruited and organized a massive network of civilian spies.

Visit Alexanderplatz with its array of communist-era hotels, department stores and offices, iconic TV Tower, and the setting for the demonstrations that brought the Communist regime to an end.

Tour Details


Private tours – $415 USD (1-10 persons)
*your guide all to yourself

Small groups – $125 USD per person
*still intimate with 8 persons or less

Departure time

Private tours daily at 10 AM and 2 PM

Small groups

  • Monday 2 PM
  • Wednesday 10 AM
  • Friday 2 PM
  • Saturday 10 AM

Meeting point

Private tours include a pick-up at your central hotel or flat

Small groups: Cafe Einstein, Unter den Linden 42, 100117 Berlin




3 hours

Group size

Private tours: 1-10 persons
Groups of over 10 should contact us at info@insightcities.com in order to get a special rate for their party.

Small groups: 2-8 persons

Participation requirements

As this is a walking tour, please contact us if you have any mobility issues or concerns

Not included

Metro fare: You will need to use public transport a few times since the distances between some key sites are too far to walk. If you do not have a multi-day visitor’s transit pass to Berlin already, we suggest that you purchase the day metro pass. If you cannot purchase it in advance, your guide will help you purchase it at the first metro station on the tour.

What to bring

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Cash or credit card for the metro fare

About your guide

Read about our Berlin guides

Cancellation policy

For cancellations 48 hours prior to your scheduled tour, Insight Cities offers a full refund. We cannot refund cancellations within 48 hours of a scheduled tour as we need to pay our guide.

Overview of Your Tour

street are of lots of faces in BerlinWhen Germany was reunited in October 1990, the Cold War ended and the East German nation officially disappeared. This East Berlin tour will transport you back to a place now shrouded in mystery and nostalgia, to reveal a vivid picture of daily life behind the Iron Curtain.

famous image in background with a car infrontThis 3-­hour tour explores the surviving monuments of the East German regime including the infamous Berlin Wall and Stasi headquarters. A historian will reveal the dialogue between modern Berlin’s built environment and its dark and often hidden history. You’ll hear about life under Communist rule, the East Germans’ growing discontent, and their government’s brutal suppression.

The tour begins at the Brandenburg Gate where, in June 1987, President Ronald Reagan famously called on Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” Nearby is the former Soviet Embassy, a grandiose monument built in 1945 amid the rubble of World War II as a bold declaration of Stalin’s ambition to control all of Berlin. We will discuss how the Allies’ post-war division of Germany into four parts led to decades of Cold War tensions.

The next stop is the Friedrichstrasse train station, a key crossing point between East and West Berlin. Train station in BerlinWhen families were torn apart by East Germany’s iron-­fisted immigration laws, they said their sad goodbyes here in the office known as the Palace of Tears. At Nordbahnhof, we’ll explore how Berlin’s division created “ghost” stations, unused but heavily guarded stops on West Berlin’s subway lines that lay in East German territory. Farther along, the Berlin Wall Memorial allows you to experience the notorious Death Strip and hear stories of East Berliners whose attempts to escape led to their tragic deaths.

Fernsehturm Berlin against the sunsetWe visit the grandiose mile-­long housing complex known as Karl Marx Allee and consider how East Germans’ dreams for a Socialist paradise turned into a nightmare of deprivation, suppression, and paranoia. East Germany’s secret police, the notorious Stasi, coerced neighbors, and family members to spy on each other. At the former Stasi headquarters, you’ll learn how its feared leader, Eric Mielke, recruited a massive network of spies and created innovative surveillance techniques.

Finally, we will visit the center of public life in East Berlin, Alexanderplatz, which was rebuilt in the 1960s with monuments like the former Centrum department store, the former Forum Hotel, the “House of the Teacher” and “House of Statistics”, and the iconic TV Tower. In 1989, this symbol of East German pride was the setting for massive demonstrations that led to the regime’s downfall and brought 40 years of Communist rule to an end.

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