The longest preserved piece of the Berlin Wall, standing between Ostbahnhof and Oberbaumbrücke, is known worldwide as the East Side Gallery. After the Wall fell, 118 artists from 21 countries redesigned 1.3 kilometers of the former border into the longest open-air gallery in the world. The East Side Gallery stands both as a symbol of joy over the end of Germany’s division and as a historical reminder of the inhumanity of the GDR border regime. Today it is one of Berlin's most popular tourist attractions.
Open 24 hours a day all year round
East Side Gallery
Mühlenstraße 47 - 80
S- and U-Bahnhof Warschauer Straße
BUS 248, 347
East Side Gallery or Tamara-Danz-Straße
THE HISTORICAL SITE
- The former border grounds on Mühlenstrasse
- Fatalities at the Berlin Wall in the area of Mühlenstrasse
The border fortifications at this site had special significance. When the Wall was built on August 13, 1961, the River Spree between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg became part of the border strip. The entire width of the river here belonged to East Berlin. West Berlin territory began at the riverbank on the Kreuzberg side. Thus, the East Side Gallery exists today on a section of former "Hinterlandmauer", the inner wall that had faced East Berlin.
In addition to this topographical distinction, the border grounds here exhibited another unique feature: With Mühlenstrasse serving as a "protocol route" for high-ranking visitors to the GDR, the inner wall here was visible to all. It resembled the "Border Wall 75" that usually faced West Berlin. The 3.5-meter-high wall elements were supposed to obstruct the view of the death strip.
The historical relics on Mühlenstrasse give an impression of how increased security measures and ongoing expansion of the Berlin Wall made the border increasingly invincible. Building structures on the river embankment were gradually removed in the 1970s to provide GDR border soldiers with an unobstructed “view and clear line of fire.” The entire area was razed in 1977, leaving only the Mühlenspeicher, a warehouse from the large harbor grounds. The intact urban structure here was completely destroyed by the GDR border fortifications. A section of the inner wall made of the characteristic cinder blocks from 1961 still exists here and is one of the few preserved examples of the first generation of the Wall.
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall Memorial website provides more information on the history of the Berlin Wall and how the GDR border regime functioned.
At least 10 people died in the border area around Mühlenstrasse while trying to flee across the Spree to West Berlin. Some were shot and killed by GDR border soldiers; others drowned as a result of hyperthermia or exhaustion. A 25 year old and a 27 year old who were not trying to flee also died here.
Dramatic incidents also occurred on the West Berlin side of the river when children who were playing in Kreuzberg accidently fell into the river. They lost their balance or slipped and could not get out of the water. West Berlin emergency workers were not allowed to enter the Spree here and GDR border guards did not intervene. By 1975, five children had died at the Gröbenufer riverbank in Kreuzberg (now called May-Ayim-Ufer). To prevent further accidents, the Berlin Senate had access ways to the river embankment welded and a fence erected along the quay wall. In spring 1976, water emergency alarms were set up on the West Berlin side of the river.
The Berlin Wall Memorial website presents biographical portraits of the people who died at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989.
- The fall of the Wall in 1989 and the creation of the East Side Gallery
- Renovation and building development plans – The East Side Gallery as a controversial monument
It was only a few days after the fall of the Berlin Wall that artists began painting the east side of the structure. GDR border guards, however, promptly painted over the pictures that had been painted on segments of the Wall at Potsdamer Platz. Shortly thereafter, the artist David Monty from Schöneberg, accompanied by Heike Stephan, an artist from Prenzlauer Berg, presented his idea of making “the Wall into the largest gallery in the world.” In discussions with the GDR Ministry of National Defense it was agreed that only the section of the Wall on Mühlenstrasse would be painted. Officially commissioned by the GDR Council of Ministers, the project “East Side Gallery“ was founded and artists from all over the world were invited to participate. The East Side Gallery was opened on 28 September 1990. The artists created murals with individual messages and statements, demonstrating that in the end, the desire for freedom and creativity is stronger than sanctions and force. The more than 100 paintings are an expression of the happiness felt over the fall of the Wall and the end of division.
The East Side Gallery artists were able to prevent their works from demolition, further decay and destruction. The city of Berlin added the East Side Gallery to its monument register in November 1991. It was the most visible outcome of the opening of the Wall, but now, with almost the entire Berlin Wall gone, it is one of the few remaining relics of the border fortifications at its original location, serving as a reminder that the city was divided for 28 years. In 1996 several of the artists became involved in the East Side Gallery Artist Initiative, an association that supports conservation of the artwork and was initiated by Kani Alavi.
Since 1996, artists have been involved in the artists' initiative East Side Gallery e.V. initiated by Kani Alavi, which is committed to the preservation and care of the paintings.
In response to damage caused by exposure to the elements as well as by massive amounts of graffiti and other minor and major acts of vandalism, the East Side Gallery was entirely refurbished in 2000 and again in 2009. More than 2 million euros were made available for the last restoration work, which was carried out by the “Gesellschaft der behutsamen Stadterneuerung mbH” (S.T.E.R.N.). The renovations included stonework repairs, which required sandblasting large portions of the murals. When the work was completed, the artists were invited to repaint their murals on the Berlin Wall. Most of the artists restored their original paintings, but a small group was critical of the renovation work and refused to redo their paintings. The murals on the Wall today are the replicas created in 2009.
Due to urban development measures taken at the site, this uninterrupted section of the border could not be entirely preserved. In the years after the Wall fell, urban planning concepts focused on the Spree area around the Oberbaum Bridge. Construction plans for the land along the river were often not in sync with efforts to preserve the landmarked East Side Gallery. To accommodate the construction work, openings were made in the Wall, leading to major protests and demonstrations, especially in 2013. Most recently, in March 2018 additional sections of the painted wall were dismantled and moved to a nearby site.
The longest open-air gallery in the world
The online exhibition of the artists' initiative documents the condition of the paintings after their renovation in 2009.
Public guided tours available
The history of the East Side Gallery – overview tour
10:30 a.m. (English)
11:00 a.m. (German)
See below for detailed information on all guided tours.
Public guided tours
Tours for schoolchildren are free
€3.50 / reduced rate €2.50 per person
Tours for school groups with ten or more participants are free.
€3.50 / reduced rate €2.50 per person. Groups with less than 10 participants pay a flat fee of €35.
Meeting point for tours
Mühlenstraße 73 | 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain
The meeting point for tours is on the Spree side of the East Side Gallery, diagonally across from Tamara-Danz-Strasse.
S- and U-Bahnhof Warschauer Straße
BUS 248, 347
The history of the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the longest preserved segment of the Berlin Wall. The border situation here had special features that made it unusual even in the GDR. After the Wall fell, however, the former border elements here became famous worldwide: 118 artists from 21 countries painted the east side of the Berlin Wall, making it the largest open-air gallery in the world. This tour is about the artistic appropriation of the former barrier, the joy over the fall of the Wall and the history of the GDR border regime.
Duration: 1 hour
Art at the East Side Gallery
In spring 1990, more than 100 artists from 21 countries created the longest open-air gallery along 1.3 kilometers of the former border. The art project transformed what had once been an instrument of power into a symbol of joy over the end of the GDR. The tour uses select murals to tell the history of the historical site.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Become an art expert at the East Side Gallery!
A tour for children aged 8 to 12
During this discovery tour, children aged 8 to 12 learn about the history of the Berlin Wall and become experts on the art on the East Side Gallery. They seek answers to questions such as: Why was Berlin divided for 28 years? What happened to the Wall after the border opened? Why was the East Side Gallery created? The children work with the murals’ symbols and stories and are encouraged to develop their own understanding of the art.
Duration: 1 hour
Number of participants: max. 15
The Berlin Wall Foundation
The Berlin Wall Foundation was established as a foundation under public law by legislation passed on September 17, 2008. The foundation includes the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse, the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum and the Günter Litfin Memorial in the watchtower of the former GDR border troops command station at Kieler Eck.
The purpose of the foundation is to document and provide information about the history of the Berlin Wall and the mass migration from the German Democratic Republic as a part and contributory factor of the German division and the East–West conflict. It also aims to preserve historical sites and authentic remains and to provide for a dignified commemoration of the victims of Communist tyranny.
The Berlin parliament decided to hand over responsibility for the East Side Gallery to the Berlin Wall Foundation in May 2018. The Berlin Wall Foundation was given a mandate to maintain the East Side Gallery monument, to tend to its public green spaces and to provide information about the historical site.
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