Checkpoint Charlie – Cold War Landmark in the Middle of Berlin

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous checkpoint between East and West Berlin. See why this location was the scene of “battles” during the Cold War and its importance to contemporary history.

Located on Friedrichstrasse, on the corner of Zimmerstrasse, Checkpoint Charlie is right in the middle of Berlin, in the Mitte district. If you're not sure if the attraction is worth visiting, know that the border post holds part of the city's history – and why not, of the entire Western world.

Created to serve as a passage between the two “Berlins” during the Cold War, when the wall still divided the German capital, Checkpoint Charlie became important as it was the only access for members of the army, government and diplomats on the capitalist side. who wanted to cross the border.

It was also the only ticket for tourists who wanted to visit East Berlin from the American sector.

Despite such importance, the checkpoint was just a small wooden house, which was later replaced by a steel one, right in the middle of the street, being guarded by allied troops – the United States, France and England.

Today, a replica of the first wooden house attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. In the surroundings, there are at least three exhibitions telling the history of this place that are worth to learn more about what was happening on the American and Soviet side.

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In this post you will read:

  • History of Checkpoint Charlie
  • The Berlin Crisis of 1961
  • Where is and how to get to Checkpoint Charlie
  • Museums around Checkpoint Charlie
    • Wall Museum / Haus am Checkpoint Charlie
    • THE WALL – The asisi Panorama of the divided Berlin
    • BlackBox Cold War
    • Babies Museum
  • Berlin – Travel Guide
  • hotels in berlin
  • Berlin travel insurance
  • internet chip in germany
  • Flights to Germany
  • Berlin car rental
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Read all our tips and posts from Germany

History of Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was created in August 1961, at the same time the Soviets were building the Berlin Wall, and was just one of several checkpoints along the border of the German capital.

Its name comes from NATO military terms and there was even a Checkpoint Alpha, Bravo and so on. However, only the Allies called it that, as the Soviets only said “Friedrichstrasse checkpoint”. 

As one of the few gaps in a maze of walls, barbed wire and “death zones,” Checkpoint Charlie attracted scores of East Germans who, desperate to escape Soviet control, carried out movie-worthy maneuvers to cross the border.

Among them, hiding in the trunk of a car, in kayaks and getting into suitcases were just some of the strategies that led Germans to West Berlin. In another famous getaway, photographer Horst Beyer crossed the border from the eastern side while pretending to take pictures of Checkpoint Charlie.

After these successful attempts to elude Communist guards, metal barriers were installed and a much larger Soviet checkpoint was built just a few meters from Checkpoint Charlie, making access to West Germany even more difficult.

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Checkpoint Charlie | Photo: Erge, from Pixabay

The Berlin Crisis of 1961

However, not the whole story seems to have come out of a spy movie. It was here that the Cold War almost got “hot” when, on October 22, 1961, American diplomat Allan Lightner tried to cross Checkpoint Charlie to attend the opera in East Berlin. 

Border guards demanded to see his passport, but he refused, saying that only Soviet officials had the authority to inspect his documents.

The situation spiraled out of control and the Americans called in the cavalry, and for 16 hours, nearly 50 Soviet and Allied tanks came face to face, in the only armed conflict of the entire Cold War.

The situation only calmed down when US President John F. Kennedy contacted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and convinced him to withdraw his tanks. A few minutes later, the Americans also left the scene.

After the incident, Checkpoint Charlie became the official point for exchanging prisoners between the Allies and the Soviets, usually people accused of espionage. 

After the Wall came down on November 9, 1989, Checkpoint Charlie remained in operation for seven months, when it was removed during a ceremony attended by French, British, American, German and Soviet dignitaries. 

“For 29 years, Checkpoint Charlie embodied the cold war,” US Secretary of State James Baker said during the process. "We meet here today to dismantle it and bury the conflict that created it." 

The original checkpoint is still on display today at the Allied Museum in Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie | Photo: Piet Van de Wiel, via Pixabay

Where is and how to get to Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie is located in the middle of Friedrichstrasse, between 43 and 45. 

Getting there by subway is very easy, just take the U6 line and get off at Kochstrasse/Checkpoint Charlie station and walk for a few meters. 

Another option is to take the red line, called U2, and get off at Stadtmitte. From there, it's just a 5-minute walk south along Friedrichstrasse itself. 

By bus, take the M29 line and get off at the Charlottenstrasse stop, which you will be 10 meters from Checkpoint Charlie.

Museums around Checkpoint Charlie

There are several museums around Checkpoint Charlie, most of them related to the Cold War, Berlin Wall or life in East Berlin. See what they are below:

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Photo: Marabuchi, via Flickr

Wall Museum / Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

At the same time that East Berlin was building the Wall, the German Rainer Hildebrandt was building the Mauermuseum (Museum of the Wall). His mission: to catalog east to west escape plans and support these escape attempts.

Now the Mauermuseum is known for its extensive collection of items spanning 30 years of history, such as cars and hot air balloons, which tell how successful escapes came to be.

  • Opening hours: every day of the year, from 9 am to 22 pm
  • Entrada: €14,50 for adults and €7,50 for children and teenagers from 7 to 18 years old.
  • Address: Friedrichstr. 43 – 45

Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin | official photo

THE WALL – The asisi Panorama of the divided Berlin

What was an autumn day like in Berlin in the 80s? The steel cylinder created by Yadegar Asisi shows a 270° panorama, 15 meters high and 60 meters wide, to show everyday scenes on both sides of the Wall that day. The 1:1 scale gives a life-size impression of the divided city scenes.

The fictional autumn day in Berlin is complemented by an exhibition of photographs from the private collections of around 50 contemporary witnesses. This panorama takes you back in time.

  • Opening hours: every day of the year, from 11 am to 18 pm
  • Entrada: €10 for adults and €4 for children and teenagers between 6 and 16 years old.*
  • Address: Friedrichstr. 205

The Wall | Photo official

Blackbox Cold War

This 200 m² “black box” tells the story of Checkpoint Charlie. With the use of large photos and various forms of media, not only is the impact of the Berlin Wall on German history illustrated, but also the entire international dimension of the division of Germany and Europe.

The pavilion's external design refers to the two great powers of the time, the Soviet Union and the USA. The black color of the exterior facade represents the Black Box – the event recorder for posterity. Outside, an open-air exhibition displays panels with information on the same topic.

  • Opening hours: every day of the year, from 11 am to 18 pm
  • Address: Friedrichstr. 47

BlackBox Cold War | Foto oficial

Babies Museum

This car was the Volkswagen of East Germany: the Trabante, affectionately known as the Trabi. Between 1958 and 1991, more than three million of these cars were manufactured in Zwickau, Saxony.

After he disappeared from the streets in the 1990s, he became a collector's item. The Trabi Museum displays around 15 Trabants from different generations, as well as films showing the engineers involved in the production of the Trabant and fans of the colorful trolley.

  • Opening hours: every day of the year, from 10 am to 18 pm
  • Entrada: €5 for adults. Children under 12 years old do not pay.
  • Address: room street 15

Trabi Museum | official photo

Berlin – Travel Guide

The German capital is one of Europe's top destinations. City rich in history, gastronomy and culture with beautiful landscapes and many attractions for all ages. When visiting Berlin, it is worth visiting some of the city's main sights, such as the East Side Gallery, the Holocaust Memorial or the Brandenburg Gate. Check out what to do in Berlin to build your travel itinerary.

  • Berlin Weather

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hotels in berlin

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The Mitte region is where the main hotels in berlin, however, throughout the city you can find comfortable and elegant accommodations. That's why it's worth researching and booking your hotel calmly and in advance. That way you avoid possible problems during the trip! ?

  • Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin – Daily rates from € 497 – Note 9,2
  • Radisson Collection Hotel – Daily rates from € 205 – Note 8,8
  • KPM Hotel & Residences – Daily rates from € 190 – Note 9,3
  • Schulz Hotel Berlin – Daily rates from € 105 – Note 8,5

See all hotel options in Berlin.

See also:

  • Where to stay in Berlin – The best neighborhoods and hotels

Berlin travel insurance

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Read all about travel insurance:

  • Travel Insurance for Germany – Everything you need to know
  • Documents to enter Europe – See which ones you need
  • Travel Insurance Europe – Complete guide on how to hire
  • Best Travel Insurance Europe – Which one to choose for your trip?
  • How much does travel insurance for Europe cost?

internet chip in germany

It's getting easier and cheaper to have unlimited internet throughout your trip in Germany. Nowadays you can buy an international cell phone chip online while you're still here in España. You receive the sim card at your address and then just insert it into your cell phone to reach your destination with unlimited 4G internet working.

Also read more chip tips:

  • Europe Internet Chip – Which is the best international chip?
  • Viaje Conectado – Know everything about your travel chips
  • America Chip – Find out how it works

Flights to Germany

Looking for a good deal and flight prices? When buying tickets to Germany, it is worth taking a look at the website Promo Tickets. It is quite common to find cheaper and better flight options than on other sites. We always use and is it worth it?

Berlin car rental

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“You are entering the American sector. It is prohibited to carry weapons outside of working hours. Obey the traffic rules.” | Photo: Oscar Fernando Melo, via Pixabay

Did you like Checkpoint Charlie's tips and learn more about West and East Berlin? Comment here!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get to Checkpoint Charlie?

Getting there by subway is very easy, just take the U6 line and get off at Kochstrasse/Checkpoint Charlie station and walk for a few meters. Another option is to take the red line, called U2… Continue reading

Where to stay in Berlin?

The region close to Checkpoint Charlie has great hotels to stay in, such as Mondrian Suites Berlin am Checkpoint Charlie. Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie or even 4 stars Mercure Hotel & Residenz Berlin Checkpoint Charlie… Know more.

Why is it called Checkpoint Charlie?

Its name comes from NATO military terms and there was even a Checkpoint ALPHa, BRavo, Charlie and so on. However, only the Allies called it that, as the Soviets only said “Friedrichstrasse checkpoint”… keep reading.

Read all our tips and posts from Germany

  • Hotels in Berlin – The 10 most suitable for your stay
  • Holocaust Memorial – What to know before you go
  • Checkpoint Charlie – Cold War Landmark in the Middle of Berlin
  • East Side Gallery – The gallery that colors the Berlin Wall
  • Berlin Weather
  • Berlin – Complete Guide to the German Capital
  • Berlin Itinerary from 1 to 4 days
  • Where to stay in Berlin – The best neighborhoods and hotels
  • Munich – Complete Guide to the Bavarian Capital
  • Germany – Complete Country Guide
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