“ Address: Potsdamer Platz Potsdamer Platz 1 10785 Berlin / Viewing platform high above Berlin „
There are a number of places to visit that give a bird's eye view of Berlin. There's the glass dome of the Reichstag but tickets for that must be obtained in advance online; then there's the iconic television tower at the Alexanderplatz but it's not cheap and queues were immense when went past on a Sunday morning. You do get a good view - though from a distance - from the monument on the hill at Kreuzberg and it has the bonus of being free, however when we visited it was starting to get dark and the view was deteriorating.
Fortunately we discovered the Panoramapunkt, a viewing platform that's part of an office building - the Kollhoff Tower - at the Potsdamer Platz, just across the road from the Sony Centre. Although it's nowhere near as exciting as the teletower, it is much cheaper and when we visited on a Monday morning, there were only a handful of other tourists there.
Today's Potsdamer Platz is filled with gleaming modern buildings and this one was named after the architect Hans Kollhoff; he was one of the team of architects, led by Renzo Piano, responsible for designing the 19 buildings in this regenerated area.
Be aware that the cheapest option is a ticket from the ticket desk as you go into the building. There are offers available through the Berlin Welcome Card and while these do offer a discount it's on the cost of a combination of entrance charge and purchase of a map, or entrance charge and the use of binoculars. If you want to splash out on binoculars you may find that they'll enhance the experience but they aren't essential.
Once you've bought your ticket you're escorted to the lift and the attendant comes up with you. As it's an internal lift there are no windows. You'll reach the top - 100 metres, 25 floors altogether but you get out at 24 - in a jiffy and it's straight out onto the walkway which wraps entirely round the building. There is a grille at face height all the way round which, although it does present a barrier for photographers, may alleviate the fears that some people may have at being at such a height. There are two levels of walkway, the higher one being accessed on foot. There's a café-bar on off the levels which may be worth a stop for the novelty but the best views are certainly to be had outside on the viewing platform. The café also has a roof terrace on the 25th floor.
Although you can buy a panoramic map it's not necessary because there are photo-boards which show the view from each side and number the buildings so you can identify them. We visited on a grey, wintry day but the view was reasonably good. I wouldn't have wanted to pay the much higher price the Alexander Platz tower on a day like that.
Running around the tower walls are a series of nicely illustrated boards that explain the history of the Potsdamer Platz from a couple of hundred years ago to the present day with, of course, a section on the Berlin Wall. There are loads of places in Berlin where you can learn about the Wall for free and this section of the Panoramapunkt exhibition won't tell you anything new but generally it's well put together and uses some excellent images.
On the cold wintry day we visited it was freezing on the viewing platform and the wind cut into our faces but we did really enjoy seeing the city from a new perspective. Berlin, because of it's vastness is not an easy city to grasp the geography of but by visiting the Panorama Punkt at the end of the trip we were able to see how much ground we had covered. The views are brilliant, we could see as far as the Olympic Stadium in spite of the poor weather but we got excellent views of much closer landmarks such as the television tower, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial and numerous churches.
Particularly for children, the Panoramapunkt experience might not seem as exciting as the television tower but it does have the advantages of being cheaper and probably less busy. If you are on a flying visit - perhaps you're in town on business and you're staying or working nearby - I would recommend a trip to the top of the Kollhoff Tower to see what you're missing.
Go to http://www.panoramapunkt.de/en/welcome.h​tml to check special price deals and opening hours. Opening times do vary depending on the season so do check in advance.