[Video] Berlin’s city centre isn’t actually in Mitte: So where is it?
Life's pretty complicated and it moves really fast. It's a challenge to keep up with the world we live in. So it's nice to be able to count on some perpetual and eternal truths: sky is up, sugar is sweet, snow is cold.
I was pretty shocked to discover that one of those truths was taken away from me, one fateful afternoon in October. What I believed to be Berlin's city centre was actually just a big pile of lies. With a name like “Mitte”, you would think that the area around Alexanderplatz was Berlin’s city centre - but, geographically, it’s not.
Mitte - The middle of Berlin?
Officially yes, Berlin Mitte cannot be challenged in terms of cultural and political influence. It also remains the touristic centre. And naturally in terms of traffic, we cannot deny that all roads and U-Bahn lines lead to Mitte - but the fact is that the centre of Berlin has been moving through the ages.
So where is the centre of Berlin nowadays, and where did it used to be? Let’s take a little dive into the history and geography of Germany’s capital city:
A brief history of the centres of Berlin
Berlin's geographical centre has changed over the years. As you can probably guess, Berlin wasn't always this big metropolis. That's why different locations were used at different points in time to measure distances and craft maps. During the Prussian era, a place along Leipzigstrasse (today known as Marion-Gräfin-Dönhoff-Platz) was used as the "0 Point" for maps. It was later placed on top of the Rotes Rathaus, where it remains today.
This is where things get tricky: when Berlin was reunited, a new calculation moved the geographical centre a few kilometres south. It was now located on the corner of a football field in a nondescript residential area not too far off Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg (on Alexandrinnenstrasse). A plaque was placed there to acknowledge that fact.
More recently, a new calculation put it near Hermannplatz, not too far from Paul-Lincke-Ufer. It's in a small quiet street with fairly little to see there (Sprembergerstrasse). Alas, no plaque there.
Do we care where the city centre is?
Probably not. We all love Berlin for that: it doesn't follow the typical concentric topography of most European capitals. Since it was heavily destroyed during World War II and then cut in half during the Cold War, each district has built its own logic, its own little city centre.
In each Bezirk and in each Kiez, you always have somewhere to relax, to be entertained, to work, to shop, a park, a cinema, and so on. No need to go to Mitte ever!
It probably matters more where you live related to your own little city centre.