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The Berlin TV Tower

Updated: Mar 27

A photo of Berlin's skyline with the TV tower in the center and a blue sky

The TV Tower in Berlin - in German Fernsehturm - in Berlin is an iconic symbol of the city and a must-visit destination for tourists.


Beginning of the Fernsehturm

In the early 1950s, the German Democratic Republic - GDR or East Germany - planned to build a new facility in Berlin that was primarily intended to broadcast only East German television. The administration of radio operations initially saw the best conditions for the broadcasting tower on a property in the Berlin Müggelberge. Located at Berlin's highest elevation, the TV signals were considered to be ideal by the designers, especially since here the tower would not further disturb any urban development.

However, the initial plans failed: The construction for the first location in the Müggelberge was stopped in 1956. It had been determined that the location, only eight kilometers from Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, threatened to endanger flight operations due to its height at the edge of the flight path. An alternative location at the current Volkspark Friedrichshain was being planned for, but a financial crisis hit in 1962 – partly because of the enormous costs of building the Berlin Wall. And so the TV tower project was put on hold and eventually, the location in Friedrichshain was definitively abandoned.

For many GDR party functionaries, the TV tower was developing into a suitable replacement for the unrealized Central Party Building, which was to be built in the socialist restructuring of the East Berlin center in place of the demolished Berlin City Palace. The Central Party Tower, if it had been constructed, would have had its function and perhaps even design somewhat similar to the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.


Construction of the Tower

The design of the TV Tower finally came about in connection with an architectural competition at the end of the 50s, whereby Hermann Henselmann suggested constructing a 300-meter-high "Tower of Signals". In the tower at the 230-meter mark, a restaurant and observation platform in a sphere made of glowing ruby glass was to contain several floors and be topped by a slender tip. Walter Ulbricht - chairman of the ruling SED party - after seeing the design chose it over any further planning for a Central Party Building and put the location at Alexanderplatz.

For the construction of the tower, the so-called climbing construction method was decided, whereby, the interior scaffold grows quicker than the external shell. Thus the internal steel framework would grow a little faster than the external concrete shaft, which would be constructed around the steel framework. The biggest engineering challenge was the assembly of the sphere at 200 meters height though. First, the supporting steel framework for it was prefabricated on the ground then cranes hoisted the segments up and attached them to the ring-shaped platform that forms the top of the concrete shaft. Finally, the sphere was hung on tension bands, enhancing the impression for the observer that the sphere seemed to float.

Ironically immediately after the segments of the sphere were formed together a conspicuous cross in the sunlight precisely into the western part of Berlin was and can still be seen. Being that the Communist GDR was against the church, this Christian symbol was described as "the Lord's revenge on Ulbricht". But regardless it could not be denied that the GDR had command of the skyline in Berlin. The total height of 365 meters - at the time - made and makes it the tallest structure in the city.

This though was not entirely due to architectural ambition but to radio technology and thus the required range. The few radio frequencies that had been allocated to the GDR at the time were causing headaches for the responsible parties and only a high radio tower could, according to the considerations at the time, provide the GDR capital with reliable television reception over a wide area. A wise choice as it was intended to prevent East German citizens from switching to West German television due to reception problems. Something they were never entirely able to prevent.


TV Tower Today

Today, high-speed elevators take visitors to the panorama floor at 203 meters in height. The restaurant, at 207 meters in height, rotates once an hour around its axis and still offers the best panoramic view of the city. Tens of millions of visitors have enjoyed this view and the interest is not waning; a visit to the TV tower is at the top of the list for Berlin tourists.

Keeping this in mind though, it is best to book your tickets ahead of time and if you can keep the weather in mind! Depending on the time of the year, the clouds can be rather low and you might not be able to enjoy the view. As for the restaurant and all the other bells and whistles available up top, in my opinion, you can skip it. The view may be worth it, but your time and appetite can be better spent elsewhere!


Your Trip Berlin

Want to add the TV Tower to your group trip or team event? Contact Your Trip Berlin or book an obligation-free 30-minute meeting to get your trip started!


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Alexander La Rocca

Photo of Alexander La Rocca with the Mauerpark in the background

Alexander La Rocca has been creating experiences for

visitors to Berlin since 2012 when he began in the tourism industry. Having organized and led thousands of tours, trips, and events, he started his own company

Here for group travel and businesses, he offers expertise in itinerary building or various activities to make a trip to Berlin a memorable experience. Visit him at if you are looking for help organizing your time in Berlin!


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