Things To Know About Checkpoint Charlie

Things to know about Checkpoint Charlie

It’s time that you made the acquaintance of one of the world’s foremost epicenters for riveting history. Welcome to Berlin, Germany’s capital and gateway toward gripping, pivotal World War II history. From the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag Building, Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie itself, you have been gifted a seat in the very center of one of the globe’s ultimate conquests. And so long as Berlin’s top-rated sights and sounds are concerned, there’s no better place to begin than Checkpoint Charlie.

Discover the ins and outs of one of Berlin’s must-see attractions, Checkpoint Charlie! At the height of the Cold War, this location played a central role in what would become the future of world politics. Venture onsite and learn more about what makes Checkpoint Charlie one of the globe’s foremost decision points.

What is Checkpoint Charlie?

Checkpoint Charlie 2005 072
Source: Photo by user Noebu used under CC BY 2.5

At the intersection of East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie today stands as a witness to a tense period of international history. What was once the border crossing, named for the third letter of the NATO alphabet, given the fact that it was the third checkpoint established by Allies in the immediate region. Checkpoint Charlie quickly became the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin, and at one time reached tensions so great that American tank forces rested opposite of Soviet tanks, guns trained on one another.

The difference between one side of the checkpoint and the other, at the time of Checkpoint Charlie’s existence, was the prevalence of the communist East against the American-maintained West.


Checkpoint Charlie Sign
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kelisi used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re looking to visit Checkpoint Charlie without standing in long lines or battling long crowds, the best time to visit this location is either during the morning or the evening, before 9:00 am or after 5:00 pm. These time slots will help you to avoid the majority of the traffic to the site. No matter when you visit, keep in mind that Checkpoint Charlie is open from 9:00 am until 10:00 pm every day of the year.

A wide variety of public transportation can help you to reach Checkpoint Charlie. Bus routes from Berlin can bring you to Checkpoint Charlie in less than 30 minutes, depending on your respective location. By subway, take the U1, then the U6 trains to reach your destination. If you’re traveling solely by train, keep in mind that walking will be necessary both before and after the train ride itself. You will walk either to the RB14 or the RE1 line, then again once your train arrives at its closest stop. These train routes, walking included, have you at Checkpoint Charlie in just under an hour.

No matter how you travel to Checkpoint Charlie, it’s a destination well worth the investment. Make sure that you stay up to date on public transportation closure or delays, to ensure clear avenues for your departure and arrival.

Historic significance

Berlin - Checkpoint Charlie
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Roger Wollstadt used under CC BY-SA 2.0

At the very height of the Cold War, there was perhaps no image more significant than the stand-off between American and Soviet tanks. This collective impasse, between the American checkpoints of the West and the communist checkpoints of the East, marked the stark differences in governing philosophies at the root of the conflict itself. Certainly best known for the tension of the Berlin Crisis in 1961, Checkpoint Charlie is nevertheless found in other aspects of world history.

The importance of Checkpoint Charlie is due mainly to its existence as the gateway between the East and West, a location where daily workers, journalists and business professionals, all holders of one-day visas that allowed them to travel back and forth through the checkpoint, would pass into East Berlin for employment purposes. Even before the confrontation between opposing tanks contributed to world fears of a World War III that never materialized, the checkpoint stood for the differences between opposite sides of the world. Fully indicative of the two figurative halves of the world which it separated, Checkpoint Charlie quickly came to be known as the point where freedom met communism, where opportunity met internment.

Tensions fell considerably at Checkpoint Charlie after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In an effort to preserve the location, both for government purposes and for the discovery of future generations, an American guardhouse was constructed on the premises, and a sign commemorative of original Checkpoint Charlie signage was raised onsite. Notably, the barracks through which individuals would pass on their way to East Berlin were removed. Today when you visit the premises, you can go so far as to put your feet on the cobblestones that signify the divide between the East and the West. Nearby, Café Adler marks the spot where spies would reside, as well as the location where various informants and individuals with knowledge of respective Soviet and Western situations would exchange valuable information.

Visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum

Berlin-Mauermuseum am Checkpoint Charlie
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Raimond Spekking used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Known in Berlin as Haum as Checkpoint Charlie, continues to stand as a testament of the reconciliation between the East and the West, between two opposing governing government philosophies and their associated litigation. At the museum itself, you can learn more about the dated history of the region, as well as the attempts for escape from the East to the freedom of the West, many of which passed through or near Checkpoint Charlie. It is at the museum that you can also check out the original checkpoint sign, visible to all travelers from both sides, on a daily basis during the height of checkpoint’s prevalence.

Since October of 1962, the museum has commemorated not only the checkpoint itself but of the struggle that saw both its construction and its eventual downfall. Escape vehicles of all kinds are visible at the museum, including hot air balloons, escape cars and planes, even a miniature submarine.

If you are planning on visiting the Haum as Checkpoint Charlie, it is recommended that you purchase your tickets online before you arrive on the premises. Given the popularity of the site, this online provision will allow you to skip ticket lines, and enter the museum directly for streamlined access to its exhibits and displays.

Witness to authentic world history at Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie
Source: Photo by Flickr user Loozrboy used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The site itself, bolstered by the educational aspects of the associated museum, easily make for one of Berlin’s can’t-miss attractions. Consider this your opportunity to frequent the grounds of what was once a tension the world had never before experienced. The division between the East and the West, Checkpoint Charlie once stood as a division of major world powers. Today, that gate has been opened, symbolizing the free-flowing contribution of knowledge and the workforce between halves. A standoff that nearly led to the onset of a World War III took place at this very location; it’s past time that you familiarized yourself with a uniquely valuable caliber of world history, found exclusively at Checkpoint Charlie.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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John Gallagher is a digital marketing consultant and writer from San Diego, California. When he isn't thoroughly enjoying the writing process or pretending he thoroughly enjoys the revision...Read more

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