7 Best Places to Relive East Berlin's Communist Past

Have a case of Ostalgie (nostalgia) for the former East or Soviet Bloc? You can find it in Berlin.

In the 2003 film "Goodbye Lenin," a die-hard socialist-loving woman is in a coma in a Berlin hospital in 1989 and wakes up after the fall of the Wall. In order to keep her sanity, her family has to pretend nothing happened. In 2019 that era is a distant memory but there are still some remnants in Berlin as a reminder of the city's hard-line Communist past.

Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial

Located in the northeastern neighborhood of Lichtenberg, this complex was the main state prison that housed political dissidents in the erstwhile East Germany. If you've seen the powerful film, "The Lives of Others," then you'll remember this site was featured prominently. Today visitors can take tours and learn what it was like to be under the thumb of the Stasi, the secret East Germany state police.

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Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial
The former prison of the East German, communist-era secret police, or Stasi, at Hohenschoenhausen in Berlin, Germany. The State Security Service or Staatssicherheitsdienst, of the German Democratic Republic arrested and interrogated thousands of East Germans at the Hohenschoenhausen prison until the collapse of communist government and German reunification Michele Tantussi/Getty

DDR Museum

Dedicated to the German Democratic Republic, aka Deutsche Demokratische Republik, aka East Germany, aka the Communist part of Germany from 1949 until 1990, this museum is refreshingly tactile. You can pretend to drive a Trabant through the streets of East Berlin. You can listen to a "bug," or a covert listening device, that was planted in people's apartments by the Stasi. And you can walk through a socialist-era tower block apartment to see what home life was like during the period.

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DDR Museum
The DDR Museum is dedicated to showing what life was like in East Berlin during the communist era. Sean Gallup/Getty

East Side Gallery

The longest strip of the Berlin Wall that's left, this "gallery" is a long stretch of wall paintings, some of which are iconic enough that you'll likely recognize them (Brezhnev and Honecker making out, for example). During Communist times, you would have been shot for getting this close to the Wall. Today you're just accosted by souvenir sellers.

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Eastside gallery
The "gallery" is the largest section of the former Berlin Wall still standing. JOHANNES EISELE/Getty


Like walking? Wide boulevards? Stalinist architecture? Streets named after the father of Communism? Then this is your lucky day. Take a stroll down this wide way flanked by grandiose-yet-orderly Stalinist apartment buildings and offices. This was East Berlin's attempt to out-flash the west with monumental 1950s-era buildings to show off the glories of the socialist state. The boulevard was originally named Stalin Allee until the dear leader's death when he fell out of favor with the Communist elite.

Demonstrators walk along Karl-Marx-Allee to protest against rising rents and an ever-tightening Berlin housing market on April 6, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Steffi Loos/Getty


Feeling some ostolgie? That is, nostalgia for the east, or ost, as it's called in the local parlance. Then head to this fascinating museum, which is an apartment from 1986 still bedecked the same way when an actual family lived there before the Wall came crumbling down.

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The Museumswohnung is an intact apartment from before the Berlin Wall came down. Museumswohnung

Stasi Museum

The former headquarters of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or Stasi, as most people call the former East German secret police. This fascinating museum takes you through the once-mysterious world of the secret police whose job was to catch and trap dissidents and people who were not living up to the ideals of Communism.

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Stasi Museum
An autonomous still security camera with an extended film compartment used to take still pictures for a long period of time is displayed at the Stasi (Staatssicherheit), or East German Secret Police Museum. Adam Berry/Getty


If you want your palate and your eyes to travel back to the East Berlin of the 1970s, step into Volkskammer and take a bite. East Germany wasn't known for its cuisine, but don't let that stop you from masticating on a plate of raw cabbage, a breaded salmon filet, or boiled-egg-stuffed meatloaf smothered in gravy. Yum! If you yearn for the pre'89 days, this place will make you feel right at home.

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