After the fall of the wall, Mitte, which had been in East Germany, became the geographic center of Berlin, once again. The area has several minidistricts, each of which has its own distinctive history and flair. Alexanderplatz, home of the TV Tower, was the center of East Berlin. With its communist architecture, you can still get a feel for the GDR aesthetic here. The Nikolaiviertel nearby, was part of the medieval heart
of Berlin. Left largely intact by the war, it was destroyed for ideological reasons, then rebuilt decades later by the Communist regime. The Scheunenviertel, part of the Spandauer Vorstadt, was home to many of the city’s Jewish citizens. Today, the narrow streets that saw so much tragedy house art galleries and upscale shops. Treasures once split between East and West Berlin museums are reunited on Museuminsel, the stunning Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bordering Tiergarten and the government district is the meticulously restored Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), the unofficial symbol of the city, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, whose design and scope engendered many debates.
The historic boulevard Unter den Linden proudly rolls out Prussian architecture and world-class museums. Its major cross street is Friedrichstrasse, which was revitalized in the mid-1990s with car showrooms (including Bentley, Bugatti, and Volkswagen) and upscale malls.
The hip part of Mitte, the historic core of Berlin, is best experienced in the narrow streets and courtyard mazes of the Scheunenviertel (Barn Quarter), part of the larger Spandauer Vorstadt (the old Jewish neighborhood), and the area around Oranienburger Strasse. There are upscale shops, tony bars, and increasingly excellent restaurants, as well as successful art galleries. During the second half of the 17th century, artisans, small-businessmen, and Jews moved into this area at the encouragement of the Great Elector, who sought to improve his financial situation through their skills. As industrialization intensified, the quarter became poorer, and in the 1880s many East European Jews escaping pogroms settled here. Today, Mitte's Scheunenviertel is quite popular with tourists.