Few monuments encapsulate the image of Germany (and Berlin) as much as the Brandenburg Gate. Of all the National Monuments in Germany, the neoclassical structure is by far the most recognisable (i’m quite sure it’s also the only one that people would be able to name offhand) . While its meaning and symbolism (for the people) has changed over the decades, from symbolising the end of Napoleon’s rule, German Reunification, or even just a pretty photo spot for tourists – it continues to be an important backdrop for demonstrations and social events.
The average Potsdam tourist will know that the Potsdam also has a “Brandenburg Gate” – which prompted us to ask ourselves “How many Brandenburg Gates are there?”. With the magic of the €49 Deutschland Ticket, we decided to have a snoop around and see what we could find.
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Gates and Arches
Before we get to deep, we should clarify two important terms: Triumphal Gate and Triumphal Arch.
A triumphal gate and a triumphal arch are closely related architectural structures, both serving as monumental entrances or passages typically commemorating significant military victories or other achievements. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are subtle differences in their design and purpose.
A triumphal arch is a freestanding structure, usually consisting of a single arched opening, often adorned with columns and decorative elements.
Triumphal arches are historically associated with Roman architecture, where they were erected to commemorate victorious military campaigns and honor triumphal processions of returning generals.
Notable examples include the Arch of Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
A triumphal gate, on the other hand, is a term that is sometimes used more broadly to describe monumental gateways or entrances, including those with multiple arches.
In the context of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, for example, the term “gate” is used even though it has a single, large arch. This is likely due to its role as a ceremonial entrance to the city and its association with triumph and peace.
Triumphal gates may have similar purposes as triumphal arches, commemorating victories or important events, but the term “gate” allows for a broader interpretation in architectural terminology.
While a triumphal arch typically refers to a specific architectural form with a single arched opening, a triumphal gate can be a more inclusive term encompassing monumental gateways with various architectural designs, including those with multiple arches. The distinction is somewhat fluid, and the specific usage can depend on historical, cultural, or regional conventions.
This list does not claim to be complete. There might be other Brandenburg Gates in Germany (or former territories that used to be within germany’s borders) that I haven’t been made aware of. If you know of one that we’ve missed, do let us know in the comments. Other cities such as Bayreuth, Krefeld, and Mückenberg used to have a Brandenburg Gate as well, but has been torn down over time. This list only covers Brandenburg Gates that still exist today.
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Location: Berlin, Berlin, Germany Construction Date: 1788 – 1791 Style: Neoclassical Architect: Carl Gotthard Langhans Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin Geo Coordinates: 52.51671856406936, 13.377639726342583
So what exactly is the Brandenburg Gate? The Brandenburg Gate in its current form is a Triumphal Gate, built upon the request of Frederick William II of Prussia, as a symbol of power to both domestic and foreign audiences.
And why is the Brandenburg Gate called the Brandenburg Gate? Berlin built a customs wall around the city in 1737 to control and tax the import and export of goods. The original wall had 14 gates – which were mostly named after the city to which the road by the gate led to. So the Brandenburg Gate was named Brandenburg Gate because the road from this particular gate led to the city of Brandenburg an der Havel.
As the city expanded, so did the customs wall. New city gates were added (adding up to a total of 18) and existing ones were improved. The old Brandenburg Gate found itself at the tailend of the Unter den Linden boulevard – which was the route the King used to enter the city – so Frederick William II (nephew of Frederick the Great) seized the opportunity to build himself a grand entrance. The original gate was actually called “Friedenstor” (Peace Gate) – as a reference to forcefully “pacifying” the Netherlands in 1787 and forging an alliance between Prussia, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
Designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was originally modelled after the Propylaea, the ceremonial gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. In scene reminiscent of medieval european artists drawing animals they had never seen, Langhans had based his own designs off drawings as he had never been to Athens himself.
So how old is the “new” Brandenburg Gate? If you go by its finished construction date, 1791 – the Brandenburg Gate is 232 years old (based on the year 2023).
And as the question frequently comes up, was the Brandenburg Gate in East or West Berlin? The Brandenburg Gate was located in East Berlin. Both East and West Berlin contributed to the reconstruction of the Brandenburg gate between 1956 and 1958.
Funnily enough, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is neither the oldest, nor the most ornate (though that’s a matter of opinion), or the tallest – but it is the most famous.
The Brandenburg Gate in Potsdam
Location: Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany Construction Date: 1770 – 1771 Style: Neoclassical Architects: Carl von Gontard, Georg Christian Unger Address: Luisenplatz, 14471 Potsdam Geo Coordinates: 52.41556959598114, 13.052017593221409
Similar to Berlin, Potsdam also had its own customs wall around the city with its own city gates. One of these gates lead to – you’ve guessed it – Brandenburg an der Havel in 1733. After the end of the seven years war in 1763 (Great Britain and Prussia vs France, Austria, Sweden, Russia and Spain) – Frederick the Great decided to build himself an appropriate symbol for his most recent victory.
The old city gate was torn down and two architects, Carl von Gontard and his student Georg Christian Unger, were hired to design a new one in 1770, making Potsdam’s Brandenburg Gate 18 years older than Berlin’s. Because every good german seems to love Greece or Italy, they designed a massive triumphal arch inspired by the Roman Arch of Constantine (the resemblance is quite clear). The master and his student split up the work, with von Gontard designing the side facing the city, while Unger designed the other side – hence why both sides look somewhat different.
Potsdams city walls stood until 1900, which up until that point forced all traffic to flow through the gate. As traffic increased over the years, two additional passages were carved out of the gate in 1843 – which had previously been occupied by guards.
The architect Georg Christian Unger would later go on to design (amongst many other works) the Royal Library aka Alte Bibliothek, which now houses the law faculty of the Humboldt-Universität (and a giant socialist era glass stained window).
The town of Altentreptow in north eastern Germany was first officially documented in 1245 when it was granted its city rights, but the area had been inhabited since the bronze age. A city wall was erected around Altentreptow in 1450 – and with it three city gates, the Mühlentor, the Demminer Tor, and the Brandenburger Tor. The Brandenburg Gate in Altentreptow predates any of the other gates in this list by at least 300 years – making it a 573 years old and crowning it the oldest Brandenburg Gate in our list.
The Brandenburger Tor in Altentreptow was built in a brick gothic style (a very popular style in northern germany) and served both as a city gate and a watchtower. Reaching a height of 25.8 meters (also making it the tallest Brandenburg Gate), the five story tower had a covered battlement that spanned around the entire tower – traces of which can still be seen today. The tower is also referred to as the “Neubrandenburger Tor” as the city of Neubrandenburg is just 16km south of Altentreptow (compared to the 170km to Brandenburg an der Havel).
The bulk of Altentreptow’s wall was removed after the end of the 30 years war (1618-1648), but the city gates remained. At some point, two floors of the tower were converted into a prison, and continued to be used as such until 1895, when the structure was modernised. A new building was built adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate which was then used as the local prison until 1929.
Of the three city gates in Altentreptow, only the Brandenburg Gate remains in its original state (for the most part). The Mühlentor was torn down in 1844, and the Demminer Tor had its tower removed around the same time, but continues to function as a gate.
The Brandenburg Gate in Szczecin
Location: Szczecin, Poland Construction Date: 1725-1727 Style: Baroque Architect: Major General Gerhard Cornelius von Walrave Address: Plac Brama Portowa 2, 70-001 Szczecin, Poland Geo Coordinates: 53.425093040553534, 14.550269947900798
After Prussia successfully regained the Swedish-held Stettin and parts of Pomerania in 1720, Frederick William I of Prussia (father of Frederick the Great) wanted to commemorate the joyous event with an ornate entrance gate to the Stettin Fortress. Major General Gerhard Cornelius von Walrave was tasked with the design of the gate in 1725. The western entrance of the gate features an ornate “overdoor” with the escutcheon (not to be confused with a coat of arms) and monogram of Frederick William I, as well as the latin epitaph:
Fridericvs Wilhelmvs•Rex Borrvssiæ•Dvcatum Stetinensem
cessvm Brandenbvrgicis Electoribvs svb Clientelæ Fide Pomeraniæ
Dvcibvs redditvm•Post Fato ad Svecos delatvm•Ivstis pactis ivstoqve
pertio ad Panim vsqve emit•paravit•sibiqve restitvit•Anno•MDCCXIX
ac Portam Brandenb:fieri ivssit•
Which roughly translates into english as follows:
Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, purchased the Duchy of Stettin, which had been transferred to the Brandenburg Electors and returned to the Dukes of Pomerania under their suzerainty, and which, in later events, had come under the fate of Sweden. Through just agreements and at a fair price, he acquired it up to the River Peene and incorporated it back into his state. In the year 1719, he had the Brandenburg Gate built
The east side of the gate features an equally ornate, yet slightly different escutcheon and monogram above the door, but no further inscription.
And so we ended up with the Brandenburg Gate in Stettin. After the fortress was torn down in 1875, it was decided to keep both the Brandenburg Gate and the other ornate entrance gate – the Königstor (Kings Gate), though at the same time the Brandenburg Gate was renamed to Berliner Tor (Berlin Gate).
In 1902, the now Berliner Tor was converted into an ornate neo-baroque fountain by the sculptor Reinhold Felderhoff, earning it the name Felderhoff-Brunnen. The fountain – but not the gate – was removed in 1932 as the square at the Berliner Tor had become a major traffic intersection.
After the end of World War II, Stettin was handed over to Poland and renamed Szczecin. The former Brandenburg Gate, now Berlin Gate, received yet another name change and is now called “Brama Portowa” or Port Gate in english. The Brama Portowa was converted into a store selling polish craft, but as of 2014 a Theater has moved in. The former Königs Tor has been converted into a cafe. In a bit of positive news, it seems like the local Polish authorities have spent a considerable amount of time and money over the years to restore both gates – and they do both look great.
The Brandenburg Gate in Kaliningrad
Location: Kaliningrad, Russia Construction Date: 1859 Style: Gothic Revival Architect: Friedrich August Stüler Address: Ulitsa Bagrationa, 137, Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russland, 236039 Geo Coordinates: 54.69737044774622, 20.4946696354637
*The Brandenburg Gate in Kaliningrad is the only gate in this list that we have not personally visited yet. While Visiting Kaliningrad had been on our list for several years now, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and subsequent war has halted our travel plans to the region. Photos via Google Earth circa 2012.
Königsberg, once the largest northern and eastern city of the German Reich, always had a strategic military value, in particularly because of its location on the fringe of the border of the Reich. Over the centuries various defensive fortifications had been constructed around the city, most notably between 1626 to 1634 and in 1843 to 1859.
With the ever changing political relations between the German Reich and the Russian Empire, the german government decided to expand and deepen its fortifications around Königsberg in 1843. By 1859, the entire city had been encircled by a 11km long rampart with 8 city gates.
It should come as no surprise that one of these city gates in Königsberg was called “Brandenburg Gate”. BUT – the Brandenburg Gate in Köngisberg wasnt named after the usual suspect Brandenburg an der Havel, but after the east Prussian village of Brandenburg 20km or so to the west of Königsberg.
The gate had two passages in the middle and was equipped with a drawbridge spanning over a moat. While not as ornate as some of the other gates, the Brandenburger Tor in Königsberg was built in a neo gothic style giving it an slightly more delicate appearance.
When the Soviets encircled and the captured Königsberg, particularly heavy fighting had broken out around the Brandenburger Tor, though the gate seemingly survived the war intact (unlike the rest of the city). The Soviet Union annexed the region after expelling all germans, and renamed the city to Kaliningrad. Unlike its counterpart in Stettin, the Soviets merely russified the name to Бранденбу́ргские воро́та (Brandenburg Gate).
The Brandenburg Gate was restored in 2014 as the gate had suffered sustained damage over the years as both trams and cars still run through the city gate. A marzipan museum is now located within the building.