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Berlin TV Tower History | An icon of reunification in post-Cold War Berlin

Berlin TV Tower | The tallest building in Germany 

If you’re visiting the capital of Germany, a trip to the Berlin TV Tower, or Fernsehturm Berlin, as it is locally known, is not to be missed. At 368 metres (1,207 feet) tall, it is Germany’s tallest structure. Completed in 1969, it offers unparalleled sky-high views of the city and the surrounding countryside from its observation deck. Savour authentic Berlin cuisine while admiring the 360-degree views at the Sphere restaurant, which rotates on its axis every half an hour. The tower also offers a virtual reality experience that takes you through the tower’s construction process as well as the history of Berlin since the Middle Ages.

Berlin TV Tower timeline

  • 1965: Construction of the Berlin TV Tower begins, led by architect Hermann Henselmann.
  • 1969: The Berlin TV Tower is inaugurated and becomes publicly accessible to the citizens.
  • 1969–70: Broadcasting from the tower begins for television as well as radio channels.
  • 1972: The famous sky-high dining experience at the restaurant is opened. 
  • 1990: After German reunification, the government carries out renovations at the tower, including updating the broadcasting facilities.
  • 1997: The antenna is updated, raising the total height of the Berlin TV Tower from 365 metres to 368 metres.
  • 2011: The tower achieves a new milestone of 50 million official visitors.

Berlin TV Tower history explained

Construction begins at the Berlin TV Tower

Construction begins

After the initial planning was finalized, the construction of the Berlin TV Tower began in August 1945. Its location at the historic heart of the city meant that many older structures had to be demolished. The tower’s design came from renowned architect Hermann Henselmann. Many components were imported from West Germany, increasing construction costs and far exceeding the limit of the budget. The total cost of construction of the tower amounted to over €132 million.

Inauguration of the Berlin TV Tower

Inauguration of the Berlin TV Tower

The Berlin TV Tower was officially inaugurated on 3rd October 1969, marking the 20th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It was a celebrated affair, with politician Walter Ulbricht, his wife Lotte Ulbricht, and several other high-ranking officials in attendance. The guests of honor gave the starting signal for DFF 2, which was Germany’s second state channel, paving the way for the era of colour television in the country.

Broadcasting from the Berlin TV Tower begins

Broadcasting from the tower begins

The Berlin TV Tower began transmitting radio signals in February 1970, when 5 FM programs were broadcast. The first television program broadcast followed in April 1970. Its strategic location and height ensured signal reliability and widespread coverage across the city and beyond. In the years after the reunification of Germany in 1990, the tower’s equipment and infrastructure were modernized and expanded to adapt to digital broadcasting technologies. 

Opening of sky-high dining to the public at the Berlin TV Tower
Berlin TV Tower visited by over 50 million visitors

How & when was the Berlin TV Tower built?

With the foundation of the Berlin TV Tower laid in August 1965, work on its foot and the shaft began at a rapid pace. The construction of the shaft required a total of around 8,000 cubic meters of concrete. The builders followed a climbing construction method, where segments were hoisted up using cranes. 

By 1967, the shaft was erected and work began on the tower’s sphere. By 1969, most of the exteriors were finished and work continued on the tower’s interiors and the entrance pavilion. The builders faced a challenge in 1969, when water trickled into some of the interior spaces, requiring the sphere to be re-sealed and reworked. 

Fernsehturm Berlin was finally ready to be inaugurated in October 1969.

Berlin TV Tower today

Berlin TV Tower today

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Frequently asked questions about the Berlin TV Tower's history

What is the historical significance of the Berlin TV Tower?

The Berlin TV Tower was constructed by the government of East Germany during the height of the Cold War era. It was intended to demonstrate the strength and technological advancement of the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR). Following the reunification of Germany in 1990, it gained significance as a symbol of the two halves rejoining into a single democratic country.

How many years did it take to build the Berlin TV Tower?

It took 4 years to build the Berlin TV Tower, starting in 1965 and concluding in 1969.

Who built the Berlin TV Tower?

The Berlin TV Tower was constructed by a team of architects and engineers led by Hermann Henselmann, Jorg Streitparth, and Fritz Dieter.

What is the architectural style of the Berlin TV Tower?

The architecture of the Berlin TV Tower is often classified as a combination of modernist and futuristic design. The Space Race between the United States and Soviet Russia as well as Soviet Russia’s Sputnik satellite provided much of the inspiration for its design and its interiors.