The Nikolai quarter, known to Berliners as the Nikolaiviertel, is the oldest residential area of Berlin. With its medieval lanes and numerous restaurants and bars, it is one of the favorite destinations for visitors to Berlin.
Berlin’s identity is at the focus of the Nikolai quarter. Today, the quarter also is a document of its own reconstruction and the history of the GDR. The same applies for the images and decorations on the facades and buildings, in alleys and places: They are not simply a remembrance of long-gone centuries.
Founded about 1200, the Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter) of Alt-Berlin, together with the neighbouring settlement of Cölln, is the reconstructed historical heart of the German capital Berlin. It is located in Mitte locality (in the same-named district), five minutes away from Alexanderplatz.
In the Middle Ages, a trade route went through this area. Artisans and merchants settled at the junction of river and road. Circa 1200, the St. Nicholas church was built, a late Romanesque stone basilica. The church developed round a settlement with two main areas: Berlin, which was a somewhat larger settlement locate east of the river Spree and Cölln, which was situated directly across from Berlin on the western shore.
Until the Second World War, the district was characterized by inns, stores, farms and small businesses. Artists such as Kleist, Hauptmann, Ibsen, Casanova, Strindberg or Lessing either lived or stayed here. The area, however, was largely destroyed by bombing in 1944 and for a long time it laid in ruins.
Only between 1981 and 1987, in the run-up to the 750th anniversary of Berlin, did reconstruction work begin. The landscape of ruins was rebuilt by the architect Günter Stahn. Based on historical models. the houses and streets were recreated as accurately as possible, so that the illusion exists that one is actually visiting a piece of old Berlin.
The main attractions, in addition to the St. Nicholas church, include the Ephraim Palace, a masterpiece of palace architecture of the 18th century Berlin. Equally beautiful is the Baroque style Knoblauch house built in 1760, which offers insight into world of the upper middle class world through its rooms and valuable furniture.