Paris — Berlin: Alike unalikes

Having something in common” does not mean “being the same”. This is the more true for Paris and Berlin: Both cities have a lot in common. They are global players, defining themselves over art and culture, economy and politics. In these cities dreams are being born and sometimes materialize. At the same time these places symbolize a dream for many people: To visit the city or even live in it is a dream many people share. 

What is the essence of these places? Where are differences, where crosscutting relationships?


If there is a verb which cha­rac­te­ri­zes Paris, it is “to be”. With every part Paris is, it is imper­tur­b­able across time. Paris is self-con­scious, mon­dane, maybe even arro­gant. Paris does­n’t have to proof anything. It is at ease with its past and incor­po­ra­tes it into the pre­sent. When the world comes to Paris it beco­mes a part of the city — inte­gra­ting, adap­ting, ready to con­quer.


Ber­lin is dif­fe­rent to that. It is the verb “to become”. A city which chan­ges, deve­lops, sear­ches. History is here con­tem­porary history, visi­ble in con­struc­tion sites, panels and new arti­fi­cial and often trans­pa­rent faca­des. Not Ber­lin defi­nes the people who come there, but the other way round: The people define what Ber­lin stands for. Ber­lin vibra­tes, chan­ges, adapts some­ti­mes even to the people.

History made in Paris…

Maybe the big­gest dif­fe­rence: Paris brea­thes anci­ent history, while Ber­lin is a key piece of modern history. In this regard both cities com­ple­ment each other per­fectly. In Paris it is espe­cially the time of the French Revo­lu­tion which is mir­ro­red. The motto of liberty, equa­lity and fra­ter­nity still is a cen­tral part of the French past and pre­sent. And not only there! A demo­cra­tic sys­tem with a divi­sion of powers, human rights, civil rights, begin­nings of a social sys­tem, enligh­ten­ment — all these are achie­ve­ments of the French Revo­lu­tion that shape the pic­ture of today’s Europe. 

Inte­res­tin­gly enough, also the Bran­den­burg Gate was erec­ted during this time, in 1788. 1806 both sto­ries come tog­e­ther: Napo­leon and his army con­quer Ber­lin. 1814 the Prus­sian tro­ops take part in the con­quest of Paris. And who wants to see a monu­ment from the Ger­man Cam­paign of 1813 in Ber­lin will find one in the “Vik­to­ria­park” in Kreuz­berg — com­bi­ned with a gor­ge­ous view on the city. 

…and Berlin

The move away from an aut­ho­ri­ta­rian sys­tem also is visi­ble in Ber­lin: Pro­bably best at the Bran­den­burg Gate. Here people embraced each other in 1989 — for the first time the gate was ope­ned on 22 Decem­ber. This set in motion a com­plete change across the con­ti­nent: The War­saw Pact col­lap­sed, the coun­tries of Eas­tern Europe acqui­red new and inde­pen­dent state­hood. Hence the fall of the Ber­lin Wall had an impact all over the con­ti­nent. After the col­lapse of the Sowiet Union 2004 and 2006 twelve sta­tes became new mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union. 

Better together

Paris and Ber­lin, Ger­many and France have yet not come ever clo­ser in an orga­nic move. French and Ger­man history has also been shaped by mili­tary con­tro­ver­sies: 1813 Prus­si­ans fought in Paris, 1870/71 the Franco-Prus­sian War took place. World War I and the Treaty of Ver­sailles, and World War II are other sad land­marks of a more than dif­fi­cult Franco-Ger­man rela­ti­ons­hip.

After World War II a time of radi­cally new ori­en­ta­tion began. In both sta­tes the under­stan­ding arose that the future can only be built upon the reflec­tion what we have in com­mon, not what divi­des us. The Euro­pean uni­fi­ca­tion began and with it the catch­word of the “Franco-Ger­man motor”.

Until today this com­mon way of doing things is a key basis for development(s) far bey­ond Ger­many and France. The con­vic­tion that it is worth to stress com­mo­na­li­ties, and to see dif­fe­ren­ces as enri­ching, not divi­ding fac­tors.

Places to connect: Paris

  • Square de Ber­lin” in 8th arron­dis­se­ment: 1999 the City of Paris deci­ded to name the place near Champs Ely­sées after the Ger­man capi­tal. It is com­ple­ted by a piece of the Ber­lin wall and a Ber­lin bear com­po­sed of flowers.
  • Co-Working space for the Franco-Ger­man com­mu­nity: The TWO near Place de la Répu­bli­que.
  • For cul­ture and lan­guage: The Goe­the Insti­tute at Ave­nue d’Iéna offers a wide variety:
  • Cur­ry­wurst: Also the culi­na­rian high­light is pre­sent in Paris. Opti­ons are a Foodtruck Highlights info row, the restau­rant Wun­der­bär ( at Rue Beaure­paire or Café Titon ( at Rue Titon.

Places to connect: Berlin

  • In the city there is a choice of pla­ces: The French Cathe­dral at  Gen­dar­men­markt reminds of the history of the huge­nots who fled in 17th cen­tury to Ber­lin to be able to prac­tice their reli­gion freely. 1814 the place in front of the “Bran­den­burg Gate was named to “Pari­ser Platz” . Also in the for­mer French sec­tor in Wed­ding and Rei­ni­cken­dorf many traces can be found.
  • Who is in love with French food should visit the bak­ery “Du Bon­heur” at  Brun­nen­straße (, as well as Paris Bar at Kant­straße ( which is a mee­ting place for the Ber­lin art scene.
  • For all shopa­ho­lics: In Ber­lin you will find one of the few Gale­ries Lafay­ette out­side France: Fran­zö­si­sche Straße 23, metro Fran­zö­si­sche Straße. In the evening you may want to see a movie in the Cinéma Paris at Kant­straße.

What do you think? What is the mea­ning of these pla­ces to you?

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