Discovering the Oldest House in the City Center

Berlin's Hidden Gem in the City Center

Just like any city, you can discover some interesting things if you step off the beaten track. After a day of visiting the world-class museums on Fischer Island (or, Museum Island), few people wander down the nearby and seemingly empty Breite Strasse to the south of the Humboldt Forum, which is itself a partial reconstruction of the old Royal Palace.

Breite Strasse, which means "wide street," is a common name in German cities. It usually marks one of the oldest and most important streets in any medieval town, the main commercial road. It was the wide street because it needed to be, being a major artery and a trade center.

This Breite Strasse, however, was not medieval Berlin's main commercial street, because 700 or more years ago, this place was not actually in Berlin, it was in Berlin's neighbouring town of Colln. So that alone makes it worth stepping down the street.

Berlin expanded over the centuries and Colln was incorporated into its stronger neighbour in 1710. It played host to the royal and then imperial part of the metropolis and was badly damaged in the war, especially in the final days of the Battle of Berlin.

So it comes as a surprise, given the desolation caused by the war and later DDR reconstruction, to find at number 35 Breite Strasse the Ribbeck-Haus, which holds the distinction of being Berlin's sole surviving building from the late-Renaissance era, and also the oldest residential structure in the city. It was constructed in 1624, and commissioned by Chamber Councilor Hans Georg von Ribbeck himself.

What you see today is the result of many alterations over the centuries, but still, it IS the oldest house in the city center. So, if you're visiting the Humboldt Forum or Museum Island, take a few minutes and detour down to see it. If nothing else, you'll have seen something most visitors miss. It's a nice way to feel like a local for a day!

Photo: Ribbeck-Haus. (2022, September 11). In Wikipedia.
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