Bowie Berlin Tours

I recently enjoyed a brief holiday in the capital of Germany, Berlin. The city is rich with modern history and everywhere you look there’s a potential point of interest. I can honestly say it was one of the most educational and enriching holidays I’ve ever been on.

No discussion of the political landscape of Berlin over the last 100 years would be complete without mention of the music scene that grew organically within the city from the late 1970s onwards that produced some of the greatest works of the era, inspired by the unique make-up of a city split in two and equally inspiring those living there. It is a music scene that also arguably helped to bring down the wall (or factually if you are the German Foreign Office).

Spearheading the scene was David Bowie, who in 1976 was out of money and keen to break away from the LA drug scene that had facilitated his addiction to cocaine. It was there that he famously completed his ‘Berlin Trilogy’: Low, “Heroes” and Lodger [1], which kickstarted his career and helped him on his road to recovery.

If you’re in Berlin and have an interest in David Bowie the you’ll definitely want to make sure you sign up to the Berlin Bowie Walk, operated by the Berlin Music Tours company. For a relatively small fee you will be guided around the famous city for around three hours, taking in the outside of the famous Hansa Studios (where he recorded throughout his time there); Potsdamer Platz (you can now get the train there!); the Brandenburg Gate; the Reichstag, which was the site of his famous 1987 performance; and his flat in Schöneberg.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can return on a second day and visit the inside of Hansa Studio, standing in the Hall by the Wall and looking out from the former control studio through the window from the same spot Bowie where famously wrote the lyrics to “Heroes” – the precise details of which were debated by the many Bowie übergeeks during my tour.

I’ve been purposefully scant on the details of the tour because I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment, but both sessions were truly special experiences and brought me closer to one of my favourite artists.

The studio tour was actually Depeche Mode focused, but that wasn’t a huge problem. In fact, it was great to be able to learn a lot about a band that are surprisingly famous outside the UK. They recorded most of their most successful music at Hansa and this was clearly a pilgramage for many of those on the tour. They run several tours that are focused on different artists, including U2 and David Bowie. Sadly as yet Lou Bega hasn’t been given a tour yet [2].

If I have one recommendation it’s that both tours overran on their expected finish time. This meant we got great value for money each day but if you have something else booked in (for example a visit to the Reichstag) then you should leave at least two hours at the end of the tour to do your next activity. On the walking tour you end up at Café Neues Ufer, which was a former favourite spot of Bowie and Iggy Pop to drink in – we ended up spending over two hours in there and didn’t want to leave!

These tours are excellent value for money and packed full of anecdotes from people who are passionate about their subject. When that subject is David Bowie, it’s a no-brainer!

[1] The trilogy is often referred to as such despite Low being written prior to Bowie’s arrival in Berlin and Lodger actually being recorded in Switzerland.

[2] Lou Bega recorded his infamous ‘Mambo No. 5’ track in the late 1990s with some of the producers who now work at Hansa, a fact recognised by the double-platinum proudly on display in the lobby area of the studio.

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