Founded in 1951 with financing from the Western Allies, the Berliner Festspiele was established in connection with Berlin’s International Film Festival (now the Berlinale) to bridge post-Cold War division with its cultural offerings. Its popular annual festivals and cultural programs promote young, emerging artists and authors, as well as those that are already internationally established and has earned it a deservedly excellent reputation for stimulating and eclectic programming.
In addition to its literary, music and theater festivals, the Berliner Festspiele also manages exhibitions at the Martin Gropius Bau and organizes the Berlin Lectures, a cold-weather series of discussions on contemporary topics by philosophers, artists, scientists, and politicians.
The building alone is worth a look. Originally designed by Berlin architect Fritz Bornemann—onetime student of Hans Poelzig—for the Freie Volksbühne, it first opened in 1963 and was renovated shortly before the Berliner Festspiele moved in. The building is an icon of Post-war Modernism, with its boxy, two-story structure clad in expansive glass facades and placed in a scenic garden landscape. The main theatre can seat over a thousand audience members and, true to its creator’s democratic ideals, provides an exquisite view of the stage from every direction.