The structure was built on an island situated at the strategic point where the Havel and the Spree Rivers intersect. Construction took three and a half decades, from 1559 to 1594, in accordance with original designs by Francesco Chiaramella de Gandino. The citadel was created for the protection of Spandau, an area that has since become part of Berlin.
The building was considered exemplary with regard to its purposes. Its bastion system, for instance, was renowned for its lack of blind spots where enemies could congregate hidden from view. The first attack on the citadel came from the Swedes in 1675. Napoleon’s forces captured it in battle in 1806 when it was almost entirely destroyed. It was subject to extensive restoration efforts following the attack.
In the 1930s, the Spandau Citadel was used as a military research center, where German forces tested the effects of nerve gas. By the end of World War II, the citadel was actually used as part of Nazi fortifications. Even in the 20th century, the citadel’s clever designs made it difficult to capture. The Soviets ultimately sieged it by surrounding the citadel with troops to prevent escape.
After the war and subsequent negotiations, the citadel was briefly under the control of the British, when it served as a state prison for Prussian inmates. Coincidentally, Nazi prisoners were held elsewhere in Spandau instead.
Today, the citadel stands as one of the most well preserved Renaissance fortresses of its kind, making it a living museum where visitors can observe over 900 years worth of architectural tradition. Since the fall of the Wall in 1989, the citadel has functioned as a cultural center, open to the public.
You can tour the premises, and enjoy concerts along with other festivals and theatrical productions here, but now you know the history of this iconic spot in Berlin.