What looks like a sleek observation tower looming above the trees in the Tiergarten is actually one of the world’s heaviest instruments. A large cluster of bells is nestled within the structure, waiting to be played by the local carillonneur.
A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 bells that traditionally sits within a tower. It’s the second heaviest of all musical instruments (after large organs). To play a tune, the carillonneur, who sits inside a small cabin in the middle of the bells, hits the pedals and keys with his feet and clenched fists.
The carillon in Berlin ranks as the world’s fourth largest carillon. It rests within a freestanding 138-foot-tall tower that looms over the trees. Its 68 bells weigh nearly 106,000 pounds and cover 5.5 octaves. The largest bell weighs almost 17,200 pounds.
The CEO of Daimler-Benz AG gifted the enormous instrument to Berlin in 1987 to celebrate the city’s 750th birthday. Its bells have been filling the air with a chorus of dings and dongs ever since.
Know Before You Go
There are live concerts every Sunday at 3 p.m. from May to September featuring a blend of popular music, classic works, and typical carillon music (check the website for any changes to the schedule or special holiday performances). Automated music plays daily at noon and 6 p.m.
Tours of the carillon tower are offered after the concerts and are led by the carillonneur himself. You don't need to register—just show up at the bottom of the tower and wait. Be warned: there's no elevator, so you'll have to take the stairs to the top. Those who make the trek are rewarded with not only information about the instrument, but also a unique view of Berlin.