Lonely Planet Writer

Help take down the Berlin Wall in Washington DC’s Newseum

The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 was celebrated worldwide. Now, through the wonder of virtual reality, you can relive that moment, today, on the other side of the Atlantic. The Newseum in Washington has created a highly interactive experience combining VR headsets, controllers and a sledgehammer to fully immerse visitors in what it would have been like to physically tear the wall down.

Berlin Wall exhibit at the Newseum in Washington DC. Image by Sam Kittner/Newseum

The exhibition is made up of four 10 X 10 foot spaces, equipped with the necessary technical paraphernalia to virtually step back in time. During the seven-minute-journey into the past, visitors can view both sides of the wall and mingle with citizens from east and west. Audio headsets play former President Ronald Reagan’s famous 1987 speech, featuring the famous quote ‘Tear down this wall!’, while before your eyes, guards scour the top of the structure searching for ‘wall-jumpers’. Visitors can walk around the historical surroundings and even discover a secret tunnel that allowed people to flee the oppressive East and enter West Berlin. The experience culminates with participants using a real-life sledgehammer to swing at the wall, made only of pixels.

The infamous Berlin Wall was erected practically overnight, running through the centre of the city and wrapping around West Berlin entirely. The 91-mile structure, fortified over 28 years to include trenches and electric fencing, was torn down almost as swiftly when the borders were finally reopened.

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The exhibit has been hugely popular so far, so do expect queues and get there early as the space can only facilitate 125 people in one day.