Berlin is one of Europe’s most creative thriving cultural hubs with more than 170 museums spread across the city to tempt most travellers during their quest for inspiration and knowledge. But as all budget travellers know, museums can empty your wallet pretty darn quickly, especially if you aren’t there for the free evenings or qualify for a reduced price.
That’s where the joy of Berlin and its turbulent past come into play, creating giant museums from abandoned buildings that are free to explore.
Some of the buildings were abandoned by the Nazis, some by the Soviets and some by the Americans when they occupied West Berlin. The best thing about them is the powerful, rich stories they have to tell and the fact that they let you touch and experience a snippet of history without having to navigate crowds…
Teufelsberg, or Devil’s Mountain, has become one of Berlin’s favorite day trips and hangouts. It can be found in the north section of West Berlin’s Grunewald forest; standing out against the cities flat landscape. The hill itself is made from tons of rubble heaped up after World War II, in attempt to bury a Nazi military training base that the Allied troops failed to destroy.
They then decided to use this height advantage to build a big, not so inconspicuous listening station to spy on East Berlin. Holes in the fence are easily found, and it is more than likely there will be others enjoying the views with you too.
2. Krampnitz Military Base
For all visitors exploring Berlin, Potsdam is normally one place to see and explore. But when the pretty castles and palaces become a little repetitive, there is an abandoned military base waiting not so far away. Like most abandoned places in Berlin, Krampnitz was first a base for the Nazis until the Soviets came and took over.
This resulted in a range of different building and decoration styles and influences. The base is huge and will take a full day to explore and there is also an un-official task set for all urban explorers to find the Eagle; good luck to you all!
3. Iraq Embassy
Embassies are not my favorite places in the world but this one is a little bit different than the others. The former Iraqi Embassy for East Germany was deserted 20 years ago when the wall fell, leaving inside books, documents and rusted typewriters long past there use by date.
It is obvious once you enter that visitors like to come here to drink and hang out but seeing as the building is smack bang in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, I would recommend against this. Just enjoy traipsing through the rubble and attempting to read the Iraq tourist pamphlets left behind.
4. Beelitz-Heilstätten (Hospital)
Beelitz Hospital was erected as a sanatorium and used as a military hospital during WWI. Story even has it that Hitler himself spent time there recuperating from a leg wound. Today the place is tightly boarded up but because of its popularity, many helpful hands have created sneaky entry points.
Eerie, dark underground tunnels link majority of the 60 buildings covering the site, proving to be both creepy and convenient; you decide!
5. Grabowsee Heilstätten (Hospital)
Yes, it is another hospital, this time built for treating tuberculosis patients. The main buildings are unnerving with dark corners and creaking floorboards, but still fun to explore. The smaller buildings hosted an art event last year, leaving the rooms and walls covered with amazing artwork.
It was the only time people were officially allowed onto the site, with inspiration coming from the crumbling walls and destroyed stairwells. The place is a little hard to find, but Abandoned Berlin has helpful hints to lead you there.
Located in south east Berlin, only around 30 minutes from the city center is Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park. It is probably one of the hardest to explore without being caught by a guard and made to delete photos, but that is all part of the fun.
Within the closed walls there are swan boats floating aimlessly in ponds, roller-coaster tracks protruding from a giant clown’s mouth and giant dinosaurs grazing upon grassy areas. If the risk isn’t worth the worry, there are guided tours happening every weekend.
Of course there are many more places to be found. Even walking down an odd street will probably put you face to face with an abandoned building. That’s the fun of it all. So if you want to get a true feel for Berlin and Germany’s past, go exploring and who knows what you will find!
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Author bio: Rosie Coker runs Berlin travel site Travel Glam.