Hidden Berlin: Exploring the City’s Abandoned & Underground Spaces - Atlas Obscura

Berlin, Germany

Hidden Berlin: Exploring the City’s Abandoned & Underground Spaces

On this carefully curated tour, we’ll skirt the city’s traditional tourist sites in favor of its hidden wonders, welcoming you into a lesser-known Berlin.

Berlin is a city that has always drawn people who see the world differently and are eager to push boundaries. Full of creatives with dynamic visions, Berlin is a magnet for innovation. Across the city, no stone is left unturned—underused mall parkades become beer gardens; public bathhouses become luxury hotels; wartime bunkers become art galleries; airport runways become picnicking and kite-surfing spots. Restaurants are tucked into dark alleys, behind unassuming doors and within inner courtyards.


This trip is best for people who are...

  • Curious about Berlin’s complex history and hidden corners.
  • Ready to walk 4 to 5 miles a day, whether descending into a WWII bunker or climbing up a former NSA listening tower.
  • Open to spontaneous visits and chance encounters, since the best moments are often unplanned.
  • Expecting the unexpected, especially when it comes to daily schedules.
  • Eager to make the most of each day—when you’re exploring an air raid shelter, touring a historic ballroom, and dining at a hidden restaurant, you’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

Over the course of our immersive explorations, we'll visit sites that long-time residents may never have laid eyes on—and of course, enjoy plenty of delicious food and drink along the way.

This trip is limited to a small group of 10 travelers.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Abandoned and subterranean history: Explore Berlin's past both above and below ground, from air raid and refugee shelters to an abandoned NSA listening station that overlooks the city skyline.
  • Art and urban innovation: From historic ballrooms and quirky museums to cutting-edge street art, Berlin is home to creatives young and old, local and international.
  • After-dark explorations: A special, torch-lit tour of Teufelsberg will give us the best views of the night skyline and a fascinating glimpse into the city's alternative subculture.

Note: If this will be your first trip to Berlin, we recommend staying a few extra days before or after the tour to visit the more traditional tourist sites. These include the Jewish Museum, the Berlin Cathedral, Kurfürstendamm, Charlottenburg Palace, Potsdamer Platz, Pergamon Museum, Grunewald Forest, Soviet Memorial, Alexanderplatz, the old Reichstag building, and the Gendarmenmarkt. Keep in mind that due to the dynamic nature of Berlin (and the occasional permit withdrawal from the government), some activities in this written itinerary may be adjusted to ensure you are seeing what makes Berlin so special—right now.

QUESTIONS?

Please email us at trips@atlasobscura.com or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

Itinerary
Baranduin Briggs
Day 1
Welcome to Berlin!
  • Arrive in Berlin and check into our group's accommodations at your leisure. Now a spunky boutique hotel filled with art, the Oderberger was originally built in 1898 as a public bathhouse. It survived WWII unscathed, and hotel guests can still swim in the original art deco pool.
  • This evening, we'll meet for a drink in the hotel’s Fireplace Lounge for a welcome and introduction to your guide and fellow travelers. We'll then take a brief historical tour of the premises before heading over to dinner, where we'll enjoy locally sourced food while surrounded by myriad bottles of tonics and potions, preserved from the building's previous life a pharmacy.
  • Afterwards, head in for a good night's rest, or feel free to explore some of the city's famous nightlife.
Baranduin Briggs
Day 2
Tempelhof & Teufelsberg
  • After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll travel by subway to Tempelhof Airport. Our private tour will give us a fascinating glimpse into a historically protected landmark and symbol of Berlin's turbulent history. Built as an expression of Nazi ideology, Tempelhof drags with it a history of forced labor and weapons production. But due to the important role it played in Berlin Airlifts of 1948 and 1949, it is also a symbol for freedom. Its empty main hall, restaurants, and cellars remain a photographer’s eerie dream. More recently, the runways and fields have been converted into a giant and lively public park, while the airport building itself is home one of the largest refugee shelters in the city. 
  • We'll then stop for a relaxing lunch at a spot along a canal boardwalk that'll have you feeling like you’re on a bayou in Louisiana rather than in the middle of Berlin.
  • After some time to wander and take dinner on your own, we'll enjoy an evening of unusual, after-dark exploration: a torchlight tour of Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain), Berlin’s highest hill. Perched atop this hill you'll find an abandoned NSA listening station, used during the Cold War and abandoned after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We'll enjoy the best nighttime views of the Berlin skyline and get a fascinating glimpse into Teufelsberg’s history and the city's alternative subculture. 
Baranduin Briggs
Day 3
Bunkers & Ballrooms
  • After breakfast at the hotel, we'll set out for a private tour of "The Bunker." Originally built in 1942 as an air raid shelter, this historic structure has had many lives—as a prisoner-of-war camp, a textiles storeroom, a fruit storage facility, and later a popular techno club. The Bunker is now a beautiful 32,000-square-foot exhibition space housing a personal art collection.
  • We'll then enjoy lunch and a tour of Clärchen’s Ballhaus, one of the city's most special venues. Founded in 1913 by the businessman Fritz Bühler and his wife Clara, Clärchen’s Ballhaus has become a microcosm of history and an embodiment of the essence of Berlin.
  • Our last stop of the day will be at the spectacularly surreal Design Panoptikum. Half design museum, half horror house of the imagination, the “space carnival atmosphere” is filled with a spooky yet whimsical world of doll-like mechanical monsters and bizarre figures, designed out of historical objects from aviation, medicine, and film.
  • We'll gather for dinner at a hidden restaurant where we'll have to knock before being permitted entry. If you still have energy after dinner, set out to explore some of the surrounding nightlife.
Baranduin Briggs
Day 4
Subterranean Shelters & Street Markets
  • Today we’ll venture underground at Berliner Unterwelten (Subterranean Berlin), where an expert guide will take us behind an inconspicuous green door in a subway station to explore one of the last remaining civilian air raid shelters in Berlin. In the dark passages and confined rooms of the shelter, we'll learn about the experiences of average Berliners during World War II.
  • Next we’ll make our way westward to the extraordinary Bikini House (Bikinihaus), Germany’s first concept shopping mall. This building provides a fascinating glimpse into creative architecture and design. After exploring the building inside and out, we’ll have lunch while enjoying impressive views over the zoo and Berlin.
  • After lunch we’ll make a quick stop at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche (Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church), a ruin left standing in the middle of city as a warning about the atrocities of war.
  • Today will wind down at Berlin’s most popular indoor street food market. This lively weekly event is the best place to discover what’s new and exciting on the city's food scene.
Baranduin Briggs
Day 5
Adaptive Reuse & Mobile Farms
  • Today we’ll zoom in on how the city is being transformed by creative collectives. We’ll begin at the Holzmarkt, which has evolved from a wooden shack serving as open-air techno hub in an abandoned lot on the river Spree into a quirky urban oasis with restaurants, cafés, artist studios, an outdoor beer garden, and of course, a techno club.
  • We’ll cross over the river and make our way to the Bethanian. Originally built in the mid-1800s as a hospital, it was abandoned in the 1960s and slated for demolition. A group of artists swooped in, squatted there, and transformed the building into studios, galleries, and workshop space. The Bethanian has since gone through many more lives, but it continues to be a magnet for alternative cultural movements and has launched the careers of over 950 contemporary artists. We’ll spend some time looking around, and then enjoy lunch in the transformed hospital kitchen.
  • On our final afternoon, we'll explore a few lesser-known places in the district of Kreuzberg on our way to the Princess Gardens (Prinzessinnengärten), a mobile urban farm launched on a site which had languished as a wasteland for over half a century. It's now a place where those curious about sustainable living and democracy can come together to learn about and explore alternative visions for their city—and also a great green space for coffee and cake!
  • Afterwards, we'll raise a glass to our time together atop an underutilized mall parkade in the gentrifying neighborhood of Neukoelln. We'll then share a final dinner together at a special Berlin location. 
Day 6
Farewell & Departure
  • Today, catch flights home or onto your next destination—or perhaps spend a few more days exploring Berlin. Our guide will be happy to provide additional recommendations.
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print

 

YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA BERLIN EXPEDITION INCLUDES

  • All lodging in double-accommodation rooms in modern, well-equipped hotels throughout the trip. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $490. Otherwise we'll work to place singles of the same gender together.)
  • 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 3 dinners during your trip.
  • An experienced bilingual guide accompanying you throughout the trip.
  • Admission to all proposed activities and events.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Berlin has to offer!

ACTIVITY LEVEL

This tour requires a medium fitness level and the ability to walk and/or stand for long periods of time. Guests should expect to walk upwards of 5 to 7 miles over the course of any given day and spend significant time outdoors. All transportation will be by foot or by public transit.

FLIGHTS

You should plan to arrive in Berlin by 4 p.m. on Monday, August 26. Your departure can be planned for anytime on Saturday, August 31. We encourage you to extend your stay if this will be your first visit to Berlin, and are happy to help arrange extra hotel nights.

NOTE ON ITINERARY

Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.

PAYMENT

You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final balance of $2,025 is due by June 18, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $490 will be included in the final payment.

TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR

  • Transportation and flights to and from Berlin.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (optional).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including two dinners, one lunch, and most alcoholic beverages.
  • If applicable, applying for a German visa (not required for E.U. and U.S. citizens).

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