Vacant buildings and land overruled by nature, Berlin’s abandoned sights are fascinating places to explore, particularly if you enjoy getting creeped out. Urban exploration or ‘Urbex’ is a culture that’s developed following the huge amount of interest around exploring abandoned man made structures and other lost places. From empty old industrial and sports facilities to overgrown amusement parks and railway lines, Berlin is a hotspot for urban explorers to dig beneath the surface of the city with their camera and discover what was once a hub of activity.
Our local experts, Romy and Alejandro, have put together all the lost places in Berlin you simply have to check out on your next visit to the city…
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Upon opening in 1929, the Siemensbahn railway line was one of the busiest in Berlin. In fact it was so busy that it was even extended further, making up almost 4.5 kilometers. The purpose of this section of railway line was to provide employees at Siemens with better transport links to work. It was incredibly popular and members of the public even used it on weekends to visit Tegel Forest. Since the company headquarters moved to Munich in the 50s, it all went downhill. Hardly anyone used the line anymore and once the Berlin Wall was built, numbers dwindled to a point that forced railway workers to go on strike and the line closed in 1980. Now, the derelict railway is overgrown and the stations are abandoned. If this is one for your Urbex bucket list you’d better get there soon, as there are talks of seeing the line in action again by 2025.
2. Olympic Village
In 1936, Berlin hosted the Olympic Games and built the Olympic Village to house the nearly 5,000 athletes for the duration of the competition. Now, the village is totally derelict and pretty eerie. After the war, the Soviet army took over the Olympic Village and built extra apartments to house the military personnel. When the last of them left in 1992, the village fell quiet and no one has used it since. Paid tours are available to explore the abandoned village with a guide who knows all the ins and outs of what each building was used for and by whom. Just take the hour and 15 minute train journey out of Berlin to Elstal, 40km west of the city.
3. Teufelsberg Spy Station
One of the more well-known lost places in Berlin is the former American listening station, Teufelsberg. Built in the 50s on top of rubble dumped in west Berlin after the Second World War, the huge domes were used by Americans during the Cold War to block and listen in on communications from the east up until 1989. Now, Teufelsberg is totally disused, and is simply an incredible gallery of graffiti with sweeping views over Berlin and Grunewald Forest, famous amongst urban explorers across the world. From Alexanderplatz the journey to Teufelsberg’s nearest S-Bahn station, Heerstrasse, is about 30 minutes, with a 2km walk through the woods to the hilltop. As the site is now privately owned, you’ll have to pay an €8 entrance fee to get into the site but for views like this it’s oh so worth the cost.
If you love photography, make sure Teufelsberg is on your Berlin bucket list as the view is one of the in the city.
4. Beelitz Heilstatten Military Hospital
Beelitz Heilstatten was a hospital complex of 60 buildings with a turbulent history. When it was built in 1898, the hospital was used to treat lung diseases such as tuberculosis Then during the First World War, many injured military men were brought in for treatment including Adolf Hitler which led him to use the complex during the Second World War, too. From 1945, the Soviets used Beelitz Heilstatten as their military hospital until 1995, treating a huge number of Communist party members. Part of the hospital is still used today, however the great majority has been left to rot and local residents have reported paranormal activities inside the complex. Now, anyone can visit and walk around the exterior of the building, however if you wish to explore inside you’ll have to book onto a guided tour.
5. Old Institute for Anatomy
Built in 1929, the former site of Freie Universitat Berlin’s Institute of Anatomy is without doubt one of the creepiest abandoned places in Berlin. The building was used as a place for students to practice autopsies, so you can imagine the sort of appliances that have been left behind. While a lot of the rooms were clearly classrooms and lecture halls, if you decide to explore further you’ll find autopsy tables, cadaver cabinets (to store dead bodies) and some bizarre circular sinks in the rooms on your way down to the basements. The facility has only been abandoned since 2005 after it moved to a more modern site in Mitte, but every window and piece of glass is completely destroyed and the walls taken over by graffiti. Only the really brave urban explorers should attempt to scope out this spot.
Standing 46 metres high up in Steglitz, this ugly looking building from the 70s is - perhaps unsurprisingly - now empty. Bierpinsel was built with the intention of being an architectural icon and an example of futuristic 70s design. Since its opening in 1976, the four floors of this bizarre mushroom-shaped building have been home to pubs, restaurants and a nightclub, but none of these lasted beyond 2002. Now, the whole thing is covered in impressive street art, painted in 2010 as part of the Turmkunst Project by artists from across the world.
7. Naturpark Südgelände
Not far south of Berlin is this decaying railway yard built in 1889. Unlike some of the other abandoned places on this list, Südgelände is easy to access and explore, and many people do for good reason. The former marshalling yard was shut down in 1952, and is now a nature conservation area having been taken over by a number of rare animal and plant species. This particular ‘forgotten’ spot in Berlin isn’t just great for urban explorers, but for those that simply enjoy the great outdoors. Wander through the trees on the steel walkways and spot the steel sculptures created by a group called ODIOUS, as well as the old railway tracks that have been purposely left as a nod to the site’s history. The park costs just €1 entry fee and is open daily from 9am until 4pm.
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8. Flughafen Tempelhof
At the time of opening in 1923, this now abandoned airport was one of the 20 largest buildings in the world, but was shut down on October 30th 2008 following a referendum on the matter. Now, the site is an enormous 355 hectare recreation park where locals go for picnics and drinks in the summer. What a lot of those don’t realise is they’re eating and drinking right next to a military facility, as part of the building is now used by the German army to monitor aviation traffic leaving and entering Berlin. The main abandoned building can only be entered under supervision from a tour leader, who will talk you through the airport’s Nazi and Cold War history.
9. Old Ice Factory
Just south of the river Spree between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, you’ll find Eisfabrik: Germany’s oldest surviving ice factory. The listed building first started churning out ice around the country in 1896, running for 99 years through two world wars and multiple fires before being abandoned in 1995 due to the depleting demand for ice . A giant ice machine was installed in Eisfabrik in 1914, allowing the factory to make huge blocks of ice which were supplied to pubs, breweries, fishmongers and households across the city before fridges were invented. Being a listed building, you can’t scope out the inside of the factory anymore, but the street art covering it is seriously impressive. Just get off the train at Berlin Ostbahnhof and walk two minutes to find this huge abandoned factory in the heart of the city.
10. Ballhaus Riviera
When it opened up in 1890, Ballhaus Riviera in Grünau was the place to be. It was a major attraction to anyone that loved to dance, hosting parties and festivals all through the year, but it was the Olympic Games in 1936 that boosted the venue’s reputation. From then on it often hosted famous international guests for a twirl on the dance floor. By the time the 1970s came around, the Charleston, the Foxtrot and the Shimmy were all dances of the past, and the Ballhaus Riviera was quickly being forgotten, so it closed its doors for good in the 1990. Now, bits of paint are flaking all over the floor, windows are smashed and the place is totally deserted. Head to Grunau S-Bahnhof by taking the S8 or S46, then walk towards the river and turn right at Regattastraße. You'll see the boarded up building a little way down.
11. Chemiewerk Rüdersdorf
Chemiewerk Rüdersdorf, an abandoned chemical factory in Tasdorf, started life as a cement factory in 1899, before Hitler demanded it be used to produce bauxite during the Second World War in order for more aircrafts to be manufactured. After the end of the war, the factory started producing phosphates used for farming before being left to stand alone in 1999 until now. Underground passages, fantastic views, countless rooms and a creepy stillness of this quiet concrete monster of a building all draw in the Urbex community. Now, the abandoned building is used in films and TVs, and is covered in graffiti - you might even find some by Berlin’s renowned street artist, PlotBot. Take care if you decide to visit and scope out the place as there are a number of safety hazards. Just keep your wits about you.
12. Weissensee Children’s Hospital
The hospital was the first municipal hospital for infants and children, and one of the most advanced medical facilities in Germany, built in an attempt to combat the rising mortality rate amongst children. This cutting edge facility was the first to incorporate ideas such as a surrounding park for children to get fresh air, and an on-site dairy farm for fresh milk to give to patients, their families and the hospital’s neighbours. The children’s infirmary closed down in 1997 and has since fallen into disrepair, making it a top spot for urban explorers to get their thrills. If you manage to enter one of the large, creepy buildings, you’ll see peeling walls, fallen bannisters up the 5 flights of stairs and graffiti covering each room. Take care with each step if you end up inside, as a lot of the flooring is extremely patchy.