8 Things to do in Tempelhofer Feld
Thousands of people lounge on the grass, events - planned and impromptu - pop up across the giant field and in the former terminals, and swarms of wheeled vehicles roll down the runway. Wait...runway?
That's right! This former airport turned massive park is one of the most popular hang-outs in Berlin. Formally entitled Tempelhofer Field or Tempelhofer Freiheit, it is more commonly called Tempelhof Park or simply Tempelhof. Located between the neighborhoods of Neukölln and Tempelhof, it is just south of the city center.
Once the site of the historic Berlin Airlift, it became a listed building In 1995 and sat abandoned after is was closed in October 2008. Should it be developed into low-income housing, luxury high-rises, or perhaps be left as a massive park? Somehow, the referendum to leave it as a park won out and the site is now the largest urban park in Berlin.
- Admission: Free
- Address: 12099 Berlin
- Map of the park: http://www.tempelhoferfreiheit.de/en/visit/map-and-route/
- Opening Hours: The exact opening hours are set according to the seasons. In general, the park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
- Public transport: S41, S42, S46, S47 S-Bahn station Tempelhof; U6 U-Bahn station Tempelhof or Paradestraße; U7 U-Bahn station Südstern; U8 U-Bahn station Hermannplatz, Leinestraße, Boddinstraße; Bus 104 to bus stop Friedhöfe Columbiadamm or Golßener Straße.
Take a Tour
The airport turned park is one of the most fascinating places for history in Berlin - which is saying something.
Tempelhof was built on the site of a smaller airport which was once used to test some of the world's first aircraft like airships and balloons. The Humboldt balloon was launched from here on March 1, 1893.
Tempelhof Airport was developed by the Nazis between 1936 and 1941. It was meant to impress with long windows that let light into its massive halls. However, it was never completed as they had to focus on the war effort.
It was freed by the Red Army in 1945 and handed over to US. The airport remained in use, but only partially. The Americans occupied Tempelhof from 1945 to 1993.
But its most iconic moment was in June 1948 when Soviet authorities stopped all traffic to the western sectors of Berlin, hoping to gain total control of the area. This meant that the only way to supply Western Berliners with necessities was by using three air corridors across the Soviet Zone. For almost an entire year all supplies for 2.5 million residents had to be delivered by air. And they did it with over 200,000 flights delivering nearly 9,000 tons of fuel and food. On May 12th, 1949 the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin.The Berlin Airlift was one of the major international crises of the Cold War.
Despite this historic event, the airport never reached full use. It was used as a warehouse, race track, and miscellaneous hall. It was still used for private air traffic, but was underutilized.
The decision of what to do with the airport was contentious, but in May 2014 a majority of voters chose to keep Tempelhof open as a park. It will remain as such until at least 2024.
Today the airport is owned by the city of Berlin. It is one of the best remaining examples of Nazi architecture in Berlin. Discovering its fascinating history on a guided tour of the grounds or the remaining buildings.
Ride the Runway
There is something wonderfully surreal about walking on an airport runway. It still evokes the feeling of a slightly verboten activity, even with the masses of other visitors.
Better then walking the massive expanse of the park is traversing them by bike. Even a novice rider will relish the opportunity to speed along the crumbling tarmac. This is also the perfect setting for kids to learn to ride so watch out for beginning riders shakily making their way down the dotted line.
Expect to find more than your average city bike or fixie at Tempelhof. Vehicles of all kinds roll along the tracks from unicycles to segweys to land windsurfing or "street sailing”.
Feast with Friends
There are few things locals like to do more than get together and have a grill party. Whether it is just you and a friend or a family clan of 20 plus, Templehof provides enough room to spread out.
Grilling in city parks is becoming increasingly limited, but there are three designated areas in Templelhof.
View the Sights
This open space is an attraction in itself, but from its vast landscape visitors can also catch stunning views of the Fernsehturm and surrounding city scape in the distance.
On the ground, look for signs of the site's interesting past like the German eagles on numerous buildings.
Participate in Events & Festivals
On any random day you may find a pop and lock competition, Hipster Olympics or a full-on festival or concert. Imagine partying at a historic air field with up to 20,000 partiers.
Bring a Furry Friend
While Berlin parks are plentiful, there is nothing like finding room to run in the city. If you bring a dog, they can enjoy loping around and rolling in the green. Dogs are welcome throughout the park on a leash, and there are three large dog runs where they may run free
Among the park's many uses, one of its most important is its current mission as a refugee camp. This is Germany's largest refugee shelter with space for up to 7,000 migrants.
Quarters are cramped, but they do offer amenities like Wi-Fi and a fairly safe space for families new to Germany. The government is working to secure better homes for the refugees, but while they are here they have a voice in how it is run.
Get involved at Tempelhof Park
The park is not just somewhere to observe, you can get involved in the community gardens or propose a new project.
Projects seek to increase the site's usefulness to the community with a watchful eye from the government. Find a full list of current and future projects here: gruen-berlin.de.