Germany's capital of Berlin has a fascinating, must-visit site that transformed from a Nazi airport and rally area into one of the world's biggest open-space parks in an inner-city. Tempelhof Airport was developed by the Nazis between 1936 and 1941 but was never completed as efforts focused on the war effort. For years, the airport sat abandoned after it was closed to air traffic in October 2008.
In 2010, the airport became Tempelhofer Feld, nearly 954 acres (386 hectares) of green space where visitors and locals of all different backgrounds enjoy a diversity of recreational opportunities. You'll find live musical events, community gardens, and people doing everything from skating to biking to eating in a huge picnic area and walking their dogs, among other fun activities.
Tempelhofer Feld is located between the neighborhoods of Neukölln and Tempelhof, just south of the city center. The park has free admission at its three entrances (Columbiadamm, Tempelhofer Damm, and Oderstrasse); hours are dependent on the season.
The Tempelhof Airport, now Tempelhofer Feld, is one of the most interesting and unconventional places to see in Berlin, a city full of monumental history. Guided tours in English (private group tours are also available in several languages) cover the fascinating past of the airport building, which is Europe's largest monument. Get the scoop on legends about the history and architecture of the famous airport, including mysterious underground floors and tunnels leading to inner Berlin.
On an approximately 2-hour walking tour, you'll have a chance to learn about the Berlin Airlift, one of Templehof's most iconic moments in 1948 and 1949 that brought the airport worldwide fame. When the Soviets blocked land routes into West Berlin, the United States responded with a huge airlift of food, water, and medicine to the city surrounded by armed forces.
There is something wonderfully surreal about walking on an airport runway; it is not something most people have ever attempted. It still evokes the feeling of a slightly verboten (forbidden) activity, even with the masses of other visitors. And the modern park offers plenty of space for recreation, with 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) of paved former runways and taxiways.
Rather than traveling the enormous park on foot, you should get some wheels to see every inch. Expect to find more than your average city bike or fixer-upper at Templehofer Feld. Vehicles of all kinds roll along the tracks, from unicycles to skaters to segways to land windsurfers (street sailing).
Feast with Friends
There are few things Berlin locals like to do more than have a grilling party when the weather agrees. Whether it is just you and a friend or a family clan of 20 plus, Templehofer Feld provides enough room to spread out and offers some of the city's nicest areas to relax and throw around a frisbee.
The area also allows for a cookout, as long as you bring your own equipment. Make sure to set up your grill in the three designated areas near the park entrances and follow the park rules.
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 (television tower), Berlin’s tallest building at 1,207 feet (368 meters), visible throughout the city and built between 1965 and 1969. Views also include the surrounding cityscape and epic sunsets, all great to capture through photography and video.
On the grounds, look for signs of the site's curious past like the German eagles on numerous buildings. You'll also see that the park has become a home for many migrants in the form of a refugee camp that offers portable homes to those in need.
Participate in Events and Festivals
On any random day, you may find a pop and lock (urban dance from the 1970s) competition, a bird migration workshop, or a charity walk/run for people with HIV/AIDS. The park also hosts the City and Country Festival of Giant Dragons, in which huge kites are flown by world and European champions and about 100,000 visitors attend. Some people have weddings, birthdays, and other private events at the park. Big concerts take place as well; it's definitely a unique experience partying at a historic airfield with thousands of people.
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 to Templehofer Feld, they can enjoy loping around the sprawling site and rolling in the green. Canines are welcome throughout the park on a leash, and there are large runs where they may move about freely. Outside of designated areas, dogs and other animals must be on a leash, and trash cans must be utilized for disposing of dog waste.
Get Involved at the Park
Templehofer Feld is not just somewhere to observe or enjoy recreation. Locals and visitors can get involved in the community gardens or propose a new idea to join the many diverse social and cultural projects taking place in the park since 2011. Numerous dedicated people and organizations have participated in projects to increase the site's usefulness to the community.
You'll find everything from a unicycling and circus school to outdoor science classes for children from select primary and secondary schools. Also interesting is Vogelfreiheit, an urban sports culture center and meeting place for skateboarders, dancers, BMXers, and more.