Lisa Owen

Berlin wall

There’s more than one way to explore Berlin – and one of them is to go underground. For history buffs or those simply interested in finding out more about Germany in World War II, joining a tour on what lies beneath Berlin’s streets is a must do on your itinerary. Berlin Unterwelten offers a number of interesting and informative tours in German, English and Spanish to provide visitors with an insight into what happened in the city during World War II.

Their most popular tour is the Dark Worlds Tour – a 90 minute tour that takes you into an air raid shelter above Berlin’s U Bahn (subway) line. The air raid shelter is actually the subway’s ceiling and was simply empty space between the subway and the street before it was repurposed during World War II.

Air raid shelters

Air raid shelters and bunkers were commonplace across Berlin in World War II as the city was a key target for Allied bombing raids. The majority of the air raid shelters have since been filled in or destroyed but as the Gesundbrunnen shelter was the ceiling of the subway, it remained. About 80 per cent of the Berlin city centre was razed by bombing in the war and the people that survived did so by hiding in public shelters, bunkers or basements.

The tour takes you through the air raid shelter, which contains museum exhibits of items that were inside the shelters or date back to World War II. The guide leads you through each room and explains what it would have been like to have been down here.

The most interesting parts of the tour included learning about the use of glow in the dark paint on the walls (which still has a glow today), the experiences of Berliners during the war, and what life was like after the war and the resourcefulness of Berliners to survive with little food or shelter. Museum exhibits included bomb casings that were repurposed into kitchenware and tyres used to make shoe heels.

One interesting fact I learnt is that Berlin was once mostly flat. Any hills you see are likely to be rubble mountains – piles of rubble from buildings destroyed during World War II. There are more than 100 rubble mountains across Berlin. Also, because Berlin is built on marshland – there are also many unexploded bombs in the ground and they are regularly located – usually one every few months.

The Dark Worlds tour is run in English at 11am Wednesdays to Mondays. Tickets are €11 and you have to pay with cash. You can only buy tickets on the day of the tour so you need to arrive early. The ticket booth opens at 10am, and a queue starts forming about 9.30am. The ticket booth is located at 105 BrunnenStrasse, outside the southern entrance of Gesundbrunnen UBahn station facing the Humboldthain Park. For more information, you can visit the website at www.berliner-unterwelten.de

You can also take a tour of the partially destroyed Flak Towers across the street from the Gesundbrunnen UBahn station.

Berlin Germany

The hill leading to the Flak Towers from the rose garden in Humboldthain Park is one of Berlin’s ‘rubble mountains’. You can opt to take a walk up to the tower for free and get a good view of Berlin or pay for a tour to see inside one of the collapsed towers with Berlin Underwelten. The tour takes you to three of the original seven floors of one of the towers so you see collapsed ceilings and cave like interiors. Closed footwear is essential.

Berlin Unterwelten also offers a number of other tours including an informative tour about the East Germans who attempted to escape during the time of the Berlin Wall by tunnelling underground.

You can still see part of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery, located near the Ostbahnhof train station. The remaining section of the Berlin Wall is now a haven for artists which produce works on their walls.

You can walk along the wall to check out the artwork and also get a view of the Spree River. Not far from the East Side Gallery is the old Oberbaumbrucke brick bridge, which once formed part of the border between East and West Berlin when the Berlin Wall was in existence. Other places to visit during your stay in Berlin is Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate and Topographie des Terrors.

Berlin Germany

The Topographie des Terrors is a documentation centre built on the site of the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office during the Third Reich. The centre contains a wealth of information about before, during and after World War II between the years 1933-1945. There are even some ruins of the former buildings behind the information panels.

Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognizable symbols of Berlin. It was completed in 1791, but suffered considerable damage in World War II but has since been restored. Head there early if you can or you’ll be surrounded by people with selfie sticks. Nearby is the powerful but sombre Holocaust Memorial – a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

For shopping, head to AlexanderPlatz – marked by the 368 metre TV Tower that you can see from most parts of the city. For views of Berlin, you can pay the €19.50 to get a view of Berlin from the Observation Deck, or you can save some serious coin and head down the road and pay just €4 to get views of the city from the terrace at the Park Inn Hotel. You can buy tickets from the concierge then take the lift up to floor 32. 

Berlin Germany

If you’re a street art fan, you’ll find plenty of it in Berlin. Apart from the Berlin Wall, Kreuzberg is also a hot spot for street art. Head to Wilhemstrausse for a colourful mural of an elephant, and just around the corner is another couple of murals on an apartment building.

Berlin Germany

There’s also some pretty murals down an alleyway near the Hackescher Market. Look for the cinemas Haus Schwarzenberg. There’s also some bars and cafes down the alleyway.

Berlin Germany

If you’re looking for some tasty food, fruit or souvenirs to take home, take a look at the Hackescher Market. There’s also a number of restaurants and cafes here if you want a bite to eat.

Speaking of eating, if you love burgers then you need to try Burgermeister. The lines are long but the burgers are pretty tasty. There’s only a few tables at Burgermeister so you might want to plan to takeaway. Get there before 7.30pm to avoid the queue.

Things You Should Know:

  • It’s super easy to get around Berlin. You have the U-Bahn (subway), S-Bahn (above ground), trams and buses. You can buy a daily ticket for the A,B regions (City Centre) for €7 which is valid for all city services until 3am the next day. Most stations have maps to help you find your way. You can buy tickets from machines at each station. Cash and card are both accepted.
  • You must validate your tickets with a date, time and station stamp when you buy your transport ticket. The validation machines are located next to the tickets machines. Ticket inspectors operate on transport services.
  • Alexanderplatz, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie get very busy. Plan to head here early to avoid the crowds.
  • You don’t need to break the bank to see a great view of Berlin. Skip the TV Tower and go up to the terrace in the Park Inn.
  • Tickets for the Berlin Underwelten tours are only available to purchase on the day. You’ll need to join the queue before the ticket office opens at 10am to secure a tour. Each tour runs in English only a couple of times per day.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

 

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