On the surface, Berlin’s architecture is comprised of an eclectic collection of modern buildings. Large parts of Germany’s capital city were destroyed by air raids during World War II or demolished in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for reconstruction programmes. However, when you dig a little deeper, you will discover that there are centuries of history hidden in the sandy soil beneath your feet. The Berlin Underworlds association (Berliner Unterwelten) is engaged on an ambitious programme to unearth, explore and expose Berlin’s past.
By joining one of their guided tours, you can explore air raid shelters, command bunkers, subterranean escape tunnels and nuclear shelters, not to mention abandoned buildings, including an old brewery.
One of the most iconic symbols of the 20th Century was the Berlin Wall, which was constructed in 1961 and demolished in 1989.
While little of the wall remains, Berlin Underworlds has reconstructed seven of the escape tunnels that were built by East German citizens attempting to escape to the west. Citizens of East Berlin were prohibited from crossing over to West Berlin. Attempting to do so meant risking their freedom or even their life. A high level of subterfuge was required to outwit the Stasi, the notorious East German police force. Walking through these clandestine tunnels gives visitors an understanding of the enormous risks that fleeing East Germans were prepared to overcome to find freedom in the West. As part of the tour you will hear the fascinating stories behind some of the escape attempts, both successful and unsuccessful.
Other guided tours conducted by Berlin Underworlds allow visitors to compare and contrast the heavily fortified, complex bunker structures put in place by the Nazis during World War II with the nuclear shelters constructed during the Cold War in the 1980s, in preparation for the possible outbreak of World War III.
Formed in 1997, Berlin Underworlds now has 407 voluntary members from a variety of different backgrounds. Each member contributes a wealth of knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to the association’s inspiring programme of work.
The aim of the association is to restore as many underground structures as possible, opening them to the public to bring to life the history and culture of Germany’s capital city.
Through the summer months, there are two guided tours per day in English. Tours in other languages also take place regularly. Tickets can only be bought from 10.00am on the day of the tour, so our advice is to turn up early as they often sell out. It is best to take a pullover or jacket with you, as temperatures underground are always a little chillier than outdoors. For the Flak Towers, sturdy footwear and warm clothing is a must because the terrain is rough and the temperatures rarely get above 10 degrees Celsius, no matter how warm it in on the surface.
In 2011, Berlin Underworlds reached a key milestone, with the one millionth visitor touring their underground projects. With over 247,000 tourists exploring the subterranean structures during 2011, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep these captivating city secrets under wraps. To book your stay and discover the hidden sights of Berlin for yourself, browse the range of Berlin accommodation.