Tempelhof Park: Run Around Berlin’s Abandoned Airfield
Although it is perfectly legal, there is still a sense of excitement that comes with stepping onto the wide, crumbling tarmac of an abandoned airfield. Tempelhofer Feld, commonly referred to as Tempelhof, is the largest urban park in Berlin. With just over 953 acres (386 hectares) of open space, Tempelhof offers visitors of all ages a unique experience and plenty of freedom to roam around.
If you are a runner looking for a place to stretch your legs in Germany’s capital, head over to Tempelhof Park. You can enjoy watching skateboarders, unicyclists, windsurfers, and kite-flyers as you make your way around the immense open space. The loop around the perimeter has everything a runner needs to complete a great workout.
The park features 6 km (3.73 miles) of paved trail around the perimeter with the option to run down one or both of the 2-km (1.25-mile) runways. The main paths are marked every 500 meters which make interval workouts and pacing easy. Piece together a route that works for you and then take advantage of the wide-open field and scattered concrete boxes to complete your post-run stretches and plyometrics. There are also plenty of water fountains and bathrooms around the park.
Tempelhof provides the perfect example of Berlin’s ability to modernize without forgetting about the country’s history. The site was originally used to test small aircraft and balloons prior to being built up by the Nazi’s between 1936 and 1941. The main building of the airport was once described as “the mother of all airports” and was one of Europe’s largest structures. The floor-to-ceiling windows and immense hallways are some of the only surviving examples of Nazi architecture.
Following the Second World War, the airfield was occupied by the United States. During the Berlin Airlift in 1948, it was the sole way of receiving food and supplies for the citizens of West Berlin. Despite its historic importance, the airport never became fully functional and instead served as a miscellaneous hall and warehouse. The Americans left in 1993 and, although there were efforts to keep it open, the airport officially closed in 2008.
There was talk of developing the land for housing or other businesses but a majority vote led to Tempelhof airport being conserved. It reopened as a park in 2014 it was reopened as a park and the area is protected from construction until at least 2024. The large airport building now houses multiple public projects including a cafe and dance center. A big portion of the center serves as temporary housing for refugees as they seek more permanent homes.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Berlin and Tempelhof Park, consider taking a walking tour. Tours of the former airport buildings leave daily and there are English tours of the grounds on Saturday and Sunday.
The park is located just south of the city center, just between the neighborhoods of Neukolln and Tempelhof. The central location makes the park an easy spot to hit regardless of how much time you have in Berlin. There are plenty of options for reaching the park through Berlin’s easy-to-use public transit system. There are entrances along the west, north, and east at Tempelhofer Damm, Columbiadamm, and Oderstraße. Take the U-Bahn to Platz der Luftbrucke to reach the airport building. Use the Tempelhof or Paradestraße stations for easy access to the park.
Be sure to purchase and validate your U-Bahn ticket prior to getting on the train. No one will ask for your ticket prior to boarding the train but if you are caught without a ticket, the fines are quite high.
When To Visit
Berlin has fairly moderate weather but is prone to dip below freezing in the winter and may climb above 80 in the summer. For the most part, the winters are cold and may bring rain or snow and the summers are pleasantly warm but sometimes humid.
June and August bring the most crowds and the humidity does cause some thunderstorms. Most visitors to Berlin prefer the late spring and early fall for their trip. May and September offer the most favorable weather for travelers without bogging down the city with summer crowds. On a nice day, you are sure to see locals and tourists congregating on the fields of the park to barbeque, fly kites or lounge in the sun.
The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. It does host some events but generally, the wide space does not become too crowded for runners and bikers to enjoy the space.
Hearing the word abandoned may have you thinking that you will be on your own when visiting the park. However, the wide-open space is crowded with families and centrally located. There is high foot traffic and the Polizei, or police, are some of the main tenants of the airport buildings. Stick to visiting the park when it is open during daylight hours and you will not have any concerns about safety.
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