In a city that’s home to an enormous population of creative minds, it’s no surprise that some have turned to repurposing old buildings and structures with great success. Thanks to a past that’s more chequered than a chess board, Berlin is home to some pretty spectacular buildings that, with little more than a bucket of paint, a screwdriver and, sometimes, a few million quid, have been turned into something altogether different.
In use for more than 80 years, Tempelhof Airport saw the rise and fall of the Nazis, airlifts supplying food to a cut-off West Berlin, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and more than 50 years of changes in aviation technology. Right up until the last plane departed the airport in 2008, it retained its 1920s grandeur. Now the complex is a public park even larger than New York’s Central Park, and the only things taking flight are kites. More keen on checking out the terminal than cycling, jogging or skating around the runway? You’re able to book tours through the former terminal and see bunkers that were in use during World War II, a Nazi film archive, the rooftop where a planned beer garden never came to life, and even an indoor basketball court!
Image © Ben Garrett
Berlin’s clubbing scene is world renowned – and few clubs are more famous than Tresor. Not only is it famous for bringing together the youths of East and West Berlin on the dancefloor after the wall fell, but it’s also found its home in some pretty fascinating buildings. Its first incarnation, which began in 1991, was in the vault of an abandoned department store. Partygoers raved through the night, crammed between two bank safes. Since 2007, revellers have flocked to its new location in the basement of an abandoned power plant, where DJs keep pumping the tunes until long after sunrise.
Image © Ksenija Toyechkina
Built to house a giant helium airship that never came to fruition, this enormous air hangar is the largest freestanding hall on earth. Though it never got a chance to see a single airship, it has since been turned into a mega theme park that’s open 24/7, and kept at a balmy 26°C all year-round. Inside, you’ll find the world’s biggest indoor rainforest, a beach, a number of swimming pools, water slides, a golf course and even a hotel!
Image © James Dennes
Yet another club in an abandoned East Berlin power station, Berghain is notorious for being the most difficult club in Berlin to gain entry to. Hopeful clubgoers start lining up early in the morning every Saturday to try their luck with the infamously picky doormen. If they get in, they’ll find themselves in a vast 18-metres-high room that retains the brutal minimalism of its Soviet origins.
Image © Teledisko
On the other end of the dancefloor scale are tiny discos contained within former phone booths dotted around the city. These coin operated one-person dance parties come complete with dry ice, strobe lights, a mirror ball, and your pick of tunes. Dance like no one is watching – or like everyone is watching, if you choose to make use of the built-in cameras to record yourself to show your friends later.
Image © hinterhof
Step back in time to the faded glory of early 20th-century Germany at this former ballroom in Mitte. Having survived air raids, sword fights and the wild parties of 1920s Berlin, the building was revived in 2005 and now plays host to concerts and dance parties. The cracked mirrors and faded wallpaper have been left as is, giving the building a slightly spooky, abandoned feel. Head there on weekends to see bands play, or on weekdays to try your hand at a foxtrot or waltzing class.
Image © Ulrike Berlin
What to do when your river is too polluted to swim in? Turn an old barge into a floating swimming pool of course! The 30-metre Badeschiff – which translates as ‘bathing ship’ – sits on the River Spree and is made from the hull of a disused barge. Since it opened in 2004 as an art project, it’s drawn people from all over the city for a dip, a dance to the on-site DJ, yoga classes and even stand-up paddle-boarding lessons.