Airport without tourists – a visit to Tempelhof Airport

Check-in hall of former Tempelhof Airport

Summer-time and no queues at the check-in counter at the airport. Actually the check-in area of Tempelhof Airport is almost empty. Indeed, there are only a handful of counters, some of them bearing the names of exotic airlines such as Bourbon Air.

Clock and restaurant sign in the old Tempelhof Airport

The single baggage carousel for arriving passengers stands still because nobody has arrived at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin since 2008 when operations ceased. Nowadays, the terminal building – or parts thereof – can be rented for events such as upmarket trade shows.

A sightseeing tour of Tempelhof Airport

Air Bourbon check-in counter

We have joined a tour of the airport terminal, which is still one of the world’s largest buildings, visible from space! That’s owing to the megalomania of Nazi Germany and the monumental style of its chief town planner Albert Speer. The architect of the Airport, Ernst Sagebiel, also built today’s Ministry of Finance in Berlin, which is still in use. And it is also an enormous building …

Construction of the terminal began in 1934, when the airport itself had already been in use for over 10 years. First it was just a shed and then a normal-sized building for a terminal. The new building was also meant to function as a stadium for the popular flight shows. The plan was to have seating areas for 80,000 people on the curved roof!

Roof area of Tempelhof Airport

We take a lift up to the roof, which offers a great view over the airfield. The huge area with its two full-size runways is now a recreation area. There are staircase towers leading up to the roof, cleverly planned with separate stairs for upwards and downwards movement. However, the seats themselves were never installed as the war disrupted the highflying plans.

wall painting in the bunkers of Tempelhof Airport

Meanwhile, there were some other uses of the building, below it rather than on top.

We take the elevator down to the basement and explore windowless cellars. Cartoons adorn the whitewashed walls, along with one line of poetry per wall. For us, the poems by Wilhelm Busch seem mildly amusing at best, but at the time the planners thought they would cheer up the people huddling together in the air raid shelters. As a lost place, the abandoned Tempelhof Airport is not quite as eerie as some old battlefields we have seen, for instance on Okinawa and Saipan – but certainly weird.

Tempelhof Airport after the war

Berlin Braves sports club logo

Not only the flight shows, but a number of other ideas also never took off: In fact, most of the airport soon became an airplane factory. And after the war, the Americans took over and used a huge chunk of the building as a military base.

They had party rooms, bowling alleys, mess halls, a basketball court…


The airport’s great time came in 1948-49 during the Berlin Blockade. In those months, all the supplies for West Berlin were airlifted into the city, much of it by way of Tempelhof Airport. A huge painting commemorates the event. Among other things it shows Gail Halvorsen, the famous pilot who started throwing off extra chocolate and sweets for Berlin’s kids. The parachuted packages made the Allied planes (“candy bombers”) famous and popular.

Today, the abandoned airfield serves as a popular park area in central Berlin. Sometimes it is used as an event space: Even for the E-Formula One and Electric racing! We love the fact that it’s an open space with sweeping views and without trees and landscaped gardens.

Natascha biking on the former area of Tempelhof Airport

The tour of the Tempelhof Airport building takes two hours, costs 13 Euro and is absolutely worth it. For times and more details see:

NB: We had no sponsoring for this post and paid all expenses ourselves.

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