Germany

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten Bunker Tours

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

One of the things I love most when we travel is discovering that the city we’re visiting has made quite a few of its best bits free to the public. Berlin is one such city. We kept ourselves very busy here for four days, and it ended up that only 2 out of the 10+ places we visited required us to pay an entrance fee. That’s pretty good odds! While I’m always a fan of free, occasionally it really is worth it to pay a little extra to see something special. That was definitely the case at Berliner Unterwelten and their WWII bunker tour that took us beneath the streets of Berlin and introduced us to a side of the city most people never see.

First off, let me say, photography is not allowed inside the tunnels. I’m not exactly sure why – maybe they don’t want photographers holding up the tours? So this post doesn’t have a lot of interesting pictures in it. I managed to take a few sneaky ones with my phone, but they definitely do not adequately illustrate what it’s like to go on this tour. I’ve included them only because what they do illustrate is how dark and windowless these bunkers are, which leads me to my next point – this tour is not for everyone. It’s very dark down here, sometimes completely pitch black, and many of the rooms you will enter are very small. This would not be the right thing to visit if you are bothered by darkness, being underground, or crowded, small spaces. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the tour!

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

Berliner Unterwelten (English: Berlin Underworlds) is located in Gesundbrunnen, far enough away from where we were staying in Potsdamer Platz that we needed to take the S-Bahn for the first time on our trip. Because advance tickets are not sold for the tours, it’s very important to get to the office early, particularly if you want to get on one of the English tours which sell out very quickly. We arrived shortly after the offices opened, and got ourselves booked on the first tour at 11am. Berliner Unterwelten offers many different underground tours – the one we took was the Dark Worlds tour, exploring one of the last remaining civilian air raid shelters in Berlin.

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

Our tour guide was Cnaan, who absolutely made this tour for us. He is very well-informed about the history, and he passed it along to us in a way that didn’t bore us to death. (He was actually surprisingly funny considering the subject.) If he had been guiding any of the other tours while we were in town, I probably would have signed up for them immediately.

The Dark Worlds tour takes place directly beneath the entrance to the Gesundbrunnen station, with the train running beneath the bunker tunnels. The vibrations and noise of the metro rumbling through can be a little scary, but considering what these tunnels were used for, the unexpected noise and trembling of the ground intermittently throughout the tour sort of adds to the experience.

During WWII, the bunkers at Gesundbrunnen and others spread throughout the city were used to accommodate the many people who had to make their way here, often late at night, carrying just a small suitcase, every time the alarms went off signaling an approaching air raid. If your home or neighborhood did not have a suitable basement for shelter, the closest public bunker was your only option. And it was a crowded one at that. Most of the small rooms within the bunkers were equipped to hold double the amount of people you’d think could fit comfortably inside them.

Besides the toilet rooms and a couple of offices, the bunkers here were made up almost entirely of row after row of bunk beds and benches. Since that would make an awfully dull tour, what they’ve done is left a few of the rooms as they would have been during the war, and then used the rest of the space as a museum displaying artifacts from the era, some that were found right here in the tunnels. The museum is a time capsule of 1940’s German memorabilia, from games and toys to propaganda, as well as surviving artifacts from the war. My only complaint was not having enough time to look at everything in each room before it was time to move on to the next location.

During our 90-minute tour, our guide taught us the practical parts of “living” beneath the ground, like how special paint was used to illuminate the bunkers during a power outage and how communications were made within the bunker and with those on the outside. But the most memorable part for me was when he helped us to imagine what it would have been like to spend hours beneath the ground, only to be unsure of what the world would look like when you emerged. People would often wait all night, sitting on a bench, a bag in their lap, too afraid to fall asleep, but too tired to even do something as simple as converse. Often, the only noises in the bunkers were the sounds of the bombs making contact with the ground short distances away. It’s chilling, sitting on these same benches in the dark with a bunch of strangers, and realizing that, seventy years ago, people sat in much the same way, but under much more desperate circumstances.

It was a truly fascinating tour, and I was left wanting to see and hear more when it was over. Standing up on the street, you’d never know there’s this extensive network of bunkers just below your feet, its remnants left behind to remind us about this city’s turbulent past. I highly recommend you check out this tour or one of the others with Berliner Unterwelten if you’re looking for something unique to do while you’re in Berlin. It’s worth every bit of the €10 you’ll pay!

Berliner Unterwelten: Website
Address: Brunnenstraße 105, 13355 Berlin

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Going Underground With Berliner Unterwelten WWII Bunker Tours In Berlin

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Inge Rouwmaat
    January 23, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    Yes! I’ve seen the ‘Berliner Unterwelten’ twice now, and I still think it’s impressive! You’re able to get an idea of how it must have been like to live underground. Next time I’m in Berlin, I probably will go again.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 23, 2015 at 3:52 PM

      Did you do the same tour twice or try a different one? I’ve been curious what the others are like, particularly the one that goes beneath the Berlin Wall!

      • Reply
        Inge Rouwmaat
        January 23, 2015 at 5:26 PM

        I did the ‘Dark Worlds’ tour twice, once with my mom and once with my bf. But I’d also like to see all the other ones haha!

  • Reply
    Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    January 23, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    This sounds incredibly interesting! xx

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laughter is Catching
    January 23, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    it osunds amazing. I have never been to Berlin but I find things like this fascinating. Would love to visit.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 23, 2015 at 3:55 PM

      It’s motivated me to go see the Churchill bunkers here in London. I bet those are pretty cool, too!

      • Reply
        topchelseagirl
        January 23, 2015 at 8:30 PM

        Sarah, I was going to comment telling you to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, although not cheap it is a must-do.

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    January 23, 2015 at 7:01 PM

    Oh I got chills reading this, it sounds like it truly would have been quite the experience to tour it. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to live through all of that.

  • Reply
    Veronica
    January 23, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    The photos kind of remind me of the Dover tunnels. I love exploring these kind of places.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 23, 2015 at 3:53 PM

      Just had to Google that since I’ve never heard of them before – those look really neat, too. Have you gone in them?

      • Reply
        Veronica
        January 23, 2015 at 4:06 PM

        Yes. It was really unique and has a very interesting history. Plus the scenery in Dover is beautiful. :o)

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          January 23, 2015 at 4:17 PM

          That’s what I’ve heard! I’ve seen pictures of the cliffs there and they’re beautiful. It’s really not that far from London – I don’t know why we haven’t gone yet!

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    January 23, 2015 at 11:22 PM

    What an incredible place – and to think how long families must have spent in those tunnels!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 24, 2015 at 10:38 AM

      I believe it was normally only overnight. That’s usually when the air raids were happening. But I could be wrong about that!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    January 23, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    Really wish I had seen this while I was in Berlin! Going to bookmark this and hope I end up revisiting!

  • Reply
    Romcomcation
    January 23, 2015 at 10:19 PM

    I LOVE Berlin and can’t wait to check this out next time I’m there.

    I really like your posts! I’m new to the world of blogging and would love any advice you’re willing to give. :)

    Sincerely,
    Chantelle

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 24, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      Hi Chantelle! Thanks for reading! I’ll go check out your blog soon!

  • Reply
    Katrin
    January 24, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    I have never seen the Berliner Unterwelten but I definitely want to when I go to Berlin the next time. It sounds really fascinating and creepy. Where I come from there are lots of bunkers and it always creeps me out to see them and to imagine having to spend a lot of time in there.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 25, 2015 at 3:05 PM

      Where exactly in Germany are you from? I can’t believe I’ve never asked you that before!

      • Reply
        Katrin
        January 25, 2015 at 3:12 PM

        It’s a tiny state called Saarland. It’s in the south-west, next to Luxembourg and France. You can find the “Westwall” there which is a huge defense line from WWI including lots of bunkers.

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          January 27, 2015 at 10:44 AM

          I just Googled it and found Saarschleife! It looks beautiful in the photographs – have you been there?

          • Katrin
            January 27, 2015 at 11:00 AM

            Many times. :) It’s ca 5 minutes away from my hometown. You can even see it from a hidden spot in the woods. There is also an old castle you can visit, it’s called Montclair.

          • Sarah Shumate
            January 27, 2015 at 11:24 AM

            That is so cool!! There is an old castle in the town I’m from, too. It’s called Graceland. :) (Just kidding! But Elvis’ home does deserve a visit!)

          • Katrin
            January 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM

            Haha, I would definitely love to visit Graceland. :)

  • Reply
    Kelly Michelle
    January 24, 2015 at 2:20 PM

    We did two of their tours early last year and enjoyed them both; I always recommend their tours to anyone going to Berlin so I’m glad you enjoyed the tour and that you managed to get some sneaky pics xx

  • Reply
    rorybore
    January 28, 2015 at 5:05 AM

    One of the coolest tours I have done in my own town, it a tour of the Diefenbunker. It’s also an underground war bunker — except it was created for the Government and other high ranking people to escape to: not the general population. Of course, we never had need for it so it’s classified as a museum now. But, if you look close enough and know what to look for: it is completely operational.
    you can have birthday parties there and they will create a whole cloak and dagger spy game for the kids, including capturing the “bad guy.” it’s really fun.
    I just always keep my eye out for a secret way in.
    because, you know — “fully operational”. If they zombie apocalypse hits: I know where I am heading. :)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 1, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      Haha! Glad you’ve got a plan in place for the inevitable. ;) But seriously, that’s a totally different idea for a birthday party. I like it!

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    January 29, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    This sounds so fascinating! I can only imagine what it must have been like down there during that time. Chilling!

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