Berlin certainly doesn’t suffer from a shortage of unusual attractions. From a dilapidated Cold War Era listening post to a Museum dedicated exclusively to Picture Frames, there are many opportunities to explore the quirkier side of the German capital.
Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a weirder attraction than the Spreepark, an abandoned GDR-era Theme Park that is gradually being taken back by nature. While for years, the place was a paradise for Urban Explorers, plans are now in motion to transform it into a “space for art and leisure”.
Until that happens, you can take part in a tour of the abandoned park, familiarizing yourself with the unusual history of the place and checking out the remaining vestiges of the former rides. Read on for everything you need to know about visiting the Spreepark.
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History of the Spreepark
To understand the place better, you need to know a little bit about its turbulent history. Opened in 1969, the Spreepark was the only permanent theme park in the GDR and a popular holiday destination, drawing over 1.5 million visitors a year. Even after the German reunification, it stayed open and new attractions were added, including several roller coasters, a log flume and a western village.
As a matter of fact, I can remember visiting the park with my parents in the 90s, although I was too young to still recall which of the rides I tried out. In 2001 the Spreepark finally had to close due to declining visitor numbers and subsequently became a haunting place for photographers, urban explorers and anyone who always wanted to feel like he’s the next victim in an 80s Slasher Flick.
After some spouts of vandalism and arson (this is why we don’t have nice things, guys!), the city of Berlin bought the area and now plans to transform it into an eco-friendly park (without the Theme-), incorporating some of the former rides into the design. Until that concept is fully implemented, you can still take part in tours over the grounds, allowing you a glimpse into the former glory of the park.
The fate of the erstwhile owners of the park is interesting as well: After unsuccessfully trying to set up a similar theme park in Lima, Peru, they were arrested in 2004 as they were trying to smuggle a total of 167kg of Cocaine out of the country in one of the rides. I guess they followed the old maxim to never put all your eggs in one basket…
How to get to the Spreepark
The Park is located in the Plänterwald area of eastern Berlins Treptow-Köpenick borough. The closest train station is Bahnhof Plänterwald, which is served by the S-Bahn Lines S8, S9 and S85. From there it’s a 20 minute walk north-east through peaceful woodland. The entrance and starting point of the guided tours is near the info station at the north-eastern end of “Dammweg”.
When to visit the Spreepark?
At the moment, guided tours take place hourly on Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 4PM. Currently, the only English Language tour takes place on Saturdays at 1PM. The tours are very popular and almost always sell out in advance, make sure to book a ticket for your preferred timeslot here (not an affiliate link).
How much does a visit to Spreepark cost?
Taking part in one of the guided tours is 5€ per person.
Touring the Spreepark – My Experience
To give you some idea of what to expect, I’ll give a short recap of the tour I particapeted in a couple of weeks ago. The group, which consisted of about 20 people, was led by an enthusiastic middle-aged guide who carried a portfolio of photographs, so we could check out how the places we were standing at looked during the parks heyday.
Merry Old England Village
The first stop was the remains of the English Village, a couple of faux-half-timbered buildings in a Tudor style, which were constructed in 1999, shortly before the park’s closure. Apart from housing a mirror maze and a haunted house, these served as an entrance to the “Picadilly Circus” Event Hall.
After the park’s decline, most of the interior features were destroyed or carried off and in 2014 the majority of the village burned to the ground. All that remains nowadays is part of the outer façade of the buildings, picturesquely overgrown by the encroaching vegetation.
Remains of the Pond and Spinning Cups
The tour continued past the now-dry hole of the pool in whose middle the giant Ferris Wheel used to sit and past the blue metal skeleton of a former restaurant before reaching the Spinning Cups Ride.
The attraction was bought from the defunct French Theme Park “Mirapolis” near Paris and was originally sponsored by Nesquik, which accounts for the distinct blue-and-yellow appearance of the cups as well as the image of “Groquik”, Nesquiks former mascot, on the pot and cups.
The plan is to transform the attraction into a café allowing people to sit in the non-rotating-cups, which would make sipping your hot beverage of choice significantly easier and less painful than it would have been before.
Cinema 2000 and the remains of the Ferris Wheel
Afterwards we strolled past the former entrance of the Park, a couple of snack shops and several stops of the Santa-Fe-Express Train, which used to circumvent the park. The former Western Village is unfortunately gone completely, except for the remains of the children carousel „Brummel“, which dates back to the GDR-era of the park and was set up here after the reunification.
What’s still there is the huge tent of the Cinema 2000, a then-innovative 180° cinema showing somewhat immersive films of helicopter flights through the Grand Canyon and rafting tours through the rainforest.
A bit further we stumbled upon the remains of the Ferris Wheel, which was disassembled after some morons climbed it and needed to be rescued by the Fire Department, when they were stuck at the top. It’s supposed to be reconstructed in a few years and to once again whizz people around being powered solely by Solar Panels.
Log Flume and Spreeblitz Roller Coaster
The tour continues past the dry channel of the “Grand Canyon” Log Flume, which again was bought in the mid-90s from the Mirapolis Theme Park near Paris. You can still see the artificial mountain, which was used to drop riders to their watery doom.
A little further is the remaining star attraction of the park – the Spreeblitz Roller Coaster, featuring the distinctive Dragon’s Head (which, frankly looks more like a somewhat angry cat – maybe someone forgot to feed it?). It’s the park’s most popular photo motive, although getting a clear shot of it isn’t so easy, due to the fact that it sits behind the former loading area to the roller coaster.
On the way back to the entrance we walked past the stranded hull of a pirate boat, a remaining prop from a mid-90s Stunt Show that used to take place along the shore of the park’s central pool. After about an hour of exploration, we arrived were we set out.
Final thoughts on visiting the Spreepark
Taking a tour was an interesting way to experience to remainders of the park and to learn a little bit about its illustrious history. I would have loved to be able to explore the park shortly after it was abandoned and most rides were still intact. Pictures from that era look outstanding and I can only imagine what the atmosphere must have been like.
Sadly, people can’t leave well enough alone and for unfathomable reasons have to steal, trash and burn everything. Nowadays, the Park is only a shadow of its former self but it’s still well-worth taking a tour of the remaining rides, which, as it stands is the best way to experience the Spreepark before it enters a completely new stage in its life.
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