Berlin’s Olympic Stadium (Olympiastadion) once stood as a symbol of Nazi affluence in the midst of their regime. Now, the huge stadium represents Germany’s openness and its eagerness to celebrate international sporting achievements and global entertainment.
Situated just outside of central Berlin, in the beautifully picturesque district of Charlottenburg, its rich and deeply engaging history places Berlin’s Olympic Stadium high on the list of the cities most loved tourist attractions. Following our recent visit to the grounds, we are here to tell you why.
A Little Bit of History…
Built for the 1936 Olympic Games the stadium features impressive Nazi architecture amongst a serene suburb of western Berlin. Historically important; the Olympic Stadium hosted the only games to be held in Nazi Germany, as well as being the first to be televised the world over. For the first time, spectators everywhere witnessed a resurgent nation under Hitler’s rule.
During World War II, staggeringly, the Olympic Stadium was left almost unscathed. Its only casualty was the giant bell tower, situated in the Maifield just behind the main stadium. However, after the British occupation of Berlin, the bell tower was rebuilt, with the original bell now on display at the grounds, commemorating all Olympic athletes that have been killed in conflicts.
Through the following decades, under the British occupying forces, the Olympic Stadium gained new utility as the British army headquarters in Berlin. Each year, on the Maifield, thousands of spectators would gather to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday.
The Olympic Stadium Today
Today, Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is home to local football team Hertha BSC and has been since 1963. The stadiums footballing reputation is also internationally recognised, having hosted games from two Fifa World Cup competitions, including the 2006 World Cup Final between Italy and France, where Zinedine Zidane delivered his famous head-butt. Moreover, the Olympic Stadium’s venue prestige does not end there, proudly hosting a variety of super-high-profile international acts. In the past, AC:DC, The Rolling Stones and Madonna have all played live here, with Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi both returning in 2013 to play to a packed out international crowd!
A Walk through the Grounds
The actual grounds of the Olympic Stadium are made of several spectator areas. The focal point of the area, though, is of course the 74,000 seater stadium standing rather sternly at the foot of the entrance to the grounds. Despite the size of the compound we found it easy to navigate and the map given to us at the entrance was simple to follow, pointing us in the direction of all the major must-see’s on our visit.
Sticking to the route laid out alongside the audio guide, we headed to the north of the stadium. Here, you find the calming area where all competitive aquatic events are held – the swimming pool. In true Berlin fashion, if you visit during the summer months be sure to bring your bathing suits as amateur swimmers and even casual bathers can be seen relaxing at this historic setting.
Continuing around the stadium, you will find the Maifield, remaining out of view until you pass the pool. A staggering 28 acre field originally designed to host gymnastic competition and an area designated to celebrating the annual May Day celebrations under Hitler’s regime will begin to emerge as you walk into view. The center piece of this area is the Bell Tower. This 77m high stone pillar is perfect for grabbing a panoramic view of the beautiful western Berlin suburbs and the Grunewald Forest; and even for catching a unique glimpse of the TV tower in the distance.
Next, you will head inside the stadium, through the marathon gate, with a perfect overview showing the majesty of the stadium.
A walk anti-clockwise, through the stands and toward the VIP area where Hitler once sat allows you to witness the striking architecture and beautiful sculptures portraying the commitment to detail through every step of production for this monumental building. Guided tours will then take you downstairs, into the belly of this engaging attraction, for you to see otherwise out of bounds attractions for normal visits, such as the changing rooms and the managerial offices.
Seeing it all
The best way to take full advantage of your visit is of course, via guided tour. Available year round, most are run in German, though English options are available every afternoon. Opening hours are, unfortunately, relative to sunlight. Therefore, during the summer you can stay until the early evening, but during winter closure comes late afternoon. Click here for the full round up.
For the intrepid amongst us, audio guides are available for a very reasonable 3 Euros, allowing visitors to ramble around the grounds unhindered. Lasting around 1 hour, audio commentary on the most important sections of the Olympic Stadium will guide you around the site.
Olympischer Platz 3
Tel: 030 – 25 00 23 22
Regular adult: €7
Reduced Rate (applicable to students, the elderly, the disabled, armed forces personnel, community services, or those reliant on state welfare): €5
Family Card (2 adults and 3 children up to 16 years): €15
20. March – 31. May from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
01. June – 15. September from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m
16. September – 31. October from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
01. November – 19. March from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
S3, U2 Olympiastadion