This abandoned NSA field station sits atop an 80 meter artificial hill in the Grunewald forest on the west edge of Berlin.
The hill has a noteworthy history: created from the post-WWII debris of desolated Berlin, it is higher than the highest natural hill (the Kreuzberg) in the Berlin area, believed to be created from the rubble of some 400,000 buildings. Buried deep within the hill a building still stands, once a Nazi military-technical college, it proved easier to bury the robust structure than to blow it up.
For a time the hill served as a ski hill before it was re-purposed as a “listening station.” Believed to be part of ECHELON, a global network of listening stations, this station was erected on the hill and run by the U.S. National Security Agency to eavesdrop on communist East Berlin. To their surprise, they found that the local Ferris wheel, erected each year for the German-American Festival, helped relay signals and improve their listening efforts, and the US radio spooks asked if the wheel could be left up for a longer period.
The station was abandoned after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and though there were plans to resurrect it for commercial purposes, today it is a vandalized and abandoned shell. The station’s elevated platforms offer incredible views of Berlin’s skyline, as well as the nearby 1934 Olympic Stadium and Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation. Some say that the NSA built tunnels down through the mountain into the Nazi military-technical college, to serve as either an emergency bunker or escape route, however, no evidence of this exists.
Wild boars roam the grounds around Teufelsberg, and visitors are advised to stay on the paths. Access to the station is now officially permitted from 11 am to sunset. There is a fee, and paid parking is also available however, do note that they only take cash. Some visitors have found an opening in the chain link perimeter fence and used the exterior stairwell to gain entrance to the elevated platforms and radomes. Any visit to Teufelsberg should be taken with great caution – there are potentially dangerous openings, no guardrails, and an open elevator shaft (approx. 10 stories) not to mention it is illegal.
Know Before You Go
Take the S-Bahn to Grunewald. Walk or ride a bike NW via Dauerwaldweg and Harbigstrasse. Turn right into a parking lot and take the main paved path past the kite flying hill. Walk through the forest (watch for wild boars) and turn left at the T. Take a sharp right into the fenced area. There is an entrance fee and the place is open from 11 to sunset every day.
And if you happen to be there on a hot summer day: Just keep on walking down the street from the S-Bahn station for another five minutes, and you'll end up at a lovely little lake with a sandy beach that is perfect for swimming (in the nude if you wish, as the locals do). Swimming clothes optional, no entrance fee. Right next to it is a little brick building with a chimney, that used to be a power plant, now it serves as an ecological education center, but also sells cakes and sausages, coffee and ice cream.