Volkspark Hasenheide Has Both A Desirable And An Undesirable Side

Volkspark Hasenheide, on the border between Neukölln and Kreuzberg, has had a somewhat checkered past.

In its day, the park’s land has served as a setting for Friedrich Wilhelm’s hare breeding efforts. Then it became the Prussian Army’s parade ground, complete with shooting ranges. It’s where Friedrich Jahn began Germany’s gymnastics movement by establishing his open-air gymnasium in 1810.

A monument to Turnvater Jahn stands by the park’s northern entrance, although his political stance so displeased German authorities that his gymnasium was closed in 1819, gymnastics were illegalized, and Jahn was banished from Berlin.

In 1838, the job of turning it into a park fell to Peter Joseph Lenne. The final touches came in 1951, when rubble remaining from the World War II bombing of Berlin supplied the foundations for Rixdorfer Höhe, the 228-foot/69.6 m height at the Park’s western end.

Today, Volkspark Hasenheide is a place of contrasts. Its open sunlit meadows are ideal for volley ball, football/soccer matches, sunbathing, kite-flying, and family picnics or barbecues. Those meadows are separated by long stands of wonderful shade trees, beneath which local musicians gather for jam sessions.

Kids will love the petting zoo and the playgrounds, and the whole family can have a turn at the mini-golf course. Throw in the rose gardens and the centrally located open air cinema with a EUR 6 admission that’s one of the cheapest in Berlin and Hasenheide Park is as perfect a family outing destination as you’re likely to find in Berlin.

Unfortunately, there is a less desirable side to all this outdoor bliss. Drug dealers congregate at the park’s entrances, and have no compunction about approaching visitors both in and on their way out of the park. They stash their wares in the bushes to avoid being arrested for possession.

During the day the dealers usually stick to peddling hash or grass, but if you decide to take in a film after dark, you might be approached by someone with hard drugs. Just keep your head down and keep walking and you should be fine.

It’s not advisable to walk in the park at night, however, because cruising is legal in Berlin. You never know who might be lurking in the bushes looking for a pickup.

Should you visit Volkspark Hasenheide?

Sure. Just keep your eyes open, not only for the great things the park has to offer, but the not-so-great things as well!

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