On the outskirts of Berlin is the Hoppegarten race track, home to world-class horse racing for more than 150 years. The largest race track in Germany with its distinctive atmosphere is a great day out for people of all ages.
A day at the races not only offers the thrill of the race and chances to place bets on long-shots or sure wins, but also an entertaining way to spend a day for the whole family. Visitors enjoy relaxing with a picnic alongside the track or sampling the many culinary delights in the cosy beer garden. And the younger racing fans are certainly given plenty to choose from, too. They can try out a career as a jockey at the pony ride, jump around the bouncy castle and spend time at the free crafts stall or even place a child's wager for a really big prize for little persons.
Just like Ascot
Many ladies like to add glamorous, creative and fancy hats to a day at the race track, especially on Ladies Day, held each year on Whitsun (Pentecost) Sunday. This is when Berlin's largest hat competition is held at the race track.
The Hoppegarten over the years
The Prussian king and prime minister opened the track on 17 May 1868 on what had once been a hops farm. Berlin quickly became one of the centres of equestrian sport in Germany and the track's success story took off: 430 hectares, 800 horses, 20 racing days, up to 40,000 spectators. Many important races were once held here: the Preis der Diana mare's race as well as the Henckel and Union races and the Grand Prix of Berlin.
The Hoppegarten's history has been shaped by the eras of Berlin history it has seen, from Empire to the Weimar Republic, from the Third Reich to forty years of East Germany and then Reunification. In the first few years of the Second World War, the thoroughbreds were still galloping at the Hoppegarten. But the war took its toll: the grandstand was converted into a munitions plant in 1944 and bombs inflicted severe damage on the building and the track itself. The race horses returned during the Communist years, with the last GDR Derby on 24 June 1990 and the Grand Prix of the GDR on 5 August 1990. One high point in the track's long history was the first German-German race day on 31 March 1990. Tens of thousands of visitors took part in this memorable event less than five months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Since privatization in 2008, the Hoppegarten is now the only racecourse in Europe entirely in private hands and is once again German's largest equestrian race track.