The government bunker in Ahrweiler – top secret!

The picture-perfect vineyards cling to the slopes on the hillsides while the Ahr river snakes in tight loops through the deep valley below. A fascinating display of colours plays out here every year – in the winter, the posts stand out against the bare vineyards, exposing the slate and sandstone soil that give the wines of the Ahr region their particular flavour. In the spring, the first buds appear, followed by the green leaves of the vines in the summer. And then autumn brings a culmination of colour, as the slopes are covered in radiant red, orange, yellowy green and all the colours in between. The vines are bent low under the weight of the grapes – it is a real treat for all ages!

View of the vineyards near Mayschoss in the Saffenburger Ländchen, Ahr valley

View of the vineyards near Mayschoss in the Saffenburger Ländchen, Ahr valley

And who would suspect that this natural idyll conceals a secret that was closely guarded for decades. The locals were aware of the existence of the place, after all, you could not keep a project of this magnitude secret for long. The drilling and explosions rocked the surrounding area, while countless lorry-loads of concrete and materials were transported to the vineyards on a daily basis, but nobody knew exactly what for. Rumours about the project soon began to fly, with speculation rife as to what was being built in the soft, porous slate rock of the Ahr mountains. What was the government planning with this mysterious project?

Now, you and the whole family can explore this former secret, starting at the entrance in a section of woodland on the hills above the town of Ahrweiler. Hidden from the eyes of the world, a bizarre concrete, glass and steel structure leads you deep into the earth, providing the huge gates weighing nearly 25 tons even let you through in the first place. They open up into windowless stairwells leading deep down underground. Time seems to stand still in the labyrinth of artificially lit corridors, with made beds in which nobody ever slept, medical equipment that was never used and all sorts of switchboards and monitoring devices. What kind of a place is this?

Family tour of the Government Bunker Documentation Centre, Ahr valley

Exciting family tour in the Government Bunker Documentation Centre, Ahr valley

The former control centre of the underground government bunker and today's documentation site, Ahr valley

The former control centre of the underground government bunker and today's documentation site, Ahr valley

It is the most expensive building in the Federal Republic, the ‘alternative seat of the federal organs of government in the event of a crisis or defence scenario’, now known more simply as the government bunker. During the Cold War, the West German government built a massive bunker complex in order to protect the most important decision-makers in the event of an atomic blast. There were more than 936 bedrooms and 897 offices here across nearly 88,000 square metres. Nearly 3,000 people could have survived in the government bunker for up to 30 days. The proximity to the then German capital of Bonn and the fact that there were two almost complete railway tunnels under the mountain swayed the final decision in the region’s favour. The bunker was completed between 1960 and 1971, decommissioned in the 90s and stripped down between 2001 and 2006. A section of the original underground labyrinth extending some 203 metres was left in its original condition as a museum, and a visit now is like a trip back in time!

After exploring the world of Cold War espionage and politics and escaping back out into the fresh air, you will find yourself right on the Red Wine Trail. This leads you high above the river and straight through the picturesque vineyards of the Ahr valley, which are steeped in secret and legend. Some stretches are pretty adventurous and can be really exciting for the little ones. And perhaps, after your guided tour, you fancy another trip back even further in time. Just a few minutes from the government bunker is a Roman villa where you can explore the archaeological remains of a Roman estate. There are even cats’ paw prints on clay tiles where the pesky animal must have stepped on them before they were set. Maybe you can reveal more of the truth behind the story?

Hiking with the whole family at the Saffenburg near Mayschoss, Ahr valley

Hiking with the whole family at the Saffenburg near Mayschoss, Ahr valley

Slate in the Ahr valley

Martin Seidler’s wonderful pictures transport you to the fascinating Ahr valley. The region’s down-to-earth people are redesigning their home area, even the winemakers are doing something a little special after the floods affecting the 2021 vintage. The Ahr valley is famous for its powerful red wines, with their spicy, fruity notes born of the steep sunny slopes, the unique microclimate and the slate soils that absorb heat for the vines. The Red Wine Trail and the Ahrsteig Hiking Trail both offer unique wine-related experiences, with breathtaking views, award-winning wines and local cuisine adding up to a feast for all the senses.

More cultural travel highlights and activities in the Ahr valley

AhrSteig Stage 1: Blankenheim to Freilinger See (11.1 km)


11,3 km

3:00 h
A charming little Eifel town with historical sights forms the starting point for the first stage. It…

AhrSteig Stage 2: Freilinger See to Aremberg (about 11.7km)


11,7 km

3:00 h
The second stage of the AhrSteig leads from Freilinger See over quiet meadow paths and forest paths…

AhrSteig Stage 7: Bad Neuenahr Center Station to Sinzig (17.6 km)


16,0 km

5:00 h
Once again, the Steig shows itself from its most beautiful side. The gentle foothills of the Ahr…


Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler It consists of a gate tower and two flanking three-storey half towers. In the gate passage is a high relief of the Carrying of Christ in tuff from the…


Mayschoß Historical demolition of the castle complexFirst mention in the 11th centuryThe Saffenburg is derived from the old family of the Counts of Saffenberg.…

Are Castle

Altenahr Are CastleShort historical overview:1095/1105 Construction of the castle Are by Count Theoderich1121 First documented mention of the castle Are: Count…