Whether Berlin is just one stop on your travel itinerary or the sole destination for a weekend city break, escaping the metropolitan hustle and bustle and spending time in nature is good for your mind, body and soul. Thankfully, Berlin is home to one of Germany’s largest urban parks, the Großer Tiergarten, a 210-hectare green space filled with gardens, small lakes, dense foliage and tucked-away locations perfect for having a picnic.
The Tiergarten is centrally located near Berlin Mitte near famous attractions and sights such as the Potsdamer Platz,the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag. You can also combine it with a visit to the Berlin Zoo and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church.
While the Tiergarten is now an integral part of Berlin’s urban landscape and a stop on nearly every visitor’s itinerary, it was first utilized in the early 16th century as hunting grounds solely for royalty and noble guests. However, in 1742 Friedrich II (1712-1786) decided that the park would be better suited as a Lustgarten (pleasure garden) open to all of the people of Berlin. He hired the elaborately-named George Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to transform what was a private forest into a Baroque wonderland complete with flowerbeds, sculptures and water features.
By the mid 19th century, change was afoot again and the entire park was redesigned in homage to the style of Victorian English flower gardens, and many of the attractions and Prussian monuments seen today were added. Despite being badly damaged during World War II and neglected in the postwar period, a massive revitalization project started in 1955 has brought the park back to its former glory, and a visit to the “green lung of Berlin” is a must-visit for every tourist.
Top attractions inside the park
While a walk through the park is beautiful and relaxing in its own right, you may want to visit some of the structures and monuments located within its borders. The famous statue to Queen Louise, the beloved Prussian queen, is a lovely place for photos, and more adventurous visitors may choose to scale the 67-metre tall “Victory Column,” built in the 1870s to commemorate victory in the Prusso-Danish War of 1864. For a few Euros, sightseers can climb to the top and take in a breathtaking vista of the capital.
Culturally minded guests will want to visit the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cutures), a stunning mid-century modernist building constructed for an international architecture exposition in 1957, given to Berlin as a gift by the Americans. The centre is now lauded as “Germany's national centre for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary arts, with a special focus on non-European cultures and societies,” and it is well worth checking out their programme of events.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Berlin Zoological Garden, first opened in 1844 and home to the largest array of different species in the world! As one of the world’s most popular zoos, it receives 3 million guests per year, all clamoring to see the over 1500 different species inside. The zoo has a storied history and was nearly destroyed in WW2, but now maintains successful breeding programs and partnerships with numerous universities and research organizations.
Visiting Year Round
The Tiergarten can be enjoyed year-round. The spring is a time of budding blossoms, fresh grass and chirping birds, while visitors in the summer will witness what seems like all of Berlin heading to the park to sunbathe, stroll and socialize at the park’s many summertime Biergartens. The colder months bring their own benefits – in autumn, people come from around the world to experience the changing colours of the park’s countless trees and trample through crunchy carpets of fallen leaves. During the winter months the temperature may drop far below freezing, but the frost covering ground and the frozen Neuer See (the small lake at the park’s centre) can be enjoyed while on a cozy stroll, best navigated with a hot cup of mulled wine in hand to keep your temperature – and your spirits – high.
How to get there:
Public transportation: closest S-Bahn train station: Tiergarten (S5, S7, S75), Bellevue (S5, S7, S75), closest U-bahn train station: Potdamer Platz, or take Bus 200.