You may be in one of the world’s great cities when you’re in Berlin, but you’re also never far from Mother Nature.
We Berliners take a great deal of pride in our city’s green spaces—large and small—which number more than 2,500! While every one of them has something unique to offer, I'm gonna start with nineteen of the most interesting. The names of a few are probably familiar to you, but I’ve included a few surprises as well!
A full 35% of Berlin’s space, in fact, is devoted to parks, gardens, rivers, lakes, and forests. Sometimes, as with the Pfaueninsel, you get more than one of them! This island in the middle of the River Havel has it all: castle, rose garden, woodlands, and plenty of peacocks to complete the romantic mood.
When you haven’t time to get to the Black Forest, you can stroll along the River Panke beneath the mighty oaks at Castle Park Niederschönhausen, or along the edge of the Großer Malchsee near Freizeitpark Tegel where Dicke Marie, the oldest tree in Berlin, is still going strong after nine centuries.
There are the gardens of the Castle Park Charlottenburg, when you’re in the mood to slip into the 19th century for an afternoon tea with Germany’s royal family. Their architecture is as important to Berlin’s parks and gardens as their botanical treasures. You’ll find no better example of that than you will at the Jüdische Museum’s Garden of Exile and Emigration, where the architecture conveys such an overwhelming sense of being lost in a strange place.
The Gardens of the World at Erholungspark Marzahn are another splendid example of architecture harmonizing with Nature. The seven completed gardens have themes from the Far to the Near East, with a English topiary maze and French labyrinth thrown in!
The glass house containing the Balinese garden provides a great escape from the chill of winter, but the Grandfather of all glass houses is the Great Pavilion at Dahlem’s Botanical Garden, where the year-round temperature is a balmy 30° C or 86° F.
Speaking of winter, there’s no better way to end it, in my opinion, than to head for the Britzer Garten during Frühlingsstraße, or Spring Street. It’s a March celebration of winter’s end, when a more than 2km-long stretch of tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths and other cheery bulb plants burst into welcome bloom.
We Berliners have deep ties to our past, and you’ll find many of them reflected at Volkspark Friedrichshain. The monuments here include one to Frederick the Great, one to the children of eastern Berlin, and several to Berliners who fought in various wars.
At Treptower Park is the enormous Soviet Memorial, complete with cemetery.
The Tiergarten numbers among its many attractions the Soviet Memorial, with two tanks said to be the first to enter Berlin in 1945. The Tiergarten also has the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe; and if you’re not in a memorial mood, there’s the Berlin Zoo and the Reichstag!
We Berliners are nothing if not resourceful, and in the terrible aftermath of World War II use our limited resources to restore the city’s parks with rubble. In Volkspark Friedrichshain, Volkspark Humboldthain, and Volkspark Hasenheide, huge piles of rubble were planted over, creating delightful hills in the parks’ landscapes. In Humboldthain Park one of them leads to the remains of an anti-aircraft tower and air raid bunker.
Viktoriapark, among the prettiest Berlin Parks, has its own natural hill made even prettier by a man-made waterfall flowing from the National Memorial at its summit to street level.
One place you won’t find any hills of any sort is at the 3 acre/1.2 hectare Modellpark Berlin-Brandenburg, with its display of nearly five dozen Berlin landmarks in painstaking 1:25 scale detail.
Berlin’s parks are, above all else, people places. Students, parents with their kids, dog owners, and anyone in need of a place to work off energy or simply veg out will head for the neighborhood park. In Kreuzberg’s Görlitzer Park, warm weather barbecues go on at all hours of the day.
Finally, there’s the tiny Köllnischer Park. Known best for the Märkisches Musem, a one-stop repository of Berlin history. Its other highlight is the Bärenzwinger, in which live Berlin’s two official city bears.
While I can only scratch the surface on the topic of Berlin’s parks and gardens, I assure you there is plenty more gold underneath, if you only continue to dig! ;-)
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