The Tiergarten — Berlin's Main Recreation Spot

The Tiergarten’s 2.5 sq.km/1 sq.mi. in the center of the city make it the largest of Berlin’s parks. Its history makes it one of the most remarkable.

The Tiergarten began its existence as the Brandenburg electors’ private hunting reserve. Being an elector was a big deal, because it meant you were one of the church or civic VIPs who could vote on who became the next king and Holy Roman Emperor!

The public weren’t given access to the Tiergarten until the reign of Friedrich I, who not only opened it to them, but actually built roads leading to and through the Tiergarten.

Today is has over fourteen miles of paths winding among its many attractions.

The Berlin Zoo (Zoologischer Garten) has been here since 1844, although only 91 of its animals and birds survived World War II. Today they number about 14,000, all happily residing in settings similar to those they’d choose in the wild. The birdhouse is spectacular, and the aquarium is great rainy-day entertainment!

The 226-foot/69m Victory Column (Siegessäule) has an observation deck with great views of the surroundings, including Germany’s version of the U.S. White House, the 1786 Bellevue Palace (Schloss Bellevue) to its north. Also here is the historic Reichstag, present home of Germany’s Bundestag government.

Another reminder of Germany’s turbulent past is the Soviet Centopath, or Sowjetisches Ehrenmal, at the Tiergarten’s eastern end. This memorial has the first two Soviet tanks to enter Berlin in 1945. Approximately 2,500 Soviet soldiers are buried in the Tiergarten.

A happier tribute to the way the world has changed since 1945 is the House of World Cultures. The Haus der Kulturen der Welt, with its distinctive curving roofline, dates to 1957 and was the American entry in Berlin’s Interbau architectural exhibition. Now it contains multicultural displays from around the globe.

The Tiergarten’s and Berlin’s most recognizable symbol is, of course, the Brandenburg Gate with its Quadriga Crown. Tens of thousands of Berliners congregated here in 1989 to celebrate the fall of the Wall. Parades are regular events along the Straße des 17. Juni, which splits the Tiergarten from the Brandenburg Gate in the east to Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the west.

Finally, one of the Tiergarten’s most controversial attractions is the 2005 Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, covering about 19,000 sq.m/62,000 sq.ft with uneven walkways passing along concrete slabs of differing heights. A visit here is a most unsettling experience, and more valuable because of it!

The Berlin Zoo’s hours vary by season, but it opens at 9:00 AM regardless and will close between 5:00 and 7:30 PM depending on the time of year. Admission is €12 for adults (€18 incl. Aquarium) and € 6 for children (€9 incl. Aquarium). They've also got discounted family tickets.

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