Home to more parks than any other city in Europe, Berlin is full of tranquil spots that seem far removed from the fast-paced city. A day in one of the German capital’s most beautiful parks is a day well spent.
Berlin’s parks are an integral part of the city’s culture and often home to intriguing historical monuments, opportunities for outdoor activities and quintessential German beer gardens. In addition to well-known names such as Tiergarten and Tempelhofer Feld, among Berlin’s most stunning green spaces are the lush Grunewald forest, historic Volkspark Friedrichshain and the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace.
Nestled in the quiet backstreets of southern Neukölln, Körnerpark is one of Berlin’s most underrated green spaces. On a sunny day, Berliners are quick to ignore the “don’t walk on the grass” signs and head for the middle of the perfectly manicured lawns. As a former gravel pit, the park is set around seven metres (23 feet) below street level, sheltering it from the surrounding streets and making it the ideal place to enjoy a peaceful picnic or read a book in the dappled sunlight. The park’s Galerie im Körnerpark hosts a changing programme of exhibitions by local and international contemporary artists, while its free outdoor summer concert series and the indoor Salonmusik series in spring and autumn draw music lovers.
A little further afield, Grunewald is a lush beacon of greenery calling to hikers, runners and cyclists. Covering 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres), Grunewald is Berlin’s largest green space and home to lakes, the city’s oldest palace – the Jagdschloss Grunewald Renaissance hunting lodge – and the Teufelsberg Cold War-era listening station. Schlachtensee, one of its lakes, is easily accessible due to the S-Bahn stop right beside it, so it’s well worth arriving early to grab one of the sheltered spots along the shoreline. For a bigger adventure, hike from S-Bahn Grunewald to Grunewald Tower, which was built in the late 19th century as a tribute to King William I. After, reward yourself with a drink in the adjacent sunny beer garden looking over the sparkling Havel River.
Running along part of Berlin’s River Spree on the eastern side of the city is Treptower, which offers a host of summer activities. The space, which opened in 1888, is designed in the style of an English garden and houses a rose garden, shaded avenues of plane trees and a riverside track ideal for cycling or jogging. Treptower is also home to Haus Zenner, a 200-year-old beer garden; enjoy a pilsner here while watching people lounge across the water on the Island of Youth (Insel der Jugend). Be sure to visit the imposing Soviet War Memorial that stands as a striking monument to 7,000 Soviet soldiers who perished in World War II. Also, the former Spreepark amusement park lies near Treptower’s Archenhold-Sternwarte, beckoning urban explorers to try and spot the abandoned Ferris wheel.
If you don’t have time for a full tour of Charlottenburg Palace, a stroll through the building’s stunning gardens is enough to get a feel for its 17th-century opulence. With hallmark aspects of aristocratic landscape design from the past 300 years, from picturesque ponds to perfectly maintained rose gardens and pleasant paths through grand symmetrical grounds, it’s hard to believe that these extensive gardens are in Berlin. Dating back to 1695, Charlottenburg Palace Gardens combine Baroque elements with features of an English landscape garden.
Just northwest of Tempelhofer Feld in Kreuzberg sits Viktoriapark, known for its majestic artificial waterfall built to resemble one in the Krkonoše Mountains on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. If you look directly up the waterfall, you’ll see the tip of the towering Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars. When taking a walk in Viktoriapark, you may find yourself naturally gravitating towards Golgatha, a family-friendly beer garden where the barbecue is almost as good as the brews on offer.
As Berlin’s oldest public park (it was officially opened in 1848 on the site of a former vineyard), Volkspark Friedrichshain has lived through some of the city’s most significant historical moments. Head to the west side of the park to find Märchenbrunnen, also known as the Fountain of Fairytales. Restored since being severely wrecked in WWII, it is an elaborate Neo-Baroque feature, depicting statues of Grimms’ Fairytales characters. Although the swimming pools built during the GDR era are long gone, those looking for something more fast-paced than a gentle stroll will enjoy the park’s sports complex, which has facilities for beach volleyball, skateboarding and rock climbing.
Humboldthain is the lesser-known, younger sibling of Volkspark Friedrichshain. The park, located in Gesundbrunnen, played a key role in Berlin’s WWII history as the host to a flak tower – one of the anti-aircraft gun towers constructed by Nazi Germany – and consequently a major target of air raids, which left the park scarred by bomb craters. Venture to the top of Humboldthain’s flak tower for exceptional panoramas across the city. On hot summer days, you can cool off at the Humboldthain open-air swimming baths, while winter sees Berliners flock to the park’s toboggan run, now known as the Humboldthöhe. Humboldthain also has its very own vineyard, which produces around 200 bottles of wine a year for special official occasions.
If you get a chance to stand in the famed dome of Berlin’s Reichstag building and look southwest, you’ll get an idea of just how expansive the Tiergarten’s sprawling greenery is. Extending 210 hectares (520 acres), the park runs alongside some of Berlin’s most prominent landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate. Head into the park and look out for the Victory Column, which marks the Prussian defeat of the Danish. You can also find Germany’s oldest zoo and many small ponds, which – if winter gets cold enough – become makeshift ice rinks. For some mid-afternoon refreshment, stop by the beautiful thatched tea house in the English Garden.
While perhaps not the most beautiful, Tempelhofer Feld is undoubtedly among Berlin’s most fascinating parks. Once a military airport and parade ground, Tempelhof ended its life as an aviation hub in 2008. Since then, its former runways and surrounding areas have become one of the city’s prime outdoor recreation destinations. The planes have been replaced with rollerbladers and skateboarders, who do laps of the runways in the shadow of the colossal hangars and terminal building, which are open to the public for tours. Cyclists revel in the vast open space on offer here – hire a bike at Rent a Bike 44 and enjoy the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) cycling trail.