In this article, we will explore the best parks and green spaces in Berlin. You will also learn about the history of urban parks development in Europe.
As of 2021, Berlin is the largest city in the EU. There are many sights to see in Berlin. You may know it as a huge cluster of crazy clubs, a hotspot of gripping cultural venues, or as a real Eldorado of fascinating museums and galleries. But Berlin is also home to a number of beautiful parks. There are over 2,500 public parks and gardens in the German capital! In fact, over 30% of the city area is green spaces and woodland. So, as you may easily guess, Berlin is quite a green city.
For hundreds of years, gardens and other green spaces, as actually most of the land in Europe, had been the property of either states' rulers, or of the wealthiest people, or of the Church. Things started to change in the 17th and 18th century, when it became a common practice to open some of your private space to the public. In many French and German cities of that time, promenades (from French se promener "to walk") were laid out for leisure walks. That was the beginning of something that will later become an urban park!
Back then, the dominant style of park precursors in most of Europe was known as jardins à la française ("French gardens"). These were rather architectural spots of nature. They were all about symmetry and order. Basically, French gardens were designed to demonstrate man's power, i.e. to show and prove that "we, the Humans, have mastered Nature itself!"
Quite an opposite approach was developed in the early 18th century in England. Local garden artists and space designers attempted to recreate rustic landscapes in its unspoilt form. So English gardens were natural spots of nature (no tautology is intended :).
But in Germany something entirely different was born in the 19th century. It was a concept of a "Volksgarten" ("people's garden"). Over time, it evolved into a "Volkspark" ("people's park"), or simply "Stadtpark" ("city park"). It was a much more open space for common use. It was decorated with monuments and structures in historic styles. The idea behind German "Volksgärten" was to create a public space for everyone, a place where people from all classes could meet and mingle. So the main focus was the community. Surrounded not only by nature, but also by buildings and monuments that would remind people of their common origin, culture, and history.
In short, historic European garden styles could be categorized into the following simplified pattern: French = symmetry and power; English = natural and rustic; German = open and community-oriented.
The rapid Industrialisation and the subsequent economic boom resulted in a massive population growth in Europe. As a result of the changing life conditions, parks became more than just joy-inducing aesthetic places or social interaction spots. For people who worked and lived in a suffocating smog of industrial cities, parks were, as Germans say, “Rückzugsorte” (“places of retreat”). Thus, the creation of green spaces in urban and heavily industrialised areas became a necessity. These are the reasons why Berlin - one of the world industrial capitals of the 19th century - has so many parks and green spaces, including some untouched forests...
Here is our Walkative list of TOP 11 parks in Berlin.
🏞 Schlossgarten Charlottenburg
🏞 Botanischer Garten
🏞 Britzer Garten
🏞 Schlosspark Köpenick
🏞 Volkspark Humboldthain
🏞 Treptower Park
🏞 Volkspark Friedrichshain
🏞 Tempelhofer Feld
Well, Grunewald is actually not a park, but a real forest (the German name translates into English as "Green Forest"). It is the largest green space in Berlin. The forest spans from the marvellous neighbourhood of Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin to the fancy district of Charlottenburg which is not far away from the city centre. Grunewald is a paradise for those who want or just need to escape for a while from busy city streets filled with clamor and dive into nature instead. You will find many pathways and structures in the forest, so do not think of it as a very wild nature place. You can also swim in some bathing lakes scattered around the forest.
Do not miss a Renaissance hunting lodge (Jagdschloss) which is one of the oldest remaining palaces in Berlin, as well as an abandoned GDR listening station of the Cold War Era on the top of artificial hill Teufelsberg (Devil's Mount/Hill). Or climb the Grunewald Tower, it was built in the late 19th century for William I, the first king of the newly established German Empire.
In short, Grunewald is a perfect place for those who want to hike, run, or cycle. Explore, chill out, and enjoy Nature!
The German name “Tiergarten” means “Animal Garden”. It used to be a hunting ground for Brandenburger Kurfürsts (prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire). Then a Baroque park was laid out here in the 18th century. It was extended and partially turned into an English landscape park. Multiple sculptures and monuments were added to it throughout history. One incredible fact about the history of Tiergarten is that after World War II, when coal was scarce, wood was in need. So little by little over 99% of the trees were cut down (only 700 trees survived out of 200,000). The park recovery programme was launched in the 1960s.
Today, Tiergarten is the second largest green space in Berlin. This public park spans from the Brandenburger Gate to the oldest Zoo in Germany. Along the way, you will also see some other interesting monuments and sights, including the Soviet WWII memorial site (that commemorates the Soviet victory over the Nazis), Siegessäule (Victory Column, marking the Danish defeat by the Prussian army in the 19th century), Bismarck monument (dedicated to a prominent Prussian military leader and one of the fathers of German unification). Do not miss the Luiseninsel (a tiny island in the park), and the English garden with a lovely thatched tea-house.
But the most important fact about these 210 hectares (520 acres) of green space is its location - Tiergarten is situated in the very heart of Berlin. Not so many global cities can boast such a massive green area in its centre. An area where one can enjoy a variety of activities, including walking, running, biking, canoeing etc. In short, Tiergarten is a great place for chilling in the very centre of Berlin.
Many people know Charlottenburg, a famous quarter in Berlin full of boutiques and other shopping hotspots. But the absolute jewel of the quarter is not a shopping mall, but a beautiful 17th-century Charlottenburg Palace which served as the main royal residence in Germany. It was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte (the wife of the German emperor Friedrich I) and built in Baroque style.
Behind the Palace you will find a magnificent Schlossgarten (Palace Garden), a fusion of two types of park landscaping: 18th-century English garden and 19th-century French garden. Besides, some interesting buildings and structures are scattered around the park area...
Curiosity: a huge tropical plant from Mexico, called Agave, grows in the garden of the Palace. It even blooms every now and then (say, every 100 years, since it is a century plant).
The Botanical Garden in Berlin-Steglitz was laid out at the beginning of the 20th century. Back then exotic plants from German colonies were displayed. Today, this garden in south-western Berlin boasts over 20,000 plant species. Which makes it one of the most species-rich places in Europe. Moreover, this is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world.
The Botanical Garden covers an area of more than 40 hectares! Today, the whole area belongs to the Free University of Berlin. The park-like part has many greenhouses, some exhibition pavilions, a purely botanical museum (the only one in Europe), and even a destroyed WWII bunker underneath. It is worth visiting a huge (14 hectares) arboretum (from Latin arbor, “tree”) which is a collection of roses and shrubs. The Great Pavilion (Großes Tropenhaus) is a must-see part of the garden. The Large Tropical House (Großes Tropenhaus) is 25 metres high and is surrounded by some smaller greenhouses. It is a nice example of the early 20th-century glass-and-steel architecture.
Overall, be ready to spend at least two hours if you want to see everything in this goldmine of botanical beauty and knowledge.
Britz is a district in the south of Berlin. In the 1980s, a new landscape park was laid out in Britz for the oncoming national garden show Bundesgartenschau.
They charge you a few euro entrance fee, but do not hesitate to spend this money. Especially if you like marvellous flower beds and lovely lakes with idyllic views. On the calendar square you will find the largest sundial in Europe. There is also a garden railway 5 km long.
Besides, if you are tired after a walk, some cafes are found around the park. They have tables over ponds and among the rose gardens. What can be better than sitting with a cup of coffee or some desserts and being surrounded by nature?
Köpenick is a nice neighbourhood on the outskirts of south-east Berlin. It is a 30 minutes ride from the city centre. Köpenick used to be a mediaeval town with Slavic roots. The name "Copnic" literally meant “island place” and there is something like an island there, or rather a peninsula. This is where a lovely tiny park with a small but beautiful palace from the 16th century is to be found.
By the way, if you are in Köpenick, do not miss the main square where you can see one of the oldest remaining houses in Berlin (1616), it is a Baroque Fachwerkhaus (half-timbered house) at Alt-Köpenick №36. The whole area is full of 18th and 19th century buildings, including Rathaus Köpenick (City Hall) and Laurentiuskirche (St Laurence Church).
Volkspark Humboldthain is a famous public park in the Gesundbrunnen district, i.e. in the northern part of Berlin. It was opened in the 1860s and named after a famous Prussian geographer and explorer - Alexander von Humboldt.
The thing that attracts many people to this park is a still existing Flakturm*. Today, this tower with a bunker serves as a really good vantage point. Naturally, this place is a magnet for photo-lovers or those who like panoramic views. You can also climb the bunker hill if you are into sports. Many people do hill running here. Basically, it is hard to find a better place in the centre of Berlin for joggers who like challenges.
* Flak towers were anti-aircraft gun towers constructed by the Nazis during World War II; three of them were built in Berlin.
There is also a nice rosarium (Rosagarten, or rosa gardens) in the middle of the park. As well as playgrounds for kids and a sledding hill (known as Humboldthöhe, or “Humboldt Hill”) in winter. And on hot summer days swimming in an open-air bath may be literally a cool idea.
To sum up, whether doing sports, exploring WWII remnants, or just enjoying the sunset and a picturesque view of Berlin - Humboldthain would be a perfect choice.
Treptower Park is located alongside the Spree, the main river in Berlin. Undoubtedly, one of the most visited recreation spots for people in Berlin, this area has plenty of things to offer. There is an impressive Soviet War Memorial in the park. It commemorates the Soviet soldiers who perished during World War II (about 80,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Battle of Berlin which took place in April and May 1945).
Do not miss a lovely Island of the Youth! It is connected with Treptower Park by a nice Abbey Bridge. Sports ground with equipment, restaurants, beautiful views from the love bridge and the island itself. The list of why-you-should-see-this-spot reasons can go on...
BONUS: There is also a separate and a more wild green space if you walk further. It is known as Plänterwald (German for timber forest) and it looks like a continuation or even part of Treptower Park. Moreover, the Matryoshka idiosyncrasy of the area does not stop here, since there is another, smaller park in this forest. It is called Spreepark and it is an amusement park... A former one, since it was abandoned in 2001.
Friedrich Schiller is one of the most famous German poets in history. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Berlin authorities decided to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poet's death. As a result, Schillerpark was opened in 1913. It is located in one of the most culturally diverse districts of Berlin - Wedding (pronounced as [ˈvɛdɪŋ]).
Schillerpark was probably the first park in Germany that was designed as a genuinely urban “Volkspark” (“people's park”), the concept explained above. Its creation marked the shift of garden design as a whole in the history of Europe.
The Public Park Friedrichshain was opened in 1846. It was designed for public use from the very beginning. The Friedrichshain is thus considered to be the oldest municipal park in Berlin. It is located between two very famous districts of Berlin - Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg. This is a walkable distance from a well-known hub in Berlin - Alexanderplatz.
Apart from its historical significance, the park has plenty of pieces of art, first of all sculptures and monuments. The most famous one is a fabulous Märchenbrunnen (the name means “fairy-tale fountain”) is in the southeastern corner of the park. It is decorated with scenes from famous German fairy tales. In the middle, you will see a lovely swan pond with… ducks everywhere :).
The park has the largest open-air cinema in Berlin, so do not forget to check out the showtimes if you are here in summer.
Besides, Friedrichshain Park is another green place in Berlin suitable for sports activities. Roads and pathways are all around the park hills. So this is another paradise for joggers and athletes.
Technically Tempelhofer Feld is a city park. But do not expect to see many trees there, for, as the name suggests, Feld is more like... a field! In fact, it used to be an airfield. Yes, not so long ago (until 2008) Tempelhofer Feld was a fully-fledged airport! Moreover, just 100 years ago it was one of the three largest airports in Europe! But things change, and today this huge area (350 ha) between the Neukölln and Tempelhof districts in Berlin serves as a park.
The Feld offers an incredible atmosphere, especially in summertime when it is packed with people. You will be suprised by a variety of activities people indulge here.
For many people who have ever visited the Feld (everybody in Berlin knows this German word for “field”), this park on the site of the former airport is the epitome of life in Berlin: freedom, diversity, and mingling...
You may have a beer on the lawn with friends or random people, read a book somewhere among the larks (but do not disturb the birds because they might be busy with mating from April till July), dance or meditate in a circle with other people, windsurf on the land, or simply enjoy the sunset. It is a perfect place to meet and chat with lots of nice people from very different cultures and corners of the world. Besides, where else would you have the chance to ride a bike or roller-skate or simply walk down the runaway? 🙂