In case you didn’t know, Berlin harbours more green space than any city in Europe. And thankfully so, as if this summer’s anything like the last, we’ll be needing the comforting shade of a tree or two to cool off under come August.
No matter where you live in Berlin, there’s likely some green space not too far from you, each one with its own personality, identity and unique history. The remnants of these individual histories and stories are often still visible today and intrinsic to the wider story of Berlin.
In celebration of this, we thought we’d put together a little guide, outlining the history of Berlin’s parks and why they’re so great.
Treptower Park (Neukölln)
A favourite of locals and tourists alike for its idyllic riverside setting, Treptower Park sits in Berlin’s south of central district of Neukölln.
The large park offers plenty of grass for sunbathing, pedal boats to rent and even its own island in the Spree River which you can reach by bridge for a little more of a secluded wine and sunset experience.
Treptower also includes a War Memorial commemorating the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Near the War Memorial you can find the Archenhold Sternwarte Observatory which boasts the world’s longest refracting telescope, allowing for stargazing free from the city’s light pollution.
Another interesting feature of Treptower is Spreepark, the deserted amusement park. Spreepark was active from 1969 to 2001 at which point the owner went bankrupt, up-and-left Germany and sneakily took some of the rides with him to start a new amusement park in Lima, Peru. Spreepark is currently being transformed for new cultural use, but there are still guided tours of the eerie park available.
Schlossgarten is the grounds of the Charlottenburg Palace. The palace was near-destroyed during the Second World War, but has been restored since. It was built at the end of the seventeenth century and was continually developed and expanded throughout the century that followed.
The garden was designed in 1697 and used avenues and moats to create a network of geometric patterns that separate the garden from its natural surroundings. Then, in 1787 the garden was redesigned in the English landscape style, however, following the Second World War, it was restored to its original design. The palace grounds include a belvedere, a mausoleum, a theatre, a pavilion, a river, a lake and a range of sculptures and artworks.
The park also features a ten metre marble obelisk built in 1979 by Braco Dimitrijevic as an artistic statement. It was erected on March 11 as the date was seen as arbitrary and the intention was to explore the idea of ascribing importance to certain dates.
Großer Tiergarten (Tiergarten)
Arguably Berlin’s most iconic park, Tiergarten is Germany’s third largest urban garden with 520 acres of green land. The story of Tiergarten began in 1530 when land was purchased to create a hunting area for the Elector of Brandenburg. As the city developed though, the park was forced to shrink.
The Second World War was very damaging to Tiergarten and its cultural artefacts. Some Berliners went to lengths to protect certain statues, burying them in the grounds of the Bellevue Palace, where they remained until 1993. Following the war, the Berlin Magistrate opted to restore the park, and between 1949 and 1959 it was widely reforested. In 1991, Tiergarten was granted status as a garden memorial of the city of Berlin and since then, intrusion onto its land by businesses has been illegal.
Tiergarten sits adjacent to Berlin’s most undeniably iconic landmarks, notably the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial. Among the other memorials contained in Tiergarten, the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism built in 2008 lives in the East and the Memorial to the Sinti and roma Victims of National Socialism built in 2012 sits nearby.
The sheer size of Tiergarten means there’s enough space for most everything you’d want from a park. It’s great for running, cycling, sports, sunbathing, barbecues, there are playgrounds, restaurants, a zoo and even ice-skating in the winter.
Volkspark Jungfernheide (Charlottenburg-nord)
Volkspark Jungfernheide may be one of Berlin’s best kept secrets. Tucked away in the North-west, off the beaten track for most Berliners, Jungfernheide tends to be a bit quieter than most inner-city parks.
The park got its name from the Spandau nunnery of ‘Jungfern’, founded in 1239, when the forest became a royal hunting ground until it was designated as an estate in 1823. The park was then used for military drills and shooting grounds until 1904 when the city of Charlottenburg bought up the land for the construction of the volkspark.
As well as a lake with beaches, volleyball courts, cafes and a beer garden, Jungfernheide is teeming with wildlife and also has Berlin’s largest woodland high-ropes course.
Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg)
Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the location of Mauerpark was the terminating station of the Prussian Northern Railway, which connected Berlin with Strausland and the Baltic Sea. The remains of the rail tracks can still be seen today.
Following the closure of the station, the area became part of the Berlin wall and its Death Strip. The name ‘Mauerpark’ can be translated as “Wall Park” - which references this former identity.
Prior to the current corona crisis, Mauerpark had become home to a famous flea market which had been open every Sunday since 2004 offering an array of vintage clothing, second-hand goods and quirky antiques. Similarly, the park is known for its Bearpit Karaoke Show in the stone amphitheatre which regularly attracts crowds of hundreds of encouraging onlookers. We hope this can all safely reopen soon.
Grunewald is an expansive forest on the Western outskirts of the city bordering the Havel River. The name comes from the Grunewald Hunting Lodge of 1543 - the oldest preserved castle in Berlin.
When the Berlin Wall separated the city, Grunewald was the largest green space in the West of Berlin and was consequently a hotspot for bike riding and sport. The forest is notably more quiet now, making it a relaxing place for walks. A ferry is operational in the south of the forest, offering crossings to Lindwerder Island and in the Winter, the hilly areas of Grunewald are used for skiing and tobogganing. Throughout the warmer months, hang-gliders can regularly be seen in the sky.
Grunewald’s highest point, Teufelsberg (in English: Devil’s Mountain), is home to a former US Listening Station that was operational during the cold war. Now the site has been taken over by artists and tours are offered.
The Lustgarten is situated on Museum Island in central Berlin - somewhat near the former site of Berlin’s City Palace. The park has had many functions throughout history, serving as a parade ground, a public park and a military training site (Napoleon drilled his troops here in 1806).
Lustgarten has also been a place for many historic mass rallies such as a 500,000-strong demonstration against right-wing extremism in 1921, a 250,000-strong protest against the murder of the Foreign Minister in 1922 and a 200,000-strong demonstration against Hitler’s nationalist regime in 1933.
In 1942, a Jewish resistance group attempted to destroy a propaganda exhibition, but their attempts were foiled. A memorial stone was installed in 1981 to commemorate their heroic efforts. Lying in the heart of a reunited Berlin, Lustgarten is now a peaceful space for reflection and relaxation
Park am Gleisdreieck (Kreuzberg)
Park am Gleisdreieck is the park just by Gleisdreieck station and was entirely redesigned and reopened in 2011. The redevelopment project involved local residents and has been successful in reimagining what was once an inaccessible wasteland into a versatile space for Berliners of all ages.
The space accommodates a range of activities from skating to running to volleyball and more. Since opening, the park has been awarded the Berlin Architecture Prize (2013), the German Urban Development Prize (2014) and the German Landscape Architecture Prize (2015).
Viktoriapark is a green space in Kreuzberg that first opened in 1894. The park offers a picturesque viewpoint of the southern and central parts of the city.
A key landmark of Viktoriapark is an 1815 monument dedicated by King Frederick William III of Prussia to the liberation wars. During the summer months, an artificial waterfall operates from the foot of the monument and continues down the hillside.
Viktoriapark also has a surprising history of wine-growing, with the park neighbouring two small vineyards which were founded in 1968 and 2006. Between the vineyards, around six hundred bottles are pressed each year.
Volkspark Friedrichshain (Friedrichshain/Prenzlauer Berg)
Originally developed in 1840, Volkspark Friedrichshain took the space of a former vineyard and is one of the oldest true public parks in Berlin.
The park is full of historic monuments. There’s a 1989 Japanese Pavilion dedicated to unity against nuclear war that was a gift from Japan to East Berlin. There are monuments to Frederick the Great, the March Revolution of 1848, the 1918 Red Sailors’ Revolution and the 1972 Memorial to Polish Soldiers and German Anti-Fascists.
There are beach volleyball courts on the former site of GDR period swimming pools. There are places for rock climbing, skating, cycling and more. There’s also a variety of children's playgrounds, tennis courts and restaurants. And the park is thankfully open 24 hours.
Görlitzer Park (Kreuzberg)
Görlitzer Park is one of Kreuzberg’s most well-known green spaces. The park contains a petting zoo, sports facilities, a small lake and several art exhibits.
The park itself was originally home to a train line and station, but during the Second World War it was damaged heavily. Only some remnants of the tracks and freight sheds can still be made out today. The park features gently sloping green hills which in the Winter months are lovingly used for tobogganing.
Tempelhofer Park (Neukölln/Tempelhof)
Maybe our favourite in this list for both its uniqueness and its historical significance, Tempelhofer Feld is not only Berlin’s biggest park, but it’s also the largest inner-city open space in the world.
What was originally farmland for Schöneberg farmers became a military drill ground from 1722 all the way up until 1914. Then, in 1927 the Tempelhofer Airport opened and remained functional until 2008 following which it was reopened in 2010 as a public recreational space.
The space offers a skate park, an open, urban garden, mini-golf, and a variety of sports courts. The park has ten entrances and can be accessed from sunrise to sunset. For a calming break from the claustrophobia of urban living, Tempelhofer Park is truly unparalleled.
Fritz-Schloß Park (Moabit)
A lesser-known gem, this park is located just North of Tiergarten in Moabit. The park includes a host of sport facilities such as football pitches and tennis courts, as well as, of course, plenty of clean open grass to lounge around on in the warmer months.
The park is named after Fritz Schloß who was the mayor of the district from 1946 to 1952 before he sadly passed away in 1954. Within the park’s grounds, there is an important memorial dedicated to the Trümmerfrauen - the women who helped clear the rubble of the ruined city following the war.
Hasenheide Park (Neukölln/Kreuzberg)
Bordering two of Berlin’s most popular districts, today Hasenheide Park is a peaceful space frequented by joggers and walkers alike. The name dates back to its early use as a rabbit hunting area.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that the first plans to convert the area of Hasenheide into a public park were devised, but by the start of the Second World War in 1939, only the Eastern section was complete. It took all the way until 1954 for Hasenheide Park to finally be open to the public.
Following the war, roughly 700,000 cubic metres of rubble were incorporated into the park’s terrain to make a 22-metre-high mountain, the Rixdorfer Höhe, that now towers above the surrounding parkland. A monument to the Trümmerfrauen, the rubble women of Berlin, was unveiled on the Rixdorfer Höhe on April 30, 1955.
An old oak tree, the Jahn Oak, lives in the South-East of the park and is believed to be somewhere close to three-hundred-years-old. The tree is protected as a natural monument.
Volkspark Humboldthain (Gesundbrunnen)
Just around the corner from our Wedding studio, Volkspark Humboldthain is definitely a favourite of ours. Opened in the late 1800s, Humboldthain is a popular park for Berlin’s inner-Eastern residents and offers a wealth of historical significance.
In the height of the Second World War, a network of bunkers were constructed in the park hiding radar systems and anti-aircraft weapons. While most of these have been destroyed, Flakturm III remains. It’s a former anti-aircraft blockhouse tower at the highest point of the park and these days is used to enjoy panoramic views of the city. Tours of the facility are also available in the summer months.
With the huge, 290,000-square-metre area, one can find a small water park, several adventure playgrounds, a handful of monuments, a vineyard, an abundance of sports courts and plenty of spots for quiet relaxation.
Österreich Park (Charlottenburg)
Österreich Park can be found on the banks of the Spree River in Berlin’s Western district of Charlottenburg. A rather new addition to the city’s green space having opened only in 2013, Österreich Park was an expansion of the Sömmeringhalle Sports centre.
The park is connected to the Spree-side hiking path that, if followed Easterly, quickly leads to the lovely bar and beer garden CapRivi.
Nature Park Südgelände (Schöneberg)
Characterised by a strange mix of decaying railways, artistic developments and nature conservation efforts, Südgelände is a beautiful park in Berlin’s Western district of Schöneberg.
The park sits on the site of the former Dresden and Anhalt Railway lines which were opened in 1875 and 1841 respectively. Since the lines were closed and the tracks dismantled, nature has truly reclaimed the space such that in the park today, one can find 366 different species of fern and flowering plants, 95 species of bees, 49 species of birds, 49 different large mushrooms and more than 60 endangered species of wildlife.
Volkspark Rehberge (Wedding)
In any other city this would be considered a huge park, but in Berlin this doesn’t even make top three on the size list. Volkspark Rehberge is truly beautiful though, and just far enough out of the centre that it tends to offer a uniquely serene and relaxed atmosphere.
Rehberge was created in a glacial landscape consisting of shifting sand dunes and a glacial trough. Incorporated into the park’s design, the glacial trough was redeveloped into a chain of three lakes: the Möwensee, the Sperlingssee and a smaller duck pool. The park has a range of playgrounds, sports fields, restaurants, sunbathing areas, a beach and a historic, open-air stage.
Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg (Prenzlauer Berg/Pankow)
Like other Berlin parks, the terrain of Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg was largely formed by the dumping of rubble left over from the Second World War. Prior to this, the area consisted of a small village colony, allotment gardens and market stalls.
Once there was no room left to dump rubble in Friedrichshain, Teufelsberg or Gesundbrunnen though, this area was chosen to dump the remainder. So in 1963, the space was cleared and fifteen-million cubic metres of rubble from destroyed buildings was trucked in.
The central attraction and highest point of the park is now the Trümmerberg summit - created entirely from the rubble that surrounded Alexanderplatz. Standing at 91 metres above sea level, the summit is one of the highest points in Berlin and consequently offers incredible views of the city. Since then, thanks to replanting efforts, the park has flourished atop the rubble foundations. 57 bird species can now be found there along with a range of other wildlife and plant species.
Words by Ewan Waddell.