Tiergarten Walking Tour, Berlin

Tiergarten Walking Tour (Self Guided), Berlin

Known for the huge park of the same name, which once was a royal hunting ground, the central district of Tiergarten (German for “Animal Garden”) is home to the Berlin Zoo, the Victory Column with its winged statue and the lively, lakeside Café am Neuen See.

Begin your exploration at Postdamer Platz, the historic central square of Berlin, once regarded in the same way as Piccadilly Circus was in London. It has quite a fascinating history and, indeed, has probably experienced more change and upheaval in the past century or so than any other city-center square in the world. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Cold War, it has awesome architecture, an impressive skyline, and a busy square, but laid out in such a way that it seems airy.

One of the centerpieces of Potsdamer Platz’s redevelopment, the Sony Center has an amazing central atrium area and is just a beautiful piece of engineering with a decent selection of cafes/restaurants and entertainment venues.

Bordering the square, the Kulturforum includes several state museums and the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall, built in 1963 and regarded as one of the finest post-war architectural achievements in Europe. Meanwhile, the Gemäldegalerie is a treasure trove of European art, and has some great explanations of its history.

Spend the rest of the day wandering around the “green lung of Berlin” – a wonderful idea, especially with all the monuments, statues and winding paths throughout. Very serene and lush, the Tiergarten Park also has gorgeous plants/flowers and many idyllic ponds interspersed with benches around. On a beautiful day, it’s great for spreading out on blankets for a picnic.

For an excellent day out in Tiergarten, follow this self-guided walking tour and explore at your own pace.
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Tiergarten Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Tiergarten Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Berlin (See other walking tours in Berlin)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square)
  • Museum fur Film und Fernsehen (Film and Television Museum)
  • Sony Center
  • Berliner Philharmonie
  • St. Matthaus-Kirche (St. Matthew's Church)
  • Gemaldegalerie (Painting Gallery)
  • Victory Column and Great Star Roundabout
  • Cafe am Neuen See
Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square)

1) Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square)

An important public square and traffic hub at the heart of Berlin, Potsdam lies about 1 km (1,100 yd) to the south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (Parliament Building), and close to Tiergarten Park. Over a little more than a century, it evolved from a rural crossroads into Europe's busiest traffic intersection; however, it was completely destroyed during WWII and remained desolate during the Cold War when the Berlin Wall divided its former site. Since German reunification, Potsdam has undergone significant redevelopment, becoming a vibrant hub for commerce, art collections, theaters, dining, festivals, social gatherings, and a remarkable range of architectural styles.

The square is notably dominated by the ultramodern Sony Centre, known for its three floors of technology and a tent-like roof inspired by Japan's Mount Fuji. Other attractions include the Panoramapunkt, offering one of Berlin's best aerial views; a replica of Europe's first semi-automated traffic light tower from 1924; the 'Boulevard des stars', Berlin's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame; a small section of the Berlin Wall; amazing public art installations around Marlene Dietrich Platz and beyond; FACIL, a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant serving innovative cuisine; and numerous exciting events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Chinese New Year, Summer Movie Sessions, Festival of Lights, and one of Berlin's most popular Christmas Markets.

Before visiting Potsdam Square, it's worthwhile to view photos of its post-WWII condition when it was mostly rubble, with only the traffic tower remaining after Allied bombings.
Museum fur Film und Fernsehen (Film and Television Museum)

2) Museum fur Film und Fernsehen (Film and Television Museum)

Located within the Sony Center, this state-of-the-art museum is one of the finest film museums worldwide. It chronicles the history of German filmmaking and television, commencing from the silent era and extending to contemporary films and directors. The exhibits pay homage to pioneers like Fritz Lang, groundbreaking documentaries such as Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia," and iconic stars like Marlene Dietrich, showcasing some of her personal belongings.

Beyond the intriguing content, the museum's layouts are aesthetically pleasing and impressive, particularly the entrance hall – a hall of mirrors with large screens reflecting upon each other. You can wander through these fascinating exhibits relatively quickly for an overview, but if you intend to delve deep and watch film excerpts, plan on spending a day here! Descriptions are available in English, and for those seeking an enriched experience, there is an outstanding audio guide.

The TV section may not be as enthralling, but if you ever wanted to hear Star Trek dubbed in German, this is your chance. On the ground floor, there is a decent gift shop with a variety of fun and quirky items for cinephiles, along with books and movies.

Photography is prohibited, and if you have a backpack, you'll need to check it in before entering. Every Thursday between 4 and 8 pm, admission is free – a great way to save some money.
Sony Center

3) Sony Center

Completed in the year 2000 with a total investment of €750 million, this ultra-modern complex, proudly sponsored by Sony, stands as a dynamic indoor and outdoor destination adjacent to Potsdam Square. Positioned at the historic boundary between former East and West Berlin, it has transformed a previously vacant landscape into a multifaceted space featuring an assortment of amenities.

The complex encompasses an array of offerings, including shops, cozy cafe bars, and an array of restaurants to suit diverse tastes. It houses a conference center, hotel accommodations, opulent rented suites, and condominiums, providing a variety of stay options. Additionally, it accommodates office spaces, art and film museums, cinemas, an IMAX theater, and an exciting LEGO Discovery Centre catering to younger visitors. For tech enthusiasts, there's a "Sony-style" store to explore.

One of Sony Center's most captivating features is the extraordinary roof, resembling the petals of a flower. This innovative canopy not only provides shade from the sun but also undergoes a mesmerizing color transformation as evening descends, while the pool with fountain underneath responds accordingly, adding to the spectacle. Rain or shine, this space offers a perfect setting for relaxation, open-air events, various film-related activities, and even checking your email thanks to the free WiFi. Don't miss the chance to visit the Kaisersaal, a historic architectural gem that was once part of the prestigious Grand Hotel Esplanade, known for its pre-war luxury.

During the Christmas season, the Sony Center takes on an enchanting new identity as its piazza becomes adorned with vibrant, oversized Christmas decorations, creating an unparalleled atmosphere that draws visitors from near and far.
Berliner Philharmonie

4) Berliner Philharmonie

Part of Europe's cultural heritage, the Berliner Philharmonie offers a remarkable opportunity to witness and hear the world's most renowned orchestra perform in an exceptional concert hall. With exceptional conductors and musicians who bring their unique, finely nuanced interpretations to life, the orchestra's live performances are nothing short of breathtaking. The seating arrangements encircle the stage, and the acoustics are truly exceptional, allowing you to experience each note in a way that is unparalleled.

The venue itself took three years to build (from 1960 to 1963) and stands as one of Europe's most exceptional architectural achievements in the post-war era. Designed by Hans Scharoun, the innovative concept of the concert hall places the podium at the center of a pentagonal-shaped hall, seamlessly blending the public galleries into the perspective of its five corners. This design ensures excellent views from all sides, enhancing the overall concert experience.

The exterior of this amazing building mirrors its interior. It underwent gilding between 1978 and 1981, resulting in a striking golden appearance and a shape reminiscent of a circus tent. When combined with the enthusiasm of Berlin's music aficionados, attending a concert at the Philharmonie promises an experience that's impossible to forget.

Concert availability is limited, so it's advisable to plan ahead. Note that there are free lunchtime concerts on Tuesdays during the summertime. || The dress code is mainly smart casual to dark suits, as stated on the website. || Pre-order your intermission drinks to avoid unnecessary waiting in line. || Consider joining guided tours of the venue before evening concerts for added insight and enjoyment.
St. Matthaus-Kirche (St. Matthew's Church)

5) St. Matthaus-Kirche (St. Matthew's Church)

Standing in stark contrast to the modern structures of the Kulturforum, this picturesque 19th-century is the only completely restored historical building following the damage inflicted during the bombing raids of World War II. With its handsome slender tower and intricately patterned neo-Romanesque brickwork facade, it now functions as an evangelical church with daily services while also serving as an art gallery featuring rotating contemporary paintings of a religious theme. This juxtaposition of modern artwork against the backdrop of traditional church surroundings creates a thought-provoking and colorful experience for art enthusiasts.

Saint Matthew's also has a well-established musical tradition, with famous pianist Franz Liszt having not only performed here frequently but also giving his final concert in 1886 before his passing (with some luck, you may catch a 20-minute organ performance at noon).

Follow the story of how God created the world and brought this church to Berlin, beautifully depicted in the fifty stained glass windows. Afterward, ascend the bell tower's steps to enjoy aerial views of the other, far more modern and angular, Kulturforum buildings.
Gemaldegalerie (Painting Gallery)

6) Gemaldegalerie (Painting Gallery) (must see)

While often overlooked by tourists, the Painting Gallery is a treasure trove of Old Masters' works, housing one of the world's premier collections of European art spanning from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Within its walls, you'll find classical masterpieces by renowned artists like Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.

With a history that goes back to 1830, this gallery takes great pride in its scientific approach to collecting and exhibiting art. Each room is curated to present a cohesive statement about one to five artists from a specific period or style, allowing visitors to appreciate the paintings both individually and collectively. Especially notable rooms include the octagonal Rembrandt room and another containing five distinct Madonnas by Raphael. Additionally, you'll encounter Flemish moralistic artworks that span the museum's north side, revealing a fascinating interplay between the religious motivations of the patrons and the often sensual inspirations of the artists themselves.

Plan to spend at least 2 to 3 hours exploring the entire collection, especially if there is a special exhibit on display. It's otherwise easy to skip some rooms and spend more time in those that pique your interest. For enhanced insights, make use of the engaging audio guide (available in multiple languages and included in the admission price), as there is little in the way of written descriptions.

Consider taking breaks at the convenient cafe located upstairs or on the glass balconies at the building's corners, where you can gaze into the distance and give your eyes a rest.
Victory Column and Great Star Roundabout

7) Victory Column and Great Star Roundabout

Originally located in front of the Reichstag building until it was relocated to the Tiergarten during the Nazi era, the Victory Column was initially designed in the 1860s to commemorate Prussia's success in the Prusso-Danish war of 1864. However, by the time of its inauguration in September 1873, Prussia had achieved additional victories over both Austria and France, prompting the column's new purpose. To celebrate these later triumphs in the "unification wars", the column was adorned with the addition of a massive bronze sculpture of Victoria, standing at a towering height of 8.3 meters (27 feet) and weighing an impressive 35 tonnes. Locals affectionately refer to this iconic landmark as "Goldelse", which roughly translates to "Golden Lizzy".

Frequently part of the route for marches and parades, the column – a Berlin landmark – is also accessible to pedestrians through four convenient underpasses, which are particularly useful due to the heavy traffic in the area. For a fee, those in good physical condition can climb a steep spiral staircase comprising 281 steps, almost reaching the top of the column, to enjoy magnificent views overlooking the Tiergarten and the radial roads emanating from the Great Star roundabout.

This impressive roundabout, located at the heart of the sprawling Tiergarten park, derives its name from the five major roads that fan out from its center. While the Victory Column stands prominently in the middle, the adjacent square is surrounded by monuments that were moved here from the nearby Reichstag building in the late 1930s. In the square's northern part, you'll encounter a grand bronze monument dedicated to Otto von Bismarck (1815–98), the first German Chancellor, encircled by allegorical figures. Other statues in the vicinity pay homage to national heroes, including Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke (1800–91), who served as the chief of the Prussian general staff from 1858 to 1888 and played a pivotal role in the Franco-German War.

On a beautiful day, you can easily lose track of time exploring the area or simply relaxing on blankets for a delightful picnic.
Cafe am Neuen See

8) Cafe am Neuen See

Rest assured that on a sunny day, you'll find yourself vying for a table at this idyllic den. Set beside an itsy-bitsy lake in the very picturesque Tiergarten, it's a place to relish breathing fresh air amidst the backdrop of trees and the tranquil water, all while being just steps away from the main streets of Berlin and everything they have to offer.

Unlike a typical fast food joint, the interior exudes an atmospheric charm, akin to a cozy log cabin. Moreover, it embraces nature in a way that many cramped cafes do not. The menu, although limited, has a delicious range of foods, primarily featuring pizzas, pastas, salads, and grilled meat dishes. It's evident that both locals and tourists enjoy the dining experience here.

As night falls, the ambiance is enhanced with candlelit tables and strings of lights strung between the trees. Should the temperature drop, you'll find blankets readily available. Before departing, make sure to indulge in the experience of renting a rowing boat on the small lake and capturing some memorable photos amidst the lush greenery.

Consider making a reservation, especially if you plan to dine here in the evening or on weekends when it tends to get particularly crowded. If you lose the battle for a table, simply lay out a blanket on the grassy expanse!

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