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.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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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 of Film and Television
  • Sony Center
  • Berliner Philharmonie
  • St. Matthäus Church
  • Gemäldegalerie
  • Victory Column and Tiergarten Park
  • Café am Neuen See
Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square)

1) Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square)

An important public square and traffic intersection in the centre of Berlin, Potsdamer Platz lies about 1 km (1,100 yd) south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (German Parliament Building), and close to the southeast corner of the Tiergarten park. After developing within the space of little over a century from an intersection of rural thoroughfares into the most bustling traffic intersection in Europe, it was totally destroyed during WWII and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. Since German reunification, Potsdamer Platz has been the site of major redevelopment projects, so much so that it now hosts exciting commerce venues, art collections, theaters, gastronomy, festivals, an extraordinary number of architectural styles, and great areas to chill and hang out with friends.

The square is dominated by the ultra-modern Sony Centre (worth visiting for its three floors of tech), it's tent-like roof inspired by Japan's mount Fuji forms the backdrop for many film premieres at the Filmhaus Museum. Other highlights include the Panoramapunkt affording one of the best views of Berlin from above; a replica of the first-ever (1924) semi-automated traffic light tower in Europe; the 'Boulevard des stars', Berlin's version of Hollywood's famous Walk of Fame; a small section of the Berlin Wall; amazing public art pieces around Marlene Dietrich Platz and beyond; the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant FACIL, serving gorgeous modern and creative cuisine, and numerous exciting events and festivals held throughout the year, like the Chinese New Year, Summer Movie Sessions, Festival of Lights and one of Berlin’s most visited Christmas Markets.

Before you visit Potsdamer Platz, make sure you see photos of it after WWII – it was, basically, a pile of rubble with only the traffic tower still standing after Allied bombings.
Museum of Film and Television

2) Museum of Film and Television

This hi-tech museum – one of the best film museums anywhere – recounts the history of German film-making and television, starting in the silent era and leading up to modern-day films and directors. Among the exhibits are those devoted to pioneers such as Fritz Lang, groundbreaking documentaries like "Olympia" by Leni Riefenstahl, and legendary divas such as Marlene Dietrich.

Not only are the exhibits interesting but the layouts are beautiful and impressive to look at, too, especially the opening room – a hall of mirrors with large screens that reflect on each other. You could wander through these fascinating exhibits relatively quickly for an overview but if you want to dig in and watch some of the film excerpts, plan on spending a day here! For those who want to make the most out of the experience, there is also an excellent audio-guide.

The TV section is not quite as absorbing, but if you ever wanted to hear Star Trek dubbed in German, this is your chance. There is also a decent gift shop with lots of lots of fun and quirky items along with books and movies.

No photos allowed and if you have a backpack it will have to be checked in before entering.
Everyone gets free admission every Thursday between 4 and 8pm – a great way to save a bit of cash.

Operation Hours:
Wed, Fri-Mon: 10am–6pm; Thu: 10am–8pm
Sony Center

3) Sony Center

Completed in 2000 at a total cost of €750M, this hyper-modern Sony-sponsored indoor/outdoor complex beside the Potsdamer Platz – right at the frontier between former East and West Berlin – fills a previously barren landscape with a mix of shops, cafe bars and restaurants, a conference center, hotel rooms, luxurious rented suites and condominiums, offices, art and film museums, cinemas, an IMAX theater, a LEGO Discovery Centre for the younger ones, and a "Sony-style" store.

Perhaps most striking is the unique roof resembling flower petals, which not only shields the whole place from the sun but also changes colors in the evening while the pool with fountain underneath responds accordingly. In both sunny and wet weather, this is a great place to chill out, stroll around open-air events, do one of several film-related activities, perhaps read your email (there is free WiFi) or take a peek at the Kaisersaal – a historic architectural gem that was once part of the Grand Hotel Esplanade (the epitome of luxury in pre-war Berlin).

During the Christmas period, the Center acquires an extra pulling power: its piazza gets outfitted with very colorful, huge Christmas decorations that create a unique sight and generate an unrivaled ambiance.

Opening Hours:
Berliner Philharmonie

4) Berliner Philharmonie

Part of Europe's cultural heritage, the Berliner Philharmonie allows you to see/hear pretty much the world's most famous orchestra and concert hall. Blessed with great conductors and musicians, characterized by unique, highly nuanced interpretations, the orchestra is stunning live. There are seats all around the stage, and the acoustics are just wonderful: you can hear every note, in a way you have not heard before.

The venue itself took three years to build (1960-63) and is regarded as one of the finest post-war architectural achievements in Europe. Based on a new concept for concert hall interiors, the experimental design by Hans Scharoun has placed the podium in the center of a pentagonal-shaped hall, with the public galleries merging into the perspective of the five corners.

The exterior of this amazing building reflects its interior, which was later gilded between 1978-81, and now has a strong golden appearance and a shape reminiscent of a circus tent. Adding to this the enthusiasm of 'music-loving' Berliners, going to a concert at the Philharmonie creates an experience that's impossible to forget!

There are limited concerts, so plan ahead (note, however, the free lunchtime concerts on Tuesday in summertime).
As stated at the website, there is no dress code and it is mainly smart casual to dark suit.
Pre-order your intermission drinks or you will be waiting in line needlessly.
You can also attend guided tours of the venue before a concert in the evening.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 3-6pm
St. Matthäus Church

5) St. Matthäus Church

Standing out among the modern buildings of the Kulturforum, this picturesque 19th-century church is the only historical building that was completely restored after suffering extensive damage in the bombing raids of the Second World War. With its handsome thin tower and patterned neo-Romanesque brickwork facade, it is today a functioning evangelist church with daily services, but doubles as an art gallery with several rotating contemporary paintings of a religious nature – a compelling contrast to traditional church artworks. The paintings are provocative, non-offensive and very colorful and, as such, interesting viewing for art fans.

The church additionally has a well-known musical tradition, with famous pianist Franz List not only having often played but having given his last ever performance here before his death in 1886 (with some luck, you can attend a 20-minute organ rendezvous at noon). Follow the story of how God created the world and brought St. Matthäus Church to Berlin, as portrayed in the 50 stained glass windows of the church, after which you can take the steps up the bell tower (€1) to enjoy aerial views of the other, far more modern and angular, Kulturforum buildings.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 11am–6pm; free admission

6) Gemäldegalerie (must see)

Famously void of tourists but absolutely full to the brim with old Masters, the Gemäldegalerie holds one of the world's leading collections of European art from the 13th to the 18th centuries, including masterpieces by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Johannes Vermeer.

The Gemäldegalerie prides itself on its scientific methodology in collecting and displaying art. Each room can be taken in as a single statement about one to five artists in a certain period or following a certain style, so that one can enjoy the paintings individually and collectively. Especially notable rooms include the octagonal Rembrandt room and a room containing five different Madonnas by Raphael. Other notable experiences include Flemish moralistic paintings that stretch across the museum's north side, showing an interplay between the religious motives of the artists' patrons and the often sensual inspirations of the artists themselves.

The commentary on the audio guide (available in multiple languages and included in the price) is quite engaging and especially valuable as there is little in the way of written descriptions.

Consider allocating at least 2 to 3 hours to get through the whole thing, especially if there's a special exhibit. It is otherwise easy to skip a few rooms and spend time in the ones that interest you more.
Take a rest from time to time, either in the handy cafe upstairs or the glass balconies at the building's corners which give eyes a chance to wander off into the distance.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Wed, Fri: 10am-6pm; Thu: 10am-8pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Victory Column and Tiergarten Park

7) Victory Column and Tiergarten Park

The Victory Column was designed in the 1860s to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. By the time it was inaugurated in September 1873, Prussia had defeated both Austria and France; thus, the column was given a new purpose, with these later victories in the so-called "unification wars" having inspired the addition of the bronze sculpture of Victoria, 8.3 metres (27 ft) high and weighing 35 tonnes. Berliners have given the statue the nickname Goldelse, meaning something like "Golden Lizzy".

Frequently part of the route for marches and parades, the column – a Berlin landmark – is also accessible to pedestrians through four underpasses, which are actually extremely useful since there is lots of traffic going around. Via a steep spiral staircase of 281 steps, the physically fit may, for a fee, climb almost to the top of the column, to just under the statue and take in the views over the Tiergarten and the radial roads leading off the roundabout.

With statues, free bathrooms, and idyllic ponds interspersed with benches around, the expansive Tiergarten is Berlin's most popular inner-city park. Often described in guide books as a summer destination, it provides a pleasant ramble in the city center all year round. On a beautiful day, it is easy to spend hours wandering around or spread out on some blankets for a picnic. There are lots of trails for running and biking, or you can hire a pedal bike service to ride you through the park. Definitely worth a visit to relax!

Also worth seeing, if you are in the park at (or after) dusk is the Open-Air Gas Lantern Museum close to Tiergarten S Bahn station, and comprises of 100 gas lanterns.
Café am Neuen See

8) Café am Neuen See

Set by a lake in the very picturesque Tiergarten, this café-restaurant is a place to relish breathing fresh air with the trees and lake as the backdrop, yet just footsteps away from the main streets of Berlin.

More atmospheric than a fast food joint (the inside pretty much feels like being in a log cabin) and more embracing of nature than a tight, cramped café, it has a limited but delicious range of food (mainly pizzas, salads and grilled meat dishes) and is clearly enjoyed on the whole by locals and tourists alike.

In the evening, the scene is illuminated with candles on the tables and strings of lights between the trees, and blankets are provided if it gets too chilly.

Consider making a reservation if you are going for dinner, especially on weekends when it's especially crowded.

Opening Hours:
[Breakfast] Mon-Fri: 9am-12pm; Sat, Sun: 9am-4pm
[Menu à la carte] Mon-Fri: 12pm (noon)-12am (midnight)

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