One of the largest and most central parks in Berlin is the Großer Tiergarten (Great Tiergarten)in the Mitte district. The park covers 210 hectares and is crossed by several main roads that meet at the Großer Stern with the Victory Column. You need time to walk through the Great Tiergarten, or you can choose smaller and smaller areas and discover the park bit by bit.
History of the Great Tiergarten
In 1527, the first Tiergarten was created near the Berlin Palace, west of the Cölln city wall. Through the acquisition of further areas, the Tiergarten expanded to the boundaries of today’s Tiergarten. The then Elector of Brandenburg had the area fenced off, released animals and used the Tiergarten as a hunting ground.
As Berlin grew, the Tiergarten became smaller over time. Frederick I had the first structures created during his reign that are still visible today. A wide aisle was created as an extension of the avenue “Unter den Linden”, which created a connection between the City Palace and Charlottenburg Palace. The Große Stern was also created at this time; 8 avenues met here.
Frederick the Great had the Tiergarten transformed into a pleasure garden for the people. The fences disappeared, flowerbeds, fountains and water basins were laid out. Sculptures were given a place in the grounds and visitors could relax on seats. The newly built pheasantry is considered the origin of the zoological garden, which was opened in 1844.
Friedrich Wilhelm III commissioned Lenné to redesign the zoo. From 1833-40, a landscape park was created based on the English model. Damp woodland areas were drained, bridle paths, bridleways and footpaths were laid out and wide lawns were created, interrupted by watercourses and crossed by bridges. New ornamental gardens were created.
The development of the Tiergarten from the 20th century onwards
The park remained almost unchanged in this form until the middle of the 20th century. Only the monuments changed somewhat and the Victory Avenue, a magnificent boulevard, was completed.
During the National Socialist era, the Tiergarten was included in the urban planning of the “New Berlin”. The east-west axis was widened from 27 to 53 metres and the Victory Column was placed on the Großer Stern.
During the Second World War, Allied air raids severely damaged the Tiergarten. In the post-war period, it was the Berliners who cut down the trees and burned them and later used the open spaces as farmland. The British occupation forces authorised 2550 plots to supply the population with home-grown vegetables.
Otherwise, the zoo presented a sad picture. Of the 200,000 trees that once stood, 700 were still standing, the waterways were silted up, the bridges destroyed, the monuments toppled. As part of an emergency programme, the Tiergarten was rebuilt from 1949-59. From all over Germany, 250,000 young trees were brought to the city to be planted. This created a local recreation area that became irreplaceable for West Berliners, who could no longer easily travel to the surrounding area after 1961.
After reunification in 1990, it was mainly the edge of the Tiergarten that changed; the Great Tiergarten itself has been protected as a garden monument since 1991 and it has been possible to reconstruct some neglected areas according to historical plans.
Walk through the Great Tiergarten
The Great Tiergarten is large and there is a lot to discover. During our walks through the park, we discovered a few places that we would like to introduce. The exact locations are shown on the map.
Our tip: Just start walking and discover the Großer Tiergarten and the sights on the edge of the park.
Grand Prince’s Square with Triton Fountain and the “German Streams
The Großfürstenplatz is located in the part of the Great Tiergarten facing the Spree. Prince Ferdinand of Prussia had the square laid out in 1776. The semicircular square was given the name Großfürstenplatz because a public festival was held here in honour of the engagement of the Russian Grand Duke Paul to Sophie Dorothee of Württemberg.
The square was restored in 1987 and today the Triton Fountain and the four allegories of the “German Rivers” made of sandstone and transferred here from the former King’s Bridge (1882) can still be found on the square.
The “German Rivers” monuments symbolise the Vistula, Oder, Elbe and Rhine rivers. To the right and left of each of the main figures are two more figures to symbolise the river landscapes. They stand in a semicircle at the edge of the square. In the centre is the Triton Fountain. Here, the Greek deity Triton kneels and holds a water-spouting fish in his hand.
I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t read what the four monuments are supposed to represent, I wouldn’t have thought of it when looking at the artistic works. But I like them even without knowing what they mean.
Flora Square with Amazon and animal sculptures
Floraplatz still reflects something of the baroque design of the original Tiergarten. Originally, the Flora statue stood in the middle of the square and six paths led off from the round square.
The sculpture that gave the square its name was erected there in 1796 and dismantled in 1906. The original is badly damaged and a copy has been placed in the rose garden. Instead of Flora, the Amazone on horseback was placed in the centre of the square in 1906. The woman sitting on the horse looks proud and I would not have been surprised if she had suddenly galloped off.
Today there are several animal figures around Floraplatz. These had already been erected in the Tiergarten during the time of Kaiser Wilhelm II and were intended to point out the park’s importance as a hunting ground. After the Second World War, the bear and the bull disappeared and the six other animals initially found a new place in the park. In the meantime, the two reclining bison, the two Wapi deer, two elk and the bear and bull are back at Floraplatz as replicas. I find these sculptures very impressive and realistically crafted, almost as if I were walking past living animals.
Venus Basin and the Musicians’ Monument
The Venus Basin was originally a baroque rectangular basin with a Venus statue at one end. Later, the Berliners called the basin Goldfish Pond for a while.
Lenné restored the basin to its original form, but the emperor stipulated that the Venus should make way for the Musicians’ Monument. Due to changes in the street layout after the Second World War, the Venus basin could not be preserved at first. In 2009, after the street layout was changed again, the basin was restored.
The Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven Monument, or Musicians’ Monument for short, stands directly on the basin. It is made of white marble and crowned by three golden cherubs. The bright white colour alone makes this monument particularly striking. I found it very amazing that the musicians are only depicted from the waist up. From the monument, a path leads around the basin. It is pleasantly cool here, especially in summer.
Monuments in the Great Tiergarten
I have already mentioned some of the monuments in the Great Tiergarten. But there are many more in the park. Supposedly there are almost 100 art monuments and objects from the different artistic periods to be found. There are monuments, sculptures, fountains, art and places of remembrance of many artists, some still in their original state, others as copies. There are monuments to rulers and their families, monuments to German poets and composers, animal sculptures and hunting scenes. If you go in search of traces in the Great Zoo, you will discover a lot.
We also discovered some of the monuments during our walk through the Großer Tiergarten.
Whether you like them or find them rather cruel is up to you – in any case, the four art monuments of the hunting group document the original use of the zoo.
On the grass strip of the pheasant avenue are the “Fox Hunt”, the “Hare Hunt”, the “Buffalo Hunt” and the “Boar Hunt”. I have to admit that I don’t particularly like these works of art. The scenes are dramatically and brutally depicted and show the neo-baroque style as it was represented at that time. Today, an artist who depicts scenes in this way would certainly face a lot of opposition from the public.
The last great personal monument of the Berlin school of sculpture is by Theodor Fontane. It was created in 1910 and ended a series of monuments to famous poets and composers. There is a copy of the monument in the Great Tiergarten, the original is in the Märkisches Museum.
Theodor Fontane wears a hat and has a cane. He looks like a walker and is thus meant to remind us of his work “Wanderung durch die Mark Brandenburg”.
Figure group „Das deutsche Volkslied“
You can’t hear it, but a young girl plucks on her harp and plays old German songs. The muse of music, Polyhymnia embraces the child making music.
The monument was made of marble, shell limestone and granite in 1875. Today, a copy stands in the park.
In 1876, the Goethe Monument in the Great Tiergarten was unveiled. It had taken almost 20 years to complete the monument made of Carrara marble.
Goethe is depicted as a man of about 40 years. Around the pedestal are several figures representing allegories. Allegedly, they are the allegory of lyrical poetry with Cupid, the allegory of dramatic poetry with the genius of death and the allegory of scientific research with the genius of truth. I have to believe that, I wouldn’t have recognised it.
In 1981/82, the monument was completely dismantled to protect it from the increasing environmental influences. In the meantime, a concrete cast replaced the original, and since 2010 the restored monument has been back in its place.
Global Stone Project
Quite unlike traditional monuments, the Global Stone project is modern and non-figurative.
On the dry grass surface of the “Great Grove” lie stones in different sizes and different arrangements. The artist chose two stones on each continent. One of them he left in the country of origin, the other he brought to Berlin. On 21 June, at the summer solstice, the light reflects off the polished reflective surfaces and connects the stones with each other. This is how the artist wants to depict the interconnectedness of the continents. In addition, each stone is assigned a theme: Awakening (Europe), Hope (Africa), Forgiveness (Asia), Love (America) and Peace (Australia).
On my walk through the Great Tiergarten, this project attracted many more viewers than the traditional monuments. I also found it exciting to feel the different stones. Each type has its own texture, felt differently warm and was simply unique.
Historic Bridges in the Great Tiergarten
The GreatTiergarten is characterised by a water landscape with small islands and lakes. This makes it necessary for the extensive network of paths to have bridges over the bodies of water.
Many of the bridges are beautifully designed and there are also some historic bridges that are really worth seeing:
- Löwenbrücke (1837/38)
- Gotische Brücke (1802/1845)
- Stufenbrücke (1840/1882)
- Schlangenbrücke (1900)
- Adlerbrücke (1900)
During our walk, we strolled across a few bridges.
In 1802, the Gothic Bridge was built, which had actually been made for the palace park in Charlottenburg. However, the king at the time arranged for the bridge to be built in the Tiergarten. Another identical bridge was placed on Pfaueninsel.
The Gothic Bridge was destroyed during the Second World War. It was not until 1987 that the reconstructed bridge was rebuilt. Fortunately, the bridge on Pfaueninsel was used as a model.
The bridge is covered with wooden boards and curved upwards. If the boards are wet, it can be slippery on the bridge!
One of the many paths through the Great Tiergarten ends directly at one of the small watercourses. This was originally the site of the Lions’ Bridge. The suspension bridge was flanked by four lions on pedestals. Unfortunately, this bridge was also destroyed during the war, but in 1957, after successful repairs, it crossed the watercourse again. In 2009, the bridge had to be closed due to dilapidation and now only the lions remind us of the bridge.
Interesting places on the edge of the Great Tiergarten
It is not only a walk through the Great Tiergarten that takes you past interesting places. On the edge of the Tiergarten there are several memorials commemorating the victims of war and the tyranny of National Socialism:
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Soviet Memorial on the Straße des 17.Juni
- Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under National Socialism
- Memorial to the Sinti and Roma murdered under National Socialism
There are also several buildings and Berlin sights on the edge of the Tiergarten that are worth a visit: