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Berlin doesn’t warm up until May, but the first signs of spring are finally bringing a rosy blush to the snow-weary city. Now that winter is officially over, Berlin’s residents are flocking to the city’s 2,500 parks and green spaces to soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. Take part in spring fever, Cheapo-style, at one of our favorite (and increasingly crowded) Berlin parks.
For culture vultures: Tiergarten
The vast Tiergarten park (S-bahn: Potsdammer Platz, Tiergarten, Bellvue, Reichstag) in Berlin’s center offers green meadows, groves of trees, mossy ponds, and dozens of monuments and memorials. After enjoying a picnic lunch in the park, follow the shaded pathways lacing the park to discover famous sites, including the hard-to-miss Siegessäule (victory column) and the bubble-gum pink Schloss Belvedere (the German president’s palace), and not-so-famous sites, including the quiet Luiseninsel (Luise Island) and the bronze Bismarck Nationaldenkmal (Bismarck Memorial).
One of Tiergarten’s quirkiest attractions is the Berliner Gaslaternen-Freilichtmuseum (Berlin Open Air Gas Lantern Museum, Strasse des 17. Juni), an open-air (and free) collection of some 90 gas lanterns.
For people-watchers: Volkspark Friedrichshain
Don’t expect to have this historic green space, which straddles the Mitte-Prenzlauer Berg-Friedrichshain border, all to yourself. Since the late 19th Century, picnickers, sport-nuts, families, and sun-worshippers have shown up early and in droves on sunny days to claim a patch of the pleasant, well-worn park.
If you’re lucky, you can wrangle a table at Cafe Schönbrunn, a retro-stylish café-restaurant in the middle of the park. There are also plenty of cheapo-friendly gelateria nearby. Be sure to check out the recently-restored Märchenbrünnen (fairytale fountain) at the park’s western-most point (where Frieden Str. and am Friedrichshain meet). It’s a grand way to enter the park.
For romantics: Pfaueninsel
You have to take an S-bahn, bus, and ferry to reach the Pfaueninsel (peacock island), a historic park-island in the Havel river, near the Wannsee lake on Berlin’s far western edge. But the journey is worth the opportunity to explore this little paradise.
Laid out in the 19th Century, the park features a white brick palace that the Prussian King Frederick William II built for his mistress, as well as bursts of roses and a collection of exotic birds, including dozens of free-roaming peacocks. Designed for proposals—or at least romantic picnics—this is a place for lovey-dovey couples and nature lovers.
For world travelers: The Gärten der Welt in the Erholungspark Marzahn
Like the Pfaueninsel, the off-beat Erholungspark Marzahn (€3, S-bahn: Marzahn & Bus 195;
U-bahn Hellersdorf & Bus 195) isn’t easy to reach. But because it’s nestled in one of the city’s most off-beat and least-visited districts—the Plattenbau-lined district of Marzahn—the journey adds to the adventure. When else will you have an excuse to check out a post-Communist, eastern Berlin suburb?
Despite its somewhat unpleasant surroundings, the Erholungspark and its Gärten der Welt (gardens of the world), is an oasis of tranquility—and worldliness. In addition to the largest Chinese garden in Europe, which was designed in partnership with Berlin’s sister city, Beijing, and includes a tea room, the park boats authentic Japanese, Balinese, Middle Eastern, Korean, and Italian Renaissance gardens. Get lost in the labyrinth—but beware: It’s not as easy to navigate as it looks.