A stroll along the Landwehr canal.

Tiergarten – © Koschel

First-time visitors to Berlin are often in for a surprise – that it’s so green here. And it’s true; no other city of comparable size is as green as Berlin. You just have to go for a stroll along the Landwehr canal in Tiergarten, from Zoologischer Garten to the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery).

From trench to canal

The river Spree runs through the middle of Berlin. So far, so good. But the banks of the Landwehr canal have almost as many attractions as can be found along the Spree, which runs more or less parallel to the north. Starting in 1840, the then existing Landwehrgraben (trench) was developed into the Landwehr canal by the renowned royal landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné. In 1845 the new canal was opened for shipping. This had the effect – particularly in the Gründerzeit (late Wilhelmine Period) – of opening up new parts of the city, with fine decorative front buildings for the affluent springing up, and behind them up to eight rear courtyards for the workers.

Watching boats go by, drinking Berliner Weiße

These are the weeks when Berlin waits impatiently for spring to come. The first signs are already visible: a few snowdrops growing along the roadside, and with a bit of luck strollers will see catkin (pussy willow) here and there. But one thing is absolutely sure: as soon as spring does arrive, the Schleusenkrug, one of the most romantic excursion café-restaurant-beer gardens with a 50-year tradition and set in the heart of the city just a few minutes walk from Zoo station, will be packed out to the rafters. Watching boats going through the locks, drinking Berliner Weiße – for many Berliners the perfect ways of spending a day in the fresh spring air.

A dark chapter in German history

Just a few metres further on, is the place where the body of Rosa Luxemburg was pulled out of the Spree on 31st May 1919. Together with Karl Liebknecht, she had been murdered by a right-wing fascist Freikorps (Free Corps) unit, and their bodies thrown into the water. There is an inconspicuous memorial to the militant socialist situated beneath the Rosa Luxemburg Bridge.

Scandinavian Embassies on the water’s edge

Although not directly located on the Landwehr canal, no less popular than the Schleusenkrug is the Café on Neue See (New Lake), which is signposted from Lichtensteinallee. If you then follow the canal, you’ll reach the Klingelhöfer Triangle. At this spot more than ten years ago, the Nordic embassies were opened in the presence of three royal couples from Sweden, Denmark and Norway as well as the Presidents of Finland and Germany. The architecture has been highly praised. The Scandinavian embassies and a community centre (called the “Felleshus”) are united from the outside by a ribbon-shaped copper façade.

Bauhaus – history and effect

In 2012 the Bauhaus Archive, designed by Walter Gropius, celebrated its 50th jubilee. The task of the Archive is to research and present the history and effects of the Bauhaus (1919 - 1933) movement, the most important 20th century school of architecture, design and art. At the same time, it represents the most comprehensive collection on the history of the Bauhaus in the world.

Architecture and art

If you continue your stroll along the Landwehr canal, then on the one hand you’ll leave the tranquillity behind you, but on the other hand you’ll be able to see that the area between Tiergarten and the Landwehr canal used to be an exclusive villa neighbourhood, which was also called the diplomatic quarter. Following in the tradition of this old name, many new embassies and representative buildings of large institutions, such as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, have sprung up. Continuing on to the final stage of this stroll, you pass the Shellhaus (Shell House), an icon of modern architecture. Built from 1929 to 1931 based on plans by Emil Fahrenkamp, the building’s wave-shaped facade structure lends it a captivating effect. Just a few metres behind it, is the Neue Nationalgalerie, designed by Ludwig van der Rohe and opened in 1968. This building is yet another example of why Berlin is often referred to as the “Capital of Architects”. The star architect van der Rohe also had his office nearby (Am Karlsbad 24).

If reading this article has given you an incentive to discover Tiergarten and the other Berlin districts, then there are plenty of local neighbourhood stories available in our travel guide Going local, which you can order here online.