It’s well-known that Berlin is one of the greenest cities in the world. But the fact that over 4,000 hectares within the city limits belong to a nature park is truly something special. Other well-known nature parks in Germany include the Bayerischer Wald, the Erzgebirge, and the Teutoburger Wald parks.
The "Berliner" Among the Natural Parks
Berlin’s nature park begins behind Schönhausen Palace in the district of Pankow and extends to the northwest to the picturesque Lübars neighbourhood. It spans approximately 750 square kilometres, almost as extensive as Berlin itself, stretching north of the city limits between Bernau, Bad Freienwalde, Eberswalde, and Oranienburg. Because of its location, the park enjoys access to several stations on Berlin’s S-Bahn lines, as well as almost 50 stations on the regional Deutsche Bahn network, making it possible to reach this green oasis by public transport in just 30 minutes from the city centre.
A popular Destination of the Berliners
Chiefly thanks to its many clear lakes and romantic brooks, Naturpark Barnim has been a popular destination for getaways or hiking excursions since the 19th century. For over 100 years, the Heidekrautbahn has also brought guests directly from Berlin to their destinations in the heart of the park. On some of the lakes, locals still catch vendace, a fish considered a local delicacy. You can also observe the birds and the animals that make their home in the park, trek through the flowering heathlands, explore the mysterious moors, or savour the fresh forest air provided by the native pine, beech, oak, and alder trees. Remains of Slavic and German castles are scattered throughout the richly varied landscape. Impressive stone and brick buildings bear witness to ancient craftsmanship and historic waterways such as the Finow Canal reflect the turbulent history of the local economy. Germany is home to more than 100 nature parks, which together cover one-fourth of the whole country.
Popular destinations in Naturpark Barnim:
- The old Hobrechtsfelde estate with its historic granary, water tower, barn, school, commons, housing for the estate workers, and barracks for seasonal harvesters. The estate was also once home to a slaughterhouse and a sawmill. It also happens to be home to Berlin’s leach fields, where 37 million cubic metres of waste water are treated each year.
- The romantically wild Briese Valley with its alder fens. In days past, peat was harvested here and the power of the small Briese river was once tamed by water mills. Today, the headwaters of the Briese in their natural, wild state are a popular destination taking hikers down to Wandlitzsee.
- The Wandlitzsee and Liepnitzsee are closely intertwined with recent history, because this is where the ruling class in Communist East Germany had their dachas hidden deep in the forest along Wandlitzsee. And the Liepnitzsee used to be strictly off-limits, guarded by armed soldiers protecting East German leader Erich Honecker’s vacation home. Today, a ferry named "Frieda" carries visitors to the Insulaner Klause outdoor pub on the beautiful island in the lake.
If you’re up for it, you can head north of the nature park directly into the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve, home to hundreds of square kilometres of forest, some of which have even been named UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Popular destinations here include:
- the Niederfinow lift lock, which began operation in 1934 It is the oldest operating lift lock in Germany, bridging a height difference of 36 metres
- the impressive Gothic brick architecture of the former Cistercian monastery at Chorin, founded in the 13th century
- the eco-village of Brodowin, with its beautiful farm shop, café, and show dairy