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Pfaueninsel Palace  in Berlin
Pfaueninsel Palace in Spring © SPSG, Foto: Michael Lüder

Pfaueninsel and Pfaueninsel Palace

Berlin’s romantic gem in the River Havel

Peacock Island is perfect for a romantic day out – a white fairy-tale castle and spreading parkland, complete with peacocks!

This island in the River Havel was settled thousands of years ago. From the Iron Age bronze bangles, bracelets and hair spirals found here, we know that people were living on the island around 2,500 years ago. In the seventeenth century, Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, set up a glass works on the island. This was an ideal location for chemist and glass maker Johannes Kunckel to conduct his experiments into making pure and coloured glass. But when his patron died and the foundry burnt down, Kunckel found himself in some considerable difficulty. Ultimately, his search for a new employer took him to the court of Charles XI in Stockholm.

The island lay forgotten for one hundred years, until it was discovered by the pleasure-loving Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia. Even as a young crown prince, he liked the island as a venue for a clandestine rendezvous with his mistress Wilhelmine Enke, later Countess Wilhelmine von Lichtenau.

Between 1794 and 1797, Friedrich Wilhelm II had a little summer palace built on the island. Designed as a ruin in the popular Romantic style of the day, the palace was supposed to evoke a “derelict rural Roman villa”. The exterior resembles white marble, though that too belongs to the illusion – the walls are actually painted wood. The little white palace, set in a prominent clearing at the end of the island, also created a distinctive landmark – an eye-catching feature for one of the vistas from the New Garden in Potsdam. Even today, visitors and locals alike are charmed by the view of the palace’s two flanking white towers joined by a cast iron bridge set against the backdrop of trees.
Countess Wilhelmine von Lichtenau, Friedrich Wilhelm II’s mistress, designed the interior to her personal taste. Rather than following a particular style, she chose selected pieces of outstanding quality. After her death, the palace was little used by the Prussian rulers. Queen Louise, the wife of Friedrich Wilhelm III, complained about the thin walls, and preferred the comforts of Paretz Palace on a rural estate to the west of Berlin. Although many buildings in Berlin were damaged during the Second World War, the little palace on Peacock Island survived unscathed and so still remains in its original form today.

Peacock Island is now under the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg. Together with Glienicke Palace and the Potsdam palace landscape, the island with its little palace is inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage.

Peacock Island Park

In 1821, the island was landscaped by Peter Joseph Lenné. One of Germany’s leading nineteenth century landscape architects, Lenné also designed many of the parks and gardens in Berlin and the environs. The delightfully landscaped grounds on Peacock Island are home to a number of other architectural features including, for example, the dairy, designed as the Gothic ruins of a monastery, the Memorial Temple for Queen Louise, and the neo-Gothic Kavaliershaus to house members of the court. In the 1960s, the Kavaliershaus, which resembles an English country house, became a popular location for filming scenes in a series of German movies based on the works of Edgar Wallace.
Apart from the eponymous peacocks, still out strutting the lawns and displaying their plumage, the island is home to a wealth of wild life from cormorants to woodpeckers and innumerable frogs. In summer, four water buffalo are kept here to help control the grass growing on the wet meadows.

Peacock Island has also been immortalised in the wonderful novel Pfaueninsel by Thomas Hettche (see a sample English translation). A great way to get in the mood for your visit!

Getting there

From the city centre, Peacock Island is easiest to reach by S-Bahn to Wannsee, and then by bus and ferry (€2 each way).

The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since it is also a protected flora and fauna habitat, no dogs or bicycles are allowed on the island. The entire island is a no smoking area.

Peacock Island Ferry:
November to February: Mon – Sun: 10 am – 4 pm
March and October: Mon – Sun: 9 am – 6 pm
April and September: Mon – Sun: 9 am – 7 pm
May – August: Mon – Sun: 8 am – 8 pm

UNESCO World Heritage: Palaces and parks in Berlin and Potsdam

 

 

Öffnungszeiten (Zusatzinfos)
Meierei:    
Apr - Oct   closed
Mar Sat + Sun 11 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
Nov - Feb Sat + Sun 11 a.m. - 3.30 p.m.
Castle 'Pfaueninsel':    
Apr - Oct Tue - Sun 10am - 5pm
Nov - Mar   closed
  Mon closed
Park building:    
Nov - Mar Sat + Sun 11 a.m. - 3.30 p.m.

* Guided tours only. Last admission 30 minutes before closing time each

Find further information here