Berlin’s “great escape” is a peaceful expanse of forests, meadows and ponds, right next to the city center.

Tiergarten translates as “animal garden,” a name that came about when the park was once the private hunting ground of Prussian royalty. Wild game no longer roams the woods today, but you will still find plenty of natural beauty in the 500 acres (200 hectares) of landscaped garden and lawns. The Tiergarten is so vast that it lends its name to the entire surrounding suburb in central Berlin.

Long stretches of tree-lined trails are perfect for strolling, biking or even a Velotaxi ride. Explore the many monuments and statues throughout the park. History buffs will be impressed by the Soviet War Memorial, a huge marble-columned structure built in 1945 as a tribute to Soviet soldiers killed in the Battle for Berlin. Music lovers will want to visit the statue of one of Germany’s most acclaimed composers, Richard Wagner.

Rising from the center of the garden is the 230-foot (70-meter) high Victory Column. Originally erected in front of the Reichstag building in the 19th century, it was moved to its current location by Hitler and as a result was spared from destruction at the end of World War II. Climb the 285 steps to the viewing platform for an uninterrupted view over Berlin. Look north to see Bellevue Palace, south for the embassy district and zoo, east to the Brandenburg Gate and west for Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace).

At the first sign of warm weather, groups of families and friends spread out under the trees with picnics, while sunbathers soak up the sun’s rays. In winter, the garden takes on a more somber, though still beautiful, atmosphere. It's sometimes possible to ice skate on the small frozen lakes, but check for signs before doing so. When hunger calls, stop for a coffee and cake at the Café am Neuen See in the park's center, or enjoy a refreshing wheat beer in the beer garden.

The park is within easy walking distance of the city center and is surrounded by convenient S-Bahn and U-Bahn train stations; the closest is Berlin-Tiergarten near the western entrance.

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