Tiergarten in Berlin refers to the parliamentary, government and diplomatic district as well as to Berlin's largest and most popular inner-city park. The Tiergarten (animal park) and former hunting ground is Berlin's best known park because of its centrality. It’s a favourite with locals and visitors, wonderful for a stroll, a breath of fresh air, a picnic, cycling or a jog or just kicking a ball around. Today the area includes the Regierungsviertel, Potsdamer Platz and the Kulturforum as well as the Diplomatenviertel.
Berliners make good use of the park for outdoor activities, sports and football games and grilling on Sundays is very popular. A large playground or Spielplatz is located on the southeastern corner near Potsdamer Platz. Some winters it is even possible to skate on the small lakes inside the park if weather conditions allow.
The former private hunting grounds of Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, the Grosse Tiergarten (large Game Park) had been used for the royal sport since the 16th century when it was first enclosed. The first avenues were arranged in the late 17th century, gaining increasingly refined touches under the influence of the French-inspired gardens for entertainment and leisure. The Strasse des 17. Juni its main west east axis leading to the Brandenburg Gate, originally known as Charlottenburger Chaussee (1698), it led to Charlottenburg Palace. In 1740 Friedrich the Great opened the first public gardens.
The English influence became fashionable in the early 19th century and the original designs by prominent landscape architect, Peter Joseph Joseph Lenné, have lasted until today. In 1818 Lenné was commissioned to transform the green area into a landscaped park and the Zoological Garden on the southwestern edge of the Tiergarten was opened in 1844. A former road on the park's north-eastern side named In den Zelten (in the tents) was a place where, in the mid 18th century, refreshments were sold in elegant marquees. The beautiful buildings which flanked the park were destroyed by bombs during World War II. During the Nazi years, Albert Speer's grand master plan for Germania included the widening of the park’s central avenue – renaming it East-West Axis - and the Grosser Stern. During the war the park was used for the immediate necessities of firewood and as a vegetable garden.
Like most of Berlin’s damaged monuments, restoration got under way in 1949 focussing on restoring as much vegetation as possible, including wilder areas. The result is a park of great beauty with diverse landscapes to discover as one wanders its avenues, pathways, lawns, meadows, ponds, flower beds – the rhododendrons in bloom are legendary - and landscaped gardens. Benches are tucked away for quiet contemplation. Pedal power taxis – or Velotaxis – are a lovely, if slightly lazier, way to go.
Other popular retreats within the park are the Café am Neuen See – the small lake (Neuer See) can freeze up in winter and provides a wonderful northern winter landscape and in the summer it is transformed into a popular outdoor Self-Service Restaurant and Biergarten. Other well liked areas a very peaceful spot called Rousseau Island, and the English Gardens and coffee shop.