A Hike Through Berlin’s History
By Isabelle Kagan
When you think of hiking, what do you think of? Probably a picturesque mountain landscape with trees, forests, and fresh air. Yet cities also have distinct environments and their own unique landscape that one can hike through.
In Berlin, Germany, a major historical symbol still stands, and you can follow its path for 96 miles.
There are over 9,950 streets in Berlin covering an area of around 3,355 miles.
Districts like the quirky Kreuzberg or the lively Potsdamer Strasse should be traversed on foot to get the full experience.
According to Paul Sullivan, a dedicated urban hiker and tour leader, “the only real way to understand a large, unwieldy metropolis like Berlin is by exploring it at street level.”
Berlin Wall Trail
The Berlin Wall still stands, a remnant from the Cold war that separated communist East Germany from capitalist West Berlin, preventing citizens from fleeing over the border.
Where it still stands, the wall is now covered in graffiti, interpretive spray paint art, and memorials for those who died trying to cross it.
Following the walk of history will bring you to key areas of the city but also bring you to lesser-known points.
Slow Travel Berlin
One of the best ways to experience the history of the wall is to go on a guided walking tour, like the ones offered by Slow Travel Berlin. These last from 2-4 hours, cost 15 euro, and are limited to six people each to keep maximum interaction possible with the least amount of interruptions.
One participant noted, “You come away with a very vivid visual understanding of how the city was separated and the absurdities and tragedies of living in a city divided by a wall.”
20 Green Walks in Berlin®
This is a network of paths that connect the city districts and areas to each other through expansive nature roads with ponds, trees, and gardens. The network of routes is named and numbered 1 through 20 and is also named after particular Berlin landscapes or destinations of the walks.
These paths were commissioned by the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment and maintained by the government.
They stretch around 351 miles and are perfect for runners, bikers, or other pedestrians looking to explore the city environment away from road traffic. Yet the area around Berlin is rather flat, so the only picturesque hikes are from lake to lake.
State of Brandenburg
Each city district is linked to a recreational area through these green walks, as well as to neighboring areas in the state of Brandenburg. As one of the “greenest cities in Europe,” according to Sullivan, the Green Walks are a distinct way to experience nature in the large city.
Sullivan said the best way to experience it is to “take advantage of the flat terrain and rent a bicycle or just walk. This way you get to pop your head into unrefurbished courtyards still riddled with bullet holes, or discover one of the small art galleries and independent cafés.”
The River Spree/Berlin Glacial Valley Walk
This walk covers over 60 miles and is the largest of the Green Walks. Following a river through the city, hence the name, this walk is relatively flat as it passes through Berlin’s glacial valley.
The Senate department offers in-depth descriptions of each hike on their website. Summarizing the hike, it “offers an insight into Berlin‘s many diverse facets, from beautiful woodlands on the city outskirts to large industrial areas with adjacent allotment gardens, the medieval town centers of Spandau and Köpenick – and, right in the middle, vibrant downtown Berlin.”
The Spandau Walk
borders rivers, woodlands yet for large portions follow the Berlin wall trail. Yet, “In Hohengatow, the ‘Nauener Platte’ raised plateau stretches to the river bank, giving this section some of the geological features, though less pronounced, of a steep coastline.”
The Heiligensee Walk
takes you from urban Berlin into rural woodlands and is around 15 miles total. “When you reach the Greenwich Promenade along the lake “Tegeler See”, Berlin’s only real lakeside promenade, you once again enter the hustle and bustle of urban life. Directly behind the Greenwich Promenade, the route turns across the spreading “Tegeler Forst” woodlands.”
The Lübars Walk
runs entirely through Berlin’s green spaces. The lands feature only 10 roads and are therefore relatively traffic-free. “The Lübars Walk belongs to Berlin’s Green Belt, a landscape conservation area along the former course of the Berlin Wall from the city center to the section of the Barnim plateau within Berlin’s northern city boundaries.”
In Grunewald, a forest within the city limits, hiking trails beckon visitors and locals alike.
66 Lakes Trail
The 66 Lakes Trail wraps around the city and is broken into 17 individual trails that wrap around the state of Brandenburg. wanderkompass.de maps out path options and marks the major lakes, palaces, and bridges you will pass.
Glienicke Bridge to the Pfaueninsel is not a fully formed hike but rather a popular island exploration trip that traverses Pfaueninsel (Peacock island) and can be walked or biked through.
“You’ll see peacocks roaming free on the island, and if you’re lucky, some of them will be showing off their tails.” Alternatively, the 7-Lakes tour will also bring you around the island.
Berlin is a city with its history spelled out through its walls and roads. To truly experience all it has to offer, biking or walking through the city is recommended as opposed to taking a bus or car. By walking along these trails, you visibly notice a transformation into a present-day urban jungle.