Berlin’s green south, which includes the districts of Grunewald and Dahlem, is dotted with numerous lakes, rivers, small castles, private estates and residential villas, leafy roads and cafés for daytrippers. Grunewald and Dahlem have managed to preserve their rural character, although affluent and famous Berliners have always built their houses here. There are many attractions in Berlin’s southwest: visitors can enjoy extensive walks in the Grunewald forest, or ferry across the picturesque lake to Pfaueninsel, an island with romantic castle ruins – and a favourite destination for locals. The swimming baths at Wannsee, Europe’s largest inland beach, welcomes up to 40,000 visitors a day for fun, games and a dip in the water and on its beautiful white beaches. The museum complex in Dahlem, too, with its outstanding ethnographic and art collections, is worth visiting. Meanwhile, the Alliiertenmuseum and the Haus der Wannsee Konferenz recall a more painful period in Berlin’s history.

Prussia and Antiquity

From 1821, the landscape designer Peter Joseph Lenné and the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel tried to turn the Potsdam countryside and its woods and lakes into an “island paradise”. Their concept was based on Classical ideas of the harmonious ensemble of architecture and landscape, in accordance with the idealized views of antiquity prevalent in the Neo-Classical period. The architectural style of Prussian palaces thus harks back to Greek and Roman models and the Italian Renaissance.

Top 10 Sights

  1. Dahlem Museums

    These three museums in south Berlin, dedicated to foreign cultures and peoples, feature one of Germany’s best ethno-cultural collections. The Ethnological Museum holds around one million items from around the world, especially artistic and cult objects from Africa, as well as exhibits from North-American Indians. Full-scale wooden huts and boats from the island populations of the South Pacific as well as a large collection of ceramic and stone sculptures from the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas are particularly impressive. The Museum of Asian Art combines the formerly separate East Asian and Indian collections. Highlights include Japanese painting, Chinese porcelain, Buddhist cave paintings and early Indian sculptures.

    • Lansstr. 8

    • (Museum Europäische Kulturen reopens Sep 2010)

    • 10am–6pm Tue–Fri, 11am–6pm Sat, Sun

    • 030 830 1438

    • Admission charge

    Exhibit in a Dahlem Museum
  2. Pfaueninsel

    Visitors are enchanted by the romantic palace ruins and the eponymous peacocks that run around here. The Wannsee island, which can only be reached by ferry, is one of the most charming spots for a walk in Berlin .

    • Pfaueninselchaussee

    • 10am–sunset daily

    • 030 80 58 68 30

    • Admission charge

    Castle ruins on Pfaueninsel

    A peacock on Pfaueninsel
  3. Schloss Klein-Glienicke

    One of the most beautiful Hohenzollern palaces in Berlin, this romantic castle with its extensive park was built by Schinkel in 1824–60 as a summer residence for Prince Carl of Prussia. The landscape garden, designed by Peter Joseph Lenné, hides many secrets – for example pavilions called “Große” and “Kleine Neugierde” (large and small curiosity), a garden house and a tea-house, a casino right on the water (a former apartment for guests) as well as the Orangerie (a greenhouse).

    • Königstr. 36

    • May–Oct: 10am–6pm Sat, Sun; Nov–Apr: 10am–5pm Sat–Sun (with tour only)

    • 0331 96 94 200

    • Admission charge

    Gryffin at Schloss Klein-Glienicke
  4. Gedenkstätte Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz

    It is hard to believe that something as abhorrent as the Holocaust could have been planned at this elegant villa in a picturesque spot on Wannsee. Built in 1914–15 by Paul Baumgarten in the style of a small Neo-Baroque palace for the businessman Ernst Marlier, it was here that the Nazi elite, among them the infamous Adolf Eichmann, met on 20 January 1942 to discuss the details of the mass extermination of Jews. An exhibition at the memorial documents both the conference and its consequences as well as the history of the villa.

    • Am Großen Wannsee 56–58

    • 10am–6pm daily

    • 030 805 00 10

    • Free admission

  5. Strandbad Wannsee

    Europe’s largest inland beach is a surprisingly picturesque spot in the middle of the large city, attracting up to 40,000 visitors a day. The renovated swimming baths were built in 1929–30 as a recreation area for workers in the neighbouring districts .

    • Wannseebadeweg 25

    • Apr–Sep: 10am–7pm Mon–Fri, 8am–8pm Sat, Sun

    • 030 7071 38 33

    • Admission charge

    Landing stage Wannsee
  6. Alliiertenmuseum

    Visitors stroll around this museum reminiscing and recalling the 50 or so years of partnership between Western Allies and West Berliners. The museum, based in a former US-barracks, employs uniforms, documents, weapons and military equipment to tell the story of Berlin’s post-war history, though not only from the military point of view.

    • Clayallee 135

    • 10am–6pm daily exc Wed

    • 030 818 19 90

    • Free admission

  7. Mexikoplatz

    Idyllic Mexikoplatz in the southern district of Zehlendorf is one of the most atmospheric and architecturally fascinating squares in Berlin. The two round green spaces in the centre are flanked by elegant semi-circular Art-Nouveau apartment blocks, and in front of these stands Berlin’s last remaining Art-Deco-style S-Bahn station. The yellow buildings are covered in green shingles and, in summer, the balconies are richly decked with greenery and flowers. Some of Berlin’s most magnificent mansion houses line both sides of Argentinische and Lindenthaler Allee. Many celebrities live in the area around the square.

    • Mexikoplatz

  8. Dahlem Villas

    Some of Berlin’s most attractive villas, dating back to the 19th century, are found in the streets surrounding the Grunewald S-Bahn station. Especially worth seeing are Nos. 15 and 11 in Winklerstraße, the latter of which was built by Hermann Muthesius in the style of an English country mansion. Villa Maren, at No. 12 next door, is a beautiful example of the Neo-Renaissance style. The villas on Toni-Lessler-Straße and on Furtwänglerstraße are also worth a detour.

    • Am Großen Wannsee

    Villa at No. 23 Toni-Lessler-Straße

    Villa at No. 11 Winklerstraße
  9. Jagdschloss Grunewald

    The small gleaming white palace in Grunewald underwent major restoration in 2009. The oldest palace in the city area, it dates back to 1542 and served as a hunting lodge for the Electors. The castle, built in the Renaissance and Baroque styles, houses a small collection of German and Dutch paintings.

    • Hüttenweg 100, Grunewaldsee

    • 030 813 35 97

    • Admission charge

    Jagdschloss Grunewald
  10. Museumsdorf Düppel

    The open-air museum at Düppel is a reminder of the fact that Berlin once consisted of a series of villages, with one of the oldest settlements dating back to the 13th century. The lively museum is animated by actors, who are dressed and act out daily life as it would have been during the Middle Ages. There are fascinating live demonstrations of ancient crafts such as bread-baking, pottery and basket-weaving. Plants are grown as in medieval times for their various uses.

    • Clauertstr. 11

    • Apr–Oct: 10am–5pm Sun, 3–7pm Thu

    • 030 802 66 71

    • Admission charge

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