Did you know Berlin is the greenest city in Europe? More than a third of the city is made up of green space – with vast woodland and a huge network of rivers, canals and lakes. It’s also green in the responsible sense: eclectic Berlin is a leader in environmental trends, it’s full of diverse cultures and ideas, cycling is increasingly replacing driving as a means of transport, and sustainability is a way of life.
Here, the eco-travel experts from Ecophiles.com share their tips on planning an eco-friendly trip to Germany’s capital:
What’s so green about Berlin?
The Guerilla Gardening Movement is popular in Berlin, with more and more Berliners creating little green areas in spaces across the city. Indoor gardening is another growing trend – it’s worth checking out indoor farm specialist InFarm in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, which grows plants and herbs in its greenhouses and sells them onto restaurants.
There’s also Park am Gleisdreieck, created on the grounds of an old U-Bahn station. It showcases how cities can successfully use contemporary landscaping even when surrounded by an urban backdrop.
Public transport in Berlin is becoming more sustainable: electro buses run through the city, and some buses use hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines. Trams run on specially built tracks to reduce both air and noise pollution.
Solar-powered boats are available as an eco-friendly way of getting around Berlin’s waterways. Tours and rentals are available from the SunCat, the Solarpolis, and Solar Water World.
Responsible and sustainable hotels and tourism companies can be found on the Berlin Green Meetings website.
Berlin’s best green spaces
Tiergarten is to Berliners what Central Park is to New Yorkers and Hyde Park is to Londoners. Centrally located right next to the Brandenburg Gate, it’s much bigger than Hyde Park and well worth a wander around.
The ‘Gardens of the World’ in the Recreational Park Marzahn is known for Europe’s largest authentic Chinese garden complete with ponds, waterscapes and pavilions as well as a Japanese Zen Garden, an Italian Renaissance Garden and a maze and labyrinth.
Britzer Garden is stunning in spring when its 2km Spring Trail is lined with blooming daffodils, tulips and grape hyacinths, as well as other beautiful flowers. Through the year the garden offers art exhibitions, gastronomy events, concerts and festivals with one of the biggest highlights being the ‘Fire Flowers and Classic Open Air’ classical concert and fireworks display in late summer.
Berlin’s Botanical Gardens are ranked in the top three most important botanical gardens in the world, with over 22,000 types of plants, and Schöneberger Südgelände is a former railway switchyard which has now been taken over by nature to create a unique and fascinating landscape.
Getting out and about
The Berlin Wall Walk is a must-do. The route is nearly 6km long and runs from the East Side Gallery to Bernauer Strasse. You’ll see remnants of the Berlin Wall, artworks, memorials and former watchtowers with signs showing photos and giving information about the history of the Wall.
The 66 Lakes Trail, which starts and ends in Potsdam, is a 400km trail for hiking and cycling. It follows the circumference of the nature parks around Berlin and is broken into 17 stages filled with a variety of landscapes: meadows, fields, rivers, forests, pretty villages, castles, palaces, heaths and swampland.
Talking of cycling, around half of the households in Berlin don’t own a car and 12 percent of all journeys are taken by bicycle. Exploring Berlin’s 1,000km network of bicycle paths is a brilliant, eco-friendly way to see the city. Companies offering guided cycle tours include Berlin on Bike, Fahrradstation, Fat Tire Bikes or Berlin Insider – and public bicycle rentals can be found all over the city.
If you’re into water sports, you’ll want to check out the lakes of Berlin and Brandenburg, which form the largest connected water area in Europe. There are rowing boats, pedal boats, motorboats and sailing boats as well as surfers and canoeists on the Wannsee Lake and the Havel and Spree rivers.
Tempelhofer Park, not far from the city centre, is a huge area full of other activities. Both locals and tourists now enjoy running, cycling, skating, sports classes, rollerblading, kiting, windskating, and more.
Food and drink in Berlin
Organic, locally grown food is becoming increasingly popular in Berlin. As well as the more traditional döner kebabs, currywurst und meatballs, you can find ‘vöner’ (veggie kebabs), organic currywurst and other vegetarian and vegan dishes.
The Prenzlauer Berg district has vegan restaurants which serve dishes such as apricot-walnut kofte, pumpkin ravioli on a red onion emulsion, and lemongrass crème brûlée. Berlin’s Mitte district is where you’ll find power smoothies full of detoxifying ingredients, as the superfood detox trend is really taking off in the area.
Organic fruit and veg, meats, cheese and freshly baked bread – all from certified organic farms – can be found on Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg, Lausitzer Platz, Chamissoplatz, Winterfeldplatz and Marheineke Markthalle in Kreuzberg’s Bergmannstraße neighborhood. There’s also Green Market Berlin, the city’s first vegan lifestyle market and the city’s annual vegan summer festival, taking place on Alexanderplatz.