{Germany} Summer Sightseeing: Peacock Island

August 20, 2013

Germany

Summer is slowly coming to an end, and with it my fair weather sightseeing recommendations. So far we’ve had an open air museum, an art trail and a 19th century garden. But do you know what we haven’t had yet? An island! And not just any island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site island. Oh, and did I mention it’s inhabited by free roaming peacocks?

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The “Pfaueninsel” (Engl. “peacock island”) is situated in the southwest of Berlin, within the river Havel. As well as belonging to the “Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin” UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s also a designated nature reserve.

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The 67 hectare island is mostly woodland, with a tree population of around 400. On a hot day, it provides shady woodland walks along the guided paths created in the 18th century, and various features such as an impressive water fountain.

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At one end of the island lies a white palace built in the late 18th century, which you can view for a small fee. It’s surrounded by landscaped gardens, including an extensive rose garden. A “Palmenhouse” (Engl. “house of palms”), based on a design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, sadly burned down in the late 19th century and was never rebuilt.

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At the other end of the island is a Dairy, built in the style of a Gothic abbey. Obviously. This too can be viewed for a small fee, and in addition to a cowshed and a milking parlour, includes a festival hall and an exhibition giving insights in to the island’s eventful history. You can also read more about the history of the island on Wikipedia.

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As it’s a nature reserve, visitors are requested to stick to the paths, but no day trip would be complete without a picnic so there’s a large lawn at the centre of the island which is also perfect for playing frisbee. Alternatively, there’s also a cafe kiosk by the lawn selling drinks, ice creams and – on the day we went – sausages fresh off the BBQ.

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There are various other historic buildings scattered around the island, but let’s not kid ourselves. The real attraction are the peacocks! Your best bet for seeing some is at the aviary, also near the centre of the island, where there seemed to be almost more birds on the outside than on the inside. And even on top of the aviary. They obviously liked hanging out with their friends in captivity.

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I’ve never been surrounded by a pride of peacocks before, but they were really trusting and good natured, as long as you didn’t chase them (take note, boy with stick!). #MuseumBaby was a bit wary at first, no wonder since the peacocks were almost as big as him, but he quickly warmed to the “blue birds” and ended up snapping photographs among them like the rest of us!

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There are around 30 common peacocks and peahens freely roaming the island, and as well as by the aviary we also encountered peacocks wandering around the lawns at the palace, in the rose gardens and during our picnic on the lawn (see photos above). But there also some rarer breeds in captivity such as the white peacocks in the aviary, which apparently are commonly mistaken for albinos.

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We spent over four hours on the island, including walking around, having a picnic, and mostly hanging out at the aviary with the peacocks. We didn’t pay to see the Palace or Dairy on this occasion, so you could easily spend even longer. It makes for a lovely day trip out, and is – it goes without saying really – an absolute must for peacock lovers. As we were waiting for the ferry to take us back over to the mainland, some more peacocks arrived to see us off.

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The only way to get to the island is by a small passenger ferry, which leaves from the bus stop “Pfaueninsel” and runs every 10-20 minutes. If you are arriving from downtown Berlin, take the S-Bahn to Wannsee and then jump on bus number 218. Ferry times vary throughout the year, but you can check the times on the official Pfaueninsel website (click on “address, arrival, prices” near the top of the page). The price for the ferry and the palace is 3 Euro each, and 2 Euro for the Dairy (concessions available). Ferry tickets are sold on board, and the other tickets need to be purchased at the info centre when you land on the island, so don’t forget before you go running off to the other end of the island!

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3 Responses to “{Germany} Summer Sightseeing: Peacock Island”

  1. Mandi | No Apathy Allowed Says:

    Oh my gosh, that looks so cool! I am definitely adding it to the list of things to do in Berlin. :)

    Reply

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