It’s vast and sprawling (more than five times the size of Paris), covered in forests and, while the winters can be brutal, Berlin offers a great mix of parkland and iconic urban sights for visiting runners. A favourite go-to is the Volkspark Friedrichshain in east Berlin and the oldest park in the city. Constructed in the 1840s on the site of a former vineyard, it displays many of features of classical 19th-century German landscape architecture – it’s brimming with ponds and fountains, fairy tale grottos and ornamental gardens, but augmented by socialist sculptures installed during Berlin’s time as a divided city.
A good introductory run starts at the famed Marchenbrunnen (the Fountain of Fairy Tales), depicting characters from classic German folklore. Run east, into the middle of the park before veering north towards Am Friedrichshain. A short incline takes you up to 66 meters, before descending rapidly as you work your way easy towards the Memorial to Polish Soldiers. There’s an oval loop starting just south of Margarete Sommer Straße – make it round once and then take a route back to the Fairy Fountain through the park’s southern trails, passing the startling Spanish Civil War monument by Fritz Cremer. Note: the Volkspark is open 24 hours, so it’s ideal for an early morning run to build up an appetite for a huge Germanic breakfast.
Many argue that Berlin’s best running is to be had in the city’s largest park, the vast Tiergarten. Bordered to the north by the river Spree, the area was originally a royal hunting preserve (“Tier” means “animal”). It’s now a sprawling public green space with over 14 miles of paved and gravel paths and topography that varies from perfectly manicured lawns to dense woodland. Avid runners would do best to find the closest entry gate to their lodgings and then just explore. Don’t worry about mileage or seeing it all – it would take days to see it all – just dive down any path, run and enjoy yourself.
That said, the east of the park does brush up against some of those things first-timers simply have to see in Berlin, namely the Reichstag Building (in the north east corner of the park), the Brandenburg Gate (just outside the main east entrance) and the Holocaust Memorial on Cora-Berliner Straße. Pound the park, get lost in its atmosphere, but finish your route by running up the east side of Tiergarten to take in these sites.
The Tiergarten is also the site of the start and finish of the Berlin Marathon. For those who want to recreate a slice of that epic trek, head out of the west side of the park towards Berlin University then march north on March Straße across the Landwehr Canal and then take Gotzkowskybrucke to the north bank of the river Spree. Running east along Alt-Moabit will take you back towards the north of the Tiergarten. The marathon then continues all the way out to Alexanderplatz in the east before looping down through Kreuzberg, Friedanau and Schmargendorf in the south of the city, but that’s far too much for even the most diehard runner. We recommend popping back into the park just over Willy Brand Straße and heading south past the Swiss embassy and down all the way to Potsdamer Platz, just south of the park.