Christmas at the Tierpark in Berlin – a shining Christmas wonderland
Imagine a shining Christmas wonderland of lights. One with a magically illuminated castle, skaters gliding across a frozen pond surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights, gently falling snow, and the soft sound of carolers singing Christmas favorites filtering through the surrounding forest. While we can’t promise falling snow, Christmas at the Tierpark (also known as Christmas at the Zoo and Weihnachten im Tierpark) in Berlin comes as close as you can get to a perfect Christmas wonderland.
Tierpark Berlin’s Christmas illuminations, held for the first time in 2019, was designed by the company, Deutsche Entertainment AG, that has successfully operated Christmas Garden Berlin at the Botanical Garden since 2016.
In its first year, Christmas at the Tierpark opened November 21 and will stay open through Jan. 5, 2020 – we assume it will have approximately the same timing in subsequent years. Entry into the winter wonderland is controlled with a limited number of tickets available each hour to ensure as peaceful of an experience as possible. Once inside the park, you can stay as long as you want (closing was 10:30 p.m. although the last entry is at 9 p.m.)
While the one-way 2-kilometer path winding through Tierpark Berlin does include a few animal exhibits, this is not a walk through a zoo by any stretch of the imagination – animals need their rest too and need the night away from lights and caroling humans. (What is the difference between an animal park (Tierpark) and a zoo? The Tierpark is a large green space of nearly 400 acres with animals here and there, while the zoo is all about the animals with less green space.)
Like the Christmas Garden at the Botanical Garden, Christmas at the Zoo is not a Christmas market. It is a place to come and spend time wandering slowly among gorgeously illuminated trees, gazing at beautiful reflections on the water, and taking in the glittering spectacle of the historic Schloss Friedrichsfelde manor house. This palace serves as an illuminated backdrop to a adjacent ice skating rink, warming fire rings, and festively decorated huts with the delightful smells of gingerbread, mulled wine (Glühwein), and Christmas spices.
My favorite part of Christmas at the Zoo was the walk from the entrance along “Magic Castle Avenue,” over the “Wishing Bridge,” through the “Shining Garden” in front of the manor house, to the fountains and the “Castle of Dreams” (the illuminated Schloss).
The actual two-kilometer walking route does not officially begin until you arrive at the skating rink and food and drink huts so wear comfy walking shoes. Keep your eyes peeled for lovely reflections along the walk (assuming the water is not frozen which means the reflections turn more into glowing ice displays).
If the quantity of ooo’s and ahh’s are any indication of popularity, the “Dancing Stars” display (creative use of disco balls and lighting!) and the “Magic Forest” will delight all visitors as much as they did me. I spent a long while standing in the forest watching the colored lights in the trees move and change.
Compared to Christmas Garden at the Botanical Garden with its fantastic sound-effects and music throughout, the Christmas at the Tierpark displays are a little more quiet, with more of an emphasis on simply enjoying the walk, the gorgeous castle illuminations, and the conviviality at the little village of huts at the castle with drinks and warming fires.
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