Peacock Island, Berlin
by Elizabeth Rushe
One of the best things you can do when visiting Berlin is take a trip out to Pfaueninsel – Peacock Island. Peacock island has an ancient and colourful history – with evidence of settlers dating back over 2.500 years ago, but a more recent and raunchier past which remains intact today: the summer castle “lustschloss”, built by King of Prussia in the late 1700s, which even survived the destruction of Wolrd War II, built for the King’s mistress Countess Wilhelmine von Lichtena.
Visiting today, you can amble across this beautifully maintained island which has been designated a protected UNESCO heritage site, it’s a glorious spot at the height of summer, with all the flowers in bloom and peacocks wandering around. (Peacock mating season is spring into early summer, so those are the months you will most likely witness a peacock fanning his tail.)
The island was transformed into a model farm in the early 1800s by the next kind, housing over 900 animals at one point, including peacocks. Eventually most of the animals were transferred to the Berlin Zoo which opened in 1844.
Today, the grounds of Peacock Island include a beautiful rose garden, thrumming with wildlife; the Meierei dairy; the Kavalierhaus; a temple dedicated to Queen Luise of Prussia; a waterfall; and one of the highlights for me, the “Volaire” aviary. The Volaire, which is located almost in the middle of the island, houses a variety of different bird breeds – including amazing white peacocks. My favourite feathered friend was the hilarious looking (and named) “Silkie”, a breed of miniature ornamental chicken which are super fluffy. Aside from the birds house in the VOlaire, the peacocks are free range and really do wander around.
When you need to take a rest, luckily there is of course a cafe serving bratwurst and freshly baked cakes, as well as local organic beer (I recommend the Potsdamer Stange). The café has plenty of lawn where you’re free to stretch out, and you might even get to hang with inquisitive/hungry peacocks – which are pretty chill, even brazenly approaching café tables. There are signs dotted around asking visitors not to feed the peacocks, but I guess they have learned that they can charm a few crumbs off your plate.
Due to the protected status of the island, there is no smoking, dogs or bikes allowed on Pfaueninsel.
How to get there/how much time you need to spend:
Take the S Bahn to Wannsee station (I took the S1 there) and get the 218 bus which departs almost every hour at 51 minutes past. To add to the whole experience, the 218 bus is a “Traditionsbus”, a rotating crew of double-decker vintage restored buses from the ‘50s to the ‘90s. It would also be a lovely walk from Wannsee station if you’re feeling energetic – about 4.5 kilometres, and over half of it through a beautiful forest. The bus drops you at the ferry which costs 4 euros and covers your entrance to the island as well. I spent three hours on the island and could have spent more so definitely set aside a few hours to make the most of Pfaueninsel!
Elizabeth Rushe is a freelance writer from Ireland, based in Berlin. Elizabeth is the creator of the Berlin Belly food podcast, showcasing women working in food in Berlin, and her writing has been published by NPR, Vice, Racked. Follow Elizabeth Rushe on Twitter: @elizafoxxx