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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Peacock Island: Towards the Romantic Castle

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

L'Île aux paons est l'endroit idéal pour rencontrer... des paons !

The Peacock Island with its romantic castle is a must-see on a Sunday outing. The old-fashioned charm of the island and the peacocks that roam freely in the parks make this excursion a highlight.

A Visit is Optional. It is Also a Personal Favourite.

The kings of former Prussia were always fond of rural retreats, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. The architectural ensembles they built for this purpose were for personal use, not intended for the exercise of power. Surrounded by nature, lakes, and forests, these places were suitable for leisurely walks, hunting, idleness, and tranquillity.

These holiday homes took the form of personal castles, the use of which was limited to the reign of the prince who built them. Each successor then had his own building constructed. This constant renewal allowed the enrichment and multiplication of princely places, one example of which is the Peacock Island Castle, located southwest of Berlin.

In the late 18th century, King Frederick William II commissioned an architectural ensemble for his mistress. Romanticism was favoured in its design. The entirely white pleasure castle takes on the delightful form of a bucolic Roman ruin. After the death of his father, the new king Frederick William III made it his summer residence. His wife Louise undertook the transformation of the island's natural areas into landscaped gardens. Outbuildings, including a palm grove and a menagerie for exotic animals, were constructed. This initiative led to the creation of a zoo a few years later.

At one point, Peacock Island was used for social gatherings of National Socialist leaders. However, since 1924, it has been a protected nature reserve and is administered by the Foundation for Prussian Castles and Gardens in Berlin-Brandenburg.

A Journey to the Edge of the Prussian Idyll

Peacock Island can be reached by ferry. The fee charged helps to partially compensate for the park's maintenance costs. The crossing takes only a few seconds, limiting the number of visitors and thus guaranteeing the site's tranquillity. Unfortunately, this peace is disturbed during the weekend by the noise of many speedboats.

The island is largely forested and features wide meadows, which are home to exceptional flora and fauna. Its shores are generally covered with reed beds. The paths are very well marked, and it takes only about 90 minutes to walk around the island.

Visitors can see peacocks roaming freely on their journey. The natural beauty is complemented by gardens designed in the 19th century by landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné. The clear perspectives lend the whole a sense of balance and harmony, offering remarkable views of the historic buildings.

The castle is the centerpiece of the complex and can only be visited in the company of tour guides on regular 30-minute tours. The relatively small size of the neoclassical rooms provides an impression of intimacy and closeness, reminiscent of the very personal use made of them by the Prussian kings.

A Cultural and Natural Heritage

For modern Berliners, a trip to Peacock Island is still considered a relaxing recreational experience. This was already the case in the 19th century when the island was opened to the public. Sunday outings to the exotic and romantic island were very popular. However, the king was displeased with the crowd, which deprived him of his cherished peace and quiet. The crowds were so large that, in 1842, the prince decided to part with his menagerie of reptiles, unknown mammals, and colorful birds. He donated them to the future zoological park, which opened two years later, to stem the flow of overly intrusive visitors.

Today, the island serves as a nature reserve, a haven of peace. Visitors can commune with nature in a romantic setting where time stands still. The island is enigmatic, and a visit is a personal journey. There are no attractions, especially now that the castle has closed its doors to the public for renovations until 2024. Therefore, a visit to the island should be a pastoral and bucolic excursion on a sunny afternoon, just as the former Prussian kings intended.

Reasons to Visit

  • An excellent family or couple excursion

  • A complete sense of escape

  • The striking combination of cultural heritage and unspoiled nature

Reasons to Skip

  • Extensive renovation work and lack of heritage alternatives

  • Generally very high local prices (except for the guided tour of the castle)

  • The noise from boaters on the water

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