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Oranienburg near Berlin: Sweet Dreams of Summer at the Palace Park

by Silke Elzner

For many visitors to Germany, the town of Oranienburg just north of Berlin is known for one reason only, and how unfortunate that is. The town’s sad claim to fame is a Nazi concentration camp, the closest to Berlin. In fact, it is so easy to reach that many visitors like to visit it as part of their trip to the German capital.

What many don’t realise is, however, that Oranienburg is so much more. It is also home to one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Germany. And right next to this palace is a wonderful park with dreamy Garden Rooms and beautiful old trees.

If you never heard of it, I cannot blame you. When we visited Oranienburg Palace Park on one of the last days of summer we were pleasantly surprised, too.

Oranienburg Palace is considered one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Germany. It was built for the wife of the Great Elector, a princess of Orange-Nassau.

Oranienburg Palace is considered one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Germany. It was built for the wife of the Great Elector, a princess of Orange-Nassau.

Oranienburg Palace: One of the Prettiest Prussian Palaces in Germany

Oranienburg was a little gem just outside of Berlin that came with tons of history. This history was easily explored as you stood on the square in front of the gleaming white castle. There were billboards explaining the town’s beginnings up until today. Even if you were not interested in history, a quick glance at the photos gave you an idea of how much happened here over the last couple of hundred years.

The most striking feature of Oranienburg was obviously the castle. It was so pretty that we actually came back a second time within two days just to get a closer look (the first time around we were visiting with the kids and were actually in Oranienburg for a medieval fair). Oranienburg Palace looked so stunning we knew we had to come back to explore this place further.

Built around 1700 by the Great Elector for his wife Louise Henriette, you couldn’t help but think that this elegant building must indeed have been built for a woman. She had been a princess of Orange-Nassau and had given the palace its name of Oranienburg. The way it was situated right on the river Havel it almost looked dreamlike under the late summer sun.

The Palace Park in Oranienburg was reinvigorated in 2009 as part of a garden show. Fun and enjoyment are at its centre.

The Palace Park in Oranienburg was reinvigorated in 2009 as part of a garden show. Fun and enjoyment are at its centre.

Exploring the Palace Park of Oranienburg

The scent of the last days of summer lingered in the air when we came back a second time. It had been a summer so golden and dry that no-one could remember ever having lived through one like this before. On arrival in Oranienburg, we were automatically drawn to the palace park first before having a closer look at the palace next door. We wanted to enjoy the first rays of the morning sun outside before it was getting too hot later in the day.

The palace park consisted of the historic park (with the original gate still visible from the street) and a much bigger section of newer designs. Slightly neglected for many decades, this part of the park had been brought back from the dead for the Landesgartenschau in 2009, an annual garden show of national significance. Today, this part of the park was clearly designed with the visitor in mind. There were exciting playground facilities and a string of so-called Garden Rooms which made the park colourful and fun for everyone.

We started our walk of the Oranienburg Palace Park with a glance at the playgrounds. So early on a weekday they laid deserted and for a second I regretted not having taken the kids. They would have loved the jumping pillows, the play houses, the flying foxes and everything else that was out there. A quick detour through a greenhouse and we finally arrived at the best part of the park: the Garden Rooms.

The so called Garden Rooms were our personal highlight of the palace park. The 16 themed gardens were colourful and thought-provoking.

The so called Garden Rooms were our personal highlight of the palace park. The 16 themed gardens were colourful and thought-provoking.

The Garden Rooms: Dreams, Love and Family

The Garden Rooms were a string of sixteen self-contained square gardens that followed a certain theme. Signs explained what the garden was about, it helped to understand some German to get the interpretation right. There was the room of time, “Tempora” with an oversized sand watch. The Garden Room “Dreams” with the big iron-frame bed in a field of lavender.

We came across the Garden Room “Love” with its big red wire wheels that showed the shapes of men and women, surrounded by beautiful roses, the flowers of romance. There was the Garden Room “Faith”, mimicking the cloisers of monasteries. This late in summer, there was no more bloom but we could see pods of what we believe must have been wisteria hanging from the pergolas. It must look truly enchanting in early summer.

It was so much fun exploring these Garden Rooms we almost lost ourselves in time and space. Future, Origins and Family, Illusion, Lust and Relaxation – there was so much to explore we almost forgot about visiting the castle. We eventually made it to the historic part of the park, had a quick look at the orangery (which was used for events), wandered the old paths under mature trees. Foxes had dug deep holes in the ground, the first leaves were falling like confetti, the sun filtered through the dry leaves of late summer trees.

The historic part of the palace park was dominated by mature trees and wide lawns that open the views to the castle.

The historic part of the palace park was dominated by mature trees and wide lawns that open the views to the castle.

Oranienburg Palace

In the end, we returned to Oranienburg Palace only to decide against a visit. While the castle museum had some wonderful collections of porcelain and sculptures, this usually was not why we would visit a castle.

It was with a little bit of disappointment that I had a to read outside about the checkered history of the building. After so many wars and conflicts and different uses of the palace over the last two hundreds years, not much of the original core was left inside. I usually visit a palace to see the historic rooms, and now I learned that the inside would be mostly modern fixtures and white walls.

Regardless, our visit to Oranienburg was satisfactory and highly entertaining. The Garden Rooms in particular justified the trip to this town just outside of Berlin. Before you go, make sure you scroll down further for more photos of the park and the palace! ↓

The likeness of Louise Henriette, the first owner of palace and park of Oranienburg, can be found in several places.

The likeness of Louise Henriette, the first owner of palace and park of Oranienburg, can be found in several places.

Oranienburg Palace Park: What you Need to Know Before you go

Free parking is nearby the castle but you will need to have a “Parkscheibe” to indicate your time of arrival. Parking is limited to two or three hours, depending on where you park the car. If you don’t have a car available, take the S1 train from Hauptbahnhof in Berlin and walk from Oranienburg Central Station. It will take you around 70 minutes including the walk.

Fees to park and castle can be paid at the entrance. Check the official website for further information and openingn times before you go.

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We loved the idea of the dummy (or pacifier) tree in the park. You wouldn't believe it but the tree was in high demand!

We loved the idea of the dummy (or pacifier) tree in the park. You wouldn’t believe it but the tree was in high demand!

This little statue was resting in a bed of flowers. I just loved how happy it looked.

This little statue was resting in a bed of flowers. I just loved how happy it looked.

We visited the palace park of Oranienburg late in summer. It had been a particularly hot and dry summer in Germany.

We visited the palace park of Oranienburg late in summer. It had been a particularly hot and dry summer in Germany.

The found that the Garden Rooms were the best part of the palace park. This themed rose garden looked at the aspects of romance and love.

The found that the Garden Rooms were the best part of the palace park. This themed rose garden looked at the aspects of romance and love.

In the "Tempora" garden room, the main topic was time. This giant sand watch was made of colourful glass.

In the “Tempora” garden room, the main topic was time. This giant sand watch was made of colourful glass.

"Family" was another theme of the Garden Rooms. This garden was surrounded by reeds and consisted mostly of water.

“Family” was another theme of the Garden Rooms. This garden was surrounded by reeds and consisted mostly of water.

Symmetry and planned design were a major part of this rather young park which was still relatively unknown to international visitors.

Symmetry and planned design were a major part of this rather young park which was still relatively unknown to international visitors.

As with most other parks, this one here would change with the seasons. I couldn't wait to return to see it in spring when the first new flowers would arrive.

As with most other parks, this one here would change with the seasons. I couldn’t wait to return to see it in spring when the first new flowers would arrive.

A great part of the park was dedicated to family fun. This playhouse had the size of a small family home and looked amazing.

A great part of the park was dedicated to family fun. This playhouse had the size of a small family home and looked amazing.

The orangery looked pretty in green. As we learned on our visit, the building had never been used as a greenhouse. At one time it was even a horse stable. Today, you could celebrate your wedding here.

The orangery looked pretty in green. As we learned on our visit, the building had never been used as a greenhouse. At one time it was even a horse stable. Today, you could celebrate your wedding here.

Oranienburg Palace was situated right on the river Havel which was great for kayak and bike tours. The cafe in the palace had a terrace that opens to the river.

Oranienburg Palace was situated right on the river Havel which was great for kayak and bike tours. The cafe in the palace had a terrace that opens to the river.

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