German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


National Parks

Germany's national parks (Nationalparke) are part of the country's natural heritage. They are defined in art. 24 para. 1 of Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) as "areas that have been designated in a legally binding manner, that are to be protected in a consistent way and that

  1. are large, largely unfragmented and have special characteristics,
  2. fulfil the requirements for a nature conservation area in the greater part of their territory, and
  3. in the greater part of their territory, have not been affected by human intervention at all, or to a limited extent only, or are suitable for developing, or being developed, into a state which ensures the undisturbed progression, as far as possible, of natural processes in their natural dynamics."

National Parks in Germany

Source: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) 2020 using data provided by the Bundesländer Basic Spatial Data: © GeoBasis-DE / BKG 2019 Data licence Germany - attribution - Version 2.0 (
Map of National parks in Germany

Where their protection purpose allows, national parks also serve purposes of scientific environmental observation, education in natural history, and public experience of nature. Commercial exploitation of natural resources by farming, forestry, water use, hunting or fishing must therefore be largely prevented or only allowed subject to strict requirements laid down by the nature conservation authorities. National park regions are highly popular with the German public and have been proven to promote tourism. Most people asked in a survey accepted restrictions to their freedom of movement in sensitive areas.

National parks are designated by the German states (Länder) in consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Ministry of Transport and digital infrastructure (Art. 22 para. 5 BNatSchG).

Germany currently has 16 national parks covering a total of 1,050,442 ha. Excluding marine areas, national parks cover around 0.6 percent of German territory.

National parks in Germany (as of October 2020)
National park
Year founded
Total area [ha]
Priority protected habitats
Bayerischer Wald (BY) 1970 24,850 Montane mixed forests, upland spruce forests, bogs, fens and mires, mountain streams, boulder piles
Berchtesgaden (BY) 1978 20,804 Alpine scree fields, alpine grassland and scrub, subalpine, montane and submontane forests, mountain meadows, lakes
Schleswig- Holsteinisches Wattenmeer (SH) 1985 441,500
of which approx. 99.5% water surface*
Wadden Sea ecosystem, foreshore salt marshes
Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer (NI) 1986 345,000
of which approx. 94% water surface*
Wadden Sea, salt meadows and Eastern Friesland island dunes
Hamburgisches Wattenmeer (HH) 1990 13,750
of which approx. 97.5% water surface*
Wadden Sea in the Elbe estuary subject to strong tidal and brackish water influence
Jasmund (MV) 1990 3,070
of which approx. 20% water surface
Beech forests on calcareous soils, chalk-cliff coastline, near-coast Baltic Sea
Harz (ST/NI) 1990/1994 24,732 Upland spruce forests, beech forests, bogs, fens and mires, montane heaths, boulder and rock formations, watercourses
Sächsische Schweiz (SN) 1990 9,350 Rock-forest complexes, submontane xerothermophilous forests, ravine and scree forest
Müritz- Nationalpark (MV) 1990 32,200 Pine and beech forests, alder and birch carr, lakes and bogs, fens and mires
Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft (MV) 1990 78,600
of which approx. 83% water surface*
Bodden waters, wave-eroded coasts of a range of types and with various coastal habitats, forests
Unteres Odertal (BB) 1995 10,323 River floodplain landscape, oxbows and backwaters, reed and reed grass beds, damp grassland
Hainich (TH) 1997 7,513 Mixed deciduous forest and beech forest on mesic sites in varying stages of succession, in some cases with highly differentiated age composition
Eifel (NW) 2004 10,770 Atlantic-influenced mixed beech forests on acidic soils (colline to submontane), spring regions, stream valleys
Kellerwald-Edersee (HE) 2004 7,688 Submontane beech forests on acidic soils, xeric rocky slopes, oak dry forests
Schwarzwald (BW) 2014 10,062 montane mixed forests of beech, fir and spruce, heathland
Hunsrück-Hochwald (RP/SL)) 2015 10,230 Beech- and oak-forests, spruce forests, block fields and fens

Total area including North Sea and Baltic areas: 1,050,442 ha
Total area excluding North Sea and Baltic areas: 208,238 ha (about 0.60 percent of German territory)

*) Portion of water surface not included in land area statistics only.

Most of Germany's national parks today are still in the development phase, meaning that they only partly meet the criteria of leaving nature untouched over large areas. Measures implemented under management plans over the next two to three decades will allow dynamic natural processes to be given priority in most of the territory covered by these parks.

Zonation of German national parks (data as of January 2021)

National park

Size (ha)Zone of natural dynamics (in %)Developmentzone (in %)Managementzone (in %)



Hamburgisches Wattenmeer








Sächsische Schweiz




Bayerischer Wald


Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer










Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft


Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer


Unteres Odertal


*In the Waddensea national parks and the park Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft the development and the management zone are combined in one zone.

Three national parks contain also a small so called recreation zone with the following proportions: Bayerischer Wald = 2 %, Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer = 0.5 %, Jasmund = 0.3 %

The amended 2002 Federal Nature Conservation Act made statutory provision for areas to be designated as 'developing' national parks. This eases the creation of new national parks in Germany.

Under the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories, a national park (Category II) is a protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation. National parks are designated to protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems, exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to this purpose and provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

To comply with IUCN guidelines, at least three quarters of a protected area must be managed for its primary purpose. For national parks under EUROPARC/IUCN, this means 75 percent of the area must be maintained in a largely natural or near-natural state and not be subject to uses incompatible with the purpose for which the park is designated. The area must also be large enough to contain one or more entire ecosystems. A minimum size of 10,000 ha is recommended for Germany.

January 2014 saw the creation of the new national park Schwarzwald (Baden-Württemberg). The park consists of two parts, Ruhestein (7,615 ha) and Hoher Ochsenkopf (2,447 ha). Characteristic ecosystems are montane mixed forests of beech, fir and spruce.

The national park Hunsrück-Hochwald (Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland) was established in March 2015 and a gap in south-western Germany within the system of large scale protected areas could be closed.

Germany still lacks nationally binding quality criteria to match international guidelines such as IUCN Category II. Among other things, this leads to differences in both the nomenclature and the number of zones in the various national parks. Therefore the nomenclature of the zones was harmonized. Land use and impacts from coastal protection, fisheries, forestry, hunting, recreation and in some cases transport and farming make it hard in a country as densely populated as Germany to comply with global standards and so attain the designated objectives.

Germany has further areas suited for designation as national parks, for example with a view to Germany's responsibilities for preserving beech forest ecosystems. More opportunities are opened up in this regard as large military exercise areas revert to civilian use.


Europarc-Deutschland (2011): National Parks in Germany - Wild and beautiful. - 71 pp. (also available in German)


publication flyer

Scherfose, V. (publisher) (2014): Nationalparkmanagement in Deutschland  
Published in: Schr.-R.  Naturschutz und Biologische Vielfalt, Heft 136, 261 Seiten, 24 €, ISBN 978-3-7843-4036-4

order directly by: Landwirtschaftsverlag

cover of publication

EUROPARC Germany e.V. (Ed.) (2012): Evaluation of German National Parks
Download booklet, PDF

Last Change: 01/03/2021