day trips from Berlin

12 first-class day trips from Berlin

While there are enough great attractions in Berlin to keep tourists traveling for days in the German capital, a trip to the neighboring towns and countryside can be an excellent break from the hustle and bustle. From the beautiful palaces and pristine parks of Potsdam to the natural splendor of the Havel and Spree rivers, the Berlin area offers many attractions and things to do. The city’s rail and public transport networks make it easy to get out and about, and organized tours make it easy to travel further afield.

1 Potsdam’s parks and palaces

Sanssouci Park
 

The capital of the state of Brandenburg, Potsdam – located 40 kilometers southwest of Berlin – is one of Germany’s most famous former imperial cities and makes for a wonderful day trip from the capital. Easily accessible by train and public transport, Potsdam is famous not only for its beautiful parks and lakes, but also for its old Prussian Rococo palaces (much of this beautiful city is protected under UNESCO Palaces and Parks of Berlin and Potsdam World Heritage status). Its most famous royal estate is Sanssouci Park , home to many beautiful gardens, impressive buildings, works of art and walking trails. Founded in 1744, the park’s highlights include Neptune’s Grotto , the Picture Gallery in the Orangery with its collection of 17th-century paintings (including works by Rubens, van Dyck and Caravaggio), and the Great Fountain with its depictions of the four elements and mythological figures.

Within the park are two palaces: Sanssouci Palace , a single-storey domed Rococo building built in 1745 based on sketches by Frederick the Great; and the New Palace (Neues Palais) built in 1769 and known for its luxurious interior. A great way to learn more about the fascinating history of these and other top Potsdam attractions is on a six-hour Potsdam discovery tour. Your professional guide will join you in Berlin for a short trip to Potsdam, where you will walk past the palaces, through the old Dutch Quarter and through the UNESCO-listed Sanssouci Palace Gardens for stories of their storied past.

Read also: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Potsdam

2 Dresden

Dresden
Dresden
 

About two hours south of Berlin, Saxony’s bustling capital stretches along both sides of the Elbe. Barely restored from destruction in World War II and years of neglect when it was behind the Iron Curtain as part of the GDR, Dresden is once again one of Europe’s greatest Baroque cities. Filled with riverside palaces and churches built by the Saxon kings who chose it as their capital, Dresden is also heir to the collections these kings amassed and cherished. Along with rare historical artifacts, these collections include fine and decorative arts, many of which are brilliantly displayed in the Dresden State Art Collection , inside the Dresden Royal Palace . This palace and the beautifully restored Frauenkirche (it’s hard to believe this towering church was once reduced to a pile of rubble) are the two must-see attractions, but other highlights are nearby. These include the Zwinger Palace and Semperoper (Semper Opera House), both of which you can visit with a professional guide on a 10-hour Dresden Day Trip from Berlin. After a comfortable two-hour bus ride from Berlin, the tour explores this and the Frauenkirche on a walking tour, then leave the afternoon free for independent visits to museums or simply to enjoy the charming city and its riverside boulevards.

3 Hiking around Peacock Island

Hiking around Peacock Island
Hiking around Peacock Island
 

Peacock Island (Pfaueninsel), only a mile long and 500 meters wide, has long been a favorite spot for excursions (and yes, it does have a population of peacocks). This 242-hectare island is accessible by ferry along the Havel River and is laid out in the style of an English landscaped park. It now has many rare plants and countless trees. Scattered among the lush vegetation are a number of buildings, including a memorial temple to Queen Luise, built in 1829, and a sandstone portico of the Mausoleum in the park of the Charlottenburg Palace. Further north is the Dairy Farm (Meierei), built in 1795 in the style of a mock ruin, while in the center of the island lies the 19th century Kavaliershaus with its Gothic facade. Other highlights include the Schweizerhaus (Swiss Cottage), built in 1830, the Russian Slide and the Frigate Harbor, all accessible via winding hiking trails. The main building, Peacock Island Castle , was built in the late 1790s and resembles a romantic ruin, the two towers connected by an iron footbridge (it is now home to a small museum).

Address: Nikolskoerweg, Berlin

4 Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel
Spandau Citadel
 

The old fortified town of Spandau is located at the confluence of the rivers Spree and Havel and was an independent trading town until 1920 due to its location along the main trade routes from west to east between Magdeburg and Berlin. The city received its city rights in 1232 and the two important settlements of Spandau grew up: the city on the Altstadt Insel (the old part of the city) and the castle on the Zitadelle-Insel (Citadel Island). Today the highlight of a visit is Spandau Citadel (Zitadelle), an imposing high walled fortress that has remained largely unchanged since its construction in the 16th century. Entirely surrounded by water, the citadel is square in plan with a bastion on each corner, making it almost impregnable. A narrow bridge leads from the Citadel to the Gatehouse, home to a local museum, while other highlights include the Prince’s Room; a beautiful old courtyard; and the 14th-century Palas, the castle’s residential areas. Be sure to climb the 145-step Julius Tower with stunning views over the old town and Spandau Lock. English audio guides are available.

Address: Am Juliusturm 64, Berlin

5 Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
 

One of the first concentration camps of the Third Reich, Sachsenhausen, began in 1933 as the Oranienburg concentration camp, where more than 3,000 people were held captive. It was closed and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was built by prisoners in 1936, designed by SS architects as ‘the ideal concentration camp’. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned here between 1936 and 1945, including political opponents, groups defined by the Nazis as racially or biologically inferior, and citizens from occupied countries. Tens of thousands of people died of disease, hunger, exhaustion and abuse, or were victims of the SS extermination program.

As if this grisly history wasn’t enough, after the few remaining prisoners were liberated in 1945, the camp was taken over by the Soviets to confine political and other prisoners, at least 12,000 of whom died of malnutrition and disease before the camp was finally closed in 1950 There are English-language tours of this down-to-earth camp, now a national monument. You can visit the camp on the six-hour Sachsenhausen concentration camp tour from Berlin, led by an expert historian who can discuss the story of the camp and some of those held here by its various operators.

Address: Str. der Völker 22, Oranienburg

Official site: www.stiftung-bg.de/gums/en/

6 River Havel Highlights

River Havel Highlights
River Havel Highlights
 

The River Havel flows 19 miles over 210 miles through Berlin, crossing the city from north to south before joining the River Elbe near Havelberg. The most beautiful parts of the city are around Schildhorn, Lindwerder, Schwanenwerder, the Pfaueninsel and on the left bank, the Grunewald , Berlin’s large wooded park. A good way to enjoy the scenery is to drive along the Havelchaussee , a leafy stretch of road that winds through the Grunewald and along the eastern bank of the river; Alternatively, regular tourist buses travel this route, and it is also popular with cyclists. The best way to see the Havel is aboard a riverboat and there are numerous options available, from pleasant private excursions to large state-run ships that connect the river and the adjacent canals. A good plan is to start at the Freybrücke landing stage in Spandau and take a boat downstream past Schildhorn, the Grunewald Tower, Lindwerder and Breitehorn to Kladow, returning by boat via Wannsee and Potsdam before hopping on a bus or S- Bahn back to the center of Berlin.

7 Köpenick

Köpenick Roger Wollstadt / photo modified
Köpenick Roger Wollstadt / photo modified
 

Like Spandau, Berlin’s Köpenick district is the site of a very old settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. Today, Köpenick is not only Berlin’s largest district, it is the richest in terms of forests and lakes, its 14,700 hectares of heath-carpet forests with many birch, oak, beech, pine and lime trees. Come summer, hikers and water sports enthusiasts are attracted by this abundance of nature – an estimated 80 percent of the district’s surface is covered by water, forest and grassland – making it the most important recreational area in East Berlin. A highlight of a visit should be Köpenick Palace , a 17th-century mansion on an island on the Dahme River. Once home to the Prussian nobility, it now houses the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts . Afterwards, make sure to take a walk around the pedestrian-friendly Old Town of Köpenick with its beautiful architecture, especially its Alte Rathaus (walk across the Long Bridge – Lange Brücke – for the beautiful view of the old canal and river).

Address: Alt-Köpenick 1, Berlin

8 The River Spree

The River Spree
The River Spree
 

With a length of 382 kilometers – of which approximately 150 kilometers are navigable – the River Spree is the main tributary of the River Havel, which joins in Spandau. Visitors looking for a fun day trip should venture into the Spreewald , a low-lying area unique in both landscape and culture that lies 100 kilometers southeast of Berlin and is notable for its sandbars and dunes crossed by numerous watercourses known as the Fliessen (they are popular for punting and rowing boats). The region is also notable for its population of Sorbs, a Slavic minority known for its rich cultural customs and colorful traditional costumes. One of the best ways to explore the waterway is a cruise on the Spree and the Landwehrkanal , a round trip that lasts three hours and starts at the Charlottenburg Palace Bridge (Charlottenburger Schlossbrücke) before traveling through the Landwehrkanal to Kreuzberg and then back to the Spree in the Friedrichshain district, finally returning to Charlottenburg via Old Berlin (Alt-Berlin).

9 De Wannsee

The Wannsee
The Wannsee
 

Wannsee means two things to Berliners: it refers to the chic district with its beautiful old villas, as well as its two lakes, the Grosser and Kleiner (large and small) Wannsee. The lakes are the big draw and are among the top recreational areas for Berliners, thanks to their beaches, sailing and rowing clubs; numerous cafés and restaurants with terraces overlooking the water; and their many attractive hiking trails.The Grosse Wannsee, which covers approximately 640 hectares, is part of a basin expanded during the Ice Age that flows into the Havel River. From the southern end with the Wannsee Bridge, which carries the Königstrasse from Berlin to Potsdam, a series of small connected lakes run southwest in a long trough, including the Kleiner Wannsee, the Pohlesee, the Prinz-Friedrich-Leopold-Kanal and the Griebnitzsee. If you drive, take Am Grossen Wannsee , a scenic road on the western shore of the lake (another option is to take one of the Wannsee tourist boats that run to and from Spandau and Potsdam).

10 Klein Glienicke

Little Glienicke
Little Glienicke
 

The village of Klein (Little) Glienicke, on the lake of the same name between Potsdam and Berlin, is famous for its iron Glienicke Bridge with its spectacular view over the River Havel. It is also famous for Glienicke Palace , a neoclassical mansion built in 1826 as a summer residence for Prince Karl of Prussia, as well as its renovated park. Covering an area of ​​287 hectares, Volkspark Glienicke was created in 1816 and opened to the public in 1934 and offers beautiful views over the Havel towards Potsdam, as well as beautiful walking routes along the river and lake from the Glienicke Bridge to the popular Peacock iland ( Pfaueninsel). Also of interest is the Klosterhof , a former monastery built in a Venetian design in 1850, as well as the Nikolskoe viewpoint, site of a former royal summer house. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its Russian egg dome, built in 1837, is also worth a visit.

11 The museum village of Düppel

A popular day trip for families, the Museum Village of Düppel (Museumsdorf Düppel) is located in the southwestern corner of Berlin in Zehlendorf , near the original archaeological site at Machnower Fenn. This educational reconstruction of an early 13th-century medieval settlement consists of a large number of old houses; sheds and workshops, including a forge; a shoemaker’s shop and pottery, all built using the methods available in this period. Highlights include costumed staff playing the roles of traditional villagers and traders, and demonstrations of skills such as bread making, pottery, weaving and carving. The village is also notable for the rare animals it has bred from extinction, including the Düppel pig. Also interesting is the use of long-forgotten herbs and vegetables grown using traditional farming techniques. Guided tours are available on Sundays and a program of market days and medieval festivals offers insights into early medieval life.

Address: Clauertstrasse 11, Berlijn Zehlendorf

Official site: www.en.stadtmuseum.de/museum-villa-dueppel

12 The Military History Museum

The Military History Museum Bjoern Schwarz / photo modified
The Military History Museum Bjoern Schwarz / photo modified
 

Southwest of the village of Gatow, on the outskirts of Berlin, between the Gross Glienicker See and the Wannsee, Gatow airfield was used by the British RAF for military purposes and to transport air supplies to the city from time to time. Now home to the Military History Museum: Berlin-Gatow Airfield (Militärhistorisches Museum: Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow), the museum has a large number of German military aircraft from WWI to the NATO period, along with a collection of more than 200,000 objects, including motorcycle parts and uniforms. All told, the site has more than 150 original and replica aircraft, including WWII prop and jet fighters, as well as a number of rare machines in various stages of restoration.

Address: At Gatow 33 airfield, Berlijn

Official site: www.mhm-gatow.de/en/

Read also:

12 top tourist attractions in Dresden and easy day trips

15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Germany

Where to Stay in Berlin: Best Areas and Hotels

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