While you’re unlikely to run out of things to do during a visit to Berlin, venturing outside the capital is worth the effort, and with so many amazing options for the best day trips from Berlin, visitors are spoiled for choice.
From lakes and forests in Berlin’s suburbs to historic churches and palaces in its neighboring cities, there’s a day trip for every kind of traveler and interest. If you are planning a visit to Berlin and want to experience a different side of what the region has to offer, here are six of the best day trips from Berlin by train.
- Lake Tegel
The closest day trip on this list is beautiful Lake Tegel, or Tegler See as it’s known in German. A mere 30 minutes from the central train station, this is a great option for those who want to get away from the bustle of the city to enjoy some time out in nature without having to take a long or expensive train ride to do so. Take the U6 metro to the end of the line, and from there it’s just a short 10-minute stroll along a quaint walking street to Greenwich Promenade and the waterfront. Even though you’ve only ventured six miles away from the city center, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a totally different part of Germany. There are plenty of open air cafes and restaurants where you can stop for a bite to eat on your way to the lake, but you can also pop into one of the many discount markets to buy rations for a picnic (there’s an Edeka just outside the metro that has everything you could need for a picnic lunch for 10 euros or less).
Once you’ve reached the lake, you can walk along the waterfront until you’ve found the perfect spot to set up camp, or continue to explore the area—the lake is surrounded by two large forest parks with walking trails, playgrounds, and even a small castle, so there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Once you’ve gotten your fill, make your way to the U-Bahn and you’ll be back at your accommodation in no time.
An hour outside of Berlin by train, Spreewald is the perfect day trip for nature lovers and outdoorsy types, as well as those interested in getting an insight into German village life of yore. Take the train to Lübbenau and explore the historic town center before heading to the main attraction—the 200-plus canals that wind throughout this UNESCO-designated destination. You can take a guided boat tour of the Fließe, as the channels are called, or, if you’d rather get away from the tourist crowd, you can rent your own kayak or canoe to paddle down the waterways at your own pace. Spreewald also has several lovely walking and biking trails if boating isn’t your thing.
A beautiful two-kilometer walk from Lübbenau is Lehde, a protected village whose historical farmsteads show you what life in rural Spreewald was like in the 19th century, complete with locals wearing colorful Sorb costumes. Finally, don’t forget to get some pickles before you head home—Spreewald is known across Germany for its gherkins, and even crowns a “Gherkin Queen” every July! Check out the Gherkinmeile (gherkin mile) to try the different varieties, or sample them at a restaurant like Schlossrestaurant Linari, where you can enjoy a seasonal, regionally-sourced lunch or dinner after an active day of hiking and paddling.
The next best day trip from Berlin is Potsddam. Americans may know Potsdam as the site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference that decided the fate of Germany after its unconditional surrender, but this beautiful city has so much more to offer visitors than just wartime history. Most notably, it’s the home of King Frederick the Great’s summer palace grounds, Sanssousci (meaning “without worries” in the French of the court). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace and its surrounding grounds bears a resemblance to Versailles with its terrace gardens and Rococo style architecture. Get the audio guide to learn about the eccentric Prussian king and gain insight into royal life in the 1700s, being sure to leave time to stroll through the impressive gardens after your tour ends.
For architecture buffs, the city of Potsdam also boasts a Dutch Quarter of around 150 red brick houses built in the iconic Dutch style, in addition to the Russian colony of Alexandrowka, an enclave of Russian architecture that even includes an Orthodox chapel. Visitors can also check out Babelsberg, the biggest and oldest film studio in Europe (nicknamed the “Hollywood of Europe” in prewar times). Of course, Cecilienhof Palace is also worth a visit to see the room where the Potsdam Conference took place and to brush up on your World War II knowledge.
Reachable in just over an hour from Berlin is Leipzig, or, as Goethe used to call it, “little Paris.” It’s easy to see why Leipzig has been ranked as one of the country’s most livable cities: known for its cultural events, musical heritage, architecture, and style, the vibrant city has something for everyone. Fans of classical music should definitely visit the Bach Museum (J.S. Bach famously worked and lived in the city) and stop by the birthplace of composer Richard Wagner in the historic Jewish quarter.
The city also boasts one of Europe’s best zoos, many acclaimed museums including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Coffe Baum Coffee Museum, one of the two branches of Germany’s National Library, and a number of Instagram-worthy churches. Leipzig’s public transportation system is one of Germany’s best, so you’ll have no trouble getting around and exploring the city without a car. Sometimes referred to as “Hypezig,” the city is a center for art and culture that you definitely want to experience for yourself.
Just over 100 miles to the south of Berlin lies the historic city of Dresden, capital of the eastern German state of Saxony. You might know of this city from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five; it was the target of a bombing near the end of World War II that resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and destroyed the city center. Now, however, the city has been reconstructed to its former splendor and visitors would never guess that the city had been completely rebuilt. Take a walk through the old town center to see the Zwinger Palace and the Semperoper opera house, pop into the Dresden Royal Palace to view the Dresden State Art Collection, and be sure to visit the beautifully reconstructed Frauenkirsche church. (The church was rebuilt with more than 4,000 stones from the original building, hence the multicolored stonework that’s particularly visible in the dome.)
Visitors should also be sure to venture outside the old town center to ride the historic funicular to the top of the hill, where they can take in a stunning panoramic view of the city and the winding river Elbe below. Dresden can be reached in two hours by train from Berlin main station. Even if you’ve never heard of Dresden before, consider taking a trip to see it—you’re sure to be impressed by this beautiful, historic, and vibrant city.
If you’re looking to visit a German port city and explore Northern Germany, Hamburg is a somewhat longer, but still doable, day trip from Berlin—via train, it takes just over two hours to reach. Hamburg is the perfect place for those who want to experience a different type of German city, as its vibe is quite different than that of Berlin. Attractions include the remains of St. Nikolai Church, whose tower survived the bombing of Hamburg during World War II and today offers visitors a panoramic view of the city (visit the basement for an informative, albeit sobering, history lesson about the bombing). For kids and adults alike, the Miniatur Wunderland museum is a unique stop—it’s the largest model railway attraction of its kind in the world, and visitors can easily pass a few hours enjoying and interacting with the incredibly detailed models of cities and scenes from all over the globe.
Arguably Hamburg’s most iconic building is the Elbphilharmonie, one of the world’s most advanced concert halls. Visitors can stop in to walk around the Plaza, located at the junction of the historic harbor warehouse and modern glass structure that comprise the building, for a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding harbor, or get tickets to enjoy a show in the one of the building’s three concert spaces. If classical music isn’t really your style, though, Kampnagel is one of Germany’s best-known concert venues and a great place to have a few drinks before or after a show. Head to the area around St. Pauli for hip cafes and coffee shops or stroll along the Reeperbahn to find the city’s coolest bars and restaurants. Be sure to get a day ticket if you plan on using public transportation to get around, as it’s far cheaper than buying multiple single-use tickets.
You don’t have to venture far from Berlin to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and get acquainted with a different side of Germany. We hope you will check out some of the best day trips from Berlin during your stay. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a day trip from Berlin awaiting you—gute Fahrt!
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