Berlin is perfectly positioned for day trips to some of the most interesting and beautiful attractions in northern Germany, as well as some of the most chilling. Several extravagant fairy-tale castles and gardens can be visited close to Potsdam while others wait to be admired in Pfaueninsel, Klein Glienike and Schwerin. If you love medieval history and architecture you will find towns and cities like Brandenburg an de Havel, Dresden and Leipzig absolutely compelling. Outdoor enthusiasts can spend time getting back to nature at the Saxon Switzerland National Park or Spreewald, while water sport enthusiasts can head to Muggelsee or Wadlitzsee for a great day out. To learn more about WWII history you can visit the Kriegsmuseum (War Museum, the House of the Wansee Conference and the chilling Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
1.Brandenburg an de Havel (aka Brandenburg City)
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Brandenburg an de Havel is a beautiful medieval town located 50km west of Berlin. Widely known for its distinctive Gothic red-brick buildings, the town will delight visitors who are interested in history and architecture. You can join a guided walking tour of the city (offered daily at 10am from Alexanderplatz) or do a little research before your visit and wander around at your own pace. The main highlights of the city include the ancient Church of St. Gotthardt (1140), the 15th century Brandenburg Town Hall and the Brandenburg Cathedral. Other attractions you should consider visiting include the National Archaeological Museum and the Industrial Museum Brandenburg.
Brandenburg an de Havel, Germany
Located in the south of Berlin, the fabulous Britzer Garten is a wonderful day-trip destination for all ages. This beautiful garden was the site of the Federal Garden Show in 1985 and continues to delight visitors all year round. You could spend several hours just walking around the many themed garden areas which include colorful flower beds, topiary specimens, groves of trees and even meadows and lakes. If you get a little tired from all the walking you can hop aboard the Park Train to continue your exploration. There are playgrounds for children and three restaurants where you can stop for a drink or snack.
Britzer Garten, Sangerhauser Weg 1, 12349 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-07-00-90-67-30
If you would like to exchange the bustle of the city for a quiet day out surrounded by nature, you could consider a day-trip to the Devil’s Bridge in Kromlau Park. This medieval hand-made stone bridge was designed to form a perfect circle when reflected in the lake below and turned out to be so perfect that people thought it was the work of the devil himself. The surrounding park is filled with Azaleas and Rhododendrons and is a very pleasant place for walking and getting back to nature. Note: Since December 2018 the bridge is being restored and the lake has been drained – please check the website for a current update before visiting.
Devil’s Bridge, Kromlau Park, Altes Schloss 11, 02953, Gablenz, Germany, Phone: +49-35-76-22-28-28
Nestled along the banks of the River Elbe, and bursting at the seams with a wonderful variety of attractions, Dresden is a must-visit day-trip destination from Berlin. If you only have one day to visit it would be wise to join a guided city tour or make use of the Hop-on-Hop-off narrated city bus tour to see all the highlights. At the heart of the city you will find the most famous landmark – the Frauenkirche (which was carefully reconstructed after being destroyed during WWII) on Neumarkt Square and close by you can admire the 101-mt Procession of the Princes tiled mural. The city offers many excellent museums, wonderful shopping and dining.
Bustling Hamburg is a thriving port city located less than two hours (by fast train) from Berlin. Day trippers have a large selection of attractions to explore in Hamburg, which is rich in maritime, historic, cultural and architectural sites. If you have limited time in the city you should join one of the many city tours available or see the highlights on a narrated Hop-on-Hop-off tour bus, which gives you the opportunity to spend more time in the particular attractions which interest you. Be sure to see the famous red-brick warehouses in the harbor area, the infamous Reeperbahn entertainment area and the ultra-modern Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
Formerly a part of East Germany which was separated from West Berlin by the Berlin Wall, Klein Glienicke is a charming village which is very popular with day trippers. As you stroll past the beautiful villas and alpine-style cottages set on cobbled roads it is hard to imagine what life must have been like for residents during those troubled times. Today the main reason for visiting Klein Glienicke is to tour Glienicke Palace and its gardens, both of which provide a feast of visual delights. The gardens are open daily throughout the year but you can only visit the palace from Tuesday to Sundays in summer and weekends only in winter.
Glienicke Palace, Konigstrasse 36, 14109 Berlin, Germany
Located in what was formerly known as East Berlin, Altstadt Kopenick is a historic town which remains relatively untouched and charming. You can easily reach Kopenick using the S-Bahn from central Berlin. Main attractions include Schloss Kopenick, which is located on an island and is home to the exceptional Museum of Applied Art which features a marvelous collection of antique furnishings and silver. Another prominent landmark in the old town is the distinctive red-brick Town Hall (Rathaus). The town is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle and you can bring along a picnic to enjoy on the beach at the Muggelsee Lake.
Kopenick (aka Altstadt Kopenick), Berlin, Germany
The lakeside town of Lehnitz, (on Lake Lehnitz or Lehnitzee), is located about 26km north-west of Berlin. The area is popular with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who come here to enjoy walking, hiking and cycling. Many of the scenic and shady trails meander through the forests and around the perimeter of the lake, offering perfect conditions for road cycling. In addition, walkers and hikers have 13 beautiful trails to explore. Along the way you can call in at the Altes Forsthaus (Old Forest House) for delicious home-made cakes, sausages and other regional specialties. You could also choose to enjoy the beauty of the lake from a comfortable seat on a modern lake cruiser.
Lehnitzee, Berlin, Germany
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Leipzig is an historic and beautiful city which is located just 75min from Berlin. Although this city is slightly off the usual tourist radar, Leipzig definitely deserves a place on your list of day trips from Berlin. Since the reunification of East and West Germany, many of Leipzig’s old buildings have been beautifully restored and are waiting to be discovered. The best way to learn about the city and its history would be to join a guided tour, which should include highlights like the old Town Hall which now houses the City History Museum. Other landmarks worth a second look include the Grassi Museum (art, history and culture) and St. Nicholas Church. Stop off in Naschmarkt to sip a coffee and soak up some atmosphere.
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10.German Military History Museum
The German Military History Museum in Dresden is widely referred to as the War Museum (Kriegsmuseum) and is essential viewing for anyone interested in an in-depth look at the politics and history which led to WWI and WWII and shaped modern-day Germany. Even if you are not that interested in warfare you will still find plenty of interesting exhibits in the museum including Germany’s first submarine and the landing craft which was used to return the country’s first astronaut to earth. Even the architecture of the museum is interesting, combining a very modern glass wedge with an 1877 arsenal to form an enormous and emotive display area.
German Military History Museum, Dresden, Germany
11.Muggelsee (aka Wannsee)
Muggelsee is the name by which East Germans know this beautiful body of water which West Germans call the Wannsee. When you need a break from the city Müggelsee is an ideal destination for a relaxing day trip. The beautiful 4.5km lake is the largest in Berlin and attracts large numbers of visitors who come to walk, hike and cycle or enjoy a wide variety of water sports in summer. There are three separate beach areas where you can swim and boat-rental stations can be found all around the perimeter of the lake – here you can rent canoes, kayaks, wind-surfers, paddleboats and much more. Pack a picnic and come and enjoy Müggelsee like a local.
Müggelsee, Grosser Muggelsee 12589, Berlin, Germany
12.Museum Village of Duppel
Easily accessible from central Berlin by public transport, the Museum Village of Düppel is a great day trip destination for families. This is a true “living” museum where you can find out what it was like to live on a medieval farm during the 13th century and see demonstrations of ancient crafts. The village has been carefully reconstructed on the archaeological site of an ancient settlement and features authentic thatched wooden houses, a village green, pottery, grain store and blacksmith’s forge. Around the village there are fields and meadows where farm animals graze and orchards of apples, quince and plums, all of which were traditional fruits grown in the region. Drinks and snacks are served in a rustic tavern.
Museum Village Düppel, Clauertstrasse 11, 14163 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-8-02-66-71
When you need a break from the history, culture and museums for which Berlin is famous, a day trip to Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) is a welcome alternative. You can reach the island on the River Havel, using the S-Bahn and a ferry and spend a few hours surrounded by parklands, gardens and greenery. The main attraction on the island is the Pfaueninsel Palace or Peacock Palace which was once the Summer Palace of Frederich Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia. Please note that the palace is currently being renovated and is only expected to re-open to the public in 2024. However, the serene gardens and the birdlife are well worth a visit.
Pfaueninsel, Berlin, Germany
No visit to Berlin could be considered complete if you have not taken the time to visit beautiful Potsdam, capital of the federal state of Brandenburg. Potsdam is literally dotted with fabulous palaces and gardens, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The most famous of these are the Neuer Garten (New Garden), Babelsberg and Sanssouci –guided tours of the Potsdam Palaces and Gardens are available and highly recommended. Other interesting attractions include the characteristic red-brick houses in the Dutch Quarter and the world-famous Babelsberg Studio and Film Museum, which will transport you to the land of movies and make-believe.
Potsdam, Berlin, Germany
For a day out with a difference, visitors are invited to make their way to the Rüdersdorf Museum Park, a working limestone mine and industrial park. Although it may not sound very interesting, this 17 hectare park will surprise you with a variety of activities, tours and experiences. To fully enjoy the large area you can hire a bicycle or E-bike or get ready to do a fair amount of walking. Depending on your interests you can join a one-or-two hour historical tour of the park or opt for the Geological Tour which includes the opportunity to dig for actual fossils. Land Rover tours are also available.
Rüdersdorf Museum Park, Heinitzstrasse 9, 15562, Rüdersdorf bei Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-36-38-79-97-97
16.Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Museum
Although visiting a former Nazi Concentration Camp may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the Sachsenhausen Memorial Site is of particular interest as its layout was used as a model for all other concentration camps in the Third Reich. Here you will learn that this particular camp was not intended to be an extermination facility (like Auschwitz) but a labor camp where inmates were imprisoned and forced to perform hard labor. You will see the guard tower (with the notorious slogan “Arbeit macht frei” – work makes you free), the Infirmary Barracks (which is now home to a museum which focuses on medical experimentation during WWII) and Station Z, with execution trench, gas chambers and crematorium.
Sachsenhausen Memorial Site, Str.der Nationen 22, 16515 Oranienburg, Germany
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17.Saxon Switzerland National Park
The Saxon Switzerland National Park is located southeast of Dresden in Eastern Germany, where it welcomes visitors to an enormous and very scenic outdoor recreational area. Visitors are advised to park outside the park and use the eco-friendly public transport to explore inside the park confines. Besides enjoying scenic drives through the park you can go cycling or try hiking along part of the 400km network of hiking trails. If you love rock climbing you can hone your skills on no less than 700 exciting mountain summits. The park is filled with wildlife and many visitors come to experience bird-watching in the more remote areas of the park.
Saxon Switzerland National Park, near Dresden, Germany
Nestled in the heart of beautiful formal gardens and surrounded by lakes and forests, the fairy-tale Schwerin Castle is a must-see attraction for all lovers of romance, art and architecture. Previously the residence of the Grandduke of Meckelburg-Schwerin, the beautiful castle now houses the local parliament. You can tour the castle at your own pace with the aid of an audio-guide or join the guided tour (offered in German). If you are travelling with a group you can book an English guided tour. Don’t leave without visiting the museum to see a substantial collection of paintings, sculptures, silver and hunting weapons. You can stop for a drink and snack at the outdoor Orangerie in summer or the indoor café in winter.
Schwerin Castle, Lennestrasse 1, D-19053 Schwerin, Germany, Phone: +49-38-55-25-29-20
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Easily accessible from central Berlin in less than 15min by train, Spandau is home to the very impressive renaissance fortress called Spandau Citadel. The citadel was built in the 16th century (on the site of a previous 13th century fort) and for many years it served to protect Berlin from any onslaught. You are welcome to explore at your own pace but joining a guided tour is so much more rewarding as you will learn all about the history, myths and legends that abound. Today the citadel serves two very different functions – in winter it provides refuge to thousands of bats in the vaulted bat cellar (Bat Tours available) and at other times of the year it hosts major festivals and events.
Spandau Citadel, Am Juliusturm 64, 13599 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-03-54-94-40
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If you are yearning to escape the hustle and bustle of Berlin City for a few hours you can head out for a day trip to the wonderful Spreewald (Spree Forest) which stretches alongside rivers and waterways from Dresden to Berlin. Joining a boat tour (or hiring your own boat) is one of the best ways to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape which will unfurl before you. The entire forest system is home to a large variety of birds and small animals, many of which you can spot as your make your way from one village to another, either by boat or on foot along a large network of hiking paths. You can also explore the waterways by canoe or kayak, stopping here and there to explore another picture-perfect German village.
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21.The River Havel
For a relaxing day trip with a difference you can spend a few hours touring the scenic Havel River and Lakes which surround Berlin. There are several options for a day cruise on the river starting either at Potsdam or Pfaueninsel on the Wannsee. Usually you will spend between 2 and 3 hours on the river and some operators offer the choice of stopping in a scenic area and exploring by bicycle. As you drift past the beautiful towns and villages along the Havel River you will see many of the regions most prominent landmarks including castles, island towns and much more. En-route you can sip a great German beer (or two), eat some wurst (sausage) and soak up the atmosphere.
The River Havel, Berlin, Germany
Amazingly, you can exchange a cold and wet day in Berlin for a fun-filled excursion to a tropical island without leaving the country. Germany’s premier indoor tropical island resort is located just one hour from Berlin and offers families a host of fun and activities which are not usually encountered in the city. The resort has been built inside an abandoned German blimp hangar, covering a remarkable 100,000 square meters of water park attractions. Within this man-made tropical paradise you will find fun for the whole family including rides, slides, mini-golf, ballooning, a butterfly farm and a 1km trail through the rain forest. If you cannot tear yourself away you can check into the on-site hotel for a night or two.
Tropical Islands, Tropical-Island-Alee 1, 15910 Krausnick, Germany, Phone: +49-3-54-77-60-50-50
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Located about 2.5 hours from Berlin, Usedom Island is an excellent day-trip destination for beautiful beaches, great food and a small dose of history. The island has long been a summer bolt-hole for wealthy East Germans (and nudists) and you will see many extravagant holiday villas. Today the island is enjoying a resurgence of interest in spas and you can enjoy a pampering at one of several luxury establishments in Bansin, Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf. Cycling the 5-mile promenade which joins these three spa villages is a great way to enjoy the fresh air. If you would like to learn about the island’s part in the development of ballistic missiles you can visit the very intriguing Peenemunde Historical Technical Information Center.
Usedom Island, Germany
24.Wandlitzsee (Wandlitz Lake)
Wandlitzsee is located just 25km north of Berlin where it offers day visitors a host of enjoyable water sports and other outdoor recreation. One of the most popular lake activities is wind surfing – you can rent all the equipment you need at the Wandlitz Windsurfing School located next door to the beach pool. Motorized water sports are also popular on this lake and you could try your hand at water skiing or jet-skiing. Canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are all available, or you could just enjoy soaking up some sunshine. The area also offers a selection of good hiking and biking trails around the perimeter of the lake.
Wandlitzsee, Berlin, Germany
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25.The House of the Wannsee Conference
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Anyone interested in WWII history is invited to come and spend a few hours touring the infamous House of the Wannsee Conference, where a deceptively beautiful façade hides the scene of unthinkable evil. Here, behind these attractive Italianate walls, the Third Reich meticulously planned the Holocaust. In 1942, Nazi leaders met with the SS in these very rooms to discuss their Final Solution to the Jewish Problem at the Wannsee Conference.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You will have the opportunity to tour the fine mansion and see spine-chilling examples of propaganda posters and other relics including original photographs, documents and books. Many of the exhibits give detailed and disturbing information about the planned deportation and extermination of Germany’s Jewish population.
House of the Wannsee Conference, Am Grossen Wannsee 56, 5814109 Berlin, Germany
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Berlin
- Brandenburg an de Havel (aka Brandenburg City), Photo: Cornelia Pithart/stock.adobe.com
- Britzer Garten, Photo: Clarini/stock.adobe.com
- Devil’s Bridge, Photo: chalabala/stock.adobe.com
- Dresden, Photo: lunamarina/stock.adobe.com
- Hamburg, Photo: NilsZ/stock.adobe.com
- Klein Glienicke, Photo: spuno/stock.adobe.com
- Kopenick, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Lehnitz Sea, Photo: JeanMaurice/stock.adobe.com
- Leipzig, Photo: Animaflora PicsStock/stock.adobe.com
- German Military History Museum, Photo: tagstiles.com/stock.adobe.com
- Muggelsee (aka Wannsee), Photo: mstein/stock.adobe.com
- Museum Village of Duppel, Photo: ernestoche50/stock.adobe.com
- Pfaueninsel, Photo: sehbaer_nrw/stock.adobe.com
- Potsdam, Photo: Jbyard/stock.adobe.com
- Rudersdorf, Photo: pixelABC/stock.adobe.com
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Museum, Photo: dejan_deko/stock.adobe.com
- Saxon Switzerland National Park, Photo: andriano_cz/stock.adobe.com
- Schwerin Castle, Photo: Nattawit/stock.adobe.com
- Spandau Citadel, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Spreewald Forest, Photo: LianeM/stock.adobe.com
- The River Havel, Photo: CeHa/stock.adobe.com
- Tropical Islands, Photo: KURLIN_CAfE/stock.adobe.com
- Usedom Island, Photo: pure-life-pictures/stock.adobe.com
- Wandlitzsee (Wandlitz Lake), Photo: stylefoto24/stock.adobe.com
- The House of the Wannsee Conference, Photo: Andreas Gerlach/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Mike Mareen/stock.adobe.com