Berlin is definitely one of the best destinations to visit in Germany. Not only is it the country’s capital, but this offbeat city has an equal balance of grit and modernity. With many historical monuments, culinary gems, and vibrant nightlife to experience, time will always be short in Berlin.
There is also a huge choice of free things to do there as well. However, if you get tired of the bustling city life and dreary skies, this city is also the perfect jump-off point to explore a lot more of Germany. With many destinations just around an hour away, day trips from Berlin are always a good idea.
If you have some time to spare in this great city, save a day or two for some exploring. No, you don’t have to get on an overnight train to France or Switzerland, there is plenty to do and see in the area.
Here are twelve places to see near Berlin…
A mere 35 kilometers away is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for breathtaking parks and palaces. The town of Potsdam is immensely rich in opulent German history. It’s a big departure from the capital with its intriguing Dutch quarter, beautiful gardens and breathtaking palaces.
The most popular attraction is Sanssouci Park that houses three major palaces: Sanssouci Palace, Orangery Palace, and New Palace. The Sanssouci is the real star, but a stroll around the park will let you know why visitors love visiting Potsdam. Here you’ll find extensive gardens, a beautiful Chinese teahouse, and all the interesting adornments built by Friedrich the Great for his summer residence.
Potsdam is a 45-minute train ride from Berlin’s Central Station via S-Bahn or regional trains.
A significant but somber site is the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 35 km North of Berlin. The camp was used both by the Nazis and the Soviets where over 30,000 people perished. Within the camp walls, prisoners were tortured, executed, or placed under medical experiments.
While there are definitely more joyous day trips from Berlin, trips to Sachsenhausen are important to remember, understand, and hopefully never repeat history. The camp is a grim reminder of the horrors of the WW2 era. There are tours available onsite for visitors, especially younger generations who are farther away from this important part of history, to have a more substantial visit.
Take a regional train to Oranienburg. The station is about a 30-minute walk to the camp or a 7-minute bus ride.
If you’re looking for a far more relaxed day, take a 2.5 hour trip to Usedom Island. Here you can enjoy many hours of sun and fun in the sand with an expansive view of the Baltic Sea.
Villages here are remote and have the feeling of going back in time. There are three areas to enjoy a fancy day at imperial resorts – Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck, and Bansin. But you can simply just take it easy at the beaches of Zinnowitz, Trassenheide, and Zempin.
Whichever you decide to lounge in, a trip to Usedom is a welcome break from the busy city life at Berlin.
Wannsee’s Strandbad is the largest European inland beach, making it one of the most popular spots for locals and tourists. Far from sunbathing in an idyllic beach, you’ll have to struggle to carve out a spot on the sand to soak up the sun. This won’t be a relaxing trip by the water; it’s a high energy experience with beautiful surroundings. There’s a €5.50 fee for admission, but time spent of the Strandbad is always fun with many people to socialize with.
Aside from the beach, you can also take a stroll towards Am Großen Wannsee where you can take a look at some impressive historical homes. Here you’ll also find another significant piece of WW2 history, the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was settled.
The trip to Wannsee takes about 45 minutes from Berlin. You can take the S-Bahn S7 or S1 exiting at Nikolassee if you want to head to Strandbad or at Wannsee for a trip to Am Großen Wannsee.
You can also rent a kayak and explore the UNESCO protected reserve, making your way down the Spree River towards Lehde, a traditional lagoon village, or Leipe, a small fishing village. Everything happens at a leisurely pace, and you can enjoy a slow day surrounded by the soothing sounds of nature.
It takes around an hour from Berlin to Lübben and Lübbenau. From the station it’s an easy way to Spreewald with many signs to guide you.
Also known as Peacock Island, the tiny island of Pfaueninsel makes for an easy day of exploration. It’s only 1.5km long and 0.5km wide, but it’s surprising to see how packed with things to do the island can be.
As a nature reserve, the island’s lush greenery makes for a soothing stroll around the island. There’s wildlife here too, most notably the colorful peacocks that gave the island its name. One key draw of the island is the historical architecture that stands here. The Peacock Island Castle was built by Fredrick William II in the latter part of the 18th century. Another structure, the Kavaliershaus built in the 19th century, is also worth checking out.
Rent a car from Berlin and head to the ferry on Nikolskoerweg to cross to Peacock Island. The drive should take you anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour.
Take a train or bus to the dynamic city of Leipzig and find yourself at what once was the center of trade since the medieval times. Often referred to as one of the coolest cities in Germany, Leipzig attracts a younger crowd for its artsy flair and cheaper costs compared to the capital.
The city holds a lot of cultural appeal as well. There are many museums to visit and impressive restaurants to try. Nightlife is also great in the city with many hip bars towards Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. It was also one a major hub of the Holy Empire, making the St. Thomas Cathedral one of the major attractions in the city, together with many other gothic churches. Around the Markt, the main square in Altstadt, you’ll also find many examples of 19th- and 20th century Saxon architecture. The range is wide, from Art Nouveau to Post Modernist, together with institutions that promote music and art such as the GRASSI, the Bach Museum, and the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts.
An intercity train between Berlin and Leipzig will take 75 minutes. It’s a steep €48 each way but definitely worth it.
Dresden was mostly levelled off following WW2. Firebombing campaigns left very little of the city, but the German government has since done an excellent job of restoring its magnificence. While still very urban, Dresden is stunning with its Baroque architecture, royal palaces, and many elaborately decorated infrastructure.
Two main areas draw crowds to Dresden. First and foremost is the Altsadt, which is best explored on foot. Many monumental and historical buildings are found here, including the Frauenkirche – an excellently restored and jawdropping Lutheran church. At the top of is a viewing platform to take in a magnificent panorama of Dresden at the price of €8. Also at the Altstadt is the Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes), a porcelain masterpiece that depicts many royal ancestors of the House of Wettin that spans over 800 years.
Neustadt, on the other hand, is more hip and raw. Just across the Elbe River, this area is lined with hip galleries and cafes. You can find vintage clothing stores when you weave in and out the streets of Neustadt. A popular spot for tourists is the Pfunds Molkerei, hailed as the “most beautiful dairy shop in the world”. It dates back to the 19th century, decorated with hand-painted tiles and serves raw milk and cheeses.
There are many ways to get to Dresden, but the fastest ones are the EC and IC trains from Berlin. If you choose this route, you can get to Dresden in less than two hours.
Wherever you are in Germany, a quick visit to Hamburg is a must. It’s Germany’s biggest port town, giving the city amazing views of both water and urban scenery. While Hamburg has been known for the seedy Reeperbahn District, the city offers many sophisticated and cosmopolitan experiences as well. Then again, the red-light district is still worth a peek.
Hamburg is a bit of a change in scenery from Berlin but not far departing from city life. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is a cultural and historical hotbed as well. The Hamburg Kunsthalle’s European art collection is one of the biggest and most comprehensive museums in Germany. It spans eight centuries of art, from the Middle Ages all the way to the contemporary period. It has cosmopolitan structures as well like the Elbphilharmonie, a large concert hall made of 1,000 curved glass panels atop Hamburg’s biggest warehouse.
Hamburg is a mere two-hour train ride to the west of Berlin.
The main draw of the park is the Bastei Bridge, offering visitors a unique view of the Elbe valley. It’s the perfect vantage point to take in the park’s natural beauty, dotted with limestone pillars that make for a very unique landscape. The bridge itself is crafted from limestone pillars making it an imposing but natural landmark in the park.
It’s a bit of a travel to the park, but it can be combined with a trip to Dresden. From Dresden, it’s 30 km south and can be reached via Deutsche Bahn.
At the border between Germany and Poland is a tiny town with a magnificent secret. The town of Kromlau is home to Kromlauer Park, 200 acres of lush forestry visited by few foreigners. The gem in the park is the devil’s bridge called Rakotzbrücke. From it’s name, legend says that the bridge was built by the devil in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross it.
The park is breathtaking all year round. In spring, it will be filled with blooms and colorful flowers. In autumn, the different shades of gold and orange leaves make for a spectacular view. Beneath the devil’s bridge is a clear creek that creates a mirror image of the foliage around it, also completing the bridge to form an almost perfect circle.
By car, Kromlau will only be 2 hours away from Berlin. By public transport, take a train to Cottbus then to an old steam train to Kromlau.
It’s quite obvious how Germans love nature, and there’s no better testament to that than Britzer Garten. This peaceful park features a lake, several gardens, and a Liebesinsel (Love Island), as well as a cafe that overlooks the entire space.
The best time to take in the garden is early spring when the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. These beautiful pink blossoms stand out against the rest of the foliage that are just starting to wake up from their winter sleep. Bicycles and dogs are banned from the park, so expect a very peaceful time at Britzer Garten. You can pack a picnic and enjoy the serenity of nature while sharing it with the occasional duck or swan wandering around.
The train ride will take between 45 minutes to an hour from Berlin. Take the U6 S-Bahn in the direction of Alt-Mariendorf, then transfer to the 179 Bus towards Gerlinger Str. and get off at Sangerhauser Weg.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!