The 10 best excursions and staycations around Berlin

Bored at home in the capital? Always the same walk in the neighborhood and no ideas how to make the daily outing a little more interesting? We inspire you with 10 ‘staycations’ in and around Berlin!

Berlin alone offers many great sights and attractions to keep tourists busy for days. But a trip into the countryside to many idyllic places and picturesque landscapes offers an excellent change and a welcome respite from the crowds of the German capital. There is a lot to discover: From the beautiful palaces and untouched parks of Potsdam to the natural splendor of the rivers Havel and Spree, you can find a variety of excursion destinations here to experience unforgettable short trips. Buses and trains in Berlin’s public transport network make it easier to get around and organized tours can also take you to more distant places. But you can also discover the right adventure for you on your own, for example with a rental car.

1. Potsdam’s parks and palaces

Brandenburg’s state capital Potsdam, one of the former imperial cities of Germany, is only 40 km south-west of Berlin. Potsdam makes a wonderful day trip and is easily accessible by train and public transport from Berlin. Several times an hour you can get from Berlin main station to Potsdam main station for 8.60 euros. From there a bus runs three times an hour to the castle or the tram for 1-2 euros. Since 1990, the palaces and parks of the Berlin and Potsdam cultural landscape have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sanssouci Palace is one of the most famous and popular Hohenzollern palaces. The location of this palace next to the picturesque vineyard terraces and the magnificent 18th-century interior allows the visitor to immerse themselves in the world of Frederick the Great. Established in 1744, Park Sanssouci is home to many exquisite gardens, impressive buildings, monuments and hiking trails. The highlights include the Neptune Grotto and the Great Fountain. If you want to stay overnight in Potsdam, you can find suitable accommodation within walking distance, e.g. in the Pension Potsdam PP or in the beautiful Hotel Brandenburger Tor.

2. The Havel

The Havel crosses Berlin from north to south before it flows into the Elbe at Havelberg. The most beautiful districts are around Schildhorn, Lindwerder, Schwanenwerder, the Pfaueninsel and on the left bank of the Grunewald, Berlin’s large forest park landscape. A trip along the Havelchaussee is a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful landscape. Alternatively, regular tourist buses run on this route and those who prefer something more sporty can also immerse themselves in nature by bike. However, the best way to experience the Havel is on board a river boat. From pleasant private excursions to large public boats navigating the river and its adjacent canals, there is something for everyone. A nice tour starts at the Freybrücke landing site in Spandau and takes the boat downriver to Kladow and then returns via Wannsee and Potsdam. From there you can return to Berlin city center by bus or S-Bahn. Or stay the night and enjoy the beautiful Hotel Bergschlösschen in Lindwerder or Parkhotel Schönwalde for a romantic getaway outside of Berlin!

3. The Peacock Island

Berlin’s Peacock Island is located southwest of the city near Potsdam and can be reached by ferry along the Havel River. The small island has managed to retain its fairytale character over the centuries. Even today, it invites you to long walks on winding paths through the well-kept gardens and parks. It got its name from the peacocks that were released here and about 80 of them still live here today! The 98-hectare island was laid out in the style of an English landscape park and is characterized by an ancient tree population of around 400 picturesque oaks and many rare plants. A boisterous picnic here promises relaxation and recreation. The symbol of the island is the romantic white fairytale castle. It was built in 1794 by order of Friedrich Wilhelm II. The breathtaking white palace still shapes the silhouette of the island and makes a wonderful photo motif. Scattered among the lush vegetation are a number of other buildings, including a dairy that was modeled after a Gothic monastery. The Peacock Island is so close to Berlin that a simple day trip is worthwhile. Travelers from outside can easily find accommodation in the capital, after all it should be a staycation in and around Berlin!

4. The Lehnitzsee

From Berlin Tegel you can take a boat trip to the Lehnitzsee, which takes you through the calm waters of the Berlin area. You glide over the Tegelsee, the Oberhavel and through the Lehnitz lock on the Oder-Havel Canal. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful ride through nature as you explore Berlin’s extensive waterways and finally catch a glimpse of Friedrichsthal and Malz at the farthest point of this tour before heading back to the capital. This excursion is a great choice when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city: the calm waters of the canals are guaranteed to soothe your soul, provide inspiration and wonderful photos. It’s hard to believe that the capital is so close to this natural paradise! You don’t need an overnight stay for this destination either, just travel from your capital city accommodation in Berlin by bus or train! The epitome of staycation.

5. The Spandau Citadel

The old fortified city of Spandau lies at the confluence of the Spree and Havel and was an independent trading city until 1920 due to its location on the most important west-east trade routes between Magdeburg and Berlin. Since 1232, Spandau has developed into 2 important areas: the city on the old town island and the castle on the citadel. The Spandau Citadel is one of the best-preserved High Renaissance fortresses in Europe and is definitely worth a visit. With its high walls, it has remained largely unchanged since it was built in the 16th century. Completely surrounded by water, the citadel is square in plan with a bastion at each corner, making it virtually impregnable. A narrow bridge leads from the citadel to the gatehouse, which houses an interesting museum. Other highlights include a magnificent old courtyard and the 14th-century Palas, the castle’s residential building, where the sovereigns resided. You shouldn’t miss climbing the 145-step Julius Tower and enjoying the wonderful view over the old town and the Spandau lock. If you want to stay overnight in the district, we recommend the modern SensCity Hotel Berlin Spandau on Heidereuter Straße, which can be reached from the city center by S-Bahn and bus.

6. The Spree

With a length of 382 kilometers, of which around 150 are navigable, the Spree is the most important tributary of the Havel, with which it flows in Spandau. Anyone looking for an entertaining day trip should venture into the Spreewald. This lowland area is located around 100 kilometers south-east of Berlin and is unique both in terms of landscape and culture. It is characterized by its sandy plains and dunes, which are crossed by numerous watercourses. The region is also known for its population of Sorbs, a Slavic minority known for their rich cultural customs and colorful national costumes. One of the best ways to explore the waterway is with a cruise on the Spree and Landwehr Canal. It lasts three hours and starts at the Charlottenburg Palace Bridge, continues along the Landwehr Canal through Kreuzberg and back to the Spree in the district of Friedrichshain, where it finally goes back to Charlottenburg via Old Berlin. This destination is also perfect for a day trip from home or the hotel in Berlin!

7. Little Glienicke

The village of Klein Glienicke on the lake of the same name between Potsdam and Berlin is appreciated for its iron Glienicke Bridge, which offers spectacular views over the Havel. It is also famous for the beautiful Glienicke Palace, a neoclassical country house built in 1826 as a summer residence for Prince Charles of Prussia, as well as the renovated park. The Volkspark Glienicke was created in 1816 and opened to the public in 1934. It offers a fantastic view over the Havel towards Potsdam as well as wonderful walks along the river and on the lake from the Glienicke Bridge to the popular Peacock Island (see above). Also of note is the monastery courtyard, a former monastery that was built in 1850 based on the Venetian model, as well as the Nikolskoe vantage point with the Russian log house, which has remained almost unchanged to this day, and which was built for the Grand Duke and later Tsar Nicholas. In the 1920s it was redesigned as a restaurant and still invites you to take a culinary break. Equally impressive and well worth a visit is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its Russian-style onion dome, built in 1837. You can find family-friendly accommodation for the night, for example, in the Hotel Ambassador on Lessingstraße in Postdam.

8. Museum Village Düppel

The Düppel Museum Village is a popular day trip for families. It is located in the southwest corner of Berlin in Zehlendorf near the Machnower Fenn archaeological site. This reconstruction of a medieval settlement from the early 13th century consists of numerous buildings that were built according to ancient models. Here there is history not just to look at, but to touch and participate in. Barns and workshops including a smithy, a cobbler’s shop and pottery can be found here. Highlights include costumed staff playing the role of traditional villagers and artisans. They demonstrate skills such as bread making, pottery, weaving and carving. The village is also known for the rare animals, including the back-breeding of the quaint Düppeler Weidepig. Guaranteed an exciting journey into the Middle Ages for young and old. Another perfect day trip from Berlin for the whole family!

9. The Wannsee

For Berliners, the term Wannsee has two meanings: the chic, luxurious district with its beautiful villas and the two lakes Großer- and Kleiner Wannsee. The lakes are the main attraction and, thanks to their beaches, sailing and rowing clubs, are among the top recreational areas and bathing paradises for Berliners. Numerous cafés and restaurants with beautiful terraces and a view of the water as well as their many attractive footpaths line the shore and invite you to take long walks with coffee breaks. The Großer Wannsee is part of a basin that was hollowed out during the Ice Age and flows into the Havel River. From the southern end, where the Königsstraße leads from Berlin to Potsdam over the Wannseebrücke, a multitude of small interconnected lakes begin, including the Kleine Wannsee, the Pohlesee, the Prinz-Friedrich-Leopold-Kanal and the Griebnitzsee. If you are arriving by car or rental car, take the scenic Am Grossen Wannsee road on the western shore of the lake. Another option is to take one of the Wannsee tourist boats.

10. Military History Museum

Southwest of the village of Gatow on the outskirts of Berlin between the Großer Glienicker See and the Wannsee, Gatow Airfield was used by the British Royal Air Force for military purposes and also for the famous airlift into the city. Today there is the Military History Museum: Airfield Berlin-Gatow. It features a large number of German military aircraft from World War I to NATO, as well as a collection of more than 200,000 artefacts including engine parts and uniforms. In total, the site has more than 150 original and replica aircraft, such as WWII prop and jet fighters, as well as a number of rare machines in various stages of restoration. The history of military aviation in Germany from 1884 to the present is presented in an impressive and varied manner in a highly interesting exhibition.

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