Whether you have 24 hours in Berlin or weeks, you’ll forever feel as if you’re barely scratching the surface. The decidedly-complex capital of Germany is one of the best cities to visit in Europe. But Berlin’s finer points won’t always emerge on a tight schedule.
The longer you spend in Berlin, the better chance you’ll fall in love with this gritty, offbeat city. Not only will you find plenty of places to visit in Berlin itself, the capital is one of the best places to base yourself for visiting other destinations in Germany.
Got extra few days? Use the opportunity to escape the city to explore Germany deeper on one of the best day trips from Berlin…
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Best day trips from Berlin: The top 8 side excursions for travellers
Berlin day trips don’t fall into a single category. From picture-perfect German towns to big city urban exploration, and just about everything between, you’ll find something to smile about with one of these top side excursions…
No escape from Berlin gets more attention than Potsdam. The reason is simple. Within 25-60 minutes you’ll trade in the metropolis for a day of strolling among the gardens and palaces of this former Prussian royal city.
Start off your day trip to Potsdam wandering towards the Old Dutch Quarter. The red-bricked Dutch-style architecture of Potsdam’s Dutch Quarter is unique, not only in Germany, but in all of Europe. Even in the Netherlands, seeking out buildings that match Jan Bouman’s 18th-century creations in Potsdam is impossible.
On the fringes of the Old Dutch Quarter, let out your inner knight by clopping around the deliciously-medieval Nauener Tor. The fairytale façade betrays the age of Nauener Tor, an 18th-century example of Gothic Revival architecture rather than a true relic of the Middle Ages. Along with Brandenburg Gate (in Potsdam, not Berlin) and Hunters’ Gate (Jägertor), Nauener Tor represents the trifecta of Potsdam’s original city gates along the now-defunct city wall.
From Nauener Tor, swing west along the leafy Hegelallee to the feather in Potsdam’s cap, Sanssouci Park. Take your time wandering through the gardens and palaces of Sanssouci Park and you’ll see why so many travellers love visiting Potsdam.
Throughout the park, opulent palaces and incredibly-manicured gardens, spring forth in the shade of towering oak trees. The three major palaces—Sanssouci Palace (Schloss Sanssouci), Orangery Palace (Orangerieschloss), and New Palace (Neues Palais)—all built in different architectural styles, are worth seeking out as you wander throughout the park. Peek inside each for a taste of the grandeur that King Frederick the Great of Prussia sought for his summer residence city.
Want to get more out of your Potsdam day trip? Hop onto one of these hand-picked Potsdam tours:
- Potsdam City and Castles Tour: A best-selling tour following in the footsteps of Frederick II’s grand vision for the former Prussian royal seat. Highlight include Potsdam’s Baroque Old Town, Sanssouci, Cecilienhof and the New Palace.
- Discover Potsdam Day Tour: Get the low down on the fascinating history of this Prussian city on this value-laden 6-hour guided tour. Includes a visit to Sanssouci Park, Babelsberg Castle, the Dutch Quarter, the “Bridge of Spies,” and the old Russian village of Alexandrowka.
- Potsdam Sanssouci Palace Guided Tour: Another ultra-popular tour focusing on the magnificent gardens & palaces of Sanssouci Park. Includes entrance fees to Sanssouci Palace and, unlike most other Potsdam tours, round-trip transportation from Berlin.
How to Get to Potsdam
By public transportation, the most common route to travel to Potsdam from Berlin is via the S7 S-Bahn (approx. 50 minutes). This route is, although convenient and comfortable for traveller, not the fastest way to Potsdam. Instead, hop on one of the regional trains towards Brandenburg and Magdeburg, taking about 25 minutes between central stations.
If you decide to rent a car in Germany, the trip should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour. While a longer journey, with a car you can combine your day trip to Potsdam with other nearby destinations like Brandenburg an der Havel.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
You can hardly call a day trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp a “fun” day out. But if you have even a passing interest in 20th-century history, visiting this former Nazi concentration camp is one of the most important tours you’ll take in and around the German capital.
Sachsenhausen in Oranienburg is a grim reminder of the horrors of the WWII-era. Although originally conceived to house political prisoners, Sachsenhausen went much further.
Daily life in the camp was nothing short of brutal. Over 30,000 inmate lost their lives through starvation, execution, exhaustion, and medical experimentation.
Want to avoid hassles and experience the camp to its fullest? Embark on one of these recommended Sachsenhausen tours:
- Sachsenhausen Memorial Walking Tour: Join an expert guide who’ll take you on a journey through one of humanity’s darkest hours on this haunting 6-hour tour.
- Half-Day Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Tour: Another value-laden tour that focuses on Sachsenhausen’s infamous role in the Holocaust. The chilling sites visited include the Infirmary, Pathology Laboratory, and Station Z.
- Berlin Nazi Terror 6-Hour Tour: World War II history buffs simply won’t want to miss a chance to get an inside look into Germany’s most monstrous years. Includes stops at the Topography of Terror in Berlin and Sachsenhausen.
How to Get to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
By public transportation, find a regional train towards Oranienburg. From S Oranienburg Bahnhof, it’s a 25-30 minute walk or a 7-minute bus ride to the camp. Travelling to Oranienburg will require a Berlin Transport ABC Zone ticket, costing €3.30 each way.
To avoid complications of navigate to Oranienburg on your own, hop on a guided tour instead. The popular Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Walking Tour leaves at 10am from Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station in central Berlin.
The tour doesn’t include the Transport ABC Zone ticket, but these will be available through your guide who’ll lead you to the camp via public transportation without hassle.
As relaxing as lapping up sunshine along the shores of Berlin’s most popular beach getaway can be, don’t expect a day trip to Wannsee to be the idyllic lakeside escape you’ve always dreamed of.
Summer at Wannsee’s Strandbad, Europe’s largest inland outdoor beach, usually means hustling to carve out space amongst the hordes of locals running away from the urban heat. Nonetheless, when you’re figuring what to do in Berlin in summer, the excitement and energy at Strandbad can’t be beat. For the pleasure of sunbathing and swimming with half of Germany, bring along €5.50 for admission to Strandbad.
After you’ve hunted down the perfect spot on Strandbad and cooled down in the Wannsee’s waters, swing to the opposite side of Wannsee and walk down Am Großen Wannsee for a glimpse of some of Berlin’s most impressive historical homes.
Pop into the Liebermann Villa am Wannsee, the summer house of German painter Max Liebermann, and the House of the Wannsee Conference, the haunting venue for the infamous Wannsee Conference where the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was settled upon during WWII.
Want to maximize your sightseeing at Wannsee? Check out these recommended Wannsee tours:
- Seven Lakes Tour from Wannsee: Move past the usual Wannsee bubble with this popular 2-hour cruise puttering through Pohlesee, Stölpchensee, Griebnitzsee, Glienicker Lake, Jungfernsee, and the Havel.
- Berlin-Wannsee to Potsdam World Heritage Cruise: Float leisurely along the Havel River on this 3-hour round-trip cruise to Potsdam. Tour passes by sites like Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island), Cecilienhof Palace, Glienicke Bridge, and Babelsberg Palace.
How to Get to Wannsee
From central Berlin, hop onto S-Bahn S7 or S1 exiting at Nikolassee (for Strandbad) or Wannsee (for Am Großen Wannsee). The S-Bahn trip takes about 45 minutes.
If nearby Wannsee’s too packed for your tastes, drift a little further west along the River Havel for a relaxing float to Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island). This small nature reserve island, stretching only 1.5 kilometres in length and 0.5 kilometres in width, teems with greenery, stately historic architecture and wildlife, including the colorful peacocks that give the island its name.
Breathe in the fresh air off the Havel and wander through the winding paths to the tune of exotic birds singing. Besides peacock spotting and bird watching, be sure to sniff out the Schloss auf der Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island Castle). This castle was built by Fredrick William II in the late 18th century as love retreat with his mistress. The 19th-century Kavaliershaus in the middle of the island is also worth scoping out.
Want to float by the Pfauninsel in style? Hop aboard one of these boat tours:
- Berlin-Tegel to Potsdam Boat Cruise: Relax on the water on this 3-hour boat cruise between Berlin-Tegel and Potsdam. Motors past Kladow, Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island), and Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam Hohenzollern Palaces Tour: Step aboard a luxury pleasure craft on this 6-hour boat tour around the Havel. Highlights include Babelsberg Park, the New Garden, the Church of the Redeemer, and Peacock Island.
How to get to Pfaueninsel
Getting to Pfaueninsel is easiest by car. To the ferry on Nikolskoerweg, the journey should be between 45 minutes and 1 hour from central Berlin in the direction of Potsdam.
There might be no better escape from the bustle of Berlin, especially on a summer road trip, than slipping away to the Spreewald. The Spreewald (Spree Forest) is a UNESCO protected nature reserve that sprouts from the Spree River. Tranquil waterways, brushed with lush green landscapes and idyllic farmhouses, lead the perfect ensemble of natural attractions that wins over everyone who steps foot into the Spreewald.
The best way to experience the Spreewald is manually: by bike, by boat or by foot. Other than hiring a tourist boat, public transportation won’t be much help in exploring this neck of the woods.
Start off in Lübbenau, the Spreewald’s most popular tourist centre. Walk one of the well-marked trails to Lehde, a traditional lagoon village, or Leipe, a small fishing village.
Or if seeing the Spreewald from the river is more your style, rent a kayak or canoe in Lübbenau or Burg (advanced reservations recommended in summer) and spend your day floating leisurely through the waterways alongside traditional wooden houses, age-old bridges and thick forests.
Want to get the most out of your Spreewald day trip? Check out these hand-picked Spreewald tours:
- Spreewald Bus & Boat Tour: Settle in on a comfortable coach for a hassle-free trp to Burg where you’ll begin to explore the unique natural world of the Spreewald. Includes a traditional traditional schmalzbrot (bread and lard) and gherkin lunch before floating lazily around the Upper Spreewald in a traditional boat.
- Archery in Spreewald: Got the Hunger Games on your mind? Take a break from your usual Spreewald exploration to enjoy unique regional foods and learn how to handle a bow and arrow like a pro in Burg at the largest archery hall in Brandenburg.
How to Get to Spreewald
By public transportation, the best entry points into the Spreewald are Lübben and Lübbenau. The RE2 regional train reaches either from Berlin in about an hour. It should cost no more than €11.70 each way.
To experience more tranquil locales in the Spreewald, rent a car and head towards Burg (Spreewald).
If Eastern Germany was a family, Leipzig is East Berlin’s hip little brother. Saxony’s biggest city has become one of Germany’s coolest cities, attracting young creatives looking for a quieter—and cheaper—alternative to the capital.
Leipzig is often brushed over by visitors. The city is one of Germany’s top trade fair destinations, regularly attracting businesspeople from all around the world. On this excursion, you’ll have to a chance to see a side of the Leipzig that quick business trips often ignore.
Start your day exploring Leipzig Altstadt. From the Hauptbahnhof it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Markt (Market Square), the main square in Altstadt. Along the way—and in and around the square—you’ll find stunning examples of 19th- and 20th-century Saxon architecture. Styles range from Art Nouveau to Post Modernist. If you love music and art, Leipzig is one of the better places in Germany to dig in. A few of the better choices are the three-museums-in-one GRASSI, the Bach Museum and the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts.
TIP: To cut down your costs in Leipzig and to save your feet, pick up a 1-day Leipzig Card. The card costs €11.50 and gives access to free public transportation and free or discounted admission to many Leipzig museums.
For a taste of what’s driving Leipzig’s reputation as as the “New Berlin,” head south on Karl-Liebknecht-Straße through the Zentrum-Süd and Südvorstadt neighbourhoods. On your walk, you’ll drift by colourful street art and a number of bars and restaurants. Pop into the Cafe Puschkin (Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 74). Grab a quick and hearty lunch here from the ever-changing menu of regional and international favourites in a pub-like atmosphere.
Ready to experience Leipzig to its fullest? Check out these top recommended Leipzig tours:
- Leipzig Hop-On Hop-Off Bus & Walking Tour: Zip around Leipzig on a double-decker bus (with commentary) on this 2-hour bus tour. Get off and explore as you see fit!
- Leipzig Guided City Tour & Sightseeing: Join an experienced tour guide who’ll take you through the biggest sites in Leipzig including Old Rathaus, Nikolai Church, the Mädler Passage and Thomas Church. After a walk in the city centre, hop onto an air-conditioned bus to visit further-flung landmarks landmarks such as Gohlis Castle, Schiller House, Waldstraßen Quarter, and Plagwitz.
- Leipzig Trabi Tour: Don’t miss the unique change to let the spirit of the DDR overtake you as you explore Leipzig with a tour guide behind the wheel of a vintage Trabi, East Germany’s most famous vehicle.
How to Get to Leipzig
Intercity trains between Leipzig and Berlin depart several times throughout the day. Expect to pay up to a steep €48 each way for the privilege of this 75-minute high-speed train ride. (Would be a good time to pull out your German rail pass, wouldn’t it?)
Although you’ll need more than 24 hours in Dresden to truly appreciate it, a day trip to Dresden from Berlin is the most stunning of all urban outings from the capital.
Not unlike Berlin, there wasn’t much to behold in Dresden following the Second World War. Much of the Saxon city was levelled in firebombing campaigns, leaving behind little of its magnificent Baroque for onlookers. Fortunately, Dresden’s beautiful Altstadt has since been restored. And what an impressive sight it is!
TIP: Before embarking on your trip, grab a Dresden City Card to save money on a number of museums, sightseeing tours, concerts, theater shows, dining, and shopping.
Unless you opt for a guided Dresden Old Town Walking Tour, exploring Altstadt is best done by wandering independently by foot. Starting off, find your way to Neumarkt, a large central square that’s home to Frauenkirche, one of the coolest places to see in Dresden.
Not only is this beautifully-restored Lutheran church jawdropping inside and out, but it also features one of the finest panoramas of Dresden in its dome’s viewing platform. Grabbing the view will set you back €8 (or book your tickets in advance here), a worthwhile expense for seeing Altstadt in all its glory from above.
Before moving on to explore Altstadt further, spin along Augustusstraße, a block west of the backend of Frauenkirche, to see the Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes). This 19th- and early 2oth-century porcelain masterpiece depicts over 800 years of the royal ancestors of the House of Wettin, Saxony’s ruling dynasty.
Stretching just over hundred metres, the Fürstenzug is the longest porcelain artwork of its kind in the entire world. Somehow Fürstenzug, while the rest of Dresden laid in ruins, survived the 1945 firebombing. What you’ll see here, unlike most of the Altstadt, is original.
Another architectural wonder to keep your eyes peeled for in Altstadt Dresden is the Zwinger. The Rococo-style palace is sure to impress with its painstakingly-elaborate architectural details. Entrance to the exterior courtyard is free. Expect to pay €10 for entrance to the Zwinger’s three museums: Old Masters Picture Gallery, Porcelain Collection, and Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.
If you have some time after exploring stunning Altstadt, cross over the Elbe River to Dresden’s hip and raw Neustadt. Unlike the squeaky-clean tourism wonderland of Altstadt, Neustadt might take some getting used to (think Dresden’s answer to Berlin’s Kreuzberg).
Wander around the Neustadt, weaving in and out of galleries and hip cafés, as you hunt for interesting street art and vintage clothing.
With little room in your belly for a treat, waddle into Pfunds Molkerei (Pfund’s Diary Shop). The Guinness-declared “most beautiful dairy shop in the world” dates back to the late 19th century. This palatial milk shop is popular among German tourists, who enter not only to gaze upon the hand-painted story-telling tiles but to taste Pfund’s famous raw milk and cheeses.
Ready to get the most out of your Dresden day trip? Check out these hand-picked Dresden tours:
- Dresden Day Trip from Berlin: Unless you’ve got a day to waste on your rail pass, booking this full-day tour will save on transportation costs with the added bonus of a tour guide to show you through sites like Old Town, Semper Opera House, the Balcony of Europe, and the Zwinger.
- Dresden Trabi Safari: Hop into an iconic GDR-era Trabi for a 90-minute driving tour of Dresden where you’re behind the wheel as live commentary on all the sights of Dresden echoes through the radio. Cold War kids should definitely not skip on this one!
- Dresden City Center and Loschwitz Bridge Boat Tour: Witness Dresden’s beautiful Old Town from the Elbe River on this relaxing 1.5-hour cruise. Enjoy snacks & drinks as you float past several stunning palaces & bridges including Albrechtsberg Palace, Eckberg Palace, Lingner Palace, and Loschwitz Bridge.
How to Get to Dresden
To visit Dresden from Berlin by public transportation, you’ll have to be careful to choose the right trains. The fastest routes will take less than 2 hours. Slower journeys will add on at least an hour. The quicker EC and IC trains generally leave every two hours starting at 7:04am. Prices start at €29 each way.
If you’re flexible with your dates and times you might be able to bring the cost of the train down. Check for special deals and schedules from Berlin to Dresden at RailEurope.
Who said you need to stick to Germany when planning out your Berlin side trips? Lying just 150 kilometres northeast is the lovely Polish city of Szczecin, one of the most surprising retreats from Germany’s capital.
Sure, visiting Szczecin can’t compete with a romp in the big, more popular cities of Krakow, Gdansk or Warsaw, but it’s hardly a slouch when it comes to dousing travellers with a little Polish charm. Here, all the things we’ve come to love about Poland—from stunning historical architecture to good beer & hearty food—are on display. All just two hours and change away from Berlin!
Start your day trip to Szczecin with a visit to Stare Miasto, the city’s historic district. Get your bearings at Hay Market Square, the main square of Stare Miasto where Szczecin’s Hanseatic roots are clearly on display among its colourful traditional architecture.
Elsewhere in Stare Miasto, don’t miss out on Ducal Castle, the most important historical site in Szczecin. This towering Gothic and mannerist castle, originally built in mid-14th century and reconstructed after WWII, was once home to the dukes of Pomerania. Wander around its grounds to get a sense of the castle’s unique architectural palette before visiting the Castle Museum including the Pomeranian dukes’ crypt and the bell tower (open May 1 to Sept 30) for views above the city.
Want to get the most out of your time in Szczecin? Check out these recommended Szczecin tours:
- Szczecin Minibus City Tour: Explore this old Pomeranian city in the comfort of a minibus on this 2-hour city tour focusing on Old Town. Highlights include the Gothic Town Hall, the Cathedral Basilica of St James, and the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes.
- Szczecin Traditional Polish Food Walking Tour: Arrive with an empty stomach and let the flavours of Poland overtake you on this epic food-tasting tour. In 3-hours, you’ll get, not only to visit some of the top sites of Szczecin, but to taste Polish specialities like dumplings, gołąbki, potato pancakes, and schabowy sausage rolls at 4 hand-picked local hotspots.
- Szczecin Private Vodka Tasting Tour: There’s no doubt that Poland makes some of the best vodka. Dig deep into the Polish drinking culture and taste some high-quality vodka samples along with some yummy bar snacks on this unique tour.
How to Get to Szczecin
The best means of transportation between Szczecin and Berlin is by either train or car. The quickest direct trains (RE66) ply the route in about two hours and cost approximately €29 to €36. Depending on traffic, the trip by car will take anywhere between 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours.
Where to stay in Berlin: The best hotels for day trippers
For convenience sake, I’d recommend booking your accommodations in areas of the city with excellent transportation connections. My personal top choice for the best area to stay in Berlin, as always, Mitte. Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, and Prenzlauer Berg are also excellent alternatives if the prices of Mitte are a tad outside your budget.
Here are a few ideas to start your accommodations search…
- Grimm’s Hotel am Potzdamer Platz: A quirky & modern 3-star hotel in a central location just off of Potzdamer Platz. Rooms are clean & spacious with most offering beautiful city views.
- Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof: A stunningly modern hotel impressing guests with a host of awesome amenities from a relaxing spa with a heated pool to a 24-hour fitness centre to two on-site restaurants. The Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn Station is just 10-minutes away by foot for your day-tripping pleasure.
- Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin: The ultimate in classic Central European luxury, this decadent 5-star hotel sits inches away from Brandenburg Gate and a handful of other top Berlin attractions. The hotel’s own double Michelin-star restaurant, Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer, serves up some seriously masterful European cuisine.
Summary: The best Berlin day trips
- Want to explore a city with classic European beauty? Saunter the alleyways of Altstadt Dresden.
- Need some time in nature? Float along the tranquil riverways of the Spreewald.
- Hunting for street art and youth culture? Explore the centre and suburbs of Leipzig.
- Need a mid-summer cool-down? Brave out the crowds at Wannsee’s Strandbad.
- WWII nut? Visit the sombre Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp or House of the Wannsee Conference in Wannsee.