Not everyone can fly to New York for the weekend, and honestly, you don’t need to. Berlin has plenty to offer those seeking a quick break from the hustle and bustle. Here’s our list of the best short holidays and activities that will provide some respite, without leaving Berlin.
In Wilhelmshagen, this gorgeous oddity is referred to as ‘New Venice’ (Neu-Venedig in German). This idyllic settlement owes its name to a maze of small canals and numerous bridges. You can walk through it, but the view is nicer if you go for a spin in your own boat. Try not to get too jealous though! The houses are absolutely stunning.
- Neu-Venedig Rialtobrücke in Wilhelmshagen, S3 to Rahnsdorf, then bus 161 to Hubertusstraße
Follow the Panke from Schiffbauerdamm to Bernau
Its ‘end’ is quite undignified: the Panke merges with the Spree via an underground pipe at the height of the Schiffbauerdamm. However, if you set out from there, you can discover corners of Berlin along its 29-kilometre route that are as beautiful as they are enchanting. Highlights along the Pankeweg are the riverbanks in Wedding, Bürgerpark and Schlosspark as well as the spring in Bernau, which can only be found by looking carefully.
- Pankeweg Bertolt Brecht Platz (start), Mitte, 29 kilometres to Bernau, day tour, best with a bike
Insel der Jugend
The Kulturhaus is well known on Berlin’s Insel der Jugend, where events such as concerts, parties, but also theatre performances and cinema evenings take place. But also worthwhile visiting is the sunbathing lawn and the embankment. These features alone make the island in the middle of the Spree one of the most idyllic places in Berlin. You can also rent vintage paddle boats from the 50s to 70s or a canoe if you’re feeling sporty. Next door, Treptower Park has a lot to offer, from the Spree Promenade to the Soviet War Memorial.
- Insel der Jugend Treptower Park, Treptow, bus stop Bulgarische Straße (Bus 165, 166, 265), then five minutes’ walk
Dive in to Berlin’s history with a palace tour
Sure, the well-known castles are in Potsdam. But there are also many magnificent buildings in Berlin that have stood the test of time. There is Schloss Köpenick in Pankow – once the place of exile for Elisabeth Christine, Old Fritz’s ousted wife, and later the seat of the first and last president of the DDR, Wilhelm Pieck – which gallantly combines rococo ornamentation with DDR chic (the highlight is a pink-tiled bathroom!). Also worth seeing is the Köpenick Castle, which belongs to the Kunstgewerbemuseum. The sightseeing bus route 100 takes you past the seat of the Federal President, Bellevue Palace. No tour should be without Charlottenburg Palace, the largest and most impressive of its kind in Berlin (don’t miss the otters living in the lake!).
- Schloss Schönhausen, Tschaikowskystr. 1, Pankow, Tue-Sun 10:00-17:30
- Schloss Köpenick, Schlossinsel 1, Köpenick, Tue-Sun 11:00-18:00
- Schloss Bellevue, Spreeweg 1, Tiergarten, Registration necessary, more info here
- Schloss Charlottenburg, Spandauer Damm 10-22, Charlottenburg, Tue-Sun 10:00-17:30
Camping at Kuhlen Wampe
You don’t need to go nearly as far as you might think to enjoy excellent camping. Sure, the Baltic Sea is beautiful, but you can save yourself a cramped train ride and still enjoy a short break if you visit Kuhlen Wampe. Just an hour outside Berlin with public transport, Kuhlen Wampe feels a world away. The campsite is run by volunteers, and attracts a friendly crowd. The water and forest are not far away. Not far enough away from your regular life? Here are some short trips you can manage with the €9 ticket.
- Campingplatz Kuhle Wampe Straße zur Krampenburg 2, Müggelheim, zeltplatz-kuhle-wampe.de
Ride to Poland (and back!)
There are many beautiful bike tours through Brandenburg – there’s a lot to be said for spending several days on the bike. A nice three-day tour takes you to the mouth of the Warthe in Poland and back to Oderbruch.
Rent a houseboat and chug through the countryside
The Nautilus company is one of the larger houseboat rental companies in the region. You can hire a boat and then pick it up either in Wildau or Fürstenberg. From there the world is your oyster! There are boats for couples looking for some tranquility, but also larger options for a family holiday. The highlight: the water is always just outside your front door. For those looking for a cheaper option, there are plenty of places to rent canoes or SUP boards along the Spree and Berlin’s many canals.
- Natilus Hausbootcharter from Wildau or Fürstenberg, smallest boat from €750, nautilus-hausbootcharter.de
Or alternatively, get your sailing licence
Many rental companies offer boats you can pilot without a licence. However, real water lovers know that sailing is much cooler and much more fun. Despite the lack of engine, if you want to sail, you need a licence. The Hering sailing school run by owner Uwe Schubert is our tip for a great place to learn. The sailing licence then costs a total of €600 – with the guarantee that you will actually pass the test. If you aren’t sure about committing to the whole process, they also offer taster courses for €200.
- Segelschule Hering Praxisausbildung am Bootshaus ‘Am Großen Fenster’, Grunewald, Tel. 030/861 07 01, all info under segelschule-hering.de
Discover Berlin’s abandoned places
Broken windows, rubble, dilapidated facades: Abandoned places in Berlin have more to offer than their dirty charm – an often lively history. For example, there is the Köpenick Blutwoche memorial, a place where early SA terror reached a climax. The fact that the lost places often have a historical weight is part of it – and is important for the culture of remembrance.
Sightseeing with the world’s weirdest boats: Badedampfer
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. It’s a boat. With an onboard spa. Trips in the floating whirlpool can be booked via the Badedampfer online calendar. The boat is powered by an environmentally friendly electric motor, is roughly five metres long and accommodates six people. Thanks to the location at Treptower Park, bathers can also sail around in the heart of Berlin, drink a sparkling wine and enjoy the envious looks of everyone on the banks!
Discover the Spree on a raft
‘Floss & Los’ has locations in Schöneweide and Friedrichshagen, offering teepee rafts, electric convertibles, explorer rafts and much more. In Schöneweide, the tour leads through the Müggelspree past the Baumgarteninsel to the Spree Tunnel. If you’re feeling snacky, you can BBQ on board one of the rafts, all equipment provided. Find out more details here.