There’s no question that Berlin is one of Europe’s best tourist destinations with plenty to keep visitors entertained for a few days. But once you’ve seen the main sights, there’s still plenty to be done as Berlin is the perfect gateway to this part of Germany. Even just another day or two in Berlin allows for the possibility of some truly immersive day trips. Who knows, these day trips may even turn out to be the highlight of your vacation.
In just a few hours of travel from Berlin, you can reach all sorts of remarkable and engaging destinations. The best places to visit from Berlin are incredibly varied, from major cities to nature reserves and everything in between. What’s important is that they’ll show you things you won’t have already seen in Berlin. So, to make the absolute most of your trip to the German capital, here are the best day trips from Berlin.
The once royal city of Potsdam is one of the most popular Berlin day trips. Lying just beyond the city limits of Berlin, this city where kings and emperors once lived couldn’t be easier to visit. Visitors will want to start with Sanssouci Palace as this summer residence for the king of Prussia has become a symbol of the city. There’s so much to see visiting Sanssouci beyond the palace too, with many other attractions found throughout its park. Highlights not to be missed include the beautiful Orangery Palace, Charlottenhof Palace and its English gardens, and the classic Roman Baths. Elsewhere in Potsdam there are the quaint houses of the Dutch Quarter and Glienicke Bridge where spies in the Cold War were exchanged.
Getting there: Trains leave extremely frequently for Potsdam from Berlin, taking around 30 minutes to get there. However, if you want to learn more about the city and its past, a guided tour is the way to go.
Both underrated and still one of the best places to visit in Germany, the city of Dresden in eastern Germany is another great day trip option from Berlin. Begin exploring Dresden by heading to Schloßplatz in the city’s Old Town. You’ll see many of the city’s majestic baroque buildings, including the magnificent Dresden Cathedral. Once you have seen the cathedral, move on to the vast museum complex which is housed inside Dresden Castle. Not only should you see the castle itself but also exhibits like the Old and New Green Vault with its precious jewelry. Behind the castle you’ll find the incredible Zwinger Palace, home to gardens and even more exhibits. Afterwards, other sights to see include the Semperoper opera house, the Dresden Frauenkirche, and the lovely Brühl’s Terrace promenade by the Elbe River.
Getting there: Regular trains make the 2 hour journey from Berlin to Dresden. To be shown around the city and its best sights you may want to consider a guided tour instead.
3. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial is one of the more meaningful day tours from Berlin. Just a short trip from Berlin outside the town of Oranienburg, the complex was once used by the Nazis as a concentration camp. On a visit to the memorial site you’ll learn about the camp and its use as a place of training and administration for all other Nazi camps. Walking through the memorial you’ll see what’s left of the camp’s prisoner barracks, guard towers, and the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” sign. Perhaps the most haunting stop here is Station Z, which had gas chambers, an execution trench, and nearby burial grounds. In addition to the memorial site, there are museum exhibits as well.
Getting there: To reach Sachsenhausen by public transport you can take a train to Oranienburg and then catch a bus the rest of the way. The trip should take close to an hour. However, to really understand the history of the concentration camp it’s best to take a tour with a guide.
For a different spin on what former East Germany has to offer, consider a day trip to the city of Leipzig. One of the best side trips from Berlin, start off with the Markt square in the city center. Here you’ll see the charming Old Town Hall, inside of which is the informative Leipzig Museum of City History. A short walk away you’ll come across the St. Thomas Church where Johann Sebastian Bach worked and is now buried. Across the city center are a number of major landmarks which surround Augustusplatz, like the Opera House and Gewandhaus concert hall. From there, head up the City-Hochhaus Leipzig skyscraper to enjoy sweeping views of the city. Last but not least, venture out to the colossal Monument to the Battle of the Nations.
Getting there: An easy train trip from Berlin, you can get to Leipzig on one of the regular departures which take 1 hour 15 minutes.
5. Saxon Switzerland National Park
Saxon Switzerland National Park is one of the best national parks in Europe and a great escape from the city for the day. This national park that sits up against the Czech border is wildly popular thanks to its spellbinding natural scenery, with craggy towers of rock emerging from its forest. What’s great about Saxon Switzerland is that you can visit however you like, whether you’re looking to sightsee, be active, or simply relax. Landmarks like the picture postcard Bastei Bridge and the Königstein Fortress are not to be missed. The park is also home to endless hiking trails, many bike paths, and plenty of rock climbing opportunities. Plus, if you’re looking to relax, take a cruise on a paddle steamer or unwind at a pool or spa like the Toskana Therme.
Getting there: To reach the Saxon Switzerland National Park from Berlin, you’ll need to take a train, transferring in Dresden. As the park is spread out along the River Elbe, you’ll likely want to get off at either Kurort Rathen or Königstein which are about a 2 hour 45 minute trip by train.
6. Bad Muskau and Kromlau
Nestled right against the Polish border, you won’t want to miss Bad Muskau. The reason? Muskauer Park is a UNESCO world heritage listed site. Set among a stunning rural landscape, this park is home to a distinguished 19th century castle and some of Europe’s most famous English gardens. This park is so close to the border that you can actually cross into Poland. Once you’re done, it’s time for the Devil’s Bridge of Kromlau. Thanks to Instagram, the Rackotzbrücke, as it’s known in German, has become one of the most sought-after things to see in Germany outside of Berlin. Located in Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau, this iconic bridge and its magical reflections are close enough that you can visit them in the same trip.
Getting there: Neither Bad Muskau or Kromlau are directly reachable from Berlin, with the town of Weißwasser the closest train station to both. From there you can get the 257 bus to Kromlau or the 250 bus to Bad Muskau. A quicker alternative is to rent a car and drive there yourself.
If you’re looking to relax surrounded by water and trees, then you should visit Spreewald. Recognized by UNESCO for its incredible flora and fauna, the Spreewald is a biosphere reserve made up of rivers and canals which course through a forest. The best way to see this natural beauty is to head for the main towns of Lübben or Lübbenau. From there you can rent a kayak to paddle around or take a ride with a traditional Kahn boat. This way, you can appreciate the splendid atmosphere of this nature reserve, which is also possible if you choose to hike here instead.
Getting there: Regular trains run to the town of Lübben from Berlin, taking roughly one hour to get there. If you want to simply relax and not worry about the logistics, an organized tour will handle all that for you.
Another option if you’re looking to spend a day out on the water is a trip to Wannsee and its surrounding lakes. Right near the city of Potsdam, Wannsee is surrounded by the Havel Lakes, a chain of lakes that link up around the island. For Berlin locals, this area is best known for the long beach by the Großer Wannsee lake where people like to swim. However, it’s also possible to explore the lakes on a boat cruise taking in the surrounding scenery. One spot that you may want to explore on foot here is the Pfaueninsel. Home to a nature reserve, an 18th century castle, and plenty of peacocks, Pfaueninsel may be worth the trip all on its own.
Getting there: It only takes 20 minutes by train to reach Wannsee from Berlin, with frequent connections available. To ensure you have a spot on your desired boat cruise, you may want to book the cruise in advance.
With Berlin sitting close to Germany’s border with Poland, one option is to hop across the border for the day and visit the city of Poznań. There’s no better place to start your visit in town than with the Old Market Square, home to the elegant Poznań Town Hall and quaint craftsman houses. Walking through the streets of the city’s Old Town you’ll reach the pretty Parish Church and the Jesuit College beside it. For views of the Old Town head over to the newly rebuilt Royal Castle and its panoramic tower. The other castle in Poznań is the palatial Imperial Castle, with nice gardens and the 1956 Uprising Museum. Off on the island of Ostrów Tumski is the Poznań Cathedral, while to the south lies the Stary Browar Shopping Centre inside an old brewery.
Getting there: You won’t have much choice in schedule, but there are trains that make the nearly 3 hour trip from Berlin to Poznań.
When you’re looking for a change of scenery, but don’t want to travel far from Berlin, then the city’s western borough of Spandau is the perfect place to go. Once its own town, Spandau has a lengthy history, something you can appreciate as you walk through it’s old town area. As you explore, don’t miss the neighborhood of Kolk, where you’ll see charming old half-timbered houses but also parts of the old city walls. After that, it’s time to cross the Havel river to see the borough’s highlight, the immense Spandau Citadel. Surrounded by moats, this historic fortress comes from the sixteenth century and boasts a Renaissance design. Inside the fortress you can walk around and admire the fortifications or visit the museum exhibits. If you’re lucky, you might arrive to a medieval festival with jousting.
Getting there: Spandau is on Berlin’s U7 metro line so it’s easy to reach from Berlin’s city center, with a trip out taking 30-40 minutes. Taking a regional or intercity train will cut that time in half but may cost more.
That sums up the best options you have for convenient and interesting day trips while in Berlin. Now all you have to do is decide which are the ones that best suit you.