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Travel in Germany: 10 must-see places within reach of Berlin

There's a lot to see and do in Berlin but if you fancy a break without too much travel time, there are lots of lovely places within easy reach.

Travel in Germany: 10 must-see places within reach of Berlin
Ahlbeck beach in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: ZB

1. Potsdam

If you live in Berlin and haven’t been to Potsdam yet, summer 2020 is the perfect time to go. It’s home to 500 hectares of UNESCO World Heritage palaces and parks as well as a Dutch quarter, a university and plenty of museums and galleries.

Where? Brandenburg, 27km southwest of Berlin

What to see? The most visited attraction is undoubtedly the Schloss Sanssouci, the summer residency of Frederick the Great. The palace was built between 1745 and 1747 to provide the German King with a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the Berlin Court and provides much the same sanctuary for visitors today. 

The city’s Dutch Quarter is also very popular with tourists, being the largest exclusively Dutch housing development outside of the Netherlands. 

How to get to there? A direct train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof will get you to the main station in just 40 minutes

READ ALSO: Hiking to the heart of Potsdam

The Sanssouci Palace at night. Photo: ZB

2. Saxon Switzerland National Park

The stunning National Park in Saxon Switzerland stretches for almost 100 square km and is home to beech forests, wild streams, and the famous sandstone mountains. 

Where? Saxon Switzerland, 30 kilometres southeast of Dresden and right on the border of the Czech Republic.

What to see? No trip to the national park in Saxon Switzerland would be complete without visiting the Bastei Bridge. Looking like something out of a medieval fantasy tale, the 76-metre-long bridge connects the sandstone rock formations and offers visitors a breath-taking view over the mountains and the Elbe river.

It’s also worth taking a ride on the Kirnitzschtalbahn – a cable car which was built in 1898 to carry tourists along the 8-kilometre railway which runs through beautiful rocky landscape of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains from Bad Schandau to the Lichtenhain waterfall. 

How to get there? Saxon Switzerland is around three and a half hours from Berlin, making a day trip just about feasible. You can take a direct train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Dresden Hauptbahnhof, where regional trains run at least every 30 minutes during the day to Pirna, Obervogelgesang, Stadt Wehlen, Kurort Rathen, Königstein and Bad Schandau.

READ ALSO: Scenery as far as the eye can see in Saxon Switzerland

The Bastei Bridge. Photo: dpa-tmn

3. Neuruppin

This pretty little town is rich in both natural beauty and culture. Seated on the edge of Brandenburg’s largest lake and the protected Stechlin-Ruppiner natural park, Neuruppin is also the birthplace of two figureheads of German culture: architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and poet and author Theodre Fontane.

Where? Brandenburg, 60 km northwest of Berlin. On the shore of the Ruppiner See, a lake traversed by the Rhine river

What to see? As well as its beautiful natural surroundings, the old garrison town of Neuruppin has plenty to offer by way of architecture. Neuruppin is considered a prime example of classicist urban planning and its streets and squares are filled with elegant buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Middle Ages also left some marks on the city – the most significant example being the monastery and church of St. Trinitatis, which was built in 1246.

Occasionally referred to as “the most Prussian of all Prussian towns” the Town Museum of Neuruppin has the oldest and most complete collection of Prussian artifacts in Brandenburg.

How to get there? It will take you around an hour and a half to get to Neuruppin with the train. You can either take a direct train or take the S25 from Berlin to Hennigsdorf and change to take a regional train to Neuruppin Rheinsberger Tor.

Monument to Theodore Fontane in Neuruppin. Photo: dpa-tmn

The Baltic Coast

The Baltic Coast has plenty to offer those wanting to be near the sea this summer. Here are three of our favourites 

4. Rügen

The Island of Rügen is home to beautiful beaches and a fantastic national park. 

What to see? Arguably the main attraction of Rügen is its numerous and beautiful beaches.

If you don’t like sand, you can visit the pebbly shores of Sassnitz, from where (in non-corona times) you can also take a ferry across the sea to Sweden. Sassnitz also sits on the border of the Jasmund national park which includes the largest beech forest on the Baltic coast as well as striking chalk cliffs. 

READ ALSO: North Sea or Baltic Sea? How to decide between Germany's two coasts

For white sandy beaches you can take your pick from over 60km of them, including Binz and Sellin. The water around this island is also surprisingly clear.

How to get there? A direct train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof takes 3 hours and 40 minutes, or you can go for the cheaper option of a bus from Alexanderplatz, which takes around 4 hours.

A beach in Sassnitz. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild

5. Usedom

To the east of Rügen is the island of Usedom, which is just a hop, skip and a jump across the border to Poland.

What to see? Usedom also boasts an impressive coastline and is home to the so-called Kaiserbäder (emperor’s baths) the beaches of Ahlbeck, Heringdorf and Bansin. Ahlbeck beach is particularly worth a visit to see the oldest pier in Germany, which was built in 1891. 

How to get there? Trains from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to various stops on the island such as Schmollensee, Neu Pudagla and Ückeritz all take around four hours.

6. Stralsund

In between Rostock and Rügen is the old Hanseatic harbour city of Stralsund.

What to see? The seaside city of Stralsund is full of striking gothic architecture, the most visible of which is the 17th Century St. Mary’s Church, which is home to two organs and a human hamster wheel for ringing the bells in the bell tower. The 13th century Rathaus is also a site well worth seeing, which ouses a covered market decorated with wooden panels.

How to get there ? A direct train from Berlin to Stralsund Hauptbahnhof takes just over three hours. 

The town hall in Stralsund. Photo: ZB

7. Erfurt 

The capital city of Thuringia, is a place where history and modernity meet. In the middle ages, it was known as the German Rome and today it is home to newly built opera house and award-winning train station.

Where? Thuringia, 288km southwest of Berlin.

What to see? Erfurt’s most famous landmark is the Krämer bridge and is the longest inhabited bridge in Europe. It was originally built from wood in 1325 and later fortified with stone.

If you are a fan of old holy buildings then Erfurt is the right place for you. Erfurt has over 43 churches, including the magnificent gothic Cathedral of St. Marys originally built in 725 and is also home to the oldest Synagogue in Central Europe. 

How to get there? A direct train from Berlin will get you to Erfurt in just under two hours, or you can go there in twice the time with a bus.

8. Bamberg

Bamberg is an ancient town in northern Bavaria, which is sometimes referred to as the Fraconian Rome. 

Where? Northern Bavaria, 450km southwest of Berlin.

What to see? The Altstadt or old town is one of Europe’s largest intact old town centres and is a UNESCO world heritage site. One of the most iconic sites in Bamberg is the Old Town Hall, which teeters on the edge of the Obere Brücke (upper bridge) and offers wonderful views over Little Venice. 

Not to be missed is also the 13th Century Bamberg Cathedral, whose interior highlights include the Prince's Doorway (Fürstentor), the tomb of Emperor Henry II, who died in 1024 and the burial site of Pope Clement II from 1047.

READ ALSO: Sipping smoked beer and soaking up culture in beautiful Bamberg

Bamberg is also home to eleven breweries, so if you find yourself getting thirsty on your trip you can join one of their Beerschmecker tours and take a trip around breweries, beer gardens and cellars whilst sampling some fine smoked beer.  

How to get there? Bamberg may be a whopping 450 km from Berlin, but a direct ICE train can get you there in just 2.5 hours. 

The historical city of Bamberg. Photo: Archiv des BAMBERG Tourismus & Kongress Service – dpa

9. Spreewald

Spreewald or Spree forest is a biosphere reserve in South East Brandenburg and is home to an extensive network of small rivers measuring a total of around 970 km.

 Where? Brandenburg, 84km southeast of Berlin

What to see? As the name of the place suggests, Spreewald is known for its natural beauty and one of the best ways to explore the biosphere is by boat and you can either hire a canoe or kayak alone or take one of the many available boat tours to explore the region.

Amongs the numerous sites worth seeing is the museum village of Stary Lud in Dissen, which offers a very realistic reconstruction of life in the region during the Slavic Middle Ages. 

As well as being the most popular starting point for boat tours, the town of Lübbenau also offers guided tours through the historical town centre.

How to get there? A direct train from Berlin Ostbahnhof to Lübben takes only 49 minutes.

The green waterways of Spreewald. Surrounded by greenery in Spreewald. Photo: ZB

10. Frankfurt an der Oder

Sometimes confused with the other Frankfurt (am Main), Frankfurt an der Oder is a little city on the river Oder, right on the Polish border. 

Where? Brandenburg, 104km southeast of Berlin

 

What to see ? The town hall in Frankfurt an der Oder was first built in the Gothic style in 1253 and is one of the oldest and largest town halls in Germany. The building also bears a gilded herring on a fishing rod from 1454, as a symbol of the importance of the city of Frankfurt in the medieval herring trade.

The town hall is also host to part of the Museum of Modern Art – one of the most valuable art collections in Germany with over 10,000 works of paintings, sketches, installations and sculptures 

If you’re with kids, the Wildlife Park is definitely worth a visit. The 16 acre park is home to over 300 animals including squirrels, ferrets, pheasants, foxes, rabbits, ponies, guinea pigs, sheep, parrots and goats and there is a petting zoo and beekeeping area. 

How to get there? A direct train from Berlin will take you between 44 and 56 minutes.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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