Berlin is a cosmopolitan, hipster-cool capital, with historic sites and modern attractions in equal measure. Here lies the Berlin Wall, with its epic street art; here stand some of the most exclusive and elusive clubs in Europe; here is World War II history in the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie; here is modern art and spectacular art galleries.
Berlin is a great place to spend some time on a European adventure, if you’re looking for a place with diverse appeal, great food and epic nightlife.
But if you want to explore further afield, then there’s plenty to do in its surrounds as well.
Here are fifteen fantastic day trips that you should make from the German capital.
1. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
A visit to Sachsenhausen is certainly a worthwhile, if sobering, addition to your Berlin itinerary.
The closest camp to the capital, at Sachsenhausen you can take a tour of the premises, and learn more about the horrific reality of life at a Nazi concentration camp.
It might leave you feeling sad rather than uplifted, but this day trip certainly provides a worthwhile history lesson, and the poignant memorial displays are well worth a visit.
‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work will set you free) still hangs imposingly above the entrance.
Just a short hop from Berlin lies pretty Potsdam, with its intriguing Dutch Quarter, the Russian-influenced Alexandrovka, and the main attraction: Sanssouci palace.
The city as a whole is beautiful, but the palace really takes the biscuit, with its beautiful Chinese teahouse, extensive gardens, and the New Palace in pride of place.
Sanssouci certainly gives the Palace of Versailles in France a run for its money.
Spend as much time as possible wandering round and soaking up the atmosphere, before heading back on a coach to Berlin.
Just two hours from Berlin sits the pretty riverside city of Dresden.
Theatres, castles, and beautiful buildings a-plenty characterise this southwest German gem.
Take some time to stroll through the main squares – Theaterplatz and Schlossplatz – and cross the Augustus Bridge to get a view out along the river.
A visit to the Old Town won’t go amiss, either: don’t neglect to visit the old market square and the new market.
Dresden is eminently walkable, so make sure you’ve grabbed your comfiest trainers for this fantastic day trip.
4. Lehnitz Sea
From Tegel, you can take a boat trip all the way out to Lehnitz Sea, passing through the calm waters of Berlin’s surrounds.
You’ll float on down through the Tegel Sea, the Oberhavel and pass through the Lehnitz Lock on the Oder-Havel Canal.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as you explore Berlin’s extensive waterways, finally getting a glimpse of Friedrichsthal and Malz at the trip’s furthest point before making your way back to the capital.
It’s a great choice if you need a break: the calm waters of the canals will soothe your soul.
By boat, you can make it all the way to Rüdersdorf from Berlin in a day – a great chance to explore its famous Museum Park.
En route you could also choose to stop off at the cute historic towns of Köpenick and Friedrichshagen, whose rustic buildings and laid back pace of life are sure to appeal.
The riverside journey is a fantastic way to discover more of rural Germany, from the extensive waterways of the Müggelsee to the quaint habitations that fringe the water.
Get your camera out and keep it handy, for you’ll certainly want to get snap-happy on this cruise.
Wannsee often finds itself a spot on lists of best day trips from Berlin, and it’s easy to see why.
The largest European inland beach is ever-popular among tourists and locals alike, and sometimes it can be hard to find yourself a spot to lay your towel.
Even still, it’s a great day trip – especially in summer when you can soak up the sunshine, swim and simply relax.
Insider tip: just a little distance from Wannsee is the quieter spot of Kladow.
Just hop on a ferry and you’ll escape the crowds but still score the benefits of the sandy-shored lakes and tranquil grasslands.
Under two hours by train from the capital, if you feel like a change of scenery but don’t want to stray beyond the city life, perhaps Hamburg is a good option for you.
It’s very different from Berlin, as a port city, but it’s got more than enough to field an entertaining trip out from the capital.
Hamburg certainly has atmosphere to be soaked up as you meander among the boats tied up in the harbour, or explore the famous fish market.
The UNESCO World Heritage status earned by Germany’s second-largest city in 2015 is well-deserved.
And, for something more thrilling, you can check out Heide Park to experience the twists and turns of its rollercoasters – both wooden and steel.
Saxony’s largest city is surprisingly cool: more chilled out and much cheaper than the capital, it has begun to attract Germany’s young creatives, and this certainly shows.
The Altstadt (old town) is well worth a look round, with its impressive Saxon architecture.
Leipzig also holds a lot of cultural appeal in its museum offerings: with options from Bach to fine art, most will be able to find something to tempt them.
There are also lots of great restaurants in the city, and some excellent street art.
Pfaueninsel, or Peacock Island, provides something a little different for a diverting day trip.
Just 1.5km in length, and a mere 0.5km wide, Peacock Island makes for easy exploration, yet it still provides plenty to do.
Spend time marvelling at its historic buildings such as the Kavaliershaus, and of course, pointing out the island’s many peacocks.
Peacock Island Castle is another key draw, built in the late 18th century by Frederick William II. It’s amazing how much is packed into this tiny stretch of land.
This picturesque forest is a real steal of a day trip – you’ll likely encounter more locals than tourists among the trees.
There’s hardly a better place to get back to nature so close to Berlin, and Spreewald has trails a-plenty for walking, cycling and exploring by water.
Hiring kayaks is a fun, unusual option for discovering the UNESCO-protected nature reserve, if you feel like a change from endless wandering by foot.
Stop off at the lagoon village of Lehde, or the cute fishing village of Leipe, for a peek at rural German life at its most peaceful.
11. Tropical islands resort
A strange concept for a resort, perhaps, but Tropical Islands is a fantastic place to spend the day with the family, once you’ve exhausted all the manifold cultural attractions around the capital.
Make this a day to relax, and splash about in the largest indoor pool in Europe.
Housed inside an old aircraft hangar, the Tropical Islands resort has plenty to keep kids and adults alike occupied for the day – waterfalls, lagoons and a tempting array of waterslides.
The lido in Wandlitzsee is a bit of a hidden spot – but it’s so close to Berlin that you wouldn’t believe it.
It’s certainly a relaxing place to spend a day out: simply pack a picnic and soak in the tranquillity of the lakeside area.
If you feel like doing something more active, there are rowing boats available for hire, and of course there are plenty of swimming options – as well as diving boards if that floats your boat.
There are different areas to set up camp, so if you’d prefer a bit more of an escape, you can head further round the lake for more peace and quiet.
13. Brandenburg an der Havel
Brandenburg an der Havel is just the thing for outdoor lovers, with its lakes, nature and myriad walkable attractions.
The town centre is worth having a look around, and for a thrilling ride visitors should hop on the small tram that hurtles around the streets.
Check out the old market square, marvel at the stilted constructions on the riverside – and if you’re still looking for things to do, then browse the local wine shop, Belmondo.
Take yourself up to the highest point of the city for spectacular views of greenery interspersed with red roofs peeking through.
14. Saxon Switzerland National Park
On the fringes of the Elbe River lies Saxon Switzerland National Park – a popular spot for German locals, but lesser known by the tourist masses.
Densely forested paths trickle throughout the park, but one of the key highlights of the place is the Bastei Bridge.
Crafted among the limestone pillars that the park is famous for, the bridge forms an imposing and impressive mark on the landscape.
There are great views from the bridge itself, too: panoramic vistas of the tree-carpeted Elbe Valley.
15. Devil’s Bridge
As the name might suggest, the Devil’s bridge (Rackotzbrücke in German) is another place where the main attraction is a bridge.
Arching attractively over the water, if you see it from just the right spot in calm waters you can get a great picture of a perfectly circular reflection – and in autumn, the red and gold of the trees show the place in a gorgeous backdrop.
It’s housed in the Azalea and Rhododendron park, was commissioned in 1860 – and has been delighting visitors ever since.