Take a break from the city and explore beyond Berlin's walls with one of our recommended days out by rail.
Berlin is fast becoming one of Europe's top destinations for a city break. Brimming with history and exploding with vibrant nightlife, modern architecture and a burgeoning art scene, it's not surprising that the once-divided city has become so popular.
However, there’s plenty to discover beyond the capital. Whether you need a break from the city, you've had your fill of museums or fancy a dip in a lake, explore our recommended day trips from Berlin. We’ve picked five great destinations, within easy reach by rail, that offer a glimpse of this fascinating region. It is worth noting that the London Saver ticket means that travelling from London to Berlin by train proffers some very competitive prices.
Just 30 mins from the city centre by train, the peace and quiet of Potsdam is a welcome break from busy Berlin. Protected by UNESCO, the famous parks, palaces and gardens that dominate the city are perfect for a relaxing day trip. The resplendent Park Sanssouci shouldn’t be missed, and it would be easy to spend an entire day exploring the vast rooms and manicured gardens of the New Palace, not to mention the grottos, chateaus and temples in the park grounds. Though lesser-known, the charming pump house and lakeside castle of Park Babelsberg are also well worth a visit.
Fans of history should head to Schloss Cecilienhof, famed for hosting the Potsdam conference in 1945, and its pristine medieval architecture. Or, if beer’s more your thing, head to Meierei Brewery for traditional food and weiß Bier on the water’s edge.
Pfaueninsel Island, Berlin
Just 15 mins from Berlin city centre by train, it’s hard to find a more tranquil spot than Pfaueninsel. The nearest train station is Berlin Wannsee, around 15 mins from the city. It's served by regional trains and the S-Bahn, with departures every few mins in both directions Literally translated as ‘Peacock island’, you won't be surprised to learn who the main residents are. The island also houses an aviary of other exotic birds, part of the remains of a 19th-century zoo. In 1924, the island was made into a nature reserve, and is still home to grazing buffalo.
Keep an eye out for native wildlife too, including woodpeckers and cormorants. Since the island is perhaps best seen from the water, we recommend taking a boat around Wannsee to appreciate the scenery. The island itself has a lively history, and a troupe of resident ghosts that roam the castle and abbey, if you believe the tales.
Tropical Islands Resort, Krausnick
Tropical Islands Resort in Krausnick is an unexpected oasis inside an aeroplane hangar. Featuring a spa, swimming lagoon and indoor rainforest, with real palm trees and an artificial beach, it’s a fun family day out from Berlin. Whether you fancy exploring the world's largest indoor rainforest, slipping down waterslides or sitting at the lagoon's edge, there's plenty to keep everyone entertained, particularly on a rainy day. There’s also an indoor shopping centre, sauna, mini-golf and gym.
A UNESCO-protected biosphere, the forest and waterways of Spreewald are less than an hour from Berlin by train and a great place for an active day trip. Adventurous types can hire a canoe or kayak to explore the 500km of waterways at their own pace. Or if you prefer to stay on dry land, there are plenty of excellent walking and cycle tracks in this idyllic part of Brandenburg. A popular loop includes a visit to the massive Raddusch Slavic fort at the edge of the Spreewald. For a more gentle experience, take a guided boat tour on a traditional barge.
The nearest railway station is in Lübbenau located around 82km south-east of Berlin, which has plenty of places to eat, including waterfront cafes and restaurants. Or, for something completely different, pay a visit to Gurkenmuseum, a gherkin museum in Lübben within walking distance of the station, the self-styled City of Pickles.
Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Gardens
Located in the south-west of the city, Berlin's botanical gardens simply have to make the list. Under an hour from the city centre, Berlin-Dahlem is one of the world's largest botanical gardens and the largest in Germany. Explore forests and a vast array of greenhouses in an area that is home to over vast array of plants and wildlife. Relax far from the hustle in bustle of the city in cafe and, if you're there in summer, enjoy one of the many garden parties in the summer. Although within the city, it would be easy to spend a whole day in a haven for lovers of all things green. The gardens exist partly as a representation of the belief that "plants are the future". Throughout the site, you will find a strong focus on sustainability. To arrive at the gardens from Berlin, head for U-Bahn station, Dahlem-Dorf.
A little further afield, Germany’s easternmost town is definitely worth a visit, though it perhaps deserves more than a day trip. The quaint town of Görlitz is like something from a fairytale, often counted among the most picturesque German towns. It’s even caught the eye of Hollywood; ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘The Reader’ were all filmed here.
Görlitz has a fascinating history, and is one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns. Its 13th-century walls and imposing Kaisertrutz tower are still standing, testament to the town‘s important position in Europe's oldest east-west trading route, from Santiago di Compostela to Kiev.
Since this is a longer journey than our other recommendations, consider staying overnight at one of the many hotels and sampling the local food, it’s one of few places in the world where it’s possible to enjoy Silesian cuisine.
Image credits: Potsdam by Guillén Pérez reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 Licence, Pfaueninsel by Michael.berlin reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 Licence, Tropical Islands © Tropical Islands, all rights reserved, Spreewald by Torsten Maue reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 Licence, Görlitz by Heribert Pohl reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 Licence.
European city breaks by rail from London
It's easier than ever to take the train across Europe - and capital cities are by no means the only destinations available to those planning a city break by rail.