Boats sail down the river Spree, and picnickers line its banks. Parks, lakes and canals fill the city. No doubt about it, Berlin is a great place to be outdoors.
Since Berlin has a reputation as a lively urban capital, it can surprise first-time visitors with its wide-open green spaces. The surrounding Brandenburg countryside is renowned for its natural beauty, but you don’t have to leave town to have a great time outside.
There are plenty of local bike rental shops, and the city is lined with designated bike paths. There are also several lakes in town, and many large parks to get lost in.
Sightseeing by bicycle
For a breezy ride along the Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg, head east from Hallesches Tor U-bahn Station. Where Kreuzberg meets Treptow at the Lohmühlen Bridge, turn north to reach the Spree River and the famous, turreted Oberbaum Bridge.
Here, your scenic ride turns into a magical history tour, taking you past the East Side Gallery – the longest intact section of the Berlin Wall – into Alexanderplatz. Continue on to the government quarter to see the Reichstag, then cycle through Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park.
Berlin’s parks and woods
Berlin’s parks range from tiny squares smaller than a city block to acres of wilderness that are more like forests. In Tiergarten and the “people’s park” Volkspark Friedrichshain, secluded trails merge with open fields and fountained ponds.
A half-hour S-Bahn ride from Berlin’s centre, the 7,400-acre expanse of Grunewald (literally“Green Woods”) draws city folk to its nature trails. At its northern end is the artificial mountain of Teufelsberg, where a Cold War spy station sits in picturesque ruins.
Pristine lakes, dark history
Not surprisingly for a city rich in history, many of Berlin’s crystal clear lakes have murky backgrounds. Plötzensee is a small lake near a 19th-century prison famous for World War II executions.
Southwest of the city, Schlachtensee and Wannsee, perhaps Berlin’s two most visited lakes, have dark histories of their own. “Schlacht” means “slaughter” or “battle,” and a villa overlooking Wannsee hosted the infamous Wannsee conference, where Nazi officials met to decide the fate of Europe’s Jews during WWII.
For more information on things to do and places to stay in Berlin, visit our destination guide.