Berlin may not be a coastal destination, but with the Spree River running through its neighborhoods, and numerous other canals and lakes spread around town, the city is actually quite the waterfront, home to five times as many bridges as Venice. And with the weather finally warming up, there’s no better way to see Germany’s capital than on a boat ride around Berlin.
From a quick one-hour jaunt to an in-depth six-hour historical exploration, companies such as Reederei Riedel, Exclusiv Yachtcharter and Stern und Kreisschiffahrt offer a variety of boat tours in Berlin (starting at 11€ per person). Heading down the Spree, the most common tours wind along Museum Island and past many of the city’s landmark buildings, including the gothic Berlin Cathedral, the modern glass-domed Reichstag and the main Hauptbahnhof train station, before making their way back along the picturesque Tiergarten park. Another favorite tour highlights the city’s east section, including the celebrated artwork of the East Side Gallery, the former industrial harbor Osthafen, Treptower Park and the city’s famous 100-foot aluminum Molecule Man.
For a more leisurely and remote tour, begin at Lake Wannsee, 25 minutes west of Berlin, and tour the palaces and gardens of Potsdam and Berlin. Taking in the pastoral surroundings and history of the region, this world culture heritage tour includes the Glienicker Brücke, where international agents crossed the East Berlin border during the Cold War; Prince Wilhelm’s 19th-century summer residence, Babelsberg Palace; and the Wannsee Villa, which hosted the Nazi Conference in 1942 and is now a memorial and museum. Reederei and Stern und Kreisschiffahrt both also offer evening boat rides through the historical city center, a great way to see these monuments under a new light. Drinks and refreshments are available on most boat tours, and some companies, including Stern und Kreisschiffahrt, offer meals that feature local specialties such as goulash or beef roulade with red cabbage (reserve meals in advance).
Exclusiv Yachtcharter and Stern und Kreisschiffahrt also offer charter tours — as far-reaching as Lake Wannsee and Potsdam — as well as boat rentals for more experienced sailors. For an active afternoon, rent rowboats or paddle boats near Treptow Park or around Lake Wannsee (rentals start at 10€ an hour). Kayaking is also an option in Berlin; KayakBerlinTours offers four professionally guided tours for visitors looking to see Berlin by boat, starting at 25€.
While the fresh air and break from walking Berlin is energizing, what is most impressive are the unique views obtained from the waterfront vantage point — many buildings, including the Federal Chancellery and the Berlin Cathedral, are given new perspective from the waterfront and have intricate architectural elements that can only be appreciated from here. And thanks to the water’s lower elevation, the city’s traffic, stress and crowds can seem miles away, so the ride feels like a tranquil respite and a chance to see Berlin at its best.
Photos Courtesy of Stern und Kreisschiffahrt