Potsdam, on the Havel River just southwest of Berlin, is the capital and crown jewel of the federal state of Brandenburg. Scores of visitors are drawn to the stunning architecture of this former Prussian royal seat and to soak up the air of history that hangs over its elegant parks. A visit here is essential if you’re spending any time in the region at all.
Germany’s ‘other’ Frankfurt, on the Oder River 90km east of Berlin, was practically wiped off the map in the final days of WWII and never recovered its one-time grandeur as a medieval trading centre and university town. It didn’t help that the city was split in two after the war, with the eastern suburb across the river becoming the Polish town of Słubice.
Poet Theodor Fontane called Lübbenau the 'secret capital' of the Spreewald and, indeed, it is a pretty little town, albeit one that's often deluged by day trippers. Its entire economy seems built on tourism and no matter where you go, a forest of signs points to hotels, restaurants and other businesses, making navigating a snap.
A 20-minute S-Bahn ride away from central Berlin, Köpenick is famous for its handsome baroque castle, a picturesque Altstadt (old town) and a trio of superlative natural assets: Berlin's largest lake (Müggelsee), biggest forest (Köpenicker Stadtforst) and highest natural elevation (Müggelberge, 115m).
Grunewald & Dahlem
Berlin's most upper-crust suburbs, Dahlem and Grunewald are packed with cultural and natural appeal. Set between their leafy streets and lavish villa colonies are gardens, parks, palaces and a sprinkling of museums, most notably the Museen Dahlem with its global ethnological collections.
Tidy Lübben has a history going back to the 12th century. Activity centres on the Schloss and the adjacent harbour area, both about 1.5km east of the train station. To get there, follow Bahnhofstrasse, turn left on Logenstrasse and continue to Ernst-von-Houwald-Damm, where you’ll also find the tourist office.
Chorin & Niederfinow
About 60km northeast of Berlin, Kloster Chorin is a romantically ruined monastery near a little lake and surrounded by a lush park. Built by Cistercian monks over six decades starting in 1273, it is widely considered one of the finest red-brick Gothic structures in northern Germany.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Built by prisoners brought here from another concentration camp, Sachsenhausen opened in 1936 as a model for other camps. By 1945 about 200,000 people had passed through its gates, initially mostly political opponents but later also gypsies, gays, Jews and, after 1939, POWs from Eastern Europe, especially the Soviet Union.