Potsdam, on the Havel River just 25km southwest of central Berlin, is the capital and crown jewel of the federal state of Brandenburg. Easily reached by S-Bahn, the former Prussian royal seat is the most popular day trip from Berlin, luring visitors with its splendid gardens and palaces that garnered Unesco World Heritage status in 1990.
Poet Theodor Fontane called Lübbenau the 'secret capital' of the Spreewald and, indeed, it is a pretty little town, even when 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.
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.
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.
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).
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, in the heart of the Unesco Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin, 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.