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, which 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.
Grunewald & Dahlem
Berlin’s most upper-crust neighbourhoods, Dahlem and Grunewald are packed with cultural and natural appeal. Set between their leafy streets and lavish villa colonies (especially around Grunewald S-Bahn station) are gardens, parks, palaces and a sprinkling of museums, most of them with an art focus.
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.
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.