Berlin’s main appeal lies undeniably in its urban charisma, but if you’ve had your fill of sightseeing and partying, there are plenty of easy ways to let off some steam. In summer, swimming, bicycling and running are popular diversions, while in the colder month you can join locals in cheering on their favourite sports teams.
Bump, set and spike at Beach Mitte (www.beachberlin.de/beachmitte.html), a huge urban beach volleyball complex with 60 courts and a beer garden for post-workout socialising. Book courts early, especially for evenings and weekends. There are also outdoor courts in the Park am Gleisdreieck and the Volkspark Friedrichshain. If the weather doesn’t play along, report to Indoor BeachCenter (www.beachberlin.de/indoorbeachcenter.html) in the northwestern suburb of Reinickendorf.
Flat as a pancake, Berlin is tailor-made for two-wheeling.
The bike lane system extends to 662km of dedicated bike paths and 174km of on-the-road bike lanes. Cross-city express lanes have not passed the planning stage, making Berlin sadly lag behind other big cities in that regard.
Cycling in Berlin can be quite dangerous. Keep your wits about you (and preferably a helmet on your head) when negotiating city streets. Getting a tyre caught in a tram track is particularly nasty. Be extra careful of drivers turning right in front you at intersections.
Of course, it’s far more relaxing to pedal around the leafy suburbs. The Grunewald, for instance, a vast forest with many lakes, is a great and easy getaway. Or follow the course of the former Berlin Wall along the marked Berliner Mauerweg (www.berlin.de/mauer/mauerweg) for all 160km or just a section of it.
The websites www.bbbike.de and www.vmz-info.de are handy for route planning. Recommended free apps include Naviki, Scout and Komoot. Google Maps does a decent job as well. Scenic route suggestions are also available on www.bikemap.net and its free app.
Berlin offers great running terrain in its many parks. Flat and spread out, Tiergarten is among the most central and convenient, though the Grunewald in the southwestern suburb of Zehlendorf has more of a forest feel. The trip around the scenic Schlachtensee, for instance, clocks in at an easy 7km. The park of Schloss Charlottenburg is also good for a nice, easy trot. More challenging is Volkspark Friedrichshain, which has stairs, hills and even a fitness trail.
On a hot summer day, do as Berliners do and keep cool by getting wet. If you’re fitness-inclined, there are lots of public pools for swimming laps.
Berlin has over 60 public indoor and outdoor pools; see www.berlinerbaeder.de for details. Opening hours vary widely by day, time and pool, so check before setting out. Indoor pools close in summer (usually May to September).
Single admission tickets cost €5.50 (concession €3.50). There are discounts before 3pm, for ticket packages and for short (45-minute) sessions. Many facilities also have saunas which cost between €8.50 and €19 for a day pass
In summer, hipsters gravitate towards the Badeschiff, a river cargo barge turned swimming pool moored in the Spree River. Another liquid playground on the opposite bank is Haubentaucher, a stylish-industrial pool and beer garden complex set within the RAW Gelände party zone.
Berlin is shaped by water and there are plenty of opportunities for taking a cooling dip in its many lakes. Quite a few are right in the city and easily reached by public transport or bicycle. These include the Plötzensee in Wedding, the Weisser See near Prenzlauer Berg, and the Schlachtensee and Krumme Lanke in Grunewald. The water quality is generally quite good. Some lakes have lidos with sun lounger rentals, changing rooms, toilets, boat rentals and kiosks. The largest and oldest is Strandbad Wannsee on the southwestern fringe of the city. In the southeast, the Strandbad Friedrichshagen is a popular destination on the Müggelsee, Berlin’s largest lake.
Hundreds more lakes beckon in the countryside surrounding the city. Some are served by public transport but it’s usually helpful to have a car or at least a bicycle to get there (taking your bike on the train to the last stop and then biking the last leg, to get to the more out of the way lakes, is a great option). Popular lakes further afield include the Liepnitzsee, Sacrower See and Werbellinsee.
Alba Berlin (www.albaberlin.de) Berlin’s top basketball team competes hard on a European level and has a solid winning record. Home games are played in the Mercedes-Benz Arena for home games.
Eisbären Berlin (www.eisbaeren.de) Fervent ice-hockey fans ensure that every home game of the ‘Polar Bears’ practically explodes with atmosphere, especially since the team has been national champion seven times since 2005 (the last time in 2013).
Hertha BSC Many Berliners live and die by the fortunes of the local soccer team, Hertha BSC, which has seen its shares of ups and downs in recent years, but has mostly managed to stay in the Bundesliga (German national football league).
1. FC Union Berlin (www.fc-union-berlin.de) Berlin’s second professional soccer team plays in the 2. Bundesliga (Second League). Its loyal fan base cheers them in the Stadion An der Alten Försterei near Köpenick, which was last renovated in 2013 with the help of 2300 fan volunteers.
Top Sports Events
Berliner Sechstagerennen (www.sechstagerennen-berlin.de) Pedal power is king at this six-day-long series of indoor cycling races in January at the Velodrom that has brought the world’s elite to Berlin for nearly a century.
DFB Cup Final In late May, the Olympiastadium hosts this high-profile soccer cup final between top German teams. It is the second most important national title after the German Championship.
ISTAF (www.istaf.de) This annual track-and-field meet brings the world’s best athletes to the Olympiastadion in September.
Berlin Marathon One of the world’s biggest and most prestigious street races attracts over 40,000 runners.
Germans are big fans of table tennis with free tables set up in many local parks (bring your own ball and racket) and inside pubs and bars.
Need to Know
Tickets to home games of Berlin's sports teams should be purchased in advance, especially when top visiting teams are in town. Tickets are available via the team websites or from online agencies such as www.eventim.de or www.ticketmaster.de.
ADFC (www.adfc-berlin.de) German bicycle club has information and also sells books and maps.
Berlin Sport (www.berlin.de/tickets/sport) Calendar, news, information and tickets.
Berlin Sportmetropole (www.berlin-sportmetropole.de) An overview of spectator sports in the capital with links to ticket sales.
MeetUp (www.meetup.com) Sign up and get access to city-wide activity groups – many dedicated to sporty pursuits.