Berlin is famous for many things; its history, culture, art and nightlife. However, it is all too often forgotten that Germany’s fast-paced capital is a city with nature at its doorstep.
With several rivers and glacial lakes in its immediate vicinity, it is no surprise that Berlin doesn’t lack for options when it comes to water recreation. This is a stroke of good fortune for the city when one considers German enthusiasm for the Strandbad (bathing beach or lido).
So if you find yourself in Berlin this summer, seek out a local Badesee (bathing lake) to escape the summer swelter or cycle out to the forest-ringed lakes just outside the city for romantic getaways or family adventures!
Only 16 kilometers east of the city center, in the Treptow-Köpenick district you will find Berlin’s largest lake. The 7.4 square kilometers of the Müggelsee draws large crowds each summer to swim, sunbathe, sail, waterski or hike in the picturesque hills surrounding the lake, known as the Müggelberge.
On its banks, you can find both the Müggelsee lido or the Strandbad Friedrichshagen, which offer delightful opportunities to swim and feel the sand between your toes.
Easily accessible by public transport, the Müggelsee is particularly ideal for families with children as its banks are shallow, offering safe paddling areas for little ones.
Like much of Berlin, it is at its best on a warm summer’s day. Yet even in winter, the scenic surroundings of the Müggelsee make it wonderful for hiking and nature watching.
Without ever leaving Berlin, amidst the trees of the surrounding parkland, you can feel very much at one with nature on the banks of the Plötzensee. At 7.7 hectares, it is not nearly as large as the Müggelsee, yet this pristine glacial lake at the edge of Berlin’s northeastern Wedding district is ideal for a relaxing day out with friends and family.
You might like to rent a boat for the afternoon or head to the Strandbad to swim or sunbathe. There, you can unwind on the beach or sway in the hammocks on the sunbathing lawn.
An abundance of food stalls is available for the beach guests, offering a range of cuisine, cold drinks, coffee and ice cream. It’s best to arrive early on a sunny day though, as the Strandbad can get quite packed.
3. Großer Wannsee
In the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, to the southwest of the city, you will find the most popular spot for bathing and water sports in western Berlin. The Großer Wannsee is a beautiful clear lake, popular with hobby sailors.
On the sandy eastern bank, the Strandbad Wannsee stretches along over a kilometer of the Wannsee’s eastern shore, making it one of the largest lidos to be found on any lake in Europe.
This beautiful lido has been a beloved spot for a leisurely afternoon for Berliners since 1907. For those dipping their toes in Germany’s nudist culture, the Wannsee is popular as a naturist destination, with roughly one in ten of its summer visitors enjoying the lake in the nip.
To some, the name of the Wansee draws to mind the darkest hour of German history, yet the infamous house of the Nazi’s Wannsee Conference is now a memorial museum, a site of Holocaust remembrance and education that is well worth a visit when you are in the area.
4. Tegeler See
Berlin’s second largest lake is to be found in Reinickendorf, upon the river Havel. From here you can depart on a scenic walk through the Tegeler Forst, set sail on a hired boat or simply swim and relax at the large beautifully renovated lido, where you can enjoy a range of delicious foods from the restaurants, food trucks and vendors present.
The lido is also a cultural community hub, playing host to concerts, poetry readings, chess competitions and more. From the Tegel Harbor Bridge or the Greenwich Promenade you can catch a beautiful sunset view across the lake and its several islands, which become all the more charming below the setting sun.
5. Krumme Lanke
Amidst the pines towards the edge of the Grunewald forest, you can find yourself at the pristine waters of the small Krumme Lanke, just over a kilometer long. It’s a wonderful area to bring a picnic on a sunny afternoon, and when it’s only a short hike from the lake to S-Bahn station, there’s no excuse not to pay a visit this summer!
The Krumme Lanke is very popular with naturists who are permitted to go in the nude anywhere along its banks and favored by anglers for the variety of fish that populate its waters.
As lovely as the Krumme Lanke is in the summer months, in winter it takes on a new beauty, and for some brave ice skaters, the frozen lake becomes a new source of fun.
Discover the best lakes in Berlin
For avid outdoors people, urban families and anyone else who feels the need to escape the summer heat and bustle of Berlin, you will find yourself spoiled for choice when it comes to lakeside retreats. With countless, beautiful and easily accessible lakes, you will have a wide array of options to plan your aquatic getaway.
Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.