Situated about 40km north of Berlin, Sachsenhausen is one of the most common day trips for tourists visiting in the city. This is the case so much so that many hotels and hostels can easily help you coordinate a tours and transportation there. Even if you’ve seen some of the more well-known prison camps located throughout Europe, Sachsenhausen is unique for many reasons, one of which being its proximity to the former capital of the Nazi regime itself. Further, it was one of the first camps put into operation, housing prisoners as early as 1936. Sachsenhausen also functioned as an important training center for SS personnel, and after the war, the Soviets — ironically, the most common detainees in Sachsenhausen during the Third Reich — used the camp facility to house Nazi prisoners of war.
For something a bit lighter and certainly more scenic, Grunewald Forest to the west of the city center is easily accessible by public transportation. In addition to offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in some truly earthy, forested surrounds that will make them forget all about the bleak urban landscapes to which most Berliners grow accustomed, there are several historical sites and marvelous vantage points for peering out over the city. Be sure to visit Teufelsberg where a former Cold War-era US watchtower stands abandoned. There is also a gorgeous ivy-covered contemporary art museum, Haus am Waldsee that is worth the making the trek to Grünewald in itself.
The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Gardens are located southwest from the city center, and reaching them by train takes less than an hour when traveling from Mitte. One of the largest gardens of its kind in the world, visitors can tour a series of enormous greenhouses, alluring forests, and gorgeous outdoor floral pathways, which contain over 22,000 specimens hailing from all around the world. It is also possible to fuel up on refreshments and light lunch fare at the garden café. The garden is open daily, and throughout the year it hosts some pretty impressive events ,including a spooky pumpkin-themed Halloween geared toward kids and a sultry summertime soirée in mid-July.
Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 83850100
While only a mere 35km outside of Berlin, Potsdam offers visitors a surprisingly far departure from the Hauptstadt, aesthetically and historically. From the impeccably maintained streets to the quaint architecture and beautiful natural vistas, Potsdam provides quaint relief from the daily hustle and bustle of Berlin. Plus, the town has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its parks and palaces, so be sure to check those out, too. The opulent Schloss Sanssouci, for instance, once served as the summer home to King Frederick the Great. Neuer Garten is also a must-see at any time of year, as it provides gorgeous views of Heilliger See.
Any local will attest to the fact that the Berlin’s surrounding lakes are the places to be in the sweltering summertime heat. There are plenty to choose from, and most are quite easy to reach by public transportation. Two of the best are Müggelsee and Langer See. The former is the largest, and it holds some of the best spots for swimming as well as canoeing and paddle boating. Langer See is favored for its abundance of grassy enclaves that are ideal for sunning and possibly a bit of privacy. It is also notably dog-friendly.
Müggelsee: Müggelseedamm 307, Berlin, Germany, +49 (0)30 49910518
Langer See: Langer See, Treptow-Köpenick, Berlin, Germany
Another suburb of Berlin located north of the city, not far from Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg is the ideal destination for history buffs. It was one of the most heavily bombed areas during World War II, and it still remains heavily riddled with bombs, which are imbedded in the earth all throughout the town. The reason it was such a target for Allied forces was because it was the headquarters of the Nazi nuclear arms research and production projects. Despite the tension that hangs in the air with upwards of 300 bombs lying below the surface, Oranienburg appears picturesque, peaceful, and pristine from the perspective of visitors.