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Berlin River Cruise Tour

Updated: May 5, 2024

There are many ways to explore Berlin on a visit: By double-decker, on a bike, or on foot. But nothing is as relaxing as a cruise on the river Spree and/or on the many other waterways of German’s capital.

The Spree and more

Berlin by ship You can spend an hour on the river Spree and visit the city center or several hours and see the canals and the lakes. Berlin has got 125 miles (200 kilometers) of waterways after all.  There is the river Havel in the Western outskirts of the city, where the river Spree ends. There is the Landwehrkanal, a canal built in the mid 19th century to keep the freight ships out of the center. Today, this canal is open only to the excursion boats and smaller sport boats. Cargo ships are back on the river Spree. There are other canals connecting the meandering Spree directly to Berlin’s inner harbor or the lakes. The best-known lake is maybe the Wannsee in the Grunewald forest, but there are many more. A beautiful lake is the Müggelsee, with the “Schloss Köpenick”, a rococo palace of the Prussian monarchs, and the old romantic town of Köpenick, which has been part of Greater Berlin since 1920.

A Long or a Short Cruise?

For the tourist on the fly, a one-hour-cruise on the Spree might be the right choice. You start and end in the very center of Berlin and you will see the basics: the government district with the Reichstag and its famous glass cupola, the Dome, the building site for the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace, the Nikolaiviertel (Nicolas’ Quarter), a reconstruction of the medieval Berlin and the Museum Island. You can hop-on and hop-of, which makes it a very convenient affair.

You might as well spend 3 ½ hours and take a longer cruise on the Spree and the Landwehrkanal. Besides the city center, you will see the East Side Gallery (0.8 miles or 1,300 meters) of the Berlin Wall with graffiti and murals, old industrial buildings and exciting contemporary architecture. The Landwehrkanal is a contrast to the busy city: miles and miles of riverbanks with grass and trees where people relax, some interesting sights and lots of gray herons.

Get Some Fresh Air

You might as well take a tour of the river Havel, where you will see the calming landscape of seven different lakes. Or you take a tour on the Havel that will take you to the UNESCO world heritage site of the castles and parks of the city of Potsdam, right next to Berlin. Or you go east and take a tour to the Müggelsee and Köpenick than can be extended to rivers and canals in the landscape of Brandenburg outside Berlin.

Audio Guide or Live Tour?

ship cruise Berlin The one-hour-cruises are usually with audio-guides in several languages. This is and advantage for people who don’t understand either German or English. The longer tours in Berlin have bilingual live tour guides who give the tour in German and English. Depending on the guide, this can be a lot of fun and you might learn about recent events or the latest news, something an audio guide will never be able to provide.  And the live guide can answer your questions and might help you with some practical advice. And now let me clarify something: Even though the tipping culture is different in Europe from the US, Germans in the service industry do take tips. They love to. The point is, that they are not allowed to mention the buzzword “tip”, as German employers think this is obnoxious. The cruises that take you outside the city sometimes don’t have guides at all. The point is to enjoy the nature and to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Berlin.

Where Can I Book?

There are several companies in Berlin offering boat cruises. Check out the flyers in your hotel or hostel or at the tourist information. You get the tickets at the concierge or you buy them at the stops. They have either a booth or a street vendor. When you are a little late, you can hop on the ship and buy the ticket there. They usually take credit cards. Or you can find them online. Most websites are multilingual and you can even book there.

On our Berlin-in-a-in a day-Walking Tour we will see the ships on the Spree.

About The Author

Anne Wittig

Anne was born in East Berlin and came of age in the unified city. She has an intimate relationship with her city of birth and still calls Berlin home. For the past 10 years, she has managed and written Free Tours by Foot's Berlin blog, detailing the best places to go, where to stay, and what to do in her hometown. This blog has been featured on Berlin's official website, mainstream press like Berlingske, and local blogs like Over 14,000 visitors to Berlin have taken a tour from Free Tours by Foot.
Updated: May 5th, 2024
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