Berlin can be discovered in many ways and one of them is to do it through a small cruise on the river that crosses the city. You can choose between different options selecting the experience that best suits your plans and your travel style.
1. The best river cruises in Berlin
If you decide to try the experience of a boat ride in Berlin, these are the main options I can recommend:
2. One-hour boat ride through the center of Berlin
This option is ideal for an overview of Berlin and its history. The one-hour cruise on the Spree River has audio commentary. It departs from the Nikolai district in old Berlin; it is a very central location, so you will have no difficulty walking or taking public transportation from your hotel or any other key location in the city center.
A positive point is that, at most, you will be 20 people taking the cruise at the same time, so you can forget about the typical image of a crowded ship with tourists shooting pictures all around; this is, rather, a relaxed tour of the city that can serve as a first contact with Berlin or as a last look before ending your trip in the German capital. Here is a summary of the main points of its itinerary.
It is currently the seat of the German parliament in Berlin, but you probably know it more for being the building where the Weimar Republic was proclaimed after the First World War or for being the place where a suspicious fire occurred in 1933. The audio commentary will tell you more in detail about the historical significance of the Reichstag, but don't hesitate to visit inside to enjoy its impressive modern dome. You won't be disappointed.
It is so called because many of the **world'**s most important museums converge here: the Pergamon Museum, the Old Museum, the New Museum, the Old National Gallery and the Bode Museum. You will need a whole day if you want to see them all, but for now during this walk you will contemplate the views of the whole and you can hear what each of them houses and then decide your itinerary. Get your camera ready as you approach the island.
Crowned by its green dome, the cathedral is probably the most representative building of the city of Berlin. When you see it from the boat you will feel like lying on the lawn in front of it to enjoy a picnic or a relaxing time; you will have time, for now enjoy the view from the river.
Also known as "the golden donkey" (pay attention to the audio commentary and you will find out why), it is another symbol of the German capital. If you don't want to leave the city without enjoying a good panoramic view, reserve time during your trip to climb this 67-meter-high monument.
Center for Contemporary Art
The art in Berlin does not end on Museum Island. The modern half-moon building you will see from the ship is the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a contemporary art center dedicated, above all, to discussing art in non-European cultures. Don't miss the illuminated building.
It is the official residence of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Enjoy its exterior views because seeing the interior can become mission impossible as visits are very small and waiting times are several months long.
The television tower
Wherever you are in Berlin, you can always orient yourself by the television tower, the tallest building in the city located on Alexanderplatz. Its construction is not accidental, but was made to show the superiority of communism over capitalism during the years of the wall.
3. Two-and-a-half hour boat ride through the center of Berlin
If you like the idea of a boat tour and you have time and desire to enjoy the city without rushing, the two and a half hour cruise through Berlin is the most complete option. Groups are limited to a maximum of 30 passengers and you will have audio commentary during the tour in several languages. When you book your place online you can choose between different times throughout the day to perform the activity.
The departure is from the pier located next to the Friedrichstraße bridge; you have a subway and bus stop with the same name located in the city center and you can also walk from the Brandenburg Gate.
If you choose this experience my advice is the following: the duration of the tour will give you time to take pictures and also to listen to the audio commentary, also reserve some time to enjoy the views without paying attention to anything else.
- Museum Island: one of the most important museum complexes in the world where part of the buildings were damaged during World War II.
- Berlin Cathedral: the most emblematic building of the city
- Nikolai Quarter: an area full of bars and taverns with a great historical appeal
- Berlin Central Station: the largest through railway station in the European Union
- Federal Chancellery: a building considered one of the masterpieces of modern architecture
- Charlottenburg Palace: a 17th century palace that was the summer residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte and had to be rebuilt after the bombings of World War II.
- Former railroad terminus: today used as a museum of contemporary art.
- Berlin Museum of the History of Medicine: a must-see for lovers of pharmaceuticals.
- Spreebogen Park: one of the many green areas of the German capital
- Tiergarten: Berlin's main park in the city center.
Ana's Traveller Tip
In winter the temperatures drop considerably in Berlin; although it is beautiful to see the city covered in snow, wrap up warm if you are going to enjoy a river cruise.
4. Berlin boat tour + sightseeing bus tour with free stops
This experience includes two activities: a one-hour boat ride on the Spree River and a pass for the sightseeing bus that runs through the city. The latter can be used to take a complete tour of Berlin's sights with audio commentary included (just like the boat ride) or to get around the center of the German capital.
You can choose to combine the boat tour with a sightseeing bus pass valid for 24 or 48 hours depending on your travel plans. On both the boat and the bus, audio commentary is available in several languages.
As for the schedule, when you book your place for this experience you will be able to choose which day and time you want to take the river cruise. The tour bus pass, on the other hand, can be activated at any time. Once you make your reservation online you will receive an email with all the details, but I'll give you a preview of the operation and route of the tourist bus so that you have it clear if you have never used this service before.
About the bus
It is a bus with panoramic views and audio commentary that passes through the most emblematic sites of the city of Berlin. During the time your pass lasts you can take this bus as many times as you want from the stop you want; the frequency of passage is 15 to 20 minutes and the hours of operation from 9:30 am to 18:30 pm.
- Kudamm Avenue
- Kaufhaus des Westens shopping center (KaDeWe)
- Potsdamer Platz
- Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition center
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Berlin Cathedral
- Unter den Linden
- Holocaust Memorial
- Brandenburg Square
- Berlin Central Station
- Berlin Center for Contemporary Art
- Victory Column
- Zoologischer Garten
- Café Kranzler
Ana's Traveller Tip
The audio commentaries are an interesting guide to what Berlin's main buildings house; use them to help you plan your visit.
5. Take a boat tour of Berlin with the Berlin Pass
The Berlin Pass includes a city cruise among its more than 50 activities. You can take a Berlin cruise with the Berlin Pass: plus you can enjoy Berlin to the fullest with free admission to the Berlin Wall Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum, and many others, as well as including the climb to the Berlin Cathedral, a sightseeing bus tour of the city, walking tours and entrance to Legoland.
Before you buy the Berlin Pass I recommend you read about its benefits in depth here: Berlin Pass.
6. Useful tips for choosing the best Berlin cruise
The boat tour through Berlin is similar in all the cruises that cross the part of the Spree River that passes through the center of the city. Therefore, the differential factors that you have to take into account when booking online one or the other option are:
- Price. Maybe before the experience of a boat ride was reserved for those travelers with better economic conditions, but today you will find prices adapted to all budgets.
- Duration of the tour. The tours can last from one to three hours. If you have little time to visit the city and you just want to have the experience of going along the river, a short trip will suit you. On the other hand, if you want to relax and learn about the different monuments away from the rush and crowds, you will enjoy a long walk more.
- Number of travelers. It is not the same to share the experience with a small group than with a large group; always find out the maximum number of passengers allowed for each option.
- Extras. Since boat tours are a very popular experience in Berlin, you will find packs that combine them with other activities (such as the sightseeing bus pass) and you can save money.
7. If you are interested in a boat tour in Berlin, you will also be interested in
During any of the boat tours in Berlin you will have the opportunity to enjoy the views of the city on the one hand and on the other hand audio commentaries that will put in context the different points of interest. You can do the same, from another point of view, if you hire a guided walking tour of the most important points of the city or if you buy a pass for any of the sightseeing buses that run through the city of Berlin.
If what you enjoyed most about the boat ride was learning historical facts through the audio commentary, you can delve even deeper into the history of the city on a guided walking tour. There are different types and they are usually organized by neighborhoods. In this post about Berlin Tours you have all the necessary information; I tell you that this is one of my favorite experiences in any city.
If instead you have done the boat ride on the Spree river and what you enjoyed the most were the views, take a look at this other article about Berlin Hop on Hop off Bus Tours. You can buy a pass to access the Berlin sightseeing bus for one or several days and besides being able to take different tours around the city you can also move freely between the different points of interest with the option of free stops.