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view over the lake Wannsee in Berlin
view over the lake Wannsee © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

Tour 05 - Wannsee Route (RR1)

Berlin is a city made for bicycles. The large and well-developed network of cycling paths makes it an ideal place to explore the city from the saddle. The 28 km (17 miles) Wannsee route is one of the longest and most diverse cycling paths in all of Berlin, being full of contrasts. The route leading from the heart of the city to the beautiful parks and lakes of Potsdam, thus connects not only the former East Berlin with the western part of the city, but also urban life, architecture and city history with nature and relaxation.

It starts at Schlossplatz, where the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), built by the East German regime to replace the demolished 500 year old Stadtschloss (City Palace), stood until 2008 until it was demolished in its turn, and where the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss is now planned. Crossing the Schleusenbrücke (Lock Bridge), it passes the Friedrichswerder Church, designed by the great Karl-Friedrich Schinkel, in the direction of the Gendarmenmarkt (Gendarme Market). This latter building – along with its twins the "Französischer Dom" and "Deutscher Dom", as well as the Konzerthaus (Concert House) – also designed by Schinkel, are among the most beautiful buildings in Berlin.

And under no circumstances should any visitor to Berlin miss the next stage: Checkpoint Charlie, the former Allied border crossing point between East and West Berlin. From there the route proceeds through the southern part of Friedrichstadt, passing the impressive new Jewish Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind on its way to Kreuzberg, where it’s time to have a short break in Viktoria Park at the foot of the Kreuzberg mound and admire a real Berlin waterfall. It continues along Monumentenstraße to Schöneberg Town Hall, where in 1963 John F. Kennedy uttered those immortal words “Ich bin ein Berliner”. This is the spot to experience history – not only with the eyes but also with the ears: the Freedom Bell, donated by the Americans in 1950 to commemorate the lifting of the Soviet blockade, tolls every day at noon from the tower of the Town Hall. After these diverse and emotive impressions, the route calms down a bit.

It crosses the Schöneberg Volkspark (Peoples’ Park) and via the rather introspective and tranquil district of Friedenau reaches the Dahlem Domäne, an old feudal estate enclosing a village green. Here you can see sheep and goats grazing in spacious fields. There are also offers available here to make the very young visitor to Berlin happy, including healthy goodies from the ecological farm shop to top up energy levels!

The route then continues via Zehlendorf on to the Wannseebrücke (Wannsee Bridge) at Nikolassee, where from the bridge there is an impressive view of the Großer and Kleiner Wannsee (Greater and Lesser Wannsee lakes), on whose waters in summer the trails of dozens of sailing boats criss-cross each other. From this point there are two possibilities to reach Glienicker Bridge: the shorter route runs along Königsalle, while the longer (and more scenic) one goes via Pfaueninselchaussee and Berlin Mauerweg up to Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island). If you have some time to spare, you are strongly recommended to cross over to the island on the small ferry and discover a paradise of enchantment – peacocks turning wheels in all their majesty and plumery and the ruins of the small Friedrich Wilhem II castle picturesquely peering through green fields and trees.

Cycling along the water’s edge you finally reach your destination – Glienicker Bridge, the legendary symbol of the separation between East and West, that leads to Potsdam. This is the place where spies were exchanged and negotiations took place in the shadow of the Cold War – and not only in films and thriller novels, although of course there’s no sign of all that nowadays. Glienicker Bridge is surely one of the most magnificent and beautiful spots in the whole of Berlin culminating as it does in the glittering lustre of the “five palaces view”: embedded in artistically designed parks the Glienicker summer palace, the small Sacrow palace, the white castle ruins on Pfaueninsel, Babelsberg castle and Glienicker hunting lodge reveal themselves to the amazed eyes of the visitor. This dazzling display is complemented by the clear view of the Jungfernsee (Maidens’ Lake), Glienicker Lake and Tiefer See (Deep Lake). This outstanding panorama provides the highlight and – at the same time – fitting finale of the Wannsee route.