Some of the best resources and routes for cycling in and around Berlin…
There are many good reasons for cycling in the city, ranging from the obvious health and environmental benefits to the way we bike riders get to weave effortlessly through traffic jams and just generally look good.
Riding a bike in Berlin is an especially attractive idea though, thanks to the relatively flat terrain, broad streets, and a reasonably decent bike-lane infrastructure.
It’s not quite the cycling paradise of Copenhagen or even Amsterdam, but with around 900km of cycle paths and routes stretching across the city and beyond – and plans already afoot to expand on this – Berlin is a lot more amenable to biking culture than London or Paris.
Below we’ve rounded up some of our favourite cycling routes and tours that will help get you out and about. We’ve tried to include something for everyone, from novices to experts.
Through The City: Guided & Self-Guided Tours
Taking one of the city’s many cycling tours is a good way to get into the cycling vibe. Sports fans can check out this self-guided football-themed tour, which offers a selection of routes around football-related venues like the Olympic Stadium and the Alte Försterei, while foodies can take tours around some of the city’s best eateries or explore some of the city’s foraging sites.
The Guardian has a few interesting (and easy) themed routes too, spanning the Socialist East, Architecture and WW2. If you’re keen to get to know the city’s main neighbourhoods a bit better, the Visit Berlin page offers a pretty broad array of self-guided options ranging from tours of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Mitte, to scenic rides further out in Wannsee and along the Teltow Canal.
History and nature buffs can also take advantage of the city’s unique Berlin Wall Trail (Mauerweg). Opened almost 10 years ago, it takes cyclists (and walkers) past a whole range of central tourist sights as well as through the myriad lakes and forests that dot the Brandenburg countryside.
It’s possible to cycle the entire 160 km in a weekend (or even a day), but those not seeking an endurance challenge can instead tackle one of 14 individual sections, which range from 7 to 21 km.
Out Of The City: Mid-Distance Routes
Those looking to get out of the city a bit can explore the Nord– and Südspange – two of four tangential routes that cross through some of Berlin’s outer boroughs. The northern route spans 18km from Jungfernheide through the North’s densely populated areas and three city parks out to Alt-Hohenschönhausen. Starting in historic Dahlem, the southern trail passes along the Landwehrkanal and ends after 23km in the old village centre of Biesdorf.
Connecting the former East and West, the 28km Wannsee route RR1 is one of the longest and most scenic cycle trails in Berlin. Starting at the Schlossplatz, it winds through the city’s south-eastern suburbs and ends up at the famous Gleinicker Brücke, known through the GDR era as the “Bridge of Spies”.
From here you can admire the “Five Palace Vista” before exploring the picturesque landscapes of the so-called Prussian Arcadias – an area of palaces, parks and lakes that lie between the Pfaueninsel and Potsdam – join the Berlin Wall Trail towards Griebnitzsee, or pick up the R1 European Cycling Route towards Potsdam.
After toasting your arrival at Potsdam with a fortifying beer, you can continue to explore the city on bike via the Alter Fritz trail, which can be spread out over half a day with plenty of time to stop off for a breather at the sights. Kicking off at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, the route takes you by landmarks from the city’s Prussian history, the former Russian colony of ‘Alexandrovka’ and along the banks of the Havel.
Just behind Potsdam’s western borders are the Templiner See and Schwielowsee lakes, around which laps a 32km bike trail. There’s plenty of opportunities to stop off around the lake and lay out a picnic or take a refreshing dip in the water. The village of Petzow has a castle and grounds waiting to be discovered, and you’ll also pass through Geltow, home to a hand weaving museum.
If you feel like exploring the East, the East Ring from Köpenick to Ahrensfelde is a gentle 17km ride. Slightly more challenging is the 70km circular trail linking up Erkner and Fürstenwalde, which takes cyclists through the Hangelsberg and Trebus areas, as well as the lakes and forests that date back to the last ice age around 18,000 years ago. Once you hit Fürstenwalde, you can take a break in the Städtisches Museum and check out Europe’s largest collection of ice age deposits.
Of course you can also just head out of the city in any given direction, making up your own route as you go along.
Strictly For The Hard-Core: Longer Distance Trails
One section of the Spree Forest Cycle Route has been named after the forest’s famed vegetables. The Cucumber Cycle Route spans 250km, all of which is conveniently signposted with cycling cucumber signs. The trail through the forest has been well built, and just like Berlin, is very flat – it’s a good option for families taking kids on their first cycling holiday. THere’s plenty of opportunity to break from the path and take an excursion; the towns of Schlepzig, Lübbenau and Krausnick are in easy reach.
For those who want a bit more of a challenge, there are several routes from Berlin that can be spread out over a few days. Berlin and Potsdam are along the Havel River Cycle Route. This circular route loops up into Mecklenburg-Vorpommern before returning through Sachsen Anhalt. Along the 325km, you’ll pass Himmelpfort’s 13th century monastery ruins and Rathenow’s St. Georg’s Church and Bismarck Tower.
The 337km trail between Berlin and Usedom rolls through the northern countryside, passing through towns like Eberswalde, Angermünde and Anklam before finishing up in the pretty city of Usedom. It’s also possible from there to continue to the former imperial bath towns along the Baltic Sea Cycle Route.
But why stop at the German coast? The epic Berlin to Copenhagen bike trail links up the 700km between the two capitals via the German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and is a fantastic way to spend a spare week or two. The trail is a section of the EuroVelo7 route; an incredible 6,000km journey taking hardy cyclists all the way from Norway’s most northern tip all the way down to Malta. As bikes can be taken on most of the pan-Euro rail routes (though it’s best to check first for extra charges etc), you can take it easy and hop on a train back to Berlin.
Resources & Practicalities
Rules of the Cycle Path
Most cycling rules and regulations are similar to those in other countries. However, there are slight differences, especially between those in the States. This handy guide tells you everything you need to know, including arm signals and what you’re required to have on your bike.
There are now more than more than 1,650 of Deutsche Bahn’s Call-a-Bike red and silver touring bikes dotted around the city. They can be borrowed free of charge at the city’s major crossroads and on mainline and S-Bahn rail stations, and can then be returned at any other Call-a-Bike location in the city.
The tour planner by bbbike.de covers all primary and secondary roads in Berlin and Potsdam. If a road isn’t recognised, the next street will be automatically detected. Another route planner, not just for Berlin but for the whole of Europe, is komoot.de, which also offers a smartphone app. Participation is free for a single region; additional regions are available for a fee.
Fat Tire Bike Rentals, Hardenberg Platz 9-11, 10623 Berlin; 030 6883 6217; Panorama Straße 1a, 10178 Berlin; 030 2404 7991
Berlin on Bike, Kulturbrauerei, Knaack Straße 97, 10435 Berlin; 030 4373 9999
Alex Rent a Bike, Alte Schönhauser Straße 31, 10119 Berlin; 0176 67092856
Berlin and Bike, Gruner Straße 5-7, 10178 Berlin; 0163 512 0124
Berlin Take a Bike, Neustädtische Kirchstraße 8, 10117 Berlin; 030 2065 4730