Lake Wannsee is situated about 20–25 kilometers southwest of Berlin. Everything from yachts to rowboats cruise through the shimmering waters. Crowds of beachgoers sunbathe on the sand. This is one of the hot spots of the summer season. Berliners have been coming here for more than 100 years.
Its large (more than 4,100 feet long and up to 260 feet wide) beach (strandbad) area has white sand imported directly from the Baltic coast. It is officially Europe's largest outdoor swimming area on an inland body of water. Its cool, calm waters are a welcome respite on a summer day.
Besides its natural features, this beach has all the amenities. It comes complete with a water slide, dressing rooms, showers, restaurant, playgrounds, and chair and boat rental. More active beachgoers can enjoy a game of beach volleyball or soccer. This site also features a promenade where visitors can refill on pizza, beer, and the summer essential of ice cream after a busy day of swimming.
There is also a family-friendly, clothes-free (freikörperkultur or FKK) area. That's right non-Germans: it is cool to be totally nude with your family here.
Up to 30,000 bathers can enjoy the beach, but during hot days even this much space can become quite crowded. Locals sometimes complain that it is touristy as it makes all the guidebooks, but it is really worth the aggravation. Go on weekdays or early to avoid the crowd like a real German.
Visitors may also walk around the lake (and possibly dip in for free). The area is heavily wooded with impressive 1920s architecture. Watch for stunning examples such as the summer house of painter Max Liebermann.
If you want more than relaxation, the annual Festival Berlin-Wannsee in mid-summer is quite the party.
Located in the middle of the lake on the charming island of Lindwerder, the event presents something new each year. Take a boat to the festival to enjoy a full day of music and dancing.
Address: Wannseebadweg 25, Berlin
Getting There: Take S-Bahn S7 or S1 to Wannsee or Nikolassee. From central Berlin, it only takes about 45 minutes. It is a 10-minute walk to the lake. Some visitors really work up a sweat by taking the two-hour bike ride in from the city center. There is also free parking for those that drive in.
Beach Opening: Late March to mid–September (dependent on weather); 9: a.m. until 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.)
Admission: 5.50 euros (3.50 euros reduced)
Amenities: Dressing rooms, showers, volleyball and basketball court, table tennis, water slides, playground, rental for sun chairs, umbrellas, and paddle boats.
Website: Strandbad Wannsee (in German)
House of the Wannsee Conference
Once you've put your clothes back on (or on a rainy day), you can get a bit of culture by walking to the nearby House of the Wannsee Conference (formerly known as Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz Gedenk- und Bildungsstätte).
Here the terms of the "Final Solution" (i.e. the Holocaust) were planned out and it is one of the best WWII historical stops in the city. Tours are available in German, English, Hebrew, and a variety of other languages. In addition to the memorial's extensive documentation, the Joseph Wulf Library and Media Resource Center offers further insight. Named after the historian who tried (unsuccessfully) to establish a documentation center on National Socialism here, it contains vast volumes of microfilmed documents, research, eye-witness accounts, and material aimed at explaining the atrocities to children and young adults.
- Address: Am Großen Wannsee 56-58, 14109 Berlin-Zehlendorf
- Public Transportation: From Berlin's S-Bahn, take the regional train to Wannsee. Transfer to Bus 114 to Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz. Street parking is also available.
The beach is located closer to Potsdam than central Berlin. Explore the playground of Prussian kings with numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, a Dutch quarter, the Bridge of Spies, and the Palace Sansouci built for Frederick the Great.
To get this area, take the S1 or S7 to Potsdam. It takes approximately 45 mins from central Berlin and about 20 minutes from Wannsee.