This is our ultimate guide to the Spree River Cruise Berlin.
A relaxing cruise along the picturesque waterway is one of the most popular experiences in Berlin, and for many visitors the absolute highlight of their Berlin trip.
Read here what a Spree Cruise is, which top attractions you can discover from the water, useful tips and more.
Let's dive in!
What is a Spree River Cruise?
The Spree River flows through Berlin for about 44 kilometers. A boat trip along the river is a wonderful way to experience Berlin and numerous important sights from a completely different perspective.
This way, you can discover the many highlights of the German capital quite comfortably on board your boat and get an excellent first overview of Berlin. This is one of the reasons why Spree tours are extremely popular, especially with first-time visitors and families with children.
Spree tours in Berlin take place both during the day and in the evening. The duration usually varies between one hour and 2.5 hours.
An audio guide is the perfect addition to get exciting information about the history of the city and the Berlin sights you pass on your way.
Which Berlin Spree Cruise to Book? Our Recommendation:
With so many Spree cruises to choose from in Berlin, it can be hard to decide which one to go on.
We recommend the one-hour Spree cruise with guaranteed seating. It first starts upriver to the east and takes visitors through the historic center of Berlin.
Here is the link:
Attractions that you can see during the Spree River Cruise Berlin
The sights you can discover on a Spree sightseeing tour can vary depending on the tour you choose, but most Spree tours focus on the center of the city with attractions such as the Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral, as well as the government district with the Reichstag building and the Federal Chancellery.
Below we describe the attractions you can spot during a typical tour of the Spree River:
1. Berlin TV Tower
At 368 meters, the Berlin TV Tower is the tallest building in Germany and one of the city's most popular attractions. You'll catch a glimpse of it even before the Berlin Spree River cruise departs. During the boat ride, it is better seen at another location.
You should definitely visit the observation deck of the tower at 203 meters above sea level and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view over the rooftops of Berlin and the surrounding countryside.
- Read more details about this sight in our main article Berlin TV Tower.
2. Friedrichs Bridge
Right at the beginning of your tour, you will glide under the Friedrichs Bridge (Friedrichsbrücke). It is a pedestrian bridge that connects Alt-Berlin with the Museum Island in Alt-Kölln. The Spree River is crossed by exactly 50 bridges. You will pass 14 of them during this tour.
3. Berlin Cathedral
The Berlin Cathedral is the Protestant answer to the Catholic St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.It is one of the most beautiful monuments in the German capital. With a total height of 116 meters on a floor area of almost 6800 square meters, it is the largest Protestant house of worship in Germany.
Although the history of the cathedral dates back to the 16th century, this building dates back to 1905. The architectural monument is home to one of the most important dynastic burial places in Europe, the Hohenzollern Crypt, where 94 members of the House of Hohenzollern are buried. Today, Berlin Cathedral serves not only as a house of worship. It also hosts acts of state, concerts and other events.
- Read more details about this sight in our main article Berlin Cathedral.
4. DDR Museum
In the DDR Museum, you can go on time travel to the former GDR. Here you will learn everything about life in the German Democratic Republic. You are invited to expand your knowledge in an entertaining way and experience history up close. Authentic originals and worldwide unique interactive installations are waiting to be touched and tried out.
- Read more details about this attraction in our main article DDR Museum.
5. Humboldt Forum
Since July 20, 2021, the Humboldt Forum has expanded the Museum Island's offerings with collections from the Ethnological Museum Berlin, the Museum of Asian Art, the non-European art collection, the Berlin Exhibition and the Humboldt Laboratory.
Built in eight years, the Humboldt Forum, seen from the outside, is a faithful replica of the Berlin Palace, which stood on the same site until 1950. The construction costs amounted to 677 million euros. This makes the Humboldt Forum the most expensive cultural building in Germany.
- Read more details about this sight in our complete guide to the Humboldt Forum.
6. Neuer Marstall
The Neue Marstall (New Stable) was built at the end of the 19th century in the neo-baroque style. The four-story building housed 300 horses on two floors, as well as carriages and sleighs of the imperial court. A hall with historical as well as at that time still used vehicles was open to the public.
Today, the Neue Marstall is an architectural monument and houses the Academy of Music "Hanns Eisler" Berlin, the Berlin City Library and the Association for the History of Berlin.
7. Nikolai Quarter
The idyllic Nikolai Quarter is the oldest residential area of Berlin. This underrated gem of the city, consisting of narrow streets, historic buildings, picturesque houses and traditional German pubs and restaurants, is the historical founding place of the city and also known as the "old Berlin".
In the 13th century, the first merchants and craftsmen settled here on the eastern bank of the Spree, and in 1230 they built the Nikolai Church, of which you can see only the tops of its two towers. Logically, it is the oldest church in Berlin.
At the Mühlendamm lock, many tours turn around and head downstream in a westerly direction.
- Read more details about this sight in our main article Nikolai Quarter.
8. Alte Nationalgalerie
The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Museum Island. It was built until 1876 in the style of Classicism and Neo-Renaissance and combines architectural elements of different building types from temples, palaces and theaters to churches. This was intended to illustrate the unity of nation, history and art.
The Alte Nationalgalerie displays paintings and sculptures of the 19th century on three floors, divided into the periods of Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism and the Goethe period.
9. Pergamon Museum
Built in the neoclassical style, the Pergamon Museum was opened in 1930 as the last of the five exhibition buildings on Museum Island. It houses the Museum of the Ancient Near East with exhibits from archaeological excavations by German scientists, the Collection of Classical Antiquities with works of Greek and Roman architecture, and the Museum of Islamic Art with diverse works from the seventh to the 19th century.
Among the most famous exhibits of the Pergamon Museum are the Pergamon Altar with its masterful reliefs, which gave the museum its name, the seventeen-meter-high Market Gate of Miletus, and the magnificent Ishtar Gate from Babylon complete with a magnificent processional route.
10. Monbijou Park
The Monbijou Palace (French: "my treasure") was built at the beginning of the 18th century. After the division of Berlin, the GDR government had it demolished in 1959, against strong protests from museum circles and the public.
The palace, which served as a residence for Prussian queens, had burned to the ground during World War II. The area freed up after the demolition was used to create what is now Monbijou Park.
11. Bode Museum
Completed in 1904 in the New Baroque style, the building with the semicircular entrance wing flanked on both sides by the Monjibou Bridge is the Bode Museum. It is also part of the building ensemble of the Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Particularly striking is the nearly 40-meter-high dome with copper roofing.
The picturesque building is home to the sculpture collection, which presents one of the most extensive collections in Germany. It also houses the Museum of Byzantine Art, which displays works and everyday objects from Western Rome and the Byzantine Empire, and the Coin Cabinet, which has one of the world's largest collections of coins.
12. Monbijou Bridge
The listed Monbijou Bridge leads from the forecourt of the Bodemuseum across the two arms of the Spree. Although its history dates back to 1776, the current bridge was built in the early 20th century.
The picturesque bridge is adorned with balustrades and four columns crowned by globe lights. The material combination of granite and cast bronze harmonizes with the neo-baroque architectural style of the Bode Museum. With construction costs of almost 850,000 Reichsmark, the Monbijou Bridge was the most expensive bridge of its time.
13. Weidendammer Bridge
Weidendammer Bridge is known as the bridge of poets and singers and is one of the most famous locations for love locks.
"Do you know the Weidendammer Bridge? Do you know it in the evening, when under the dark sky all around the light advertisements shimmer?" That's a quote from Erich Kästner's "Pünktchen und Anton," in which the heroes of the children's book sell matches and shoelaces on the bridge at night.
The German singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann sang about the bridge with the words, "See there where Friedrichstrasse ends, and curving o'er the water bends: there hangs over the Spree the Weidendammer Bridge."
The important German representative of realism, Theodor Fontane, proposed to his girlfriend on the bridge and was married. The marriage lasted 48 years until his death.
14. Palace of Tears
The check-in hall at Friedrichstraße station, built in 1962, was used for departures from East to West Berlin. This meant saying goodbye to friends and family, and many tears were shed. The place of painful separations was soon christened the Palace of Tears (Tränenpalast) in the vernacular.
The permanent exhibition "Place of German Division" documents the history and fates at the Palace of Tears through interviews, biographies and 570 original objects. Admission is free.
15. Berlin Friedrichstraße Station
Between 1961 and 1990, Friedrichstrasse Station served as one of the most important border crossing points between East and West Berlin, as it was the last station in the GDR before the border to West Berlin.
For this purpose, it was transformed into a hermetically sealed fortress and was under the total control of the GDR's state security, which prevented escape attempts here, smuggled its own agents into the West and prevented "enemy forces" from entering the GDR.
16. ARD Capital Studio Berlin
The large building with the facade of brick-red precast concrete is the ARD Hauptstadtstudio Berlin, which opened at the same time as the German government moved from Bonn to Berlin in 1999.
The station's flagship in terms of political reporting comes from the large television studio A with corner window, located to the right of the blue ARD letters. Since 1999, the report from Berlin has been broadcast from there every Sunday punctually at 6:05 pm.
17. Reichstag Building/ German Bundestag
The magnificent Reichstag building, built between 1884 and 1894 in the neo-Renaissance style, is one of Berlin's most important sights and Germany's most significant landmark.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification, the Reichstag building has been the seat of the German Bundestag since 1999. You can attend a session in the plenary hall and visit the spectacular 23-meter high and 40-meter wide glass dome, from which you have a magnificent view of the surrounding area.
- Read more details about this sight in our complete guide to the Reichstag Building/ Bundestag.
18. White Crosses Memorial
The number of people who died at the Berlin Wall varies. The memorial site on the banks of the Spree River in front of the Reichstag building features eight places for crosses, seven of which are occupied. The crosses are inscribed on both sides with the names of Wall victims and the corresponding dates of death. The empty space, also in the shape of a cross, is dedicated to the unknown victims of the Wall.
19. Government District
Except for the Reichstag building, Modernist architecture dominates the government district built between 1997 and 2003 on both banks of the Spree.
The core of the "political center" of the German capital is formed by the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus with the library of the German Bundestag on the northern bank and the Paul-Löbe-Haus, the Bundestag and the Federal Chancellery on the southern bank of the Spree.
The Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus is located on the former border strip between West and East Berlin. Connected to the Paul-Löbe-Haus on the opposite bank of the Spree by a footbridge called "Sprung über die Spree", it forms an architectural unit with the latter.
20. Parliament of Trees against War and Violence
The Parliament of Trees against War and Violence was created in 1990 in the area of the former border strip on the northern bank of the Spree river.
16 prime ministers planted 16 trees in a square. They symbolize the 16 federal states and German unity. 58 authentic parts of the Wall, granite slabs with the names of 258 victims of the Wall, memorial stones, flower beds, pictures and texts complete the memorial on the banks of the Spree.
21. Berlin Central Station
The steel and glass building with the vaulted roof in the center is Berlin's new central station. It was opened in May 2006 after eleven years of construction. In the meantime, the striking building with the vaulted roof structure, which is flanked by the two 46-meter-high office buildings, has become a popular photo motif.
It is the city's most important passenger station and the largest tower station in Europe. With about 330,000 travelers and visitors daily, it is Deutsche Bahn's fourth busiest long-distance station after Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main and Munich.
- Read more details about this sight in our main article Berlin Central Station.
22. Moltke Bridge
The listed Moltke Bridge was designed between 1886 and 1891 as a load-bearing steel structure on stone piers and faced with red sandstone. It features rich pictorial and sculptural decoration and is considered one of the most beautiful crossings of the Spree River.
23. Federal Chancellery
The Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) is an agency that supports the German Chancellor in his duties. It currently employs about 600 people and has an annual budget of about 3.65 billion euros.
With a helipad and Chancellor's Park covering some 73,000 square meters, it is about eight times the size of the White House and the largest government headquarters in the world. The agency consists of seven departments, which in turn give rise to 16 sub-departments.
24. Haus der Kulturen der Welt
The Haus der Kulturen der Welt (in English: House of the World's Cultures) was founded in 1989 and is an exhibition venue for contemporary art from all over the world. Special attention is given to non-European cultures and societies.
It is located in the former Congress Hall, which was considered an icon of architectural modernism in the mid-1950s. Berliners affectionately call the building the "Pregnant Oyster" in reference to its shape.
History of the Spree River Navigation
Until the 20th century, shipping on the Spree was of immense importance for supplying the city with food as well as building and heating materials.
Today, the river is a tourist attraction and is characterized by passenger shipping.