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Guide to the Spree River in Berlin: Information, Course & Cruise

Spree River is one of the most popular attractions in Berlin. With a length of almost 400 kilometers, the river meanders for 44 kilometers like a lifeline through the heart of the German capital.

Our guide will inform you about the course of the Spree River in Berlin and provide you with exciting information about the origin of the river's name and the popular Spree river cruise options.

Let's dive in!

Origin of the Name Spree

1. The Legend

The following legend is told in Upper Lusatia about the origin of the three Spree springs: In ancient times, the giant Sprejnik lived in the area between Bautzen and the Upper Lusatian Mountains. In order to better protect his kingdom, he carved a large and strong bow. To find out how far the arrows could fly, he shot some in the direction of the southeast.

His subjects searched for them and found them far up in the mountain country in a valley. With their bare hands, they could not pull the projectiles out of the ground and had to dig them up. As a result, fresh water began to gush out of the holes. This was the birth of the three Spree springs at Kottmar, Neugersdorf and Ebersbach. Through them a river was formed, which was called Sprejnik in honor of the giant, from which the present name Spree developed in the course of time.

2. Historians

So much for the legend. Historians interpret the origin and development of the name completely differently. It is a fact that the oldest known written mention of the Spree is found in 965 as “Sprewa” in a document of Otto I. From the family of the Liudolfing, Otto was first Duke of Saxony and King of the East Frankish Empire, then King of Italy and finally Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

According to the Brandenburg Name Book, the name Sprewa comes from the basic Germanic form "Spreu", “spreizen” (to disperse, sow, blast, spread, spray). The name was then adopted into Slavic as Sprěva and in turn goes back into the German form as Spree. The name is usually interpreted as "spraying".

Course of the Spree River in Berlin

As already mentioned, the River Spree runs for 44 kilometers through the German capital. The section from the Dämeritzsee through the Müggelsee to Berlin-Köpenick is also called Müggelspree. In Köpenick, the Dahme flows into the Spree. From here on, the river is part of the Spree-Oder waterway for about 32 kilometers until it flows into the Havel. It is then first called Treptower Spree and from the Landwehr Canal onwards Berlin Spree River.

In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the Mediaspree investor project has been set up on the banks of the Spree River with the aim of attracting communications and media companies to the area. The initiators see the project as a great opportunity for Berlin's east. Critics see the venture as a sellout of the most valuable land at the site, accompanied by the privatization of public space and the displacement of long-time residents through higher maintenance costs.

In the center of Berlin, the Spree Canal branches off from the Spree River for just under two kilometers and flows around the Spree Island. Shortly after the Weidendammer Bridge, the Panke flows into the Spree River. This is followed by the branch at Humboldthafen to the Berlin-Spandauer Schifffahrtskanal. The river winds even further along the Großer Tiergarten, is called Untere Spree from Charlottenburg and finally flows into the Havel in the district of Spandau.

Explore all the details to experience this route yourself!

Spree River Cruise: Discover Berlin from the Water!

While the Spree River was of tremendous importance for supplying Berlin with food as well as building and heating materials through shipping until the 20th century, today the river is a tourist attraction and is characterized by passenger shipping.

According to a Wikipedia list, there are 43 shipping companies in Berlin that operate about 150 ships on the River Spree.

During a one-hour Spree River Cruise, you can explore Berlin's sights from a completely different perspective from the water. Among other sites, you will gently glide past the Museum Island, the Berlin Cathedral, the Nikolai Quarter and the Reichstag Building. At the same time, you will receive information worth knowing via the on-board loudspeaker or via the app "Berlin Spreefahrt" from YourMobileGuide, which you can download to your smartphone.

Spree River Bridges

The Spree River is crossed by exactly 50 bridges in Berlin, 14 of which you can see during the one-hour boat trip.

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