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Boat Tours on the River Spree in Berlin

It may not be the obvious choice for transportation in Berlin, but a boat ride can offer visitors a good change of pace. The networks of canals that bisect the plains of what used to be known as Prussia were an engineering marvel when they were completed in the 19th century. Today, transport through the lakes, locks, and canals around Berlin retains its nostalgic allure, and affords unusual vistas that aren't available from the windows of more conventional modes of transport. Berliners boast that their city has more bridges than Venice. Local waterways include the Spree and Havel rivers -- ranging in size from narrow channels to large lakes -- as well as many canals. You can take short tours that offer close-up views of the city or daylong adventures along the Spree and Havel; the latter often turn into beer-drinking fests.

The city's best-known boat operator is Stern und Kreisschiffahrt, Pushkinallee 15 (tel. 030/5363600; Since Germany's reunification, this company has absorbed the piers and ferryboats of several of its former East German counterparts. The resulting entity is ready and able to take you on water-borne cruises that incorporate sights once restricted to Berlin's eastern zone.

The most popular of the cruises, "Historische Stadtfahrt," takes you for a 1-hour ride along the banks of the Spree, the river that helped build Berlin. Departing at 30-minute intervals every day between 10:30am and 5pm, they take in river-fronting views of the city's central core, beginning at a point in the Nikolaiviertel, close to Berlin's imposing 19th-century cathedral, on the Am Palast Ufer. (Take the U-Bahn to Nikolaiviertel.)

More comprehensive are the 4-hour tours along the river Spree and some of its canals. Originating at the Treptow quays (take the S-Bahn to Treptow Park), they depart every day between March and October at 9:45am and again at 2:10pm. These trips offer good views of the exteriors of the Reichstag, the Pergamon Museum, the Königliche Bibliothek (Royal Library), and the monumental heart of what used to be known as East Berlin. The tours lasting 1 hour cost 8.50€ ($9.80) per person; tours lasting 4 hours cost 16€ ($18).

Stern und Kreisschiffahrt also maintains a cruising yacht, Moby Dick, a whale-shaped boat that usually sails along the waters of the Eglersee and looks like something that might have been developed by the staff at Disneyland. It departs from a point near the Alt-Tegel U-Bahn station, on the city's northwestern edge. Walk for about 10 minutes through the suburb of Tegel to the Greenwich Promenade, and then to the Stern und Kreisschiffahrt pier. Boats head southward from Tegel, passing along the Havel River and many of its lakes for a 3 1/2-hour excursion priced at 16€ ($18) per person. Tours depart from the Jannowitz Brücke (take the U-Bahn to Jannowitz Brücke). Reservations are usually necessary for all boat rides described above. Rides operate only from late March to late October, depending on the tour, although there might be a special river tour offered around Christmas if demand warrants. Children under 6 ride for free, and students and children between the ages of 6 and 15 benefit from discounts of 50%. Prices and actual itineraries change seasonally; call for more details.

Source: Frommer's Germany 2005
Author: Darwin Porter
Publication Date: November 08, 2004