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Cruise along River Spree | Things to do, history, & nearby attractions

Berlin, with its burst of street art, graffiti, and hallowed structures perfectly blends the aspects of its rich history with modernity. Most of the buildings and tourist attractions in this city reflect its history. Among all the main attractions in the city is the River Spree, the heart of the city. The banks of this culturally relevant river are home to some of the city's significant structures and historical sites. 

Here’s all you need to know about this important river.

Why visit the River Spree in Berlin?

River Spree Boat Tour - Treptower Park

Where is the River Spree located?

The Spree, which spans around 400 km, flows across northeastern Germany. It begins in the Lusatian Mountains and then, after passing through Bautzen and Spremberg, momentarily divides into two sections. After passing through Lake Schwielochsee, it enters Berlin as Müggelspree.

Find on map

  • Starting point: Lusatian Mountains
  • Ending point: River Havel
  • Major attractions along the river: Museum Island, Tiergarten Park, Chancellery, etc. 

Things to do on the Spree River

River Spree Boat Tour - Spree River Cruises
River Spree Boat Tour - Moltke Bridge

Around 50 bridges pass through the river, each connecting different river banks.  

  • The Oberbaum Bridge, regarded as Berlin's most beautiful bridge, links the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain neighbourhoods.
  • The Moltke Bridge, which crosses the Spree, links Alt-Moabit, which is on the north bank near the major train station, to Willy-Brandt-Strabe and the Chancellery, which is on the south bank.
  • The Oberschöneweide and Niederschöneweide neighbourhoods are connected by the Treskow Bridge, a beautiful bridge that spans the Spree. 

A brief history of River Spree 

Due to the Spree's ability to maintain life through trade, food, and protection, both the settlements of Berlin and Cölln were established along its banks centuries ago. A community of fishermen lived in Cölin on the Spree River's left bank, inhabited around St. Peter church. Berlin, on the other bank, was a trading town centred on the St. Nicholas church.

The Spree's use was practically nonexistent in the 20th century. Berlin's connection to its river was neglected for decades during that time since its function as a boundary overshadowed all other potential uses. However, over the years, it has become an identity of the city, fulfilling almost all the roles.

How did River Spree get its name?

The word Spree first appeared in writing in 965 under the name "Sprewa" in a document authored by Otto I, a member of the Liudolfing line. The Brandenburg Name Book mentions that the Germanic verbs "Spreu" and "spreizen" meaning spread, spray, sow, etc. are the root of the name Sprewa. Over time, it was subsequently translated into Slavic as Sprva and returned to its original German form as Spree. 

Plan your visit to River Spree

Visitor tips
River Spree Boat Tour - Spree banks cruise
What are the opening hours of the River Spree?

Visitors are welcome to enjoy or walk along the Spree banks at any time. However, most of the cruises through the river start at around 11 AM. The total duration of these cruises vary according to the option you choose.

What is the best time to visit the Spree River and go on a cruise?

River Spree is most enjoyable between May and September, as the weather will be pleasant, and the attractions around the river will be clearly visible.

River Spree Boat Tour  - Eat

There are several eateries offering delicious food items on the Spree riverside, where you can sit and enjoy the flavours of various cuisines while enjoying the riverside beauty. Here are some riverside restaurants you can opt for. 

  • RIVO Spreeterrassen
  • Brasserie Ganymed
  • Klubrestaurant Spindler & Klatt
  • Carl & Sophie
  • Katerschmaus
  • Bistro Heidi's Café

There are several restaurants that offer meals or buffet lunch and dinner at the Spree riverside.

River Spree Boat Tour - Stay

Here are some of the best hotels near the banks of the river Spree that offer a breath-taking view of the river. 

Budget hotels: Arte Luise Kunsthotel, InterCity Hotel, Hotel AMANO Grand Central.

Mid-range Hotels: Steigenberger Hotel am Kanzleramt, Ibis Berlin Hauptbahnhof, nhow Berlin.

Luxury Hotels: Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, SO/ Berlin Das Stue, Hotel Indigo Berlin

River Spree Boat Tour - Visitor Tips
  • The peak season for the Spree river activities starts in April.
  • While at Berlin, ensure to go on a cruise tour to witness the riverside view of iconic attractions.
  • Every day, boats leave the boarding point at regular intervals. When booking, make sure to specify the time you want.
  • Purchase your cruise tickets well in advance, and keep following up. Short notice cruise cancellations can be expected for various reasons.

Interesting facts about River Spree

River Spree Boat Tour - Jannowitzbruecke
  • The Spree is a part of a complex network of navigable canals in Berlin, many of which are man-made and offer a variety of pathways. 
  • The Oder-Spree Canal, which runs southeast from Berlin, is the most significant of the canals that connect the Spree to its adjacent waterways.
  • Until the turn of the 20th century, there were fifteen public pools along the Spree, four of which were in the area between Jannowitzbruecke and Elsen Bruecke.
  • Several locations along the river have dams, including the Spremberg and Bautzen dams. In addition to providing flood protection and energy, they are also water sources for power plants.
  • Many of the country's top museums congregate on Museum Island, a UNESCO listed site, located on the north side of Spree Island.

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Frequently asked questions about River Spree

What is the River Spree?

The Spree is an important river that flows through Berlin, and a lot of the city’s landmarks are located along this river.

Do I need a ticket to visit the River Spree?

No. You can visit the river any day as it’s always open to the public.

Where is the River Spree?

The Spree River flows across northeastern Germany.

Why is the River Spree famous?

The original Berlin city centre was constructed along the Spree. It is an integral part of Berlin, where a lot of the city’s iconic attractions are located.

Which city is on the River Spree?

The Spree river passes through Berlin city.

How deep is the River Spree?

The depth of the river varies from place to place.

Where does the River Spree start and end?

The Spree begins in the Lusatian Mountains and travels for roughly 400 kilometres until ending at the Havel River.

What is the best thing to do in the River Spree?

Spree River cruises are the finest way to discover Berlin city in a unique way.

Do you need to book tickets in advance for the River Spree cruises?

It is better to plan ahead and reserve your tours and tickets for Spree cruises to ensure a nice and enjoyable visit.

Are guided tours of the River Spree available?

Yes. Some of the river cruises come with audio guides in different languages.

Is the River Spree open to the public?

Yes. River Spree is always open to the public. But, the cruises have timings that usually start from 11 AM.

Can you swim in the River Spree?

Since 1925, the River Spree has been off-limits to swimmers due to rising pollution. However, temporary swimming events take place in the river.

What attractions are near the River Spree?

Many well-known landmarks in Berlin, including Museum Island, Tiergarten Park, the Chancellery, etc., are situated along the Spree River, which flows through the centre of the city.

Where can I enjoy the best views of the River Spree?

One can opt for a river cruise or a walk/ride through the various bridges across the river to enjoy the best views.

What are some of the budget-friendly activities to do at the Spree?

A walk along the banks of the river is the best way to explore the beauty of Spree in a budget-friendly way.

What is the best way to experience the Spree?

River cruises are the finest way to appreciate the beautiful Spree river. These cruises are well-equipped with amenities and food options that vary based on the cruise you opt for.

Are there any dining facilities near the Spree?

Yes. Some of the restaurants along the River Spree that offer delicious food options include RIVO Spreeterrassen, Brasserie Ganymed, Klubrestaurant Spindler & Klatt, etc.

Are there any famous bridges over the River Spree?

Some of the famous bridges on the Spree include Oberbaum Bridge, Schlossbrücke, Moltkebrücke, etc.

Can I get skip-the-line tickets to a River Spree Cruise?

No skip-the-line tickets are available for cruises. However, reserving your Spree River Cruises in advance will help you enjoy the experience better.