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Berlin Marathon and vacation planning

I'll be in Germany for 2 weeks in September to first run Berlin Marathon on Sep 25th and then plan a sightseeing trip. Flying out of NYC to Berlin on Sep 21st(reaching Berlin on 22nd) and flying back to NYC on Oct 4th. I can't focus on sight seeing until Marathon is over on 25th, My initial plan was for 3 weeks that gave me flexibility to travel south to Munich/Bavaria/Salzburg and fly out of Munich. But its cut short by a week so I don't know how much time I'll have for the southern Germany.

Any suggestions on a good itinerary for 2 weeks without cramming too much. Should I do round trip flight to/from Berlin and stay in Berlin and do day trips ? Or any other recommended fly out destination ? I wont have car so will be relying on public transport for most part.

Appreciate your inputs.

Posted by
27431 posts

Berlin is an extraordinarily museum-rich city. The time needed there will depend a lot on how interested you are in those art and ethnographic museums and the Cold-War/WW2 sites. Read the Berlin section of a guidebook or two, look at Rick's suggestions, maybe check out TripAdvisor's things to do. Be aware that the Museuminseln museums are really, really large. If you are interested in the subject matter of one of those museums (and if you're not, why go?), you will probably be there for many hours. Some of the Cold War sites are rather time-consuming as well. I spent six days in Berlin, spent virtually all of my time in museums, and still missed some that I wanted to see. Your experience may be totally different, depending on your interests.

One other thing: Berlin was overrun with tourists last August, which had an effect on how quickly one could move through some of the tourist sites, plus there were significant lines to enter the Museuminseln museums. I don't know how much better it will be in September; the city is justifiably a very popular tourist destination. If you spend a lot of time in the huge museums, it will be hard to make the city card pay off. If you're more a hit-and-run sort of tourist, it might save you some money.

Berlin was pretty much obliterated during WW2, and the city itself is not very rich in historic buildings. (This is not to say that it's unattractive, just not as interesting from that standpoint as some of the provincial cities.) If you are attracted to places of architectural interest, I can recommend Gorlitz (on the Polish border, so off your planned path), Quedlinburg (WSW of Berlin, not exactly on the way to Bavaria), and Erfurt (beyond Leipzig and a good stopover on the way to Bavaria). All three of those cities have stunning old towns with half-timbered buildings. Gorlitz is so picturesque that it is used as a movie location; it also has some art nouveau buildings. Quedlinburg has an incredible cathedral treasury (Google for the American connection) in addition to its beautiful buldings. Erfurt is a lively university town with Weimar and the nearby Buchenwald concentration camp an easy day-trip away.

Dresden (on the way to Bavaria) was fire-bombed during the war, and just a small area in the core was reconstructed, but it has some fine museums very much worth visiting if you're not museumed-out by the time you leave Berlin. The Historic Green Vault may well be the richest treasure trove in the world. Highly recommended if you want to see beautiful objects. A timed ticket is required, but I was able to walk right in last summer; my guess is that it's usually possible to visit the same day you inquire. One of the neighboring museums has a lot of armor on display if that's more your thing.

You'll probably have time to do a bit of non-site-specific wandering around Berlin before the marathon, right? If so, I think you do have the option of spending a few days in Munich or some other part of Bavaria, possibly with a stop along the way, if you want to do so. I'm a flexible traveler and do not lock down reservations ahead of time. If you're willing to travel that way, you can wait till you've spent a few days in Berlin and decide how anxious you are to move on to "cute Germany". Train service is generally good.

Have you priced out the round-trip flight to Berlin vs. a Berlin/Munich open-jaw?

Posted by
565 posts

With two weeks, you could easily see Munich and Bavaria after Berlin. Munich itself is a nice city but really doesn't warrant more than 3-4 days of your time. Day trips from there are great, and you can easily get to Salzburg on DB in a little over two hours.

As far as Berlin goes, it's my favorite city in the world and I hope you can at least take small breaks during your training to people watch and perhaps see one of the smaller museums, like the DDR Museum, which can be done in 60-90 minutes. Save the German History Museum (on the other side of the Spree) until after the marathon. I could easily spend an entire day, open to close, there.

Posted by
14580 posts


If you plan on taking a day trip or two from Berlin, I would suggest the following: Potsdam, Halle an der Salle, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Dresden, Meißen, Leipzig, ..several possibilities.

Posted by
4684 posts

The Berlin city card, which combines a transport pass with discounted entry to tourist sites, is often not good value. A better choice is to combine an ordinary transport pass with the three-day Berlin Museum Pass, which provides free entry to almost all government-run museums and is very good value for money.

Posted by
868 posts

My initial plan was for 3 weeks that gave me flexibility to travel south to Munich/Bavaria/Salzburg and fly out of Munich. But its cut short by a week so I don't know how much time I'll have for the southern Germany.

What's wrong with Northern and Central Germany? Is there a dangerous disease? A earthquake? Volcanic eruption? Are there riots?

You can easily spend two weeks in and around Berlin. Berlin is good for at least a week, you just need a good travel guide that mentions places a bit outside too, like Köpenick castle or the Botanical Garden for example. Potsdam, the usual day trip from Berlin, is much more than just Sanssouci. Sanssouci is actually just one of many park around the city, and to do Potsdam justice you need three days. Sansouci needs a full days, the city needs a full day, and all the other parks need one (a great way to explore them is by bycicle). Potsdam is also a great base to explore Berlin, especially if you want it a bit more romantic and quiet.
Other day trips? Since it's acceptable for most people to spend 2,5h on a train to see Neuschwanstein from Munich let's see what you can see within 2,5h from Berlin:
Potsdam - as already mentioned
Wittenberg - preserved town with many places related to the Protestant Reformation
Spreewald - gorgeous region where the river Spree meanders in thousands of small streams through meadows and forests
Tangermünde - medieval hidden gem with half-timbered houses and medieval fortifications
Leipzig - home of Bach, place where the revolution of 1989 started, pleasant old town, great zoo
Erfurt - one of Germanys biggest preserved old towns
Naumburg - small town with a great Gothic cathedral and the most famous statues of the Middle Ages (model for Disneys evil queen)
Weimar - spiritual centre of Germany, Goethe, Schiller, Nietzsche, Herder, Liszt and many other lived there, World Heritage Site
Schwerin - preserved old town and a fairytale castle just like Neuschwanstein

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm leaning towards doing a round trip to Berlin and do day trips and plan Munich/Bavaria for another trip. Price for air ticket to Berin (in)- Munich(out) is about $200 more than round trip to Berlin.
One another reason I'm hesitant to go to Munich is I expect it to be too crowded for Oktoberfest. As of now I only have a 5 day airbnb in Berlin from Sep 22-Sep 26th. Appreciate all the suggestions. I'll get back as I start finalizing the plans.

Posted by
14580 posts


Taking a day trip or spending a night or two in northern and central Germany as well east of the Elbe is historical and cultural Germany, ie, to the places of Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Fontane, Storm, Wieland (in Weimar), Herder, in addition to the musical greats (Brahms, Weber, Schumann, Liszt, Mendelsohn, Bach, Händel). Another cultural/historical town doable from as a day trip from Berlin at least as an introduction is Naumburg an der Saale.

Posted by
23 posts

I might have to go to Munich during this trip to spend some time with friends. So I just booked an open jaw ticket flying into Berlin on Sep 21st and Fly out of Munich on Oct 4th.

1) I'm flying out of NYC on Sep 21st. Arrive Berlin on Sep 22 . Have an airbnb in Potsdamer Straße, Berlin for 6 nights (Sep 22-28th)
2)Fly early morning on Sep 28th to Munich . One way flight from Berlin to Munich is not booked yet.
3)Fly out of Munich to NYC on Oct 4th. Stay in Munich for 6 nights (Sep 28-Oct4th). Booked an airbnb in Munich near Ramersdorf-Perlach for 6 nights

Plan around Berlin:
Sep 22 : Arrive, Acclimitize and gather food :)
Sep 23 : Hop-on-off bus tour, short walks around Berlin, visit one of smaller museum if I can.
Sep 24 : Shake out run, prepare for race and mostly stay off feet
Sep 25 : Run Berlin Marathon , Rest, eat and drink
Sep 26 : Museuminseln museum, and do some out door walking if I have any energy left :)
Sep 27: Do a day trip to Dresden ( I'm considering Viator 10 hour day trip) . Might do self guided too if I can .

Plan around Munich :
Sep 28: Fly in early to Munich, explore around the city
Sep 29 : Day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Sep 30 : Day trip to Nuremberg, Germany
Oct 1 : Munich Surroundings, Meet friends, Dachu concentration camp
Oct 2: Salzburg Day trip
Oct 3 : Neuschwanstein castle, Garmish area (Zugspite hike if possible)
Oct 4 : Fly back to NYC

Questions :
1. Is doing two separate day trips to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nuremberg a good idea ? I thought about taking train from Berlin to Nuremberg and staying for a night to cover visit both these places and then going to Munich. But Google tells me train ride from Berlin to Nuremberg takes over 6 hours. Flying to Munich gives me option of making that my base for 6 days. I dont have to drag my luggage around much.

  1. Is Zugspite hike possible along with visit to Castles on a single day ? If my legs feel good & weather permits then I'm leaning towards Zugspite hike and skip castles altogether.

3.Any tips on making this itinerary less rushed ? Ha ha.. I know you will cringe.. but worth the ask.

Posted by
27431 posts

Dresden day-trip is doable on your own, but a guide's historical context would be useful. I got that from a walking tour through the T.O., but the schedule might not work for a day-tripper. Just check online info about the museums and be sure the tour will allow access to what you want to see.

Other posters have said Rothenburg is now very touristy and there are better options. Perhaps there's an equally cute town that's not a 6-hour round-trip from Munch. However, that may be a gorgeous bus/train ride.

Posted by
5837 posts

RE: I can't focus on sight seeing until Marathon is over....

I have a contrary plan for physical events. I usually try to arrive in Europe a week ahead of my first event, doing easy tourist stuff to give my body time to adjust to local time and recover from jet lag. I have 3 or so days of tourist walking about and two or three days of light training effort and inspecting the course.

The week in advance also minimizes concerns about flight delays or cancellations (winter travel is fog season) or delayed equipment.