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Our Visit to Berlin, Rhineland and Saarland Area

Hello Fellow travellers, Looking for suggestions and recommendations from seasoned travellers on the forum! Myself and my wife (Both in our late 60`s) will be flying into Berlin from Atlantic Canada, connecting via LGW Airport to Berlin during last week of July, 2022. We will be staying for 4 nights in Berlin including the day of our arrival ( A Sunday). We will be staying at the NH Collection hotel near Friedrichstrasse train station. We are hoping to visit Brandenburg gate and Holocaust memorial area that evening.

On Day 2, We have reserved our tickets for visit to Berlin Dom (Cathedral) next morning. After that, we are planning to take the city Cruise boat trip stating from the Pier behind the Cathedral later in the morning. Following that, we are planning to visit Humboldt Forum located in the area and subsequently, time and our Physical energy permitting, visit Alexanderplatz and TV Tower. Fortunately, all these attractions appear to be within walking distance from our Hotel. I note all the city Museums are closed on Mondays.

On Day 3, we are planning to take a day trip by train to Potsdam. We have purchased 9 Euro tickets for the month.I am hoping to get some input/Recommendations from seasoned travellers on the forum about the best attractions that we should be visiting in Potsdam. We enjoy visiting Historical monuments and Palaces, seeing attractive architecture, art work etc.

On Day 4, we have made reservation to visit Reichstag and the roof top restaurant in the Morning. Hoping to visit erstwhile Fuehrer bunker area and Gendarmen markt area in the afternoon. Please recommend any other attractions we may be able to visit that day.
On Day 5, we are hoping to visit some of the museums including Altes Museum and Pergamon museum. Please recommend any other museums that may be of interest.

On Day 6, we will be taking ICE train to Mannheim in the Morning. We chose to stay in Mannheim for next 4 days as we felt we could make day trips from here given that it is a transportation hub. Our return flight to Canada is from Zurich. We will either visit attractions in Mannheim that afternoon or alternatively, visit Heidelberg, a short train ride away.

On Day 7, we are planning to take train to Bingen and take Rhine Cruise to Boppard. Subsequently, visit Koblenz that afternoon as a Day trip from Mannheim.

On Day 8, we are planning to visit Saarland including Saarbrucken and mettlach as a day trip. We will take a river cruise from Mettlach that goes around Saar loop. I note we are able to do this visit more easily as we are staying in Mannheim!

Day 9 is a Sunday. I am uncertain whether we should make a trip to Burg Eltz castle, given the long train+bus travel time (at least 2.5 Hrs each way) or whether there are other attractions locally that we could visit with a shorter train ride. I look forward to any suggestions/recommendations related to the same.

Day 10. Train trip to Zurich and visit Swiss National Museum that afternoon. Stay at Zurich Airport Hotel overnight. We will return home to Canada next day flying from Zurich, via LHR. Thanks for any advice that seasoned travellers on the forum are able to provide, to be able to fine tune this Holiday adventure of ours!

Posted by
978 posts

Some quick scribbles on Berlin with more to follow, Facades only, I know nothing about the insides:

  • Opening evening stroll down Unter den Linden to the Tor and the Holocaust Memorial (I still don't get the Memorial, and that's after a cumulative of 134 nights in Berlin, oh well);

  • Air Raid Shelter on Reinhardtstrasse 20;

  • New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse;

  • The GDR-era Max Lingner mural Building of the Republic on the corner of Wilhelmstrasse and Leipziger Strasse THEN continue down Wilhelmstrasse to Niederkirchnerstrasse, turn right on Niederkirchnerstrasse to see remnants of the wall, the Topography of Terror, and the beautiful facade on the Gropius Bau Building. Turn right on Stresemannstrasse to Edna Berger-Strasse to see a lookout tower from the Wall days, then carry on to Potsdamer Platz. After a coffee stop, continue up Ebertstrasse to the Tor then down Strasse des 17. Juni to the Soviet War Memorial (there is significance in the brass lettering, on the west side of the Memorial, that is meaningful to Berliners / the German people as a whole.

  • You can never go wrong walking along Karl-Marx-Allee from U Strausberger Platz to Alexanderplatz;

  • Step inside the department store Quartier 206 @ Friedrichstrasse 71, and you will be rewarded;

  • Step inside the Amtsgericht Mitte @ Littenstrasse 12-17, and you will be rewarded;

  • Berlin is so, so much more than museums and the Dorotheenstädt Cemetery is one of those so much more places;

  • The State Council Building of the former German Democratic Republic, from 1964 to 1990. The building is to the south of the Schlossplatz and incorporates in its asymmetrical facade the Karl-Liebknecht-Portal, a fraction of the facade of the former Berlin Palace comprising the balcony from which Karl Liebknecht proclaimed a "Free Socialist Republic of Germany" on 9 November 1918. Inside the now privately held building is a stunning stained-glass window.

Because I just read this on another thread, and liked it - thanks @ Kathy:

The comments above regarding certain attractions are all part of my overall personal impressions and what I like about the city, not to tell you where to go/what to do, OK?

Posted by
16941 posts

I think staying in Mannheim is a mistake. Three of your days are in the Rhine-Mosel, so stay there. Boppard is a good place with a free guest card to use of all the trains and buses in the VRM transit district. Much prettier than Mannheim, an industrial city.

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Periscope,

Thanks for your detailed suggestions. On Day of arrival to Berlin, I meant we will be visiting the Memorial to murdered Jews, not too far away from Tor.
We will certainly take a stroll along the Karl-Marx Allee during our stay and look at the Soviet style Buildings along this historical Boulevard.

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Sam,

Thanks for your suggestion.Our reservation at the Hotel in Mannheim is cancellable and we will get a full refund. We do have 9 Euro tickets for the Month of July and therefore coverage for travel expenses in the area is not a concern. Only issue we are facing is about our trip on Day 10, by ICE train leaving Mannheim to Basel Bad station is booked for 8.35 AM and is non refundable. As such, if we do stay elsewhere for 3-4 nights in the Rhine-Mosel Area, then we may have to come over on the previous day and stay overnight to be able to take this morning train from Mannheim on Day 10. It is still doable and will certainly ponder over this issue.

Apart from Boppard, are there any other towns in the Rhine-Mosel area that you recommend that is nearer to Mannheim, such that we could take train from that town to Mannheim early in the morning to be able to connect to our trip by ICE train on Day 10?

Posted by
978 posts

As for Potsdam, I not big on the city as a whole, other than to offer up a few things that you undoubtedly already have on your list:

  • St. Nikolai-Kirchengemeinde / Old Market Square (Alter Markt);

  • Parc Sanssouci;

  • Glienicke Bridge (Glienicker Brücke)

Lots of walking involved, if you add in the Parc, so you might want to purchase a Potsdam Day Ticket to help get around.

Posted by
35 posts

Thanks, Periscope. Unfortunately our trip to Potsdam had been planned for Tuesday. We now realize that the palaces in Potsdam are closed on Tuesdays. Therefore, we will defer our trip to Potsdam. Instead, we will visit Charlottenburg palace and surrounding areas on that day.

Posted by
978 posts

Are you sure about that Closed on Tuesdays, I thought it was Mondays, oh well. With few exceptions, I don't do Palaces or Museums so I'm not current with the hours thing.

Posted by
3081 posts

We now realize that the palaces in Potsdam are closed on Tuesdays.

Hmmm... Cecilienhof website indicates it is closed on Monday (not Tuesday).

https://www.spsg.de/en/palaces-gardens/object/cecilienhof-country-house/

and Sanssouci Palace website indicates it is also closed on Monday (not Tuesday).

https://www.spsg.de/en/palaces-gardens/object/sanssouci-palace/

Seasoned traveler tip: Check the website of the site you want to see for the most accurate info.

Posted by
3081 posts

Thoughts:

  • Trains to Life -- Trains to Death is the Kindertransport memorial in Berlin that is 1 minute from your hotel per Google maps. Don't miss it.
  • I agree with periscope on walking down Unter den Linden on Day 1
  • Day 2: Ever go to a basketball game where the underdog home team is whipping up on a top 5 ranked team? The crowd starts the glorious "Overrated" chant. There should be people standing outside the Humboldt Forum chanting that. Fake palace facade with underwhelming interior. Meh. What a pity the Palace of the Republic was torn down.
  • I would go to Potsdam in a heartbeat over Charlottenburg Palace. I'm partial to Cecilienhof because (1) I really like WWII history and (2) it's an exception to my opinion of "seen one palace -- seen them all." Cecilienhof is different from other palaces because of its tudor design and its WWII history -- the meeting room for the conquering powers remains set as it was for Stalin, Truman and Churchill. The Sanssouci park, however, is well worth a visit there. The Barberini Museum has a very nice collection of impressionist paintings, if you have time.
  • For a nostalgic look back at East Germany times, visit the DDR Museum that is just across the river from Museum Island
  • For an overwhelming number of other options, look at this fairly recent thread: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/worth-spending-more-than-a-day-in-berlin
Posted by
35 posts

Hi Dave, Thanks for letting us know the accurate opening hours of Palaces in Potsdam. We realize that these palaces are in fact open on Tuesdays and closed on Mondays only. We will visit Potsdam and see Sanssouci palace and Cecilienhof on Day 3.

I did see photographs of kindertransport memorial (A horrible tragedy indeed!) next to our hotel while making our reservation.
We hope to visit DDR museum some time during our stay in Berlin.
Thanks again for all the advice.

Posted by
978 posts

"see Sanssouci Palace"

There's a whole park to see, not just the Palace, the Palace is just the beginning.

Posted by
5605 posts

As such, if we do stay elsewhere for 3-4 nights in the Rhine-Mosel
Area, then we may have to come over on the previous day and stay
overnight to be able to take this morning train from Mannheim on Day
10. It is still doable and will certainly ponder over this issue.

Apart from Boppard, are there any other towns in the Rhine-Mosel area
that you recommend that is nearer to Mannheim, such that we could take
train from that town to Mannheim early in the morning to be able to
connect to our trip by ICE train on Day 10?

Mainz would be a no-brainer. A nice town to stay in and visit on Day 6 and a reasonable launch pad for the Rhine. Direct ICE trains to Mannheim in about 40 minutes. And like Mannheim, about 5 hours from Berlin.

On Day 7, we are planning to take train to Bingen and take Rhine
Cruise to Boppard. Subsequently, visit Koblenz that afternoon as a Day
trip from Mannheim.

  • Mainz > Bingen Rhein Stadt station (30 minutes)
  • Cruise from Bingen to St. Goarshausen (across from St. Goar) 9:15-10:45

At this point you are only a 22-minute train ride from handsome BRAUBACH (south of Koblenz) where you can tour Marksburg Castle, a never-destroyed medieval RHINE castle that overlooks the river and presents a truer picture of medieval life than ornately-furnished Burg Eltz. English tour at 1 pm.

You can then go to Koblenz in 10 minutes by direct train from Braubach. Return later to Mainz.

You can do this outing entirely on one Rheinland-Pfalz day pass for two (€31) on a Saturday or Sunday:
https://www.vrminfo.de/en/tickets/tickets/ticket-offers/rheinland-pfalz-ticket/

Since you'll need to leave Mainz prior to 9 am, a weekday trip would require an additional ticket to cover your first Mainz > Bingen leg of travel.

The R-P ticket and the Mainz>Bingen weekday ticket can be bought at Mainz station on the day of travel. No pre-purchase or reservations are required.

Posted by
16941 posts

Reading between the lines, it seems you have your heart set on the 6:33 am direct train to Zurich. If that is the case, just go to Mannheim the evening before. There are 2 hotels right at Mannheim Hbf, a Holiday Inn and a Hilton Garden.

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Russ, that info you provided on Braubach and Marksburg castle south of Koblenz certainly sound very interesting. Marksburg castle in particular seem to be a great place to visit. Visit to both places could be incorporated quite easily as a part of day trip along the Rhine. I was not aware of these places earlier! Thanks again for the suggestion.

We will certainly consider staying in Mainz rather than Mannheim as a part of our holiday along the Rhine given the ease of travel from Mainz during those days.

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Sam, our ICE train reservation on Day 10 is at 8.35 AM leaving Mannheim and ending at Basel SBB. We are however getting down at Basel Bad station as that station is considered part of DB as well as SBB network. Tickets up to Basel Bad rather than Basel SBB are cheaper on DB trains as the trip is considered to be within Germany rather than cross-border. We have purchased a Swiss SBB train day ticket for that day (bought well in advance!) and we could travel on local SBB trains of our choice from Basel Bad station to Zurich later that day.

Posted by
16941 posts

If that ticket is already bought, you should still head to Mannheim the night before. You can use the 9 EUR ticket for that. There is a regional train at 5:16 pm from Boppard to Mainz with a cross platform transfer to a regional train to Ludwigshafen. Ludwigshafen is across the river from Mannheim and a short S-Bahn to the Mannheim Hbf.

You saved 2 EUR per person by only going as far as Basel Bad. Love it!

BTW, if you bought Saver Day Passes for that day, you don't actually have to get off the train at Basel Bad. Just stay on until you get to Basel SBB.

Posted by
35 posts

Thanks for that tip same. We will stay on the same train until Basel SBB.

Posted by
5605 posts

Day 9 is a Sunday. I am uncertain whether we should make a trip to Burg Eltz castle, given the long train+bus travel time (at least 2.5 Hrs each way)

I've never fantasized about a making Burg Eltz a day trip from Mannheim. I had to look it up. The fastest Sunday journeys on DB look to take 3 hours one way, and those involve the use of high-speed trains. 8:39 - 11:38 at €48 one way for the flex fare (one way) or possibly €20 on the cheapest saver fare bought well, well in advance. That's €80/ couple. I tend to think of a day trip as a REGIONAL train adventure, with one-way travel times 1.5 - 2 hours max, and probably done on a regional day pass of some sort for maybe €30-€35 Euros. The regional train trips to Eltz, however, will rack up 9-10 hours minimum round trip.

So I find it hard to say anything bad at all about Sam's suggestion when it comes to Burg Eltz. Boppard makes perfect sense for that and for the rest of the Rhine experience as well.

With Mannheim set in stone as a base, a trip to Eltz probably means you're taking Rick Steves' preferences way too seriously. Mannheim is good for a visit to the cities of Speyer and/or Worms, not that you'll find anything on them in your Rick Steves book, but that's true of many fine destinations in Germany. From Mannheim you'd spend about 25 minutes each way - on a direct regional train - to either of these fine places.

Posted by
12980 posts

Ideally, I recommend seeing both Potsdam and Schloss Charlottenburg. If it's one or the other due to time limits, then I suggest Potsdam especially if you want to see those sites connected with Prussian history, Sanssouci followed by Neues Palais. At Potsdam Hbf are city tours companies trying to convince you to choose them. I've taken a couple of them, well worth it for an overview.

Check out the literature in the Tourist Office in Potsdam Hbf. Any specific esoteric historical sites in Berlin or Potsdam?

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Russ,
Interestingly, I had seen a DW travel video on Schuum cities/towns (places with Jewish heritage in Germany consisting of Speyer, Worms and Mainz) a few days ago and in fact planning to visit Speyer and worms (Half an hour train ride each from Mannheim or between them ) as a day trip. We have dropped the idea of Visiting Burg Eltz as it is not a practical proposition in this instance. Speyer appears to be a more interesting town than Worms as per the info I have been able gather, but we will find out!

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Fred, There is so much to see in Potsdam from an architecture and historical standpoint that one day is certainly not enough to see all the major attractions. . As such, we will focus on visiting must see places like Sans Souci palace and its gardens including neues palais. We have purchased a ticket to visit Sans Souci (with a time slot to do it) and few other palaces included in the plus ticket. We would be amiss if we do not include Cecilienhof palace during our visit given its historical importance that shaped the world affairs post WW2 period. We would certainly like to visit dutch quarters and Brandenburg gate. Given the time constraints, we will defer our visit to Charlottenburg Palace on this occasion.

Posted by
12980 posts

@ Westnova...Those sites in Potsdam are covered in the tours, including the Dutch Quarter. At Sanssouci and Neues Palais you have the chance to get off the bus and follow the guide. Great that you are visiting these historical sites in Potsdam. Of course, there are those sites too not covered on the tours.

Posted by
35 posts

Myself and my wife have purchased Sanssouci+ combined ticket online for the day ( Tuesday July 26th). We have a timed entry time at 10.10 AM.that morning. We will take local S-Bahn train from Berlin and hoping to arrive at Potsdam HBF around 9.30 AM. I am eager to know about the best transportation option to Sanssouci palace area from Potsdam HBF that morning. I am hoping for seasoned experts on Potsdam to chime on this matter!