Itinerary Help Berlin,Dresden Prague

My husband and I are planning a 14 day trip, visitng Berlin (7 nights), Dresden (2 nights), and Prague (3 nights). We'll be flying to Berlin from Chicago, and returning from Prague. Where would be a good place to stay for a couple of nights between Berlin and Dresden? We could rent a car and do a driving trip or could set up for a couple of nights in one location and do day trips via train. Leipzig is a possibility, but any other suggestions are welcome.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

Leipzig is a superb destination, worth a few days. I'd also mention the Garden Realm in Dessau-Wörlitz, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact is that Dresden is a fast and direct train ride from Berlin. And there are lots of day trips possible from Dresden, like Erfurt, Weimar, and Eisenach, to mention only a few. You can almost get to Prague on the Elbe, but I didn't really look into that - the river boat doesn't quite go there ...

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, Great that you've set aside most of the days for Berlin. Do you really want to spend a night between Berlin and Dresden? If that's under serious consideration, then I would certainly recommend Leipzig. The Leipzig Hbf. (main station) might be the largest, definitely one of them, next to Berlin in all of Germany. Staying in Leipzig is advantageous because Berlin and Leipzig are connected by the ICE train and is a transfer point to Dresden Hbf. from Berlin Hbf. Leipzig is a known cultural and historical center, esp if you're focused on music. Day trips r/t within a close radius of either Berlin or Dresden I would suggest are Meißen, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Erfurt, Bautzen, Potsdam (don't forget this one during the stay in Berlin) If you do get a rental car (Mietwagen), you have a lot more places to access, esp the smaller towns in the Greater Berlin area if you're looking for esoteric history sites.

Posted by Casey
Ft Worth, Texas, USA
22 posts

Mary,
I don't know why you would need to spend the night between Berlin and Dresden as it is a pretty short train ride between the two. We were just in Berlin and Dresden in Sep 2012. I would spend less time in Berlin and allow more time in Prague. Dresden was surprisingly nice considering it was former East Ger. Make sure to take a day trip to Gorlitz while there. We were in Prague in 2008 and can't wait to get back. There was just a lot to see in Prague since it was never bombed, all the architecture is original including the cathedral and caste complex - get a guide, it is worth the extra cost. Berlin is fine, but not much left in terms of history other than the Brandenburg gate and a few wall segments. Still worth a few days, not sure about a while week though.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1470 posts

Terezin was a show camp to show to the Red Cross. It was not a death camp like other concentration camps especially Auschwitz. Prisoners from Terezin were transported to Auschwitz to work (and then die) or to die. I would also borrow one night from Berlin and add it to Prague. Of course you cannot see everything in Berlin in 7 days, neither in Prague in two or three. Last year I stayed in Berlin for 6 nights and felt that it was the right time to change the local. Berlin is an exciting city, so is Prague which has gorgeous views from almost everywhere. Surroundings are very beautiful, especially west and south. For day trip (or trips) consider castles Karlstejn, Krivoklat, Konopiste. See Rick Steves book: Prague and the Czech Republic.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

It's 2 hours by train from Berlin to Dresden, another 2 to Prague. Add a night to Prague and one to either Dresden or Berlin. Anything else can be done as a day trip, no planning, no hotel changes. Do you really have 14 days on the ground? You use about 1/2 day for each hotel change. I think Dresden is worth 2 full days. I spent 2 days, didn't have time to see any of the museums. With hindsight, I'd have skipped the river cruise. Terezin is a very interesting day trip from Prague. Potsdam is a good day trip from Berlin.

Posted by Martin
Germany
210 posts

Staying somewhere between Berlin and Dresden doesn't make much sense since there isn't a lot to see there. Leipzig is a detour, albeit a short one. I would simply add more nights to Dresden. You could visit some of the preserved towns in the surroundings, like Meissen, Freiberg, Pirna, Bautzen or Görlitz. Görlitz is architecturally one of the most valuable towns of Central Europe, and taking the paddle steamer from Dresden to Meissen is also highly recommended. The paddle steamers also bring you to Königstein, one of the biggest fortresses in Europe. Saxon Switzerland, where Königstein is located, is great for hiking and easily doable on a day trip from Dresden. Or visit Seiffen in the Ore mountains. That's where all the handmade wooden Christmas toys come from. The village is like one huge Käthe Wohlfahrt shop.
If you want to stay somewhere else you could also stay in Leipzig and do day trips to Erfurt, Weimar and/or Naumburg, which are all perfectly preserved towns (Erfurt offers one of the biggest and best preserved old towns in Germany). Or how about a detour to the Harz mountains, which offer many wonderful towns full of half-timbered houses, like Quedlinburg and Goslar, which are World Heritage Sites? > "I would spend less time in Berlin and allow more time in Prague. Dresden was surprisingly nice considering it was former East Ger." Were you also surprised that Prague is nice, considering it was in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic? :D

Posted by Mary
Chicago
6 posts

Thanks to all for all the excellent suggestions. Here a few more particulars about the trip and a few more questions. We have 13 days "on the ground." We are planning to spend 7 nights/6 days in Berlin. The reasoning behind the extended time here is that we would take 2 or 3 daytrips to Potsdam, Sachsenhausen, and possibly Leipzig. That leaves 3-4 days to see Berlin which doesn't seem excessive, especially since we have never been there. We alloted 3 nights/2 days to Prague because we were have been there before about 20 years ago. We are not planning to visit Terezin but will now revisit that decision. It seems as though there is plenty to see in and around Dresden, and I appreciate the info about how short the distance is between Dresden and Berlin. Renting a car to meander around the countryside for a couple of days now seems less appealing even though I know there are some wonderful towns in the area, e.g. Weimar. A few more questions: Is Leipzig better done as a daytrip from Berlin or Dresden? On the map it looks closer to Dresden. Is Terezin a better choice than Sachsenhausen? Any experience with the Berlin Walks that Rick mentions in his Germany guidebook? I've had wonderful experiences in London with Original London Walks and thought this would be a great way to see Berlin. Are there any good organized walks in Dresden?

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, Not that much of a difference in time accessing Leipzig from either Berlin or Dresden. The ICE train from Berlin Hbf goes to Leipzig, a direct connection. For Meissen you take the S-Bahn from Dresden Hbf. No direct connection from Berlin to Meissen. It is a town that escaped the horrors of the war, basically came out of the war intact. Six full days in Berlin give you time to see the sites unhurried, great walking city.

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

"Berlin is fine, but not much left in terms of history other than the Brandenburg gate and a few wall segments" REALLY? How about the Soviet War Memorials at Treptower Park and Tiergarten; the Reichstag; the Victory Column; Bernauer Strasse; Bornholmer Strasse; Ministry of Finance Building; German History Museum; Karl-Marx-Allee; Gendarmenmarkt; Topography of Terror; Flughafen Tempelhof; Bebelplatz; Unter den Linden. It's always a big year in Berlin but 2013 - 80 years since Hitler rose to power - Diversity Destroyed 1933-1945 exhibit @ the DHM (German History Museum); 60 years since the Uprising - We want to be free men!(East German uprising of June 17, 1953) exhibit @ Ministry of Finance; 50 years since Kennedy. OH, there's a lot more to Berlin than just a few days...and I barely scratched the surface.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

I was going to let the slam against Berlin go, but since George spoke up, let me assure you that a week in Berlin is not too much. I've been there (not for a week) three times - partly because it's near so many other places. Aside from a stupendous amount of art and music, there are plenty of magnificent things to see-bombs or not. There's a reason 5% of the summer posts here are about the line to get into the Reichstag! One tiny example: One reason to see the unmatched Pergamon Museum is because it was bombed! (Kind of like The Last Supper in Milan ... ... ) BTW, most of Dresden's architecture is "Wiederaufbauen", a sign you'll see from one side of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the other.

Posted by LaRae
spokane
472 posts

Hi Mary, I would take a night off Dresden and add it to Prague.

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

Just curious Mary, how are you planning to get to Prague?, when you're all done with Germany - that'll help narrow down your 2 night options.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Mary, I agree with the others regarding Berlin. There are an enormous number of historic sights both in the city or via day trips. To add to the excellent list that George provided, you could also visit the site of the 1942 Wansee Conference, which is a short distance from Berlin. There's also Potsdam, site of another important conference. I haven't been to Terezin, but would definitely recommend a visit to Sachsenhausen. It's located in Oranienburg and an easy day trip from Berlin. You might consider a tour with the Original Berlin Walks, as that provides a much better view of the history. A few interesting points about the camp.... > There was originally a "wild camp" at Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen was purpose-built in a triangular configuration, supposedly as it would be easy to see all points in the camp (apparently the concept didn't work as well in reality). > Sachsenhausen was the site of one of the largest counterfeiting operations in history, using prisoners (Operation Bernhard). The plan was to destroy the economy of the U.K. using counterfeit bills in various denominations. > Prisoners were used to test military footwear by marching for long periods around a track in the camp. > Following the surrender, the Soviets carried on business "as usual" there. Depending on what type of history you're interested in, there are LOTS of places to see in Berlin! For a bit of a "departure from the ordinary", you might consider taking a Segway tour, or perhaps one of the Underground tours. Happy travels!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I agree that you don't need a fourth location for an overnight. Depending on your interests, you can add nights to either Dresden or Prague, and take daytrips from there. If you haven't been to Prague in 20 years, I doubt you'll recognize it, so don't assume 3 nights are enough. I loved Erfurt, Leipzig, and Goerlitz, and was less taken with Dresden and Meissen. But that's just me. I'll just pile on with those who say that Berlin has phenomenal amounts of "history." One quote I love (I can't remember which guidebook): "Berlin was relatively unimportant on the world stage until 1871, when it became the capital of the newly united Germany, but it has seldom been unimportant since." And all of that important history - the Second Reich, the Weimar period, the Third Reich, the 40 year divide into two Berlins, and the reunification - is palpable as well as visible. And, so much of it overlaps. There's a section of the Berlin Wall right near the Topography of Terror exhibit, for instance. There are major historical sights all over town (and near it, like Sans Souci and Sachsenhausen), and the excellent Germany History Museum could take many hours to see thoroughly. One poster above seemed to define "history" only in terms of "buildings not bombed in WWII." Berlin has those too, by the way (contrary to myths that it was all bombed flat in WWII), but not as many as Prague, or as many "pretty" ones. But by any other definition, you can't get much more historical than Berlin. I love both Prague and Berlin, in their very different ways, and I'm glad you're seeing both. For more of my impressions, here's my trip report on Berlin, Dresden, and Goerlitz: http://tinyurl.com/9woj9zo

Posted by Mary
Chicago
6 posts

Thanks to all for more great advice! We plan to take the train from Berlin to Dresden and from Dresden to Prague, then flying back to US from Prague. Thanks for the positive comment on the Berlin Walks. I was planning to do my day trips to Potsdam and Sachsenhausen using their scheduled walks there.

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

"For all its breezy modernity, Berlin is a city that positively reeks of history. If one were looking for a single location - a focal point - for the bloody trials and tribulations of the twentieth century, then one would have to look no further. From the bullet-scarred buildings to the lingering shadows of totalitarian regimes, Berlin experienced world events not as something remote or imperceptible, but rather as immediate, tangible and very real. Last year (2009) the city celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of its hated Wall, the moment in which it became the crucible of the death spasms of communism. A generation earlier it had been the plaything of the squabbling superpowers, serving as the backdrop to earnest speechifying and sinister spy swaps. And a generation further back, the then capital of the Third Reich had been the very epicentre of Nazi power - the canvas upon which Speer's architectural dreams and Hitler's racial vision would be made real. Berlin was one of the very few European capitals to experience the horror of the Second World War at first hand. Not only was the city subjected to the full wrath of the Soviet ground offensive and siege in 1945, but it also found itself in the very front rank of the air war. Its wartime military history, therefore, is a catalogue of superlatives. As the most important Allied target, Berlin attracted more air raids, more aircraft and more bombs than any other German city. It was the most aggressively defended target, employing the largest number of personnel in the most elaborate network of defences and costing the largest number of Allied airmen's lives. It also outstripped its rivals in its civilian death toll: with an estimated 200,000 casualties it suffered the largest non-military loss of life of any city of Western and Central Europe." Berlin at War - Roger Moorhouse, 2010

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, I agree with George as regards to Berlin inundated with history, esp 2013 as an anniversary to the events in 1933, 1953, 1943, 1813. Numerous historical sites you can visit...the Resistance Museum, the Anti-War Museum in Berlin-Wedding, the site of the surrender on 9 May 1945 at Berlin-Karlshorst, the various historical military cemeteries, including the British one at Wannsee. Outside of Berlin at Seelow towards the Oder is the Memorial and Museum. It's a pity that you can cannot devote more days to Berlin.

Posted by Martin
Germany
210 posts

>""Berlin was relatively unimportant on the world stage until 1871, when it became the capital of the newly united Germany, but it has seldom been unimportant since."" That's not entirely true. Before 1871 Berlin and Potsdam were the capitals of Prussia, one of the five major powers in Europe, the dominating force in Central Europe and the state that formed todays Germany like no other German state. Most people who visit Berlin are only interested in the 20th century, which is a shame since you can also learn a lot about Prussia and 400 years of German history there. Visiting the cemeteries for instance shows you that Berlin was one of the cultural, scientific and economic centres of Germany in the 18th and 19th century. Hegel, Fichte, Schadow, Schinkel, Stüler, Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Chamisso, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Knobelsdorff, Siemens, Wertheim, Borsig are just a few people who are buried there. There are French cemeteries for the large French minority, which represent Prussias tolerance, and military cemeteries (Scharnhorst, Tauentzien, Lützow, de la Motte Fouqué) which show Prussias might.
Most Prussian palaces are also preserved, people just don't visit them. Potsdam for instance doesn't have only Sanssouci but four more royal parks (New Garden, Babelsberg, Glienicke, Peacock Island). The entire area is actually one large parkland, mostly created before 1871. And in Berlin you can visit the castles and palaces of Charlottenburg, Köpenick, Friedrichsfelde, Grunewald, Spandau or Schönhausen, which were all built before 1800.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Terezin is a walled city, with a fortress about a kilometer away. The Nazis turned them both into concentration camps, though not death camps. The fortress was used mainly for political prisoners and there were many executions there. The city has several museums that give a lot of insight into what life was like in the camps and what the prisoners were able to accomplish - amazing. There were things that were done for show, like the orchestra, but there were also prisoner-organized activities, such as theatre and schools for the many,many children. I have no plan to ever visit a death camp, but Terezin is very emotional in a different way. There are more museums in Berlin than "just" art. I really enjoyed the GDR Museum (just opposite Museum Island) that gives a hands-on experience all about what it was like to live in East Germany after WWII. I was underwhelmed by the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which was very expensive. I learned a lot more by just walking along the "wall" - now billboards with photos and detailed explanations. And it's free.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, I heartily recommend the day trip to Potsdam, take the S-Bahn to Potsdam Hbf. The Potsdam Tourist Office is on the top floor of the Potsdam Hbf. The tours start across the street from the station, no need to reserve. Included in the tours are the two most famous of the Prussian palaces, Sanssouci and Neues Palais. After the tour walk around the town, an intriguing place. Since all the remodeling, etc. the original buildings in that traditional yellow color are mostly gone. If you take public transportation to the sites, the bus depot in front of the train station has signs pointing out which bus to take. I've done both, going on my own and taken the tours, But at Neues Palais the tour is only in German but audio guidss are available.

Posted by Mary
Chicago
6 posts

We've decided to stay in Berlin (7 night), Dresden (3 nights), and Prague (3 nights) and travel by train between cities. How feasible would it be to take an early morning train to Leipzig, spend several hours in Leipzig, and then take a late afternoon train on to Dresden? I am interested in visiting thr St. Thomas Kirche and related Bach sites.

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

Mary, you've got yourself an absolute perfect plan. Early morning ICE to Leipzig, put your bags in a locker, and walk out the front door to start exploring the city. There are hourly trains leaving Berlin Hbf and it takes 75 minutes. At the end of you day there are hourly trains to Dresden Hbf taking just over an hour. Go here to see your train options http://www.bahn.com/i/view/overseas/en/index.shtml

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, Your plan for a day to Leipzig and Dresden is very doable if you don't mind returning to Berlin towards 2300. As suggested, take the early ICE to Leipzig Hbf. Leipzig Hbf. is huge place to explore when you have the time. The lockers are different from those you find in western Germany, say in Düsseldorf, München, Frankfurt, etc. They don't use a key. If you use the locker, be sure not to lose the receipt with the code number to open the locker. Time wise I would suugest you arrive in Dresden by 1500. You'll have a three hours or so for a limited itinerary. Leipzig itself needs at least 3 days. If you had the time, you could take the S-Bahn to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, (Memorial to the Battle of the Nations) which has its 100th anniversary this year for the Allied victory against Napoleon 100 years before that in 1813. But your main destination is the church and Bach...next trip to Leipzig.

Posted by Martin
Germany
210 posts

> "How feasible would it be to take an early morning train to Leipzig, spend several hours in Leipzig, and then take a late afternoon train on to Dresden? I am interested in visiting thr St. Thomas Kirche and related Bach sites." Sounds good to me. Leipzigs centre is very compact and perfect for a short visit. Try to visit both churches in the old town. St. Nicholas, where the Monday demonstrations in 1989 started, has a wonderful neoclassical interior. And Bachs St. John Passion premiered there. Close to St. Thomas is the old townhall (Altes Rathaus), a Renaissance building with a big banquet hall that was quickly built between two trade fairs. It's a museum these days. Opposite the new townhall (Neues Rathaus), which looks like a big castle, is the huge former Reichsgericht (Supreme Court of the German Reich), where the Reichstag fire trial against Georgi Dimitrov happened. Today the building is the seat of the Federal Administrative Court of Germany, but you can visit the inside and see the great court room. The quarter around the Reichsgericht has some beautiful 19th century buildings (Leipzig is the city with the most preserved buildings from that era in Germany).

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

Mary, if it's raining in Leipzig, you can take in the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum at Grimmaische Strasse 6 for a very well presented DDR history from the end of WW II through to re-unification. Even if it's not raining it's more than worth the visit.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, I second going to these palaces (Schlösser) Charlottenburg, Babelsberg, and Köpenick. With the combination of the buses, U and S-Bahn, you can reach them. True, you won't find many visitors at these places, esp. anglophones. Rathaus Köpenick (city hall) was even more interesting to me. With one day reserved for Leipzig and Dresden, you still can pack in a full schedule for each of the 5 days Berlin, the 6th day for touring Potsdam.