Crossed by Spree, Havel, Dahme, Panke and Wuhle rivers, as well as by six canals, Berlin has more than 180 km of navigable waterways and 150 km of non-navigable waters (according to the city’s official tourism website). There are five times as many bridges here as Venice, around 2,100, and a variety of ways in which one can enjoy the water, as the authorities and tour operators have made sure they leave not even a drop to waste.
Berlin city center is located on the River Spree, which flows from east to west of the city. Dahme River joins the Spree in the city’s eastern suburbs (in Köpenick). The River Havel flows along the city’s western boundary, from north to south. The central section of the Spree is mostly used for boat tours during spring, summer and early autumn. The are several water tour providers, a few types of boats you can board, even yachts. The tours differ in length (1 – 3,5 hours) and in landmarks (there are tours of main city attractions, architecture-related, bridges or natural landscape-related tours, for example). You can buy tickets including online.
All three rivers (Spree, Dahme, Havel) run through some big lake chains, both east and west of the city center, according to a waterways map available online.
Best known Berliner lakes are Tegeler See and Großer Wannsee to the west, and Müggelsee, Langer See, Seddinsee and Zeuthener See to the east. Many of the lakes in Berlin are used for entertainment, some for boat rides and water tours some for swimming, others for both. Now, it is important that you know that Germans, in general, and Berliners in particular have kept alive and somewhat away from ‘modern sunbathing customs’ the tradition of lidos – swimming ponds with landscaped beaches. Most lidos here are near forests, the lake beds are not altered in any visible way, of course there are areas with sand, but also wide spaces of grass, where people have picnics or install tents. There’s usually no loud music (or no music at all) and the food providers are in really small numbers. The atmosphere is usually really chilled and family-friendly, although all the lidos are crowded during the hot season. Here and there, you can also find small private beaches where DJs play music, but they are not near the main lidos and you need to know about them beforehand.
Due to its extensive network of rivers, lakes and canals, Berlin not only accommodates a lot of leisure activities and commercial traffic (handled by no less than 4 ports), but also it is linked to the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and the River Rhine.