Swim in Berlin: Müggelsee and Obersee

Words: Zoe Green; Photography: Lisa Khanna

One tends to associate Berlin with art, music and a crazy nightlife, not with the great outdoors. Yet the city is surrounded by lakes, popular with Berliners in the summer months but rarely visited by the city’s visitors – most of the ‘Sees’ being only easily accessible by car. However , the biggest of East Berlin’s lakes, the Müggelsee is easily reached by the S-bahn (Line 3) and it takes less than twenty minutes to get there from Alexanderplatz.

The town of Friedrichshagen , where the S-bahn drops its passengers, is a peaceful antidote to the energy of the capital, the houses painted in vanilla and pistachio, and the main street lined with cafes and ice cream parlours. Its mood is more akin to that of a Baltic seaside town than a Berlin suburb. Walk (or, better , cycle – there are plenty of bike hire places in Berlin and you can take bicycles on the S-bahn) down Bölschestraβe, past the impressive but ramshackle buildings of the Berliner Bürgerbräu, through the Spreetunnel and past the marina, and you’ll find yourself at the start of a walk that leads you through the woods and along the banks of the lake. The Müggelsee is one of the cleanest lakes and there are bathing places aplenty, and patches of sand where you can lie and sunbathe and picnic, whilst watching the yachts on the tree-lined horizon. On your way back to the S-bahn, drop into Zum Alten Fritz as we did for an authentic German meal of herring served with ham and onion fried potatoes.

Quieter than the Müggelsee, partly because it’s only accessible by car, is the Obersee to the North East of Berlin. We went here in the evening, just as the sun was setting, the scent of pine strong in the air. It’s much smaller than the Obersee – swimming across it takes less than five minutes – and more intimate, surrounded by reeds and trees. You can walk almost the whole way round it and, here and there, little sandy beaches open out into the water. A group of teenagers swing from improvised rope swings above the water; children splash around the landing stage; the quiet chat of adults carries across the still water. There are pedalos for hire, but nobody’s using them at this time of night. The water’s clean and clear and not too cold, even at eight o’clock in the evening.

Afterwards, we eat venison goulash with potato dumplings and red cabbage spiced with apple at the Hotel Seeschloβ overlooking the lake. The tender goulash tastes faintly of cinnamon and the dumplings are gently crisped on the outside. A cold Radler (literally, ‘cyclist’ – a mixture of beer and soda or lemonade – what we’d term ‘shandy’) turns out to be the perfect refreshment following our swim.

To get to the Müggelsee:
S3 from Alexanderplatz to Friedrichshagen

Eat at:
Zum Alten Fritz, Bölschestraβe 104, Friedrichshagen

To get to the Obersee:
Take the E28 out of town and follow signs to Lanke

Eat at:
Hotel Seeschloβ, Am Obersee 6, 16348 Wandlitz / OT Lanke

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