Germany's Upper Spreewald: Under the spell of one of Germany's most unexpectedly charming regions

Canal side restaurants, shops and small aquarium at the departure point for Lübbenau

If you imagine what Amsterdam or Venice may have looked like 500 years ago, replacing carnival masks and wooden clogs with large head dresses and pickles, you’d be somewhere on your way to understanding Germany’s Spreewald.

Just an hour from Berlin, this flat rural region is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its miles of small waterways and flat-bottomed boats that have enchanted mostly German travelers for over a century. It’s also the last outpost of two Slavic groups, the Sorbs and Wends, whose traditions still linger on for visitors, though the language has nearly died out apart from the bilingual signs for the towns. 

Vendors sell local pickles and more from stalls located along the canals


Burg, or Bórkowy in Sorbian, is one of the principal towns with historic architecture and a laid-back feel. It's oldest part, Burg-Dorf, dates back to 1315, while Burg-Kolonie and Burg-Kauper were originally more spread out settlements. There's a small, but incredibly resourceful Heimat Museum (Am Hafen 1, 03096 Burg) that provides insight into local history and legends, as well as the Sorbian / Wendish customs and costumes. It's also a designated spa town, with the Spreewald Therme (Ringchausee 152,  03096 Burg, being one of the newest in Germany.

View into the garden of the shady Burger Hofbrennerei

The Open Air Museum at Lehde (OT Lehde, An der Giglitza 1a, 03222 Lübbenau) is the one attraction in the Spreewald that absolutely should not be missed.  A collection of primarily 19th century houses shows what life was like at different stages of history. Staff in historic costumes provide insight into the traditions through hands-on activities, including washing clothes in an old basin. It's the best way to get a feel for what life was like here over a hundred years ago.

Traditional costumes shown in a farmhouse at the Open-Air Museum at Lehde
Lübbenau is a charming little town with shops and restaurants, as well as one of the nicest harbor areas to easily get a ticket for your boat ride on the canals — or stop off to explore the town.

Though outside of the main area of canals, Vetschau is good for a quick stop to see its 16th century castle and old town on your way in or out of the Upper Spreewald.

The 16th century castle at Vetschau, which lies at the edge of the Upper Spreewald


The atmosphere of Spree Balance (Ringchaussee 154, 03096 Burg, is relaxed and its onsite restaurant is an especially tempting choice. But, for a more luxurious spa experience, the elegant Bleiche Spa & Resort (Bleichestr. 16, 03096 Burg, is a prime choice. Sitting on a spacious property, the resort has 90 uniquely designed rooms (including 25 suites) and a wellness area with three pools, saunas, a Turkish-style bath, and a plethora of spa services.


For fine European and regional dishes, Konrads (Ringchaussee 154, 03096 Burg, is one of the best choices in Burg. With an assortment of restaurants focusing on regional cuisine, an Italian restaurant may not be what most are looking for, but Ristorante - Pizzeria Il Fienile (Ringchaussee 125, 03096 Burg, ) serves fantastic wood-fired pizza and delicious pasta dishes in a cozy historic building, Outdoor seating is available in warmer months. 

Outside of the main village area, the small, family-run Burger Hofbrennerei (Schwarze Ecke 21, 03096 Burg is a cafe and distillery worth seeking out. hours could easily be spent in its beautiful garden cafe sipping on drinks without a care in the world. 


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