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A Runner’s Guide to Berlin: The World Marathon Major Cities

The site of the world's fastest marathon, Berlin has one of the continent’s most vibrant running cultures. Here's a guide to the best places to run in Germany's capital city.

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This is an unprecedented autumn in the history of running. Over the course of the next seven weeks, five of the six World Marathon Majors will be held. All eyes will focus on Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston, and New York. In honor of this marathon-palooza, Great Runs is partnering with PodiumRunner on a series of running guides for each of these cities: A bit about their running culture, details on the best places to run, and marathon course highlights. Each guide will be published the week of that city’s marathon.

Berlin

Berlin is one of the largest cities in Europe and has one of the continent’s most vibrant running cultures. Typical of a European city, extensive paths along rivers and canals, spectacular parks, and pedestrian-centric neighborhoods make running a joy.

But three things stand out about running in Berlin specifically. First, the city was built on a grand scale, with wide avenues, huge squares, and imposing monuments. Second, more than nearly any other city, Berlin presents the opportunity for a 5–6 mile ‘runseeing’ tour that passes by several of the city’s signature sights, revealing many layers of history. Third, Berlin’s uber-efficient public transportation system makes it super easy to get to a favorite running spot, do a one-way run, or even venture to an out-of-town location like Potsdam for a destination run. Visitors to Berlin can find regular group runs from SCP Runners, Berlin Runners, and Run-Pack.  

Here are some of our favorite places to run in Berlin:

Berlin Sights Run

This Great Runs special is a 12 km (7.5 mile) tour of Berlin’s highlights: Alexanderplatz , Aquarium, East Germany Museum, Museumsinsel , Berlin opera, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz,  outskirts of Tiergarten, Brandenberg Gate, Reichstag, University of Berlin, and more!

Map of Berlin Central Sites Run (Photo: MapMyRun)

Tiergarten

Footpath in the Tiergarten public park.
This 545-acre, centrally located greenspace is a classic place to run in Berlin. (Photo: Getty Images)

The signature run in Berlin takes you though the 545-acre, centrally located greenspace with everything from grand allées to more intimate, wooded paths. 

Run Around a Palace!

The Charlottenburg Palace, as seen from the gardens.
The Charlottenburg Palace, as seen from the gardens. (Photo: Getty Images)

Head to the Schlosspark Charlottenburg to enjoy a run along grand paths approaching the palace and its classically landscaped gardens. 

Waterfront Running

A bridge over the Spree River in Berlin.
The paths along the Spree River offer a historic tour as well as a run in Berlin. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start at Treptower Park to see the important Soviet War Memorial, then head along several miles of paths beside the Spree River. Connect to the Landwehr Canal trails for even more. Numerous bridges allow for loops of various lengths. 

Wall Memorial Run

Deutschland, Berlin, East Side Gallery at sunset.
Run along the remnants of the Berlin Wall for a historical tour by foot. (Photo: Getty Images)

This path with numerous displays of information about the Wall extends along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip in an open-air exhibition. Combine with Park am Norbahnhof for a longer run.

Berlin Olympics Sites

Get inspired with a run around Berlin Olympic Park, the well-preserved site from the 1936 Summer Olympics. Pass by fields, a running track, a memorial park, and other recreational facilities. For longer, combine this path with the extensive Grunewald Forst. 

Grunewald Forst

Grunewald Forest path in Germany.
This 7,000-acre forest on the western side of Berlin is a beautiful place to run in nature. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lose yourself in this 7,000-acre forest park, with its 100 miles of roads and trails. The forest offers everything from lake paths to more rugged interior trails, even a 350-foot high mountain made out of rubble from World War II — one of the only ‘hills’ in Berlin! 

Fun Streets and Neighborhoods

In central Berlin, run along the Kurfürstendamm (Kudamm), Berlin’s answer to the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Create your own route in the gorgeous neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg/Volkspark Friedrichshain or Wilmersdorf, which also has a linear park. 

Destination Run: Potsdam

A misty street in Potsdam, Germany.
Potsdam, Germany, is a great place to run half an hour outside of Berlin. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you have the time, take a ½ hour train ride to this former residence of Prussian kings and the Kaiser for a great run around breathtaking palaces, paths along the Havel river, and beautiful parks. 

The Marathon Course

Runners starting at the beginning of the Berlin Marathon.
Runners compete in the 46th BMW Berlin Marathon on September 29, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Berlin Marathon is a 26.2 mile run through 800 years of history with a spectacular finish at Brandenburg Gate. Because it’s flat and has few corners, this is known as the fastest course of the five majors. Eliud Kipchoge ran the world record of 2:01:39 there in 2018.

Starting in the famed Tiergarten, the course has many highlights, including wide-tree-lined boulevards, three crossings of the Spree River, and passing the outskirts of many parks, forests and scenic neighborhoods. There are two gentle inclines, at miles 17 and 21. The last few miles are along the wide, famed  Kurfürstendamm (a major shopping street), Kleistrasse, and Potsdamer Strasse, passing through Potsdamer Platz (a historic square rebuilt since fall of Berlin Wall), finally finishing grandly and appropriately at the Brandenburg Gate.

Usually, there are waves of spectators along nearly the whole route, and some 45,000 participants. This year the field is limited to 35,000.

Check out the course map here.

About the Author 

Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in destinations worldwide. He can be reached at mark.lowenstein@greatruns.com