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A Weekend in Rheinsberg, Brandenburg

by Silke Elzner

There are places which have an immediate effect on you. Take the small town of Rheinsberg, for example. Rheinsberg is just about one and a half hours away from Berlin, but visiting here feels a little bit like stepping back in time.

I mean this in a good way. Rheinsberg, if I may speak plainly, is kind of cute.

It doesn’t really matter whether you are just passing through or if you have elected Rheinsberg as your next holiday destination. There is no way of avoiding the cobble-stone streets, the massive gates leading to the pretty castle, the many colourful houses from previous centuries, the shaded squares, and the idling horse carriages waiting for tourists.

Rheinsberg market square
Most visitors of Rheinsberg will pass through the historic market square. This central square is so pretty to look at that you must feel the temptation to explore the town further.

If you make the mistake and just continue on you will soon realise that the moment was only fleeting, and that you, all of a sudden, find yourself back in good old Brandenburg with nothing special to show for. 

However, if you do decide to stop by to check out the many sights of Rheinsberg, the beautiful palace, and everything around that, you are likely not to be disappointed.

In this article, let me introduce you to some of the best Rheinsberg sights. I think you will find plenty of tips and ideas on how to spend a relaxing weekend in Rheinsberg and in surrounding Ostprignitz-Ruppin.

Rheinsberg castle Brandenburg
Rheinsberg Castle is surrounded by water. It is considered the predecessor to all the rococo castles that would be built later on in Potsdam, including Sanssouci. The great advantage is: almost no visitors!

Top Point of Interest in Rheinsberg: The Palace

It is virtually impossible to visit Rheinsberg and miss out on the splendid palace right in its centre. In contrast to many other palaces in Berlin and Brandenburg, the one in Rheinsberg is almost an understatement when looking at it from the outside. From the street, it is almost impossible to see in the first place, as it is situated in such a way that it would work best with its water surroundings, thus ignoring the potential for street front appeal. 

Even when entering the  sober palace grounds you are excused to think that the interior may not offer you much at all. But trust me, there is still much to see.

Rheinsberg Castle Interior
The interior of Rheinsberg Castle reveal the splendour of days long gone but also offer some insights into the bones of the structure.

In Germany in particular, there are palaces and then there are palaces. Many of these buildings have gone through a lot of changes over time. They have been destroyed in wars, used for civil or military purposes, or were modernised to a point that not much is left of the original structure. Luckily, Rheinsberg Palace is very different.

Rheinsberg Palace was meant to be a palace for the Prussian princes, who, over time, have turned the palace into what it is today. The predominant style on the inside is Rococo, and there is still a good sense of the former glory even today (even though lots of it had to be restored after the German re-unification, as in GDR times the place has been used as a hospital).

I don’t really want to reveal too much, but I think it’s fair to say that Rheinsberg Palace is a suitable Sanssouci alternative (Potsdam) without the masses of tourists.

Baroque Garden statue Rheinsberg
The baroque parklands of the castle are free to visit, and offer some amazing views composed of greenery, water and the arts.

Palace Gardens in Rheinsberg

While the entrance to the palace is not free, you are free to explore the surrounding grounds and the gardens. On a lovely day like we had when visiting, this is when the palace really shines: the buildings are in perfect harmony with the reflections on Lake Grienerick.

The park is not a garden of blooming flowers, but the ancient gardens still offer some appealing original features such as visual axes, a pavilion, a burial pyramid, artificial ruins, and statues. However, we find ourselves drawn back to the water again and again, where the ducks float graciously on the surface and small houseboats come by enjoying the views just like us.

It is this interplay of water and architecture, nature and culture, which – in my view – add this special charm to Brandenburg’s small towns. We would have loved to linger on, but there was so much more to explore in Rheinsberg, and so we returned to the centre to check out some of the historic buildings and more.

Ice-cream cone
My very own ice-cream creation. In Rheinsberg, you can pick virtually any flavour and have it transformed into ice-cream. How about some of the wilder flavours, then, such as horseradish, garlic or green pepper?

Exciting Ice-Cream Creations

We walked past the market square, which on that day was shaded by trees and green. There was a small beer garden selling German beers and sausages straight from the barbecue. The smell was indeed tempting (Corner Markt and Seestrasse). The food was fresh, the queue was long, there were bratwurst and potato salad and sauerkraut on the menu, all self-served on long benches in a low-key, traditional fashion. We had eaten there before and enjoyed the experience, but on our second visit we felt more like a sweet treat instead.

So let me introduce you to Eis-Zauberei in Rheinsberg, a rather unassuming but incredibly cool ice-cream vendor, and this is me saying that who lives in Berlin and is surrounded by some of the best and innovative ice-cream parlours in the country. 

Selection of flavours
On first sight, it may not look like there is a great choice, but most flavours are actually hidden in tiny jars behind the counter. There are more than 365 different flavour combinations possible, and counting.

If you know what a Thermomix kitchen aid is, then the idea behind this shop may sound familiar: You need to choose an ice-cream base (dairy, vegan, etc) and then add flavours of your choice. The result is your very own, freshly prepared ice-cream combination.

Once you understand this, the following claim comes at no surprise: the ice-cream menu includes 365 different flavours, one for each day of the year. This wide choice makes for difficult decisions, but in the end we agree on banana and coconut ice-cream, as well as green peppercorn and strawberry.

Other flavours are even more creative: garlic, liquorice, horseradish, sherbet, bubble gum drops, carrot, algae, speculatius, and so on… The vegan base, by the way, uses rice.

Rheinsberg Church
The historic town centre of Rheinsberg is characterised by two-storey houses and small businesses and cafes. St Laurentius Church is at its centre, and so is the former school.

A Walk Around the Historic Town Centre

After our refreshing ice-cream treat we secured a copy of the tourist offices’s „silent walk“ leaflet and set off to explore the historic town centre. Rheinsberg may not be a big town, but still there is so much to explore. In the leaflet, information about the places we visited was limited (mostly just a photograph), but on the spot there was a sign which explained a little bit about the background of the location. 

We soon realised that Rheinsberg might be small, but in former times it did offer everything that one might possibly need to live comfortably. We walked past old department stores, shops, and residences.

Houses in Rheinsberg
The colourful houses along the market square are so pretty look at! Lots of cafes and good restaurants can be found just metres away along Schlossstrasse.

We checked out the former civic school just behind St. Laurentius Church, passed by cafes and restaurants along Schlossstrasse, where we also found the former post office and an old pharmacy.

At the end of our walk, we arrived back at the triangular square which is where Rheinsberg had its town hall. The houses here in particular turned out to be my favourite part of Rheinberg, an orderly row of multi-colours pastel houses that looked so fantastically neat and pretty.

We returned to our bikes and rode back to the camping ground. Along the way, we found the last discovery for the day, a old-world sea bath with historic architecture which is still popular with young and old to this very day. Kids pay one euro entrance fee, adults two.

Abandoned post office
The former post office gives you an idea of days gone by in Rheinsberg. You can sense that not so long ago, with people being less mobile, you would find everything you needed for your everyday life right at your fingertips.

A Day in Rheinsberg, or Maybe Even More?

We explored Rheinsberg as part of a wonderful camping weekend  which we spent on Bikow Lake just a couple of kilometres up the road. It was very easy to reach Rheinsberg by bike from there, which is what made the town perfect for a day trip. Of course, we also made sure we shopped at a local fish vendor for some locally caught smoked fish.

Rheinsberg can be easily reached by car when coming from Berlin or Potsdam. Alternatively, opt for the train connection via Löwenberg or Neuruppin (around two hours travel time).

fishmongers
Make sure you don’t go home without buying some smoked fish first… you head to the marina and order some fish rolls or maybe a smoked eel.

If you are interested in staying overnight, there are plenty of options for different budgets available. You can choose between privately-run holiday apartments and hostels, or pamper yourself with a stay at the luxurious Maritim Hafenhotel. We also quite like the look of the small Seehotel, just steps from the marina.

Either way, there is a lot to explore in Rheinsberg! But what we found even better about this small town: the atmosphere was friendly, warm and straight-forward. The perfect destination for a relaxing getaway from the big city – check out the rest of the photos as you scroll down!

Curious to learn what else to find in the neighbourhood? Check out my other Brandenburg articles!

All photos of the castle, inside and out, published with kind permission by Stiftung Preussischer Schlösser und Gärten Berlin Brandenburg.