BERLIN WANNSEE: HIGH-END LIVING ON THE WATER
Thanks to its lovely lakes, picture-perfect views, and lush forests, Berlin Wannsee has been home to many of Berlin’s wealthiest residents for well over a century. Though a number of the district’s luxurious waterfront villas were destroyed during World War II, the neighborhood is still one of the most exclusive residential areas of the city, known for its long sandy beach (the largest inland beach in Europe), vast parks, and family-friendly atmosphere. Tourists and daytrippers flock here to sunbathe, swim, and sail on the weekends.
Lake Wannsee by Nodder (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0; Villa Am Sandwerder by Bodo Kubrak (own work) CC BY-SA 4.0; Villa Am Sandwerder 2 by Fridolin Freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 ALL via Wikimedia Commons
About 10,000 people live in Wannsee, though this number is growing by several hundred every year, with young families moving from inner city districts like Prenzlauer Berg in search of a more relaxed, nature-oriented way of life. Besides the magnificent lakeside mansions, there are several new developments featuring homes with private terraces and common gardens. Rental and ownership prices are among the highest in Berlin, even for properties without direct access to the water.
Situated amidst a series of lakes on the southwestern end of Berlin, the Wannsee district includes an island (Wannsee Insel) and several waterfront neighborhoods on the mainland: Am Sandwerder, Kohlhasenbrück, Albrechts Teerofen, and Steinstücken. On the eastern bank of Wannsee Lake, just south of Wannsee beach and close to the Wannsee train station, Am Sandwerder is populated with landmark villas and spacious gardens, many of which have been converted into public spaces like the American Academy and the Literary Colloquium. South of Am Sandwerder is the Kohlhasenbrück district, a peaceful area on the Brandenburg border with a new housing development overlooking the Bäkewiese Nature Preserve. In the southeastern corner of the Wannsee district is Albrechts Teerofen, a rustic, secluded area on the southern bank of the Teltow Canal. Surrounded by the Parforceheide forest, Albrecht’s Teerofen has buildings with self-service water facilities (wells), and electricity supplied via old overhead lines. Though geographically part of Babelsberg in Brandenburg, Steinstücken is the southernmost area of Wannsee - after the Berlin Wall came down, it developed into a romantic residential district with an interesting blend of antique and modern architecture.
The northern and western portions of Wannsee Island are mainly covered by forest. On the northeastern shore of the island is the posh Heckeshorn neighborhood, known for its mansions and castles, including the Liebermann Villa and the infamous House of the Wannsee Conference, as well as its sailing and rowing clubs. Behind the waterfront villas and bordering the Heckeshorn forest is a modern housing development where many of the island’s newest residents live. On the southeastern shore of Wannsee Island is Stolpe, the historical center of Wannsee, where simple buildings bring to mind the original village architecture of the area.
Königstrasse is a major boulevard running from east to west across Wannsee island and connecting to the A115 (Autobahn). Kohlhasenbrückerstrasse and Chausseestrasse are the main streets linking Wannsee island to the mainland.
Shopping facilities are mostly limited to the usual supermarket chains (Edeka, Kaisers, Lidl, Rewe, Aldi) and are largely located on or near Königstrasse. A new organic supermarket has opened to meet the changing demands of neighborhood residents.
What Wannsee lacks in hustle and bustle, shopping malls, and nightlife, it makes up for in idyllic green spaces (like Volkspark Glienicke and Pfaueninsel), beautiful bike trails, sailing, yachting, and rowing clubs, and leisure activities like golf, not to mention 1,275 meters of sandy beach overlooking one of Europe’s largest inland lakes. Besides nature and water sports, the district also boasts world-class cultural facilities like the Liebermann Villa (the former summer home and garden of Germany’s most famous Impressionist painter), along with the Literarisches Colloquium (Literary Colloquium) and the American Academy, where international artists and authors regularly give lectures and performances.
Wannsee has a limited number of fine-dining options, though there are a number of Michelin-recommended restaurants in neighboring Potsdam. The House Sanssouci and the Clubrestaurant am Wannsee serve fine German cuisine with views of the lake. Koenig 19 specializes in Italian antipasti and tapas, including a Mediterranean-style aperitivo in the early evenings, while the Loretta beer garden is an informal Berlin institution (and popular post-beach destination) with lovely views of the water. The elegant cafe in the Max Liebermann Villa is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, as is the Hofcafé bei Mutter Fourage, a charming cafe-art gallery-flower shop-deli on Chausseestrasse on Wannsee Island.
There are decent public transportation connections in Wannsee, including S-Bahn lines 1 and 7 (the S-Bahn takes only 17 minutes to Savignyplatz from here), as well as connections to long-distance and Regional Express trains. The F10 ferry also travels to Kladow, across the Havel River in the Spandau district.
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Forest at Heckeshorn by orderinchaos (own work) CC BY-SA 4.0; Heckeshorn area of Wannsee by orderinchaos (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0; House in Kohlhasenbrück by Lienhard Schulz (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0; Endestrasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0; Villa Herz am Grossen Wannsee by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0; Conradstrasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0; Villa on Conradstrasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0; Koenigstrasse at Am Grossen Wannsee by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0Hohenzollernstrasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0; Petzower Strasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0; Glienecker Strasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) - own work - CC BY-SA 3.0; Kohlhasenbruecker Strasse by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (own work) - CC BY-SA 3.0; Schäferstraße by Fridolin freudenfett (Peter Kuley) (own work) - CC BY-SA 3.0; TIllmannsweg by Boonekamp (own work) CC0 1.0; Prinz-Friedrich-Leopold Canal from Hubertusbrücke by Membeth (own work) CC0 1.0 ALL via Wikimedia Commons