The source of the Havel is located in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern between Lake Müritz and the city of Neubrandenburg. It has no source as usual but source lakes in the Diekenbruch near Ankershagen, so you cannot see any water pouring out somewhere, and this lakes are situated right beside the water divide between the North and Baltic Sea. Thus located south-east from the water divide it flows toward the Elbe and the North Sea, every river north-east of it flows to the Baltic Sea. The territory of Brandenburg is entered near the town of Fürstenberg. In its upper part and between Berlin and Brandenburg an der Havel the river forms several lakes. Its main tributary is the Spree river, which joins the Havel in Spandau, a western borough of Berlin, at the junction being longer and delivering more water than the Havel itself. The second largest tributary is the Rhin, in the Middle Ages named by settlers from the lower Rhine. At the southern end of the Ruppiner See, weirs can distribute the waters of the Rhin either east- or westwards, connecting to the Havel in places 67km by air, or more than 160 km of river apart. The region around and north of the central part of the Havel is called Havelland. It consists of sandy hills and low marshes. On the last few kilometres the Havel flows in the territory of Saxony-Anhalt, where it enters the Elbe near Havelberg. Due to its minimal gradient it is liable to high waters of the Elbe.
In earlier Greek or Latin sources, such as in Tacitus' Germania the name of the river was also written as Habola, Habula, Havela. The river name Havel is related to German Haff, habe, hafen, MHG Hafen meaning port, harbor).
When later Slavic people moved into the Havel river area, they were in German sources called Heveller (very seldom Havolane). People continued living around the river Havel. They built four important bridges, in Spandau, in Potsdam, in Brandenburg an in a western suburb of that town and Berlin has a large number of bridges.