Between April and July 2011 there was an outbreak of measles virus, genotype D4, in Berlin, Germany. We identified 73 case-patients from the community and among students of an anthroposophic school, who participated in a 4-day school trip, as well as their family and friends. Overall, 27% were aged ⩾20 years, 57% were female and 15% were hospitalized. Of 39 community case-patients, 38% were aged ⩾20 years, 67% were female and 63% required hospitalization. Unvaccinated students returning from the school trip were excluded from school, limiting transmission. Within the group of 55 school-trip participants, including 20 measles case-patients, a measles vaccine effectiveness of 97·1% (95% confidence interval 83·4–100) for two doses was estimated using exact Poisson regression. Our findings support school exclusions and the recommendation of one-dose catch-up vaccination for everyone born after 1970 with incomplete or unknown vaccination status, in addition to the two-dose routine childhood immunization recommendation.