Getting to Berlin
Berlin has three airports - Tegel (TXL) 8km from the city centre, Schonefeld (SXF) 22km from the city centre, and Tempelhof (THF) 6km from the city centre.
When we visited Berlin in May 2006, we flew into Tegel airport from London Heathrow. We found the airport to be very organised and we were through customs, with our baggage collected in record time. Our first taste of German efficiency!
We chose to fly with British Airways to Berlin as they fly from Heathrow, which is the most convenient airport for us. There are several other airlines that fly from the UK to Berlin, including Air Berlin, Easyjet and Ryanair. Ryanair often has some very cheap fares on offer from London Stanstead.
- Historical Travel
Getting from the Airport to the centre of Berlin
On our visit to Berlin we flew in and out of Tegel (TXL) airport. This airport is located around 8km from the centre of town, and there are a few transport options to choose from.
A popular option is to catch the JetExpressBus TXL if you are heading for the Mitte area of the city. This bus has departures throughout the day, and takes around 30 minutes, depending on traffic. It stops at main stations such as Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz.
If you are staying in the western part of town you could jump on either the 109 or X9 bus, which also take around 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can catch a taxi from Tegel to Mitte for around 20 euro. We took this option as we wanted to be able to spend as much time sight-seeing as possible. Our taxi driver was incredibly friendly and played the role of tour guide on our drive to the hotel, filling us in on details of each building we passed and explaining a bit of the cities history along the way. A great introduction to this amazing city.
- Historical Travel
Getting around Berlin via U-Bahn & S-Bahn
The easiest way to travel around Berlin is by using the U-Bahn & S-Bahn train network. These lines cross the city, intersecting at various points to make getting around very easy once you get the hang of reading the line map. The lines all have different colours to help differentiate them.
The U-Bahn is the underground railway and there are 10 lines. The S-Bahn or Stadtbahn (city railway) has 15 lines, connecting the centre with the suburbs. Many of the S-Bahn lines share tracks, so you need to keep a close eye on the indicator boards to ensure you catch the correct train.
The trains operate between 4am and 1.30am each day, with some lines running all night on weekends. If you are just going to travel within central Berlin you can buy a day pass that covers zones A&B - it cost 5.80 euro in May 2006. You can use the pass throughout the day, as many times as you like - but don't forget to validate your ticket before you use it for the first time or you may be subject to fine - those ticket inspectors are everywhere!
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U-bahn & S-bahn
Berlin is too large to navigate entirely on foot so you will need to take public transport of some sort during your stay. It is very cycle-friendly, with designated cycle paths everywhere (watch out for them if on foot as they often seem to cross over pavements!), lots of bike hire shops and a city-wide hire scheme. But we chose to rely on the public transport network, which is excellent but a little confusing at first as there are two types of urban rail line (S-bahn and U-bahn), plus buses and trams. We used a bus to and from the airport (see my other transport tip) and on one occasion in the city centre, but otherwise relied on the S- and U-bahn.
So what is the difference? U-bahn is short-hand for Untergrundbahn, i.e. underground train. Confusingly perhaps these don’t run exclusively underground, but as in London tend to do so in the centre and surface further out. The lines are much shallower than in London however, and a short flight of steps will usually bring you down onto the platform. Many more stations than in London are also accessible by lift, and the free map available at the stations (or online – see below) indicates all of these.
The S-bahn trains run on lines that are above ground, and indeed usually above street level, so whereas you walk down for an U-bahn line, you walk up for an S-bahn. The two types intersect at a lot of stations – if changing from one to the other look for the large “S” or “U” signs.
Tickets are bought from machines on the platform (photo 2). Unless you are going some distance out of the city (maybe to Potsdam), you will need one for zones A and B only. When we were there in May 2011 a single ticket cost €2.30, and is valid for a journey lasting up to two hours, regardless of how many changes you make. But we found the day tickets, at €6.30, to be much better value – you only have to make three journeys in the day for this to be the case. Make sure you validate your ticket (photo 3) before boarding (unlike on the buses where you do so on board) – if an inspector finds that your ticket is not stamped, it is the same as if you had no ticket at all.
Trains are pretty frequent on all the lines, or so it seemed to us – the longest we waited was nine minutes but three to five was more normal, even at night. Our guidebook said that the U-bahn trains are more frequent than the S-bahn but I didn’t notice that this was the case. I was very impressed with the system and would be happy to travel on it alone, day or night, just as I do in London.
You can download a map of the S- and U-bahn network here: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/article/line-network
Flying to Berlin
We flew to Berlin Tegel from London Heathrow by British Airways, having got a good package deal on Lastminute.com. The flight in both directions was fine, with no greater problem than a 30 minute delay on the return leg. The flights lasted around an hour and a half, and light refreshments were served (a drink and a bag of crisps or biscuits).
Tegel is a small airport for such a major city, and is one of its two main airports; you might find yourself arriving at Schönefeld instead, which is also quite small. There are plans to open a new major airport to serve the city, Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) as neither of the existing hubs (nor even-smaller Templhof) is really up to the job these days. An added issue with Tegel is that you are not even able to travel directly to the centre by train but must instead take one of several buses, depending on your eventual destination.
As we were staying in the eastern half of the city we decided that the TXL bus would be the best for us. If you’re not sure and haven’t researched in advance, there is a bus information desk in the airport – follow the bus signs to find it, and the best exit for the bus stops. You can’t buy tickets at the desk, so don’t waste time queuing if you know what bus you want; instead go straight to the machines outside. These are just regular city buses, so the fares are the same as everywhere in the city. A single ride to anywhere in the centre cost €2.30 (in May 2011) and is valid for up to two hours in zones A and B, so if like us you need to change to the U-bahn or S-bahn (more on these in my other transport tip), hang on to your ticket and don’t buy another one. If you know you’ll be doing several more journeys on the day of your arrival, check out the various multi-ride options too. And do make sure you validate your ticket once you get on board – insert it into the slot on one of the small machines, in the direction indicated, so that the date and time are stamped on to it.
We had just missed a bus, but only had to wait about eight minutes. Just the same, the bus was full, and as a regular bus was not really set up for carrying lots of luggage. Consequently the first part of the ride was rather uncomfortable as we had to wedge our bags into the space in front of the seat where our legs should have been! But this eased after a while and we were able to enjoy the second part of the ride, spotting some landmarks such as the Reichstag building and Brandenburg Gate on the way. We could have got off and changed for the S-bahn at the Hauptbahnhof (which was the route we took on our return) but instead did so at the Alexanderplatz, which was just two stops from our hotel near the Ostbahnhof. This is a major interchange and quite confusing when you’re unused to the system, but a helpful information desk and a good map soon saw us on our way!
The whole journey from airport to hotel took us about an hour, with the bus ride being about 45 minutes. If this all seems a bit too much hassle (although it really isn’t!), or you have loads of luggage and/or small children, you could consider the airport shuttle as a slightly cheaper alternative to taxis: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/article/book-your-airportshuttle-here-online.
Berlin's transportation is a unified system combining the U and S-Bahns of West Berlin with busses and the trams of East Berlin. The U and S-Bahns are the underground (U) system and the suburban trains (S). All of these can be accessed with the same tickets and everything is run by the BVG. You'll mostly be travelling in the AB region, and tickets for that cost two euros for a "einzelfahrausweis", or single ticket, which is valid for two hours after validation. For e5.60 you can also buy a day ticket, which is valid until 3am the next day. If your ticket isn't automatically franked with the date and time, like the ones you buy on the machines in trams, then you will need to validate your ticket in a machine, or else risk a fine. You will see this validating machines as you get on, but just watch what the locals do if you aren't sure. You can also buy weekly and monthly tickets, if you plan on staying a long time.
Be warned that the system can be confusing when it comes to the transition from East to West Berlin.
The first subway, called U-Bahn, was built and opened in Berlin in 1902, and serves 173 stations spread across the lines. Around 80% of the track length goes underground. Train runs every two to five minutes during peak hours and every ten minutes in the evening. Subway is rapid transit and major part of the public transport system of the city. S-Bahn is actually West Berlin system and was unified with the U-Bahn following the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification.
This are my first photos of Berlin, made from the inside of the shuttle on a way from the airport to the city. I landed at the airport of Schonefeld, which is smaller and used to be the East Berlin airport. It takes about 30 minutes by the shuttle to reach the town centre, crossing East Berlin roads which aren't traffic busy. Since it was very cloudy day the first impression about Berlin wasn't positive at all.
The pictures aren't clear because I took them through the glass window of the taxi.
Boat tour on the River Spree
I am sure that we all bring home some small disappointments about travellings we make, always questioning ourselves, did we missed something? When I was checking my pics snaped in Berlin I knew immediatelly what did I missed, boat tour on the River Spree.
There are various compamies offering Berlin city Spree river trips from one up to three hours but most of this tours starts in April and ends in October. Some cuisers offer trips in the winter season aswell but passengers aren't allowed to stay at the deck. Discovering Berlin from the water must be in pasticularly attractive and I plan my next visiting in May or June.
All around Berlin you'll find these bikes standing at crossroads or metro stations. You get the code for the electronical lock after registration with the Deutsche Bahn, who offers this service.
The price is 0,07 EUR per minute or 15 EUR per day.
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Public Transport to and from the Airports
(Updated in May 2012 due to the fact that there are further delays in opening the new airport)
The new airport Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI), now named after the former Chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Willy Brandt, seems to be one of the biggest and most shameful planning failures in the history of public building projects in Germany. Obviously it is a systemic failure, caused by sleepiness and lack of control which is in the hands of the local authorities and the central government.
Scheduled to be opened on 30 October 2011 an then in June 2012, the grand opening has now been re-scheduled to no earlier than 17 March 2013. The major cause are ongoing problems with the fire safety system. The chief planning engineer has been fired - but according to the German media the real culprits are the politicians who are part of the board of directors.
Tegel airport is too small to cope with the huge number of flights going in and out of Berlin.
Until Willy-Brandt-Flughafen starts operating, you depend on buses and taxis to get to and from the the city from and to Tegel airport. (And of course also after that date if you arrive on flights landing in Tegel.)
No subway or light railway line (S-Bahn) goes to this airport and the other major airport, Schönefeld, they mostly require a five minute walk to the terminal from the bus, S- and U-Bahn stations. The future airport will be conntected to the city and the rest of Germany by S-Bahn, regional and international trains.
Tegel is 8 km from the city centre(s) and Schönefeld 18 km. (I speak of city centres in plural as Berlin has no real centre, having been divided for such a long time.)
Bus transportation is straight forward. You can already get a day or multi-day pass at a BVG ticket counter at the airport. (BVG is Berlin’s public transportation system.)
You get to the airports as follows:
JetExpressBus TXL, X9 Flughafen Tegel
Bus 109, 128 Flughafen Tegel
RE7, RB14, RB22 Berlin-Flughafen Schönefeld, followed by a five minute walk
S45, S9 Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld, followed by a five minute walk
163 S Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld, followed by a five minute walk
Directly to the terminal: JetExpressBus X7, 162, 171, 734, 736, N60, N71 Flughafen Schönefeld (Terminal)
On this website you can check out which connection leads to the airport from the bus or train stop next to your accommodation. Click at the desired airport in the right hand corner, and then type in your station.
The BVG website with all the networks, timetables and research is www.bvg.de
To check connections go to
You can even type in street names and do not necessarily have to know the station you want to go to.
Tempelhof Airport - has been closed on 31 Oct 2008 -
U6 Platz der Luftbrücke, followed by a five minute walk
104, 248, N6 (weekdays only), N42 U Platz der Luftbrücke, followed by a five minute walk
104, 248 Flughafen Tempelhof, followed by a five minute walk
In my experience, the public transportation in this city is one of the best. Trams, buses, trains and underground all run efficiently and don't charge their customers extortionate fares.
For 6.30E the traveler can buy a Tageskarte - a day card which covers all the zones A. B and C and all forms of transportation and lasts until 3am from when you first validate it in the ticket machine!. You can buy them from Tourist Info offices, or on the bus or at the ticket office or machine. A real bargain!! They are a little cheaper if you only want to cover two zones during your trip.
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Welcome Card: good deal
The Welcome Card is really convenient to move around Berlin: you can take one for 48 hours (16 euros) or 72 hours (22 euros) and it allows you unlimited trips in bus, train (s-bahn), underground (U-bahn) and tram. The best thing about this card is that you can use it in any area of the city, including airport stations or bus stops and even to visit Potsdam. Potsdam is located nearly 20 kms. far from Berlin, so it's a bargain to get there for such a convenient price. The single ticket of public transport costs 2,10 euros, so add your figures up and consider if you are interested in Welcome Card. For longer stays, the 7 days ticket is even more convenient.
La Welcome Card va muy bien para moverse por Berlin. Puedes sacar la de 48 horas (16euros) o la de 72 horas (22euros) y te permite viajes ilimitados en bus, tren (s-bahn), metro (u-bahn) y tranvia. Lo mejor de esta tarjeta es que la puedes usar en cualquier zona de la ciudad, incluidas las estaciones y autobuses de los aeropuertos e incluso para visitar Potsdam. Potsdam esta a casi 20 kms de Berlin, asi que es una ganga llegar alli por un precio tan bajo. El billete de transporte publico de un viaje cuesta 2,10 euros, asi que echa cuentas y considera si te interesa la Welcome Card. Para estancias mas largas, el billete de 7 dias es incluso mas conveniente.
Bus Tours and Public Buses #100 and 200
Although the fastest way to get from A to B is using the U- and S-Bahn, the best way to get a real impression of the city is to take the bus. There are some quite good options.
The City Circle Tour has 12 stops and you can use it on the hop on and off basis, so you are flexible and can visit the points of interest at your own pace.
Tickets in stores at Hauptbahnhof, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, Neues Kranzler Eck (Kurfürstendamm) and Alexa Shopping Centre at Alexanderplatz. More infos
Top-Tour Berlin takes you through the city in an open-top double-decker bus, starting at Café Kranzler on Kudamm (U-Bahn station). The tour takes about 100 minutes and you can get on and off where you please. The buses operate in 25 minute intervals from Good Friday to the end of October, and from 10am to 5.55pm.
A great way to get around by bus is using the public bus lines #100 and 200. They pass at most attractions between Zoologischer Garten and Alexanderplatz. However, when we wanted to use it we never spotted any of those buses LOL So we kept on walking… ;-) If you are a bit more patient you will surely be more successful. But at least we successfully used other bus lines ;-) Line 100 takes the tour around Tiergarten to the north, line 200 surrounds the park to the south. They meet up again at Brandenburger Tor. Then line 100 passes Schloss Bellevue, the Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) and the Reichstag. Line 200 covers the Kulturforum and Potsdamer Platz, as well as the Holocaust Memorial, and at some point both end at Alexanderplatz.
Some other operators:
BBS - Berliner Bären Stadtrundfahrt GmbH
Phone (030) 35 19 52 70
Berlin City Tour - CitySightseeing, Hop on - hop off
Phone (030) 68 30 26 41
Berliner City Tour - Eick´s Rundfahrten Berlin
Phone (030) 257 9876 2
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- Road Trip
Bahnhof Zoo/Zoo Station
Zoo Station is where you should get off your train if you are planning to stay in the Western part of town. It's also a major transit point for public transportation: S-Bahn, U-Bahn and buses. Unfortunately the it's supposed to loose the long-distance traffic when the new Central Station opens in May 2006.
Zoo Station became infamous in the 80ties by the book " The children from Bahnhof Zoo" by Christiane F., a biography of a young Berliner junkie and prostitute.
These days it's not as ugly and dirty as it was back in those days and the drug scene has moved somewhere else.
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