Berlin/City West

City West is the heart of former West Berlin and even after reunification it represents the main retail center of Berlin — all the best and most expensive shops are located here. The area also includes some landmarks of great historical and cultural interest, as well as a large number of accommodation and entertainment options.

Understand

The Europa-Center with the Tauenzienstraße of West Berlin as seen from Gedächtniskirche
The 12 Apostles church in Schöneberg

After Berlin was effectively split into two, the West Berlin had to develop a city centre of its own, as most of the historic centre (Mitte) remained on the eastern side. Thus came about an unlikely city centre carved out of previously mostly residential, relaxed districts of Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Schöneberg and Tiergarten.

The obvious centre became the area close to the Zoologischer Garten train station, which became the main train station for West Berlin, extending southwards towards the Kurfürstendamm (known popularly by the contraction Ku'damm in southern Charlottenburg. This has always been the traditional retail centre of Berlin, cemented by the construction of the enormous iconic department store KaDeWe at one end, and remained so all through the years of West Berlin, seeing much modern construction filling in the gaps left by the War and updating the neighbourhoods to ever-changing standards. This remains the area of Charlottenburg you absolutely need to visit for luxury shopping (or window-shopping).

Further north from the Ku'damm area is where the Schloss Charlottenburg is located, the beautiful castle and open park from which the district got its name, originally being a separate township developed around the castle. After the WW I Charlottenburg had a large, wealthy Russian scene, due to the refugees from St Petersburg after the Russian revolution which had given rise to the area's nickname - "Charlottograd".

South of the Ku'damm is the cozy residential district of Wilmersdorf, which is mostly overlooked by tourists but cherished by its inhabitants for its relaxed and comfortable living conditions. Wilmersdorf has always been a middle and upper class inner city villa and apartment house area. It is quieter but has nice restaurants and cafes. About 80% of Berlin's Jewish population (estimated 25,000 people) — now mostly of Russian descent — live in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

KaDeWe itself marks the eastern border of Schöneberg, which extends farther south and east towards the main north-south railway line crossing Berlin. Schöneberg has all the properties of a dense 19th-century residential district, with narrow streets connecting large plazas and tree-lined avenues. Schöneberg is the traditional centre of the gay scene in Berlin. Today the borough is gentrified and very popular with young families and middle-aged singles. Renovated old apartments with stucco are pretty common

Tiergarten is the district extending northwest from the Zoologischer Garten train station, taking its name from the large park that covers most of its area, which in turn takes its name from the world's largest zoo in its southern end, close to the train station. Despite being the world's largest zoo, it is only a fraction of the Tiergarten park. On the outskirts of the park there are many different little neighbourhoods of varying characters, detached from each other by the park. Therefore, some of the Tiergarten areas closer to Mitte are described in the guide to that district, as they are better connected with it.

Get in

Station Zoologischer Garten at Hardenbergplatz

By U-, S-Bahn and Regional-Express

A lot of buslines drive all the way down the Ku'Damm. Especially when it rains (or snows in winter) or to get a first impression, it's very convenient to use the buses.

U-Bahn lines U7 (Eisenacher Str.). U1, U2, U3, and U4 (Nollendorfplatz) cross the borough on the north and the south.

Get around

The area covered in this guide is expansive, but the most popular attractions are almost all centred around the Zoologischer Garten train station and the Ku'damm, and thus easily within walking distance. If you want to visit the outlying ones, you may want to use Berlin's excellent public transportation system - the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and the bus networks. Do note that West Berlin, unlike East Berlin, had its tram network dismantled and you will find no trams here. You may also be tempted by the area's relaxed character to bike, but be mindful that physical infrastructure for bikers is not so well developed. Parking spots are scarce and parking garages expensive, so getting around by car is the least favorable option.

By bus

In lieu of the dismantled tram system, West Berlin is served by a number of MetroBus lines, which are often operated using the iconic (and very tourist-friendly) double-decker buses. They follow the most important thoroughfares and continue to other districts. Most of them start at Zoologischer Garten or another important train station in a different district. MetroBus lines are marked orange on all public transportation maps and signage and have a two-digit designation preceded by an "M". For fare purposes, there are no different from any other bus line or means of public transportation.

Apart from MetroBuses, West Berlin is also served by a number of regular bus lines. The largest number thereof also start at the Zoologischer Garten train station and meander through the districts, with more stops and longer headways than the M-lines.

Some of the lines most useful for sightseeing purposes (both on board of the bus or as means of getting about between points of interest) are described below.

Ku'damm - lines M19 and M29

Your best bet to explore the Kurfürstendamm is to take a double-decker bus along it and enjoy the views from the upper deck, hopping on or off to take side excursions. While there are many companies offering sightseeing tours on their privately-owned buses, you will be just as fine buying a BVG public transit pass and using lines M19 and M29, both of which are operated almost exclusively using double-decker buses and running every 10 minutes each, stopping many times along the Kurfürstendamm.

Line M29 is of particular note, as it continues further east along the picturesque Landwehrkanal and Leipziger Strasse to "Checkpoint Charlie" in Mitte, and then further to the funky district of Kreuzberg. Line M19 goes to the less savoury environs of Mehringdamm, so do mind the stop Wittenbergplatz (it is also an U-Bahn station) at the KaDeWe where the lines divert from each other.

On the eastern end, the last stop on the Kurfürstendamm is Hallensee (an S-Bahn station) for both lines. From there, M19 continues towards the Gruenewald forest, while M29 ends up in the Schmargendorf district.

Schloss Charlottenburg - lines M45, 109, 309

The Schloss Charlottenburg area is quite removed from Ku'damm and Zoo. There are three bus lines stopping in front of the Schloss:

Schöneberg - M46, M48 and M85

The M46 takes you from the Zoo train station to Schöneberg via Wittenbergplatz (KaDeWe), Viktoria-Louise-Platz and stopping at Rathaus Schoeneberg. The last stop within Schöneberg is the Schöneberg S-Bahn station, useful if you are arriving on a train from Schoenefeld airport.

The M48 and M85 traverse Schöneberg from south to north along a different route than the M46, on the eastern side of the district. They can be a quick way to get back on the U-Bahn line or continue to Mitte - both stop at Potsdamer Platz, from where M85 goes to the Hauptbahnhof and the M48 to Alexanderplatz via Leipziger Straße. Both are quite scenic rides.

U-Bahn U3, station: Heidelberger Platz

By U-Bahn

No less than six U-Bahn lines stop within the City West area - all of the available ones except for U5, U55, U6 and U8. That said, U1 and U2 are the only ones that are of much use to most tourists. Do note that none of the U-Bahn lines follow the Ku'damm - all of the U-Bahn stations on or near the Ku-damm are for lines crossing the street.

U1

The oldest U-Bahn line runs eastwards from Uhlandstraße, stopping at the Kurfürstendamm, Wittenbergplatz (KaDeWe), Nollendorfplatz, Kurfürstenstraße (do not confuse it with Kurfürstendamm!) and Gleisdreieck, and then continues into Kreuzberg and Friedrichshein. It is entirely underground within City West, but runs overground over 19th-century railway viaducts from Gleisdreieck eastwards.

U2

U2 is one of Berlin's most useful lines for tourists, stopping at many important transit hubs at points of interest. Within City West, it stops in. al. at Sophie-Charlotte-Platz (Schloßstraße), Bismarckstraße (Wilmersdorfer Straße), Deutsche Oper, Zoologischer Garten train station, Wittenbergplatz (KaDeWe), Nollendorfplatz and Gleisdreieck. It then continues to Potsdamer Platz, Stadtmitte (Friedrichstraße) and Alexanderplatz, and then further to Prenzlauer Berg and Pankow in East Berlin. The stretch between Wittenbergplatz and Potsdamer Platz is overground, with some of the most brilliant views one can catch from the U-Bahn in Berlin.

U3

U3 is not of much use to most tourists. It takes inhabitants of southwestern outskirts of Berlin and of Wilmersdorf to Wittenbergplatz and Nollendorfplatz, where it terminates, and where one can change to U1, U2, U3 or the MetroBuses to go to Mitte or the Zoo train station.

U4

The U4 is a short line contained entirely within City West, whose development was stopped back in early 20th century and which is of limited use even to Berliners. You can use it to travel between its only five stations at Nollendorfplatz, Viktoria-Luise-Platz, Bayerischer Platz, Rathaus Schöneberg and Innsbrucker Platz (where you can change to S-Bahn trains travelling on the circular route). U4 runs entirely underground and, unlike other U-Bahn lines, is not replaced by a bus service in nighttime, when it does not run.

U7

The U7 is Berlin's longest underground line, connecting the western and southeastern extremities of the city. The stretch within City West, entirely underground, is on the outer border of the area, so it is most useful as a means of getting to City West from said outskirts than to getting around. Of the important points of interest, it stops at the Wilmersdorfer Straße and Bayerischer Platz.

U9

U9 traverses West Berlin from south to north, stopping at the Zoologischer Garten train station (change possible to U2) and the Kurfürstendamm (change to U1). Otherwise, the stops in Wilmersdorf are not much of tourist use, although you can change to U3 and U7 along the way.

U-Bahn stations of note

By S-Bahn

The east-west S-Bahn track cuts through the City West, while the ring one follows the Stadtring on the outer rim of City West.

Both lines running the east-west track, the S5, S7 and S75, follow the same route through City West. West from the Hauptbahnhof, they stop at Bellevue (the station next to the Federal President's residence Schloss Bellevue, not accessible by U-Bahn), Tiergarten (station on the outskirts of the Tiergarten park, without much tourist use), the Zoologischer Garten train station, Savignyplatz, Charlottenburg (the S-Bahn station over Wilmersdorfer Straße) and cross the ring at Westkreuz. The S7 then follows to Grunewald and Wannsee, while the S5 to Spandau. A shorter line called S75 finishes its run at Westkreuz.

By bike

You can find racks with bikes for rent next to most hotels, as well as some cafes, bars and restaurants. The going rate across Berlin is €10-12 per day.

See

Siegessäule on Großer Stern
Elephant Gate Zoological Garden

Tiergarten

Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg-Nord

Westend

Olympic Stadium

Wilmersdorf

Grunewald

Schöneberg

Goya, former Neues Schauspielhaus and Metropol at Nollendorfplatz

Do

Buy

Eat

The City West is a very good place for quality and is bursting with a big variety of styles and cuisines.

Breakfast

Budget

Mid-range

Charlottenburg

Kurfürstendamm

Tiergarten

Schöneberg

Maaßenstraße between U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz and Winterfeldplatz

Splurge

Drink

Cafes

Bars

Clubs

The club scene of West Berlin is mainly located in Charlottenburg and Kreuzberg. The alternative crowd heads to Kreuzberg, while the mainstream youth of West Berlin go to the Charlottenburg clubs and discos.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

The Swissotel and Sofitel buildings are two remarkable landmarks of Kurfurstendamm

Splurge

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.