- For other places with the same name, see Berlin (disambiguation).
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states (Länder) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and has a population of 4.5 million within its metropolitan area and 3.5 million from over 190 countries within the city limits.
Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, and bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin's architecture is quite varied. Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
It is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the city centre, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultra modern glass and steel structures at Potsdamer Platz. Because of its tumultuous history, Berlin remains a city with many distinctive neighbourhoods. And due to its long history as a cosmopolitan capital (first of Prussia later of Germany) it had attracted immigrants from all over the world for more than three hundred years now and many of them have left and continue to leave a distinctive mark on the city.
Berlin can be seen as a cluster of centres. Berlin has many boroughs (Bezirke), and each borough is composed of several localities (Kiez or Viertel) — each of these boroughs and localities have their unique style. Some boroughs of Berlin are more worthy of a visitor's attention than others. Originally, Berlin was officially divided into 23 boroughs, and these boroughs are still used in Wikivoyage as they remain foremost in popular conceptions of the city and are generally of a good practical size and cultural division for visitors as well. Since January 2001, the boroughs have officially been reduced from 23 to 12 for administrative reasons only. The boroughs can roughly be grouped into six districts:
| Mitte (Mitte)|
The historical centre of Berlin, the nucleus of the former East Berlin, and the emerging city centre. Cafés, restaurants, museums, galleries, and clubs are abundant throughout the district, along with many sites of historic interest.
| City West (Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Schöneberg, Tiergarten)|
Ku'Damm (short for Kurfürstendamm) is, along with Tauentzienstraße, one of the main shopping streets in former West Berlin, especially for luxury goods. Many great restaurants and hotels are here and also on the side roads. The district also contains the Schloss Charlottenburg, Tiergarten and the Olympic Stadium. Schöneberg is generally a cosy area for ageing hippies, young families, and LGBT people.
| East Central (Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg)|
Associated with the left wing youth culture, artists, and Turkish immigrants, this district is somewhat noisier than most, packed with lots of cafés, bars, clubs, and trendy shops, but also with some museums in Kreuzberg near the border to Mitte. These districts are undergoing gentrification as they are popular with students, artists and media professionals alike.
| North (Spandau, Reinickendorf, Weißensee, Pankow, Wedding)|
Spandau and Reinickendorf are beautiful old towns, which feel much more spacious than the inner city. Pankow was once synonymous with the East German government, and the villas the East German "socialist" leaders inhabited still exist.
| East (Lichtenberg, Hohenschönhausen, Marzahn, Hellersdorf)|
The museum at the site of the 1945 surrender to the Soviet army is of interest, as well as the former Stasi prison, an essential visit for anyone interested in East German history. Marzahn-Hellersdorf has an undeserved reputation for being a vast collection of dull high-rise apartment blocks, as it also contains the "Gardens of the World", a large park where various ethnic styles of garden design are explored.
| South (Steglitz, Zehlendorf, Tempelhof, Neukölln, Treptow, Köpenick)|
The South is a mixed bag of different boroughs. Zehlendorf is one of the greenest and wealthiest boroughs in Berlin, while Neukölln is one of the city's poorest. However at least the Northern part of Neukölln (sometimes labeled "Kreuzkölln") is becoming more and more gentrified. Köpenick's swaths of forest around Berlin's largest lake, Müggelsee, and the nice old town of Köpenick itself beg to be discovered on bikes and using the S-Bahn.
The foundation of Berlin was very multicultural. The surrounding area was populated by Germanic Swabian and Burgundian tribes, as well as Slavic Wends in pre-Christian times, and the Wends have stuck around. Their modern descendants are the Sorbian Slavic-language minority, who live in villages southeast of Berlin near the Spree River.
In the beginning of the 13th century, two towns (Berlin and Cölln) developed on each side of the river Spree (today the Nikolaiviertel and the quarter next to it beyond the river). As the population grew, the towns merged and Berlin became a center for commerce and agriculture. This area stayed small (about 10,000 inhabitants) up to the late 17th century, because of the Thirty Years' War in the beginning of the 17th century, which led to death of about half of the population.
Since the late 17th century, when large numbers of French Huguenots fled religious persecution, Berlin has welcomed religious, economic and other asylum seekers. In 1701, Berlin became the capital of Prussia, and in 1710, Berlin and surrounding former autonomous cities were merged to a bigger Berlin.
In 1871, Berlin became the capital of the new founded German Reich, and a few years later, it became a city with more than one million inhabitants because of the immensely growing industry.
Shortly after the First World War, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it now. After the coming into power of the National Socialists, Berlin became the capital of the so-called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler. (The triumph of Hitler and his companions started in the south of Germany, though.)
World War II led to destruction of most of central Berlin. Thus, many of the buildings which we see nowadays were reconstructed or planned and built after the war, leading to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sectors, while East Berlin belonged to the USSR). In 1949 the GDR was founded with East Berlin as its capital - West Berlin belonged to West Germany (with Bonn as the capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, the latter built a wall between the countries and around West Berlin, so the division was complete.
In 1989 the German revolution took place – subsequently leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall – and in 1990 West and East Germany were merged officially together with Berlin becoming the capital of reunified Germany.
After World War II and the building of the wall, large numbers of immigrants from Turkey were invited to West Berlin to work in the growing industry sector; in East Berlin the jobs were done mostly by Vietnamese immigrants. In addition, people from other communist countries, including the former Yugoslavia, not to mention Soviet soldiers who refused to return home, have helped to make Berlin more multicultural than ever.
Berlin is also a youth-oriented city. Before German unification, West Berliners were exempt from the West German civil/military service requirement. Social activists, pacifists and anarchists of all stripes moved to Berlin for that reason alone. Musicians and artists were given state subsidies. It was easy to stay out all night thanks to liberal bar licensing laws, and staying at university for years without ever getting a degree was a great way to kill time. In contrast with most of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg is said to have the highest per-capita birth rate in Europe (though in fact it just seems so because of the high percentage of young women in the district).
After the fall of the wall, Berlin - especially the former East - has evolved into a cultural mecca. Artists and other creative souls flocked to the city in swarms after reunification, primarily due to the extremely low cost of living in the East. Despite the increased prices and gentrification that has resulted, Berlin has become a center for art, design, multimedia, electronic music, and fashion among other things. The particularly high number of students and young people in the city has only helped this cause. Just stroll down a street in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, or Mitte to get a glimpse of the new East Berlin.
Some famous artists of the region and their best-known works include Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Bertolt Brecht (Threepenny Opera), Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire (German: Der Himmel über Berlin)), Blixa Bargeld/Einstürzende Neubauten, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum), members of the Bauhaus architectural movement and many more.
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Berlin has a temperate oceanic climate, meaning warm summers and cold winters. Nighttime temperatures typically fall below freezing in the winter, and snowfall is a regular occurrence, though the snow rarely accumulates for more than a few days. Summers are typically pleasant, with daytime temperatures typically in the low 20's, and nighttime temperatures staying above 10°C. Berlin is a rather windy city compared to much of Southern Germany, though by no means as windy as coastal cities like Hamburg or Lübeck. A wind stopping jacket comes highly recommended, especially during the shoulder seasons.
Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, dating to the thirteenth century, and it has always had a reputation as a place filled with people from elsewhere. It may seem tough to find someone born and raised here! This is part of Berlin's charm: it never gets stuck in a rut.
A certain uneasy détente still exists between some former residents of East and West Berlin (and Germany). Wessi evolved as a derogatory nickname for a West German; its corollary is Ossi. The implication here is that after reunification, the West Germans automatically assumed the way they do things is the right way, and the way the Easterners should start doing it, too. Westerners got a reputation for being arrogant. They saw the Easterners as stubborn Communist holdouts interested only in a handout from the "rich West." Consider a shirt for sale in a shop inside the Alexanderplatz Deutsche Bahn station: Gott, schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind/und Wessies die im Osten sind ("God, protect me from the storm and wind, and Wessies who are in the East"). Another such stereotype is reflected by the short poem: Der Ossi ist schlau und stellt sich dumm, beim Wessi ist es andersrum ("The Ossi is sly and pretends to be simple-minded, and with the Wessi, it's the other way around"). However, most of the younger generation do not share such biases. Nowadays the conflicts between Easterners and Westerners are often replaced by jokes about Swabians, who have reputation for thriftiness, uptightness and an audible dialect. In recent years many Swabians have flocked to neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg and the welcome hasn't always been warm.
German is the main language in Berlin but you can easily find tourist information in English and sometimes in French. Due to the football World Cup in 2006 all public transportation staff got language training and, at least in theory, should be able to help you in English (although possibly with a strong German accent). If you seem to be lost or hesitating in a public transport station a member of staff could come to your assistance but don't count on that. You can easily approach a group of (preferably young) bystanders and ask for advice in English.
Most people under 40 in Berlin are able to speak English with varying degrees of fluency, but it might not be as widely spoken as you might expect, so a few key German phrases are worth having, especially in the suburbs and less touristy places. Basic French and Russian are also spoken by some Berliners, because French in West Berlin and Russian in East Berlin were taught in schools.
There are also 400,000 people of Turkish origin living in Berlin, mainly in the Western districts. Many of them arrived in early 1960's from remote villages in Anatolia as guest workers but stayed on.
Since the early to mid 2000s Berlin has been attracting more and more foreign students from all over Europe. Due to the economic crisis in Southern Europe there are a lot of Spanish Greek and Italian students in Berlin. Whether this trend will continue after the crisis ends is yet to be seen. As many students in Berlin are either Erasmus students or have been abroad elsewhere you can reasonably expect students to speak at least passable English and often even another European language in addition to that.
There are some words in Berlin that differ from regular German, especially in the former East Berlin. Here, the language has preserved a certain level of dialect.
Some words used in the Berlin dialect:
- Schrippe: Roll.
- Stulle: Sandwich.
- Broiler: Grilled chicken (people from west Germany and former west Berlin probably won't understand this; they say Grillhähnchen instead).
Before the second world war Berlin was a center for major German industrial companies as well as administrative headquarters of many companies in all fields. However soon after the war ended many of these companies moved south or west, went bust or were nationalized in the GDR. Therefore one of the most important "products" produced in Berlin today by both academic and company-sponsored institutes is research. That research is exported around the world. German labor is highly efficient but comes at a high cost. Strong trade unions, the end of West Berlin's pre-reunification subsidies and Germany's dense regulatory environment forced industry to concentrate on high quality and expensive products. Despite the economic boost resulting from the country's capital moving back to the city, Berlin's unemployment rate has been soaring over 10% in recent years. However Berlin is also notorious in Germany for being a center of creative branches such as design and arts of all kinds and you will see a lot of people working (or not depending on your definition of the term) with Apple products in certain coffee-places.
Berlin is — at least in many parts — a beautiful city, so allow enough time to get to see the sights. A good map is highly recommended. While the public transport system is superb, it can be confusing to visitors, due to a lack of directional signs in some of the larger stations, so a good transit map is also essential. Be sure to note the final station/stop of the S-bahn or U-bahn, since that is usually the way direction of travel is indicated. Roads into Berlin can also be confusing, so study your route and drive carefully. Signs point to city boroughs or districts rather than indicating compass directions, so it's a good idea to get to know where the various boroughs or districts lie in relation to each other. This also applies to cyclists.
Berlin's Tourist Information Office is an excellent resource for finding out more about Berlin, providing a wealth of practical information and useful hyperlinks.
As the city was divided into two during the Cold War, many major parts of Berlin's infrastructure — such as airports — were built on both sides. The challenge today is to merge these formerly independent systems into one that serves all the people in the Metropolitan Berlin area.
Berlin has inherited airports from both sides of the former Berlin Wall. West Berlin, for which air transportation was crucial, had two at the moment of reunification: Tegel Airport (IATA: TXL), which remains the major airport for Berlin as of 2015, and Tempelhof Airport, which was closed and turned into a public park and fairgrounds. East Germany was using the Schönefeld Airport (IATA: SXF) right outside the southeastern border of the city proper, which also remains operational as of 2015.
There is a grand plan to merge all airport operations in the still-under-construction Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (IATA: BER), which is being built on the extended grounds of Schönefeld. At its opening, both Tegel and the former Schönefeld airports will close. The opening itself had been originally scheduled for 2011 and has since been postponed many times due to construction and safety issues. Every few months a new date is announced and, therefore, much of the tourist information has been published in recent years with the "impending" opening of BER and closure of TXL and SXF in mind. Do bear in mind that until the BER airport is actually opened, those remain incorrect and there is no passenger traffic to and from BER and much of the infrastructure there is still not functional. The airport is currently scheduled to open in late 2017, but given its track record, many Berliners (scratch that, most Germans) are skeptical.
On the other hand, because both TXL and SXF were scheduled to close, they have not been updated for the past years, while both are in dire need of both update and expansion given the current traffic volumes and advances in air travel. In particular TXL found itself handling far more traffic than it was designed for. In comparison with other, usually very well-planned and cutting-edge German Airports, experiencing the airports of Berlin can be a disappointment until BER opens.
Carriers frequently switched between TXL and SXF in recent years and, although one carrier tends to serve one airport only, there is a very mixed bundle of connections from every airport. Make sure you know which airport you are arriving at, especially if you have a connection to meet, and if you've been sold a ticket to "BER" before it actually becomes operational.
Tegel International Airport (IATA: TXL) is in the north-west of the city. It was the airport for West Berlin during the Cold War and today is the main airport for major flag carriers such as Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and United. The original airport was designed as a hexagon but today two other terminals try to handle the flights of Air Berlin (most flights in Terminal C) and other budget carriers (mostly in terminal D). All flag carrier flights leave from the main terminal building A (Terminal B contains only the bus gates of Terminal A for Non-Schengen flights), and is also where all airlines lounges are. According to the original plan this airport will close after the new BER airport starts operations.
Tegel has an unusually efficient structure because it was built as an origin-and-destination airport only, which resulted in very short walking distances between the taxi ranks and bus stops to the actual gates. The hexagonal structure of the main terminal allows individual gates to have their own check-in/luggage drop-off desks, security control and separate waiting areas. This makes flying out of the main terminal building a very swift and comfortable experience.
That said, connecting via Tegel may not be as comfortable, because you will probably need to go through security anyway, and there is quite a walk (outside!) between terminals, particularly Terminal C. Except for Terminal A, no gates have jetways and you will need to either be ferried by bus or actually walk from the plane to the terminal. The waiting space and shopping within Tegel is also limited and not really top-notch, although Air Berlin offers their frequent fliers separate "exclusive waiting areas" (not available to other oneworld frequent fliers!). The luggage handling capacities of Tegel have long been exhausted, which sometimes leads to well-publicized massive "luggage lost" incidents on Air Berlin connecting flights.
Tegel Airport offers 60 minutes at a time (renewable) of free wireless Internet access, although the access is limited to Web access and doesn't support non-Web email clients, VPN, or SSH.
Airlines and connections
The airport is the home base for Germany's number 2 carrier, Air Berlin, who operate direct short-haul flights to a wide selection of German and European cities and holiday destinations out of Tegel, as well as intercontinental flights to Chicago O'Hare and New York JFK. As Air Berlin is part-owned by the Emirati carrier Etihad, you can connect to the many global destinations in its network via Abu Dhabi, to which there are frequent flights from TXL. In a code-share with Hainan Airlines, Air Berlin also offers direct flights between Tegel and Beijing-Capital.
Air Berlin is also a member of oneworld, which means TXL is integrated in the connection networks of in. al. British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Qatar Airways, all of which operate direct flights out of their hubs.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa is backing out of Tegel and leaving behind its low-cost sister carrier Germanwings, which is in the process of taking over the extensive network of TXL connections through 2013 and 2014, except for feeder services to Lufthansa's hubs in Duesseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. There are no long-haul flights out of TXL on Lufthansa, but Star Alliance partner United Airlines continues to operate a direct connection to Newark.
Most European, North African and Middle Eastern Star Alliance airlines, as well as SkyTeam members, have direct flights out of their main hubs to TXL.
Travelling between Tegel Airport and Berlin
The only means of public transportation operating directly from the airport are buses. There are four bus lines, all operated by BVG and thus included in the same ticket scheme as the rest of Berlin. Tegel is in ticketing zone B, so it is covered by both "zone AB", "zone BC" and "zone ABC" tickets. The four lines are:
- TXL express bus to Alexanderplatz, stopping at the Hauptbahnhof, the Brandenburg Gate and the corner Unter den Linden and Friedrichstraße. The full travel time to Alexanderplatz is 39 minutes, while travel to Hauptbahnhof takes 22 minutes according to official schedules.
- X9 express bus to Zoologischer Garten railway station, with only 6 stops along the way and a 20 minutes travel from terminus to terminus it is the fastest option to get into the city
- 109 takes a longer route to Zoologischer Garten, stopping in many locations in West Berlin including Schloss Charlottenburg and Adenauerplatz. From Adenauerplatz onwards it traverses the most popular part of Kurfürstendamm. The full route to the terminus at Zoo takes 28 minutes.
- 128 goes north-east from the airport to the U-Bahn station Osloer Straße in the north of the city, stopping at many local stops and taking 25 minutes to complete its route. It is of little use to most travellers, unless their specific destination lies close to that particular route.
All buses, both express and regular, require the same regular tickets and operate every 10 minutes (every 20 minutes in nighttime). All buses stop on the main (upper) deck of the Tegel ringroad - TXL and 128 stop in front of the main entrance of terminal A, while X9 and 109 around the corner, in front of the so-called Terminal B. There are automatic ticket machines at all bus stops selling all kinds of tickets and accepting cash (Euros) or credit cards. Berlin WelcomeCards can be bought at the tourist information kiosks in the airport terminal and sometimes from the BVG employees on duty at the bus stops (during peak travel times).
Tegel International Airport does not have any railway station. Do not take any train to the "Tegel railway (S-Bahn) station", which is not connected to the airport, but rather to the suburban village called Tegel. It is not possible to walk or to otherwise get easily to the airport from that station. Any indication to a Tegel railway station refers to the remote S-Bahn station, even if railway staff at stations in other cities might tell you otherwise. The nearest train stations are:
- Jakob-Kaiser Platz on the U-Bahn line U7 (5 minutes from the airport with bus X9/109)
- Kurt-Schumacher Platz on the U6 (10 minutes from the airport with bus 128)
- Beusselstraße on the S-Bahn ring line S41/S42 (8 minutes from the airport with the TXL bus)
If you want to connect to mainline (long-distance) railway, you need to travel to Hauptbahnhof or Zoologischer Garten on either of the buses.
Schönefeld (IATA: SXF) southeast of Berlin, formerly serving East-Berlin, is the base for most low-cost airlines (including easyJet, Ryanair and Norwegian) and charter flights. Many carriers from Russia, former Soviet States and Eastern Europe continue to use SXF as their Berlin airport as they did in the days of East Germany, although a similar number of those have switched to TXL. There are also many charter and scheduled connections to Bulgaria and Israel.
The airport will close if and when BER airport starts full operations.
By train from Schönefeld Airport to Berlin
The airport is served by the S-Bahn and regional trains. The station is a short walk, under a covered, well-lit walkway opposite terminal A/B. There are two types of trains operating from that station - the slower but more frequent S-Bahn and the faster regional trains (Regionalbahn / Regional Express).
- Regional trains (RE7 or RB14) are the only ones that go to the major train stations in the city centre over the northern part of the railway ring of Berlin. They depart once an hour each between 05:00 and 23:30, spaced about 30 minutes apart, which means you have two chances per hour to catch either of them. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes to/from Alexanderplatz; 30 minutes to/from Berlin Hauptbahnhof and 35 min to/from Zoologischer Garten. Other stations served within Berlin are Karlshorst, Ostbahnhof, Friedrichstrasse, Charlottenburg, Spandau (RB14 only) and Wannsee (R7 only).
- Attention: While RE14 finishes its run at the airport, the RE7 goes further south to Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, so make sure you board the train going in the right direction (RE7 going from the airport to Berlin terminate at Dessau or Bad Belzig).
- S-Bahn trains (S9 or S45) run every 20 minutes each (so there is a departure around every 10 minutes) until around 01:30. They do not, however, reach the city centre and stop at many more stations than the regional trains, so a journey to the centre using S-Bahn requires a longer ride and a change of trains.
- The S9 runs through East Berlin to the northern district of Pankow, through the railway node of Ostkreuz. You can change to other S-Bahn lines along the way, to U-Bahn line U5 at Frankfurter Allee and U2 towards the end at Schönhauser Allee or Pankow. The journey times are to/from Ostkreuz and 45 minutes to/from Pankow.
- the S45 connects to the circle-line (Ringbahn) and also runs along its southeastern stretch through in.al. stations Neukölln, Tempelhof and Schöneberg, serving the namesake districts, terminating at Bundesplatz in Willmersdorf. You can change to U-Bahn lines U4, U6, U7, U8 and U9 at various stations along the S45 route. You can also change to S-Bahn trains travelling on the north-south tunnel through the city centre at Südkreuz.
- Alternatively, you can take the express city bus line X7 from Schoenefeld Airport to U-Bahn line U7 terminus Rudow. The bus is direct (no intermediate stations) and takes just 7 minutes to complete the route, running every 10 minutes at daytime and 20 in nighttime. The U7 is a very long line serving most southern and western districts of Berlin well. The U7 does not go to the core city centre, but you can change from it to other lines that do.
- Other city buses from Schoenefeld serve locations around the airport in Berlin and beyond, sometimes stopping at a railway station on their way, but they never afford any time gains over the direct train connections or X7.
The Schoenefeld Airport railway station is in Zone C of the BVG network, so you need a ticket covering all three zones (ABC), or a BC ticket if you do not intend to travel directly into the city centre. The same tickets are valid in both S-Bahn and regional trains if you travel from Schoenefeld Airport into Berlin. A single ABC ticket that will get you anywhere in Berlin costs €3.20 (regular fare ‘ABC’ single journey ticket - Einzelfahrschein). Stamp the ticket to validate it before boarding.
Check out timetables, platform numbers and fare prices on the BVG website.
Berlin is served by ICE, InterCity and EuroCity trains operated by the national German railway corporation Deutsche Bahn (DB) which offers connections between Berlin and other German and major European cities.
Long-haul trains from Eastern European cities, Kaliningrad, Minsk, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw among others, stop both at Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof. Make sure you have a reservation because these lines are also very popular. Also, it's possible to travel on the once-weekly Sibirjak train from cities far away as Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg.
Domestic trains to Berlin include an ICE to Hamburg, an ICE to Munich (via Leipzig, expect travel times to go down once the new line is finished in 2015/17), an IC/EC to Dresden and several "regional" trains among which the IRE to Hamburg (longer travel time than ICE, more intermediate stops) might be of interest due to its cheap fixed price.
During the times of its division, Berlin had two main train stations: Zoologischer Garten (colloquial name Bahnhof Zoo) in the West, and Ostbahnhof in the East. The new 'Hauptbahnhof' may be titled 'Lehrter Bahnhof' on older maps and is situated between the S-Bahn stations Friedrichstraße and Bellevue. Since the opening of the Hauptbahnhof, most ICE and international lines now bypass Zoologischer Garten, although it is still in operation for regional DB services and as an S+U-Bahn station.
The new building for the central station Hauptbahnhof was opened in May 2006 and together with Südkreuz (southern cross) and Ostbahnhof (eastern station)—plus minor Gesundbrunnen in the north and Spandau in the west—form the backbone of all connections. All are connected to S- or U-Bahn. All trains travel through Hauptbahnhof and a second major hub (depending on the destination you travel to or arrive from). Trains in the regional area (Berlin and Brandenburg) mostly use these stations. Regional trains stop at several stations within Berlin.
Long distance buses arrive at Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (Central Bus Terminal) in Charlottenburg, Masurenallee. There are numerous buses to all directions or do a 5-minute-walk to the U-Bahn (Theodor-Heuss-Platz or Kaiserdamm or to the S-Bahn (Messe Nord/ICC). Follow signposting. Some bus lines have a second stop on several locations spread around Berlin. The bus station is not really close to anything and the limited services it offers are comparable in price to gas stations.
- Berlin Linienbus serves over 350 destinations in Europe
- Salinea serves Bosnia
- Meinfernbus / Flixbus - the biggest player in the market
- student agency mostly serving the Berlin Dresden Prague corridor
Berlin is encircled by a motorway ring, the A10 Berliner Ring, which extends up to 30 km outside the city limits. These motorways (enumerated in a clockwise direction) connect with the ring:
- A11 from Stettin at Dreieck Schwanebeck
- A12 from Frankfurt (Oder)/Warsaw at Dreieck Spreeau
- A13 from Dresden/Prague at Kreuz Schönefeld
- A9 from Leipzig/Munich at Dreieck Potsdam
- A2 from Hanover/Dortmund at Dreieck Werder
- A24 from Hamburg at Dreieck Havelland.
From the ring, these are the motorways heading towards the city:
- A111 from the northwest at Kreuz Oranienburg
- A114 from the north at Dreieck Pankow
- A113 from the southeast at Schönefelder Kreuz
- A115 from the southwest at Dreieck Nuthetal.
There are also dual carriageways:
- B96 from the north and the south
- B2 from the northeast
- B5 from the east and west
- B101 from the south.
Inside Berlin there is a heavily congested inner ring motorway (A100), which encircles the north, west and south with the northeastern section missing. Berlin driving is not for the faint-hearted, but manageable as there are wide streets and reasonably good parking conditions - at least in most parts of the city. Orientation is easier than in most of the central European cities, once you get the hang of things: there are a couple of ring roads (like an onion) and several radiating trunk roads.
Berlin does have a low emission zone (Umweltzone), which contains all areas within the S-Bahn ring. All vehicles moving inside this zone (including foreign vehicles) are required to bear a green emissions sticker (Feinstaubplakette). There are exceptions e.g. for historic cars, but not for foreign number plates. Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several days in advance) is available here. The sticker can also be ordered on-line.
Being 200 kilometres inland, Berlin does not have a seaport. The nearest seaport is Rostock-Warnemünde, which is between two and a half and three hours away by train, though still sold by many cruise ship operators as "Berlin", so don't be surprised. There are similar distances to the seaports of Hamburg and Szczecin.
Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is available), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English. If you ask for a short trip (Kurzstrecke), as long as it's under 2 km and before the taxi driver starts the meter running, the trip normally is cheaper, €4. This only applies if you flag the taxi down on the street, not if you get in at a taxi rank.
Consult the on-line Berlin route planner (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn and trams, or to print your personal journey planner. The route planer can also calculate the fastest door-to-door connection for you destination for any given day and hour. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have a detailed fare list on their web site.
If you don't know how to get somewhere, or how to get home at night, call ☎ +49 30 19449, the Customer Service of the BVG. There are also facilities in most U-Bahn and some S-Bahn stations to contact Customer Service directly. The BVG has Metro lines (buses and tram) that run 24hr a day, seven days a week. All lines are marked with a big orange plate and a white M.
It's also worth noting that the house numbers do not necessarily run in one direction (up or down). On a lot of streets, the numbers ascend on one side and descend on the other. Especially on long streets, check the numbering scheme first: you can find the name of the street and the numbers on that block at nearly every street corner.
Different from what is usual in some English-speaking countries, Germans usually add the word for "street", "square", "park", etc. when they mention the name of a locality. Thus, they would not simply refer to "Kurfürsten" when talking about Kurfürstenstraße (Kurfürsten Street), as this could also mean "Kurfürstendamm", which is a different road at a different place. "Schloss", which simply means "palace", could refer to any of the palaces in Berlin, as well as to one of the two roads called "Schloßstraße" in Charlottenburg (Charlottenburger Schloss) and Steglitz, a shopping centre called "Das Schloss", or the "Schloßplatz" in the Mitte district.
Public transport ticketing
Berlin uses a zone system, but you are unlikely to need to go beyond zone A and B, except on trips to Potsdam or to the Schönefeld Airport (SXF). This is a very large area. The public transport system (U-, S-Bahn, bus, tram, regional rail) uses a common ticket.
Standard tickets (€2.70 for A and B) are valid for any travel within two hours of validation, in a single direction, within the appropriate fare zones. There is no limit to transfers. For a single journey you can buy a cheap Kurzstrecke for €1.70, but this is only valid for 3 stops on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (transfers permitted) or 6 stops on buses or trams (no transfers). Reduced fares apply for children 6 to 14. Under 6 y/o ride free. The border between zones A and B is the S-Bahn Ring (see below)
Several options are available for unlimited travel. Prices listed here are only for zones A and B: prices for A, B, and C cost marginally more. Check the machines for the current prices (January 2016):
- Single Ticket Berlin AB: €2.70, ABC (incl. Potsdam): €3.30, reduced: €1.70, ABC: €2.40. Transfers are allowed, return journeys aren't.
- The 4-trip ticket Berlin AB (4 Fahrten Karte), 4 single trips AB bought at once for a reduced price: €9.00, reduced: €5.60 .
- Day Ticket Berlin AB (Tageskarte AB): €7, Tageskarte ABC (incl. Potsdam): €7.60, reduced AB: €4.70, ABC: €5.30. If you are travelling more than two trips a day. Valid until 03:00 the next morning, not 24 hours!
- Small Group Day Ticket AB (Kleingruppen-Tageskarte) for up to five people: €17.30, ABC (incl. Potsdam): €17.80. This ticket is cheaper than individual day tickets for groups of three or more.
- 7-Day-Ticket AB (7-Tagekarte): €30, 7-Tage-Karte ABC (incl. Potsdam): €37.20.
- The Berlin CityTourCard: ticket valid for all public transport services in Berlin, Potsdam and the surrounding area and a discount card for many tourist attractions; available in several different version: 48 hours, AB, €17.40; 72 hours, AB, €24.50; 5 days AB, €31.90. Add a few euros if you want to go to Potsdam (fare zone ABC). A folded leaflet with inner city map and an overview of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn railway networks of Berlin is included. Can be bought at ticket machines and various sales points (Berlin airports, larger train stations, hotels or online).
- The Berlin WelcomeCard 2015, 24 hours, fare zone AB, €19.50; 72 hours, AB, €26.70; 5 days, AB, €34.50. Add a few euros if you want to go to Potsdam (fare zone ABC). Unlimited travel with all methods of public transport for the validity of the ticket; save up to 50% on more than 200 tourist and cultural highlights; Handy guide in pocket book format with insider tips and tour suggestions; city plan for Berlin and Potsdam and a network plan for public transport. Can be bought at various sales points (Berlin airports, larger train stations, hotels or online).
- The Berlin WelcomeCard Museum Island 2015: valid for 72 hours in the AB fare zone: €40.50 (ABC: €42.50). Same perks as the 72-hour WelcomeCard, but includes admission to all museums on Museum Island (Old National Gallery, Old Museum, Bode Museum, New Museum and Pergamon Museum).
All tickets are available at vending machines at U- and S-Bahn platforms. English and other European languages are available. Payment is mostly by local bank cards and coins, and banknotes. If you need assistance most larger stations have staffed ticket counters where you can ask questions and buy tickets. Buses will accept cash, and make change for tickets. Hotels may sell tickets as well.
In some places like Zoologischer Garten and Eberswalder Straße, people will try to sell used tickets to you. Be aware that you can go only one direction with a single-journey ticket (check the validation stamp and be careful as this could also be a pickpocket trick). Don't pay more than half the price.
You need to validate your ticket using the machines on the U- and S-bahn platforms or in the bus. The machines are yellow/white in the U-Bahn and the bus, and red on S-Bahn platforms. Validation simply means the machine prints a time stamp onto the ticket. Once validated, a ticket which is still valid will not have to be re-validated before each single trip. Whilst it might be tempting to try to avoid buying a ticket, be advised that plain-clothed inspectors do patrol the trains. There is a €60 fine if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket. Fare inspections are rather common and arguably more common than in other cities. The inspectors are very no-nonsense and will catch you if you try to outrun them.
If you need to get around the city quickly, take the S-Bahn.
The Ringbahn that goes all around Berlin in a circle lets you get to other parts of the city really fast. If you're looking for the way, use BVG.de, that site includes Buses, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Tram and even ferries. You can simply enter departure address and arrival address to see the optimum connection, it's an excellent service. An option to reach Schönefeld airport is to use U-Bahn line U7 until the terminal station Rudow and then take the bus.
In the centre, most S-Bahn lines S5, S7, S75 run on an east-west route between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz via the stops Warschauer Straße, Ostbahnhof, Jannowitzbrücke, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Bellevue, Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg. Other lines run along a circle track around the city, most notably the S8 and the S41, S42, S45, S46 lines, and there's also a north-south connection S1, S2, S25 from Gesundbrunnen through Friedrichstraße and Potsdamer Platz to Südkreuz or Schöneberg.
Regional trains (RB, RE) run along the same central east-west connection, but stopping only at Lichtenberg or Karlshorst, Ostbahnhof, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Zoologischer Garten, Charlottenburg and Spandau or Wannsee, as well as other lines connecting north-south from Jungfernheide or Gesundbrunnen through Hauptbahnhof, Potsdamer Platz and Südkreuz to Lichterfelde-Ost. Long distance trains mostly run to Hauptbahnhof, often with one or two extra stops at other stations.
The Berlin U-Bahn (short for Untergrundbahn - "underground railway") is a network of ten light rail lines across the city. They are numbered from 1 to 9 with the prefix "U", with the additional line U55 in operation until its route gets connected to the U5 sometime before 2020. You may find the U-Bahn network slightly less logical and convenient to use than in other European capitals, as Berlin's troubled history made its mark on it and many key locations remain unconnected, which is why using buses, trams and S-Bahn to complement the U-Bahn is probably necessary for efficient travel throughout Berlin. However as those systems are fully integrated (see above), you can do so with only one ticket or type of ticket. Generally speaking in the east trams are more widespread while the west relies more heavily on U-Bahn, but both of that has been slowly changing since 1990.
Do also note that the "underground" is only a nominal designator, as the trains runs normally underground. Some of the network are actually overground stretches running over the characteristic viaducts that can be found throughout the city and add a certain flavour to Berlin's cityscape (this arrangement is similar to light rail systems existing in some North American cities or the M6 line in Paris).
Detailed maps can be found in every U-Bahn station and on the trains. U-Bahn stations can be seen from far by their big, friendly blue U signs. Together with the S-Bahn (which is administered by Deutsche Bahn and mostly runs aboveground), the U-Bahn provides a transportation network throughout greater Berlin that is extremely efficient and fast. On weekend (Friday to Sunday), as well as during the Christmas and New Year holidays, all U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines (except line U4) run all night, so returning from late night outings is easy, especially given the average start time of most 'parties' in Berlin (11PM to 1AM). During the week there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from c. 01:00-04:30, but metro trams/buses and special Night Buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour 12:30-04:30.
There are no turnstiles to limit access to U-Bahn stations, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checker you will be fined €60 (see "Validating tickets" above) so it is not only illegal but probably not worth the risk to ride without validating your ticket. Nearly all U- and S-Bahn Stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.
By tram (streetcar)
The trams (Straßenbahn) are mostly found in East Berlin, as the West Berlin tram network was shut down in the 1960s in an effort to make the city more car friendly. If you don't have a ticket already, you can buy one inside the tram. Since reunification there has been a gradual "reconquista" of areas once served by trams in West-Berlin and in some parts of downtown it is hard to tell from trams alone where the wall used to be. That said in outlying districts of West Berlin trams are still nowhere to be found - in stark contrast to the East, where they provide much needed access to planned bedroom communities from GDR times.
There are two types of tram. Metrotrams usually have a 24/7 schedule as well as higher frequencies during daytimes. Metrotrams are marked by an "M" in front of their line number (e.g. M10) "Regular" trams stop more frequently and may even include picturesque single-track rides through forested areas far east of the Mitte district.
Berlin's buses are a very important form of public transportation, as they complement the light rail systems wherever they were removed (trams in the West) or remain incomplete. Due to the heavy loads and demands of narrow streets, Berlin is one of the few cities in Europe to use double-decker buses extensively - over 400 out of the 1400 buses in operation in Berlin are double-deckers. A ride in a Berlin double-decker should be on the to-do list of every first-time visitor to Berlin. Note that in contrast to other world cities, you should not flag down buses at stops in Berlin, even if there are multiple routes serving the stop. Some drivers may consider it an insult to their professionalism.
There are various types of buses in Berlin, each indicated separately on public transit maps:
- Metro buses are meant to replace the dismantled tram lines mostly within the western part of the city (although many run into East Berlin as well to replace the severed tram connections). They are designated using the letter "M" and two digits, and are considered a separate means of transportation from the other buses, being marked orange on signage and maps just like the trams are (the orange "M" logo means "MetroBus" AND/OR MetroTram). The MetroBuses tend to run along the main transportation corridors and are generally operated using the double-decker buses, which makes using them very attractive for tourists. MetroBuses generally run every 10 minutes from every stop they serve. Among the lines especially attractive for tourists are M19 and M29, which run along the Kurfürstendamm and the M41, which connects the districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln to the main station via Potsdamer Platz.
- Express bus lines connect important locations, such as airports and train stations, in a very fast fashion by skipping many stops along the way. They run every 5 minutes in the city centre using double-decker buses or articulated buses. The express lines are designated with the letter "X" and one or two digits, except for the special airport line TXL connecting the Tegel Airport with the city centre. Other lines of interest to travellers may be the X9 from Tegel Airport to Zoologischer Garten and the X7 from Schoenefeld Airport to U-Bahn U7.
- Regular bus lines have three-digit numbers and their digits each have a meaning that committed public transit buffs can decipher to find out the exact route the bus does. For the most part, those buses will be of use to travellers only if they want to get to a particular location not served by other means of transportation, including metro or express buses.
- Two exceptions are special sightseeing lines 100 and 200, which run from along some of the most important tourist attractions in the city centre and are operated using double-decker buses exclusively. The 100 runs from Zoologischer Garten to Alexanderplatz through the Tiergarten park, Regierungsviertel and Unter den Linden street. The 200 diverts from that route to visit the Kulturforum, Potsdamer Platz and extend further east from Alexanderplatz to Prenzlauer Berg. Either ride is a must for any visitor to Berlin. In the summer bus 218 takes you along the scenic ride through the Grunewald forest in West Berlin, starting at the subway station Theodor-Heuss-Platz (U2) and ending near the famous Pfaueninsel in South West Berlin, where you can take a small ferry to said island and visit the park and the small castle there.
- Night buses operate in the night when the other means of transportation do not.
- The single-digit lines replace along the metro lines in the night when the latter do not operate, stopping at the stops right atop/beside the U-Bahn stations. The numbering follows the numbering of U-Bahn lines, but uses "N" instead of "U", so that N7 is a bus line replacing the U7 U-Bahn line.
- Other double-digit night lines (N10 through N97) cover other routes, but without straightforward reference to daytime route numbers
There is no difference in fares between different types of buses - even the MetroBuses, the 100 and 200 demand the same fares as regular buses. Therefore, riding the city buses is a very cost-effective way of exploring the city compared to the many privately-operated "hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus tours".
- See also: Cycling#Germany
Berlin has no steep hills and offers many bicycle paths (Radwege) throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). These include "860 km of completely separate bike paths, 60 km of bike lanes on streets, 50 km of bike lanes on pavements or sidewalks, 100 km of mixed-use pedestrian-bike paths, and 70 km of combined bus-bike lanes on streets. Bicycles are a very popular method of transportation among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic. Seeing Berlin by bicycle is unquestionably a great way to acquaint the traveller with the big tourist sites, and the little sprees and side streets as well. Although it's good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many bus stations. You can create your own bicycling maps on-line, optimised by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favourite paving. If you are not familiar with searching your own way through the city or you want more explanation of the sights you visit, you can get guided bike tours (with bike included) on Baja Bikes or Berlin Bike.
Tours and rentals
Traditional rental places are widespread, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Have a look around or ask at your accommodation. Most places have a rental charge of between €8 and €12 per day – they are excellent value and give you the freedom to explore the big city.
If you won't be biking much or if you're planning to stay longer than a few days, you may consider Berlin's bike sharing programme, Call a Bike. Rental stations are scattered throughout the city and are easily spotted by the bright-red and silver bikes and terminals. Bikes are usually in good condition, just check the brakes. After you've registered at one of the self-service kiosks (English available), you can take out a bike by following the on-screen instructions or using your phone (either through an app or by calling the number printed on each bike). Lift the metal flap on the device to the left of the back wheel, tap the display and follow the instructions to unlock the bike. To return, lock the bike at one of the stations and wait for the display to confirm your return. Rentals cost, basic annual fee of €3, then €1 for each 30 minute up to a maximum of €15 a day. You may however prefer to pay the monthly fee of €9 or a yearly fee of €49 and get the first 30 minutes of each rental for free, even right after returning your previous bike.
Berlin has a vast array of museums. By far most of them are covered in the Mitte district guide, which, among others, covers the Museumsinsel (an island on the Spree covered with historic museums) and the Kulturforum (a collection of contemporary cultural institutions). You will also find a good deal of museums in the West and South of the city, but it is fair to say there are larger or smaller museums in almost every district. There are museums covering everything, from art through Berlin's and Germany's history to various branches of technology and science.
Most museums charge admission for people 18 years of age or older - usually €6 to €14. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. Children and young people can often come in free, but do check the age restrictions in particular museums. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day Museums Pass for €24 (concessions: €12), which grants entrance to all the regular exhibitions of the approximately 55 state-run museums and public foundations.
Most museums are closed on Mondays - notable exceptions include the Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which are open daily. Museumsportal Berlin, a collective web initiative, offers easy access to information on all museums, memorials, castles and collections and on current and upcoming exhibitions.
Remains of the Berlin Wall
While the Berlin Wall has long been dismantled and much of the grounds it occupied completely redeveloped, you can still find parts of the wall preserved around Berlin. This does not refer to very small pieces of the Wall sold by the East German government immediately after its dismantling, which can be found in various cafes, restaurants and hotels not only in Berlin, but to actual preserved fragments of the Wall still standing in their original locations.
The most often visited is the Checkpoint Charlie. at the southern border of Mitte and Kreuzberg, which is a recreated legendary border crossing within the Friedrichstraße. You cannot see the actual wall there, but this iconic (and extremely touristy) point is on almost every visitor's list. Further east from there, you can find a piece of the wall lining up the Niederkirchnerstraße next to the Topography of Terror. museum in Mitte. Another popular site is the East Side Gallery. along the Spree in Friedrichshain, a very long stretch of preserved Wall with colorful graffiti. All of the aforementioned fragments were altered and are now tourist attractions rather than actual historic monuments - if you want a truly preserved section of the Wall, head over to the northern border of Mitte and Gesundbrunnen in the street Bernauer Straße and visit the Berlin Wall Memorial. , with a complete section of the wall in all its gloom.
Private art galleries
As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not-so-crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg). You can find a list of all the exhibitions and gallery openings as well as a map on Berlin Art Grid. A directory listing of all Berlin's art galleries can be found on The Art of Berlin: Complete Berlin Art Gallery Directory.
Landmarks with observation decks
Berlin has its fair share of tall buildings and, as the city is quite expansive and does not have one single centre where all tall buildings are located, you can enjoy a nice view from most of them, even ones that are not exceedingly tall by global standards.
Below is an overview of some of the most popular openly-accessible observation decks.
- Park Inn (Panorama Terasse) (Alexanderplatz). 10:00–18:00. Small terrace on the top of the Park Inn, publicly accessible. Take the elevator to the 40th floor, and follow the signs up the stairs. Pay the attendant who also serves beer and coffee. Great views of the Fernsehturm. In the summer, consider base jumping off the roof with Jochen Schweizer. It is often closed in bad/windy weather, so look for a notice posted near the elevator that the terrace is closed. €4.
- Fernsehturm (TV Tower) (Alexanderplatz). 10:00–00:00. Germany's tallest construction: 368 m high. Observation deck 204 meters above ground. €13, children €8.50.
- Reichstag (Platz der Republik, Spreebogen / Regierungsviertel). 08:00–00:00. The German Parliament building with a spectacular glass dome, which offers a great view of Berlin. Free, but pre-booking is required. Bring valid ID.
- Kollhoff Tower (Potsdamer Platz). 10:00–20:00. The fastest elevator in Europe takes you approximately 101 meters high. €6.50, concession €5.
- Siegessäule (Victory Column), Großer Stern / Straße des 17. Juni (Tiergarten). Apr–Oct 09:30–18:30, Nov–Mar 10:00–17:00, 30 minutes longer on weekends. An old monument (1865-1873) with 50.7 m high in front of the Reichstag on the Platz der Republik), since 1939 on the place Großer Stern with 66.9 m high. Unfortunately there is no elevator, so be prepared for 285 steps to the platform in 50.7 m high. The sculpture of Victoria is 8.3 metres high. € 3.
- Funkturm (Radio Tower) (Westend). M 10:00–20:00, Tu–Su 10:00–23:00, limited access during trade fairs.. 150 m high lattice tower with open-air observation deck 124 m above ground. €5, concession €2.80.
Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the west is the historic zoo that has been a listed company since its foundation. It's an oasis in the city and very popular with families and schools.
- Berlin Zoo. The largest range of species in the world. The zoo lies directly in the heart of the City West (opposite Bahnhof Zoo at Hardenbergplatz) and is especially famous for its pandas. The Elephant Gate (Budapester Straße) is the second entrance next to the Aquarium and a traditional photo stop for most visitors because of the architecture.
- Aquarium. Part of the Berlin Zoo, located at Budapester Straße in an historic building. Still the largest aquarium in Germany and a host to an amazing variety of fish, crocodiles etc. One of the best places on a rainy day with children.
- Tierpark Berlin. Located in Friedrichsfelde, the Tierpark is more spacious than the historic Berlin Zoo and has been open for some 50 years. The compound also comprises a small château with its adjacent park.
Go on a Tour of Berlin - the Mitte and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
- Berlin Tour by public bus line 100 and 200. The 100 and 200 bus lines are just ordinary bus lines, but they pass by many of Berlin's famous landmarks. Both run every 5–10 minutes between S+U-station Zoologischer Garten and S+U-station Alexanderplatz. All BVG tickets are accepted. €2.70 (single) or €6.70 (day ticket).
- Ticket B City–Tours by architects in Berlin. Showing the city of Berlin on hand-picked architectural routes. Led by selected architects in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish. Anything is possible - tours from the water, on land or in a helicopter. They arrange your special tour on contemporary architecture in Berlin with many exclusive visits to the interiors of buildings and unforgettable experiences.
- Alternative Berlin. English tour starting at 11:00-13:00 each day at Alexander Platz TV tower in front of Starbucks coffee. This tour uses Berlin's transit system to cover a massive amount of territory and focuses on the underground sites and sounds of Berlin, including art & graffiti culture, technological wonders, and landmarks of rock & electronic music. The tour takes three and half hours. Free (but tipping is more or less standard - the tour guides don't receive any other salary and must pay the tour company for every person who comes on the tour).
- Berlin City Tours. Offers a wide range of sightseeing tours and excursions by foot, bike, bus and boat. They also offer a lot of interesting activities and private arrangements on request. They also offer tours and arrangements for cruise ship passengers arriving from Rostock/Warnemuende.
- The Berlin Experts. Offers daily in-depth walking tours of Berlin's architecture, history, and culture. All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Deconstruction/Construction Tour which provides an offbeat perspective of contemporary Berlin. They also offer special tours for cruise ship passengers.
- Insider Tours. Offers daily tours in English, Hebrew, Italian and Spanish as well as private tours. Also offers day trips to Dresden, Potsdam and an excursion to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Site. €9.
- Jewish Berlin. Offers a variety of specialised Jewish Heritage tours in Berlin and its vicinity. Site also includes information about Jewish life in Berlin.
- Vive Berlin Tours. A cooperative of experienced tour guides offers several walking tours, most notably free tours to the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen and a "Third Reich Tour" that cooperates with the 1936 Olympic Stadium.
- Stern und Kreisschiffahrt. By far the biggest boat company in Berlin. They offer tours on most lakes.
- Yachtcharter Werder. Offers the possibility of a long term stay on the waterways of Berlin and the surrounding federal state Brandenburg.
- Admission Free Berlin. Website giving a daily overview about free sights, parties and cultural events in Berlin.
- Berlin Greeter, e-mail: email@example.com. "Berlin Greeters" are volunteers who offer free walks through their Berlin districts. Individual face-to-face encounters between "real" Berliners and Berlin visitors are central for this project (six people maximum).
Pick up a copy of Exberliner, , the monthly English-language paper for Berlin to find out what's on, when and where. It provides high quality journalism and up-to-date listings. If you understand German, the activity planners for the city, zitty and tip , are available at every kiosk. Be prepared to choose among a huge amount of options.
Berlin has many great parks which are very popular in the summer. Green Berlin operates some of them.
- Großer Tiergarten, Berlin's largest park. In the summer and on weekends you will see loads of families with their barbecues.
- Viktoriapark, (Kreuzberg). Superb panoramic views across south Berlin. National monument by Schinkel on top of it.
- Schlossgarten Charlottenburg (inside the Charlottenburg Palace). The green areas of the park is free, so you can go there to have a walk even if you are not interested in the palace. It covers a large area and you can get in from the entrance just near the "New Pavillon" (Neuer Pavillon a.k.a. Schinkelpavillon) placed on the right of Luisenplatz. Bus M45, 309: „Luisenplatz“ or „Klausenerplatz“, the nearest train station is Sophie-Charlotte Platz on the U2.
- Gärten der Welt (World's Garden). Open daily from 09:00-16:00, in April and October until 18:00, from May-Sep until 20:00. Inside you can find a large, well-established Chinese garden, a Korean garden, a small Bali's Garden/Glasshouse, an Oriental Garden with nice fountains and a cloister and a Japanese garden which is a project by the city partnership of Berlin and Tokyo. Best time for a visit is in spring or summer. To get there, take the S7 until "Marzahn" station and continue with bus 195 until Eisenacher Straße. Entrance is €3.
- Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem (Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem), Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8. Opening hours. Ticket: €6, reduced rate: €3, family day ticket: €12.
Lakes and Beaches
- Wannsee is called Berlin's "bath tub". The Strandbad Wannsee is the most famous bathing area for locals. Take the S-Bahn lines S1 or S7 to the station Nikolassee and follow the crowd!
- Müggelsee in the south east of Berlin is a popular swimming spot.
- Berlinale – Berlin Film Festival. The city's largest cultural event and an important fixture in the global film industry's calendar (up there with Cannes). 250,000 tickets sold, 400 different films screened and a host of associated parties and events every year. In contrast to e.g. Cannes, all screenings at the Berlinale are open to the public. Tickets are inexpensive and relatively easy to get for the "International Forum of Young Film" screenings and the "Berlinale Panorama" (movies which are not in the competition).
- Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums), ☎ +49 30 90 26 99 444. A large cultural event in May (17th May 2014, 16th May 2015) with museums open until 2AM and extra events around the city. Price with unlimited use of the shuttle bus service and public transportation (BVG and S-Bahn): 18 €, concessions 12 €.
- Fête de la Musique (Worldwide Music Day). June 21 every year. All kinds of music around the city on this day coordinating with a similar day in most French cities.
- Open Air Gallery Oberbaumbrücke, Oberbaumbrücke between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain (just under the bridge Oberbaum). Sunday 2th June and Sun 7th July 2013 at 10 to 22 h. Artists are selling their works, amateur tango dancers are giving public performances and you can contribute to a collaborative painting on a very long canvas spread on the street along the festival. free.
- Festival of lights. 09th until 18th October 2015. Famous buildings are illuminated in a special way free.
- Christopher Street Day in June 21, 2014. Germans gay pride. A well-known annual political demonstration for the rights of the gay culture organised in all major German cities. Even if you are indifferent about the issue, the Christopher Street Day is usually a worthwhile sight as many participants show up in wild costumes. · English Info
- Fuckparade. In August. The Fuckparade (Hateparade in the early days) started as an antiparade or demonstration against the commercialized Love Parade, and was first on the same date as the Love Parade but later the date was shifted. The Fuckparade is a political demonstration, with political speeches at the beginning and the end and the parade with music between. The general motto of the Fuckparade is "against the destruction of the club scene". The music is quite different than at the Love Parade: mostly independent/alternative/extreme electronic music.
- Hanf Parade. In August. The Hanfparade is the biggest European political demonstration for the legalization of hemp for use in agriculture and as a stimulant.
- Karneval. In late February or early March. As a lot of people in Berlin originally came from the southern or western area of Germany where Fasching, Fastnacht or Karneval is celebrated, a carnival parade was also established in Berlin. It grew bigger and bigger (about 500.000 to 1 million people watching), but the costumes and cars are rather boring and the people are not as dressed up as in the "original" big carnival parades (Cologne, Mainz, Düsseldorf). Since 2007 the traditional route across Kurfürstendamm was chosen. Note that people from Berlin themselves don't care a bit about Karneval; this is mostly an event for people coming from the regions of Germany that have a Karneval. In fact, most Berliners will be laughing at you if you mention that you went to Karneval, so beware that this is not a Berlin tradition, but a recent (post-1990) institution.
- Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures). In May or June (on Whit Sunday). The idea of the "Carnival of Cultures" is a parade of the various ethnic groups of the city showing traditional music, costumes and dances. Other more modern, alternative and political groups also participate. Similar events are also held in Hamburg and Frankfurt.
Theatre, opera, concerts, cinema
Berlin is arguably the live cultural centre of Germany:
- Deutsches Theater (German theatre), Schumannstraße 13a (U-Bahn Oranienburger Tor, Bus 147), ☎ +49 30 2844-1221. Classical theatre with an impressive line up of actors and directors.
- Berliner Ensemble (Theater am Schiffbauer Damm), Bertolt-Brecht-Platz 1, ☎ +49 30 2840-8155, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contemporary theatre.
- Maxim Gorki Theater, Am Festungsgraben 2 (Tram „Am Kupfergraben“, Bus 100, 200, TXL „Staatsoper“), ☎ +49 30 2022-1115, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz (People's Theatre), Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz / Linienstraße 227, ☎ +49 30 2406-5777, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes controversial, modern theatre.
- Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. Modern theatre.
- Theater am Kurfürstendamm. Popular theatre with TV celebrities in modern plays.
- English Theatre Berlin. Theatre that features all plays/music theatre in English.
Musicals and shows
- Theater des Westens (Theatre of the West), Kantstraße 12 (U+S Zoologischer Garten), ☎ +49 30 - 3190 30, e-mail: email@example.com.
An historic theatre in the former West Berlin, only musicals today. Till 2013: „Tanz der Vampire“
- Theater am Potsdamer Platz. Musicaltheater – Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 1
- Friedrichstadt-Palast. Berlin's biggest show with over 100 artists on the biggest theatre stage in the world.
- Komische Oper. Modern operas.
- Deutsche Oper. Classic opera house of West Berlin.
- Staatsoper Unter den Linden. '. The impressive building and royal history make the building alone worth a visit. Schiller Theater in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
- Neuköllner Oper. Voted several times best off-opera house and known for its modern and contemporary pieces. Mostly in German as usually relating to developments in Germany. Very creative and innovative.
- Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1 (Bus 200, M41: Philharmonie, or Bus M48, M85, N2: Varian-Fry-Str.), ☎ +49 30 254 88 999, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Berliner Philharmonie is a concert hall with 2,440 seats in Berlin-Tiergarten (constructed 1960–1963) and the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Famous building and outstanding musicians. Reservations are recommended, but cheaper tickets are usually available 2–4 hr before the concert if not sold out. Every Tuesday (September to June) 1pm-2pm free lunch concert; come early. In the winter, late-night concerts (10:30 or 11pm) are a bargain and often have more avant-garde or unconventional formats.
- Kammermusiksaal (chamber-music hall). with 1,180 seats. Constructed 1984–1987. It is linked to the foyer of the Philharmonie.
- Konzerthaus Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt, ☎ +49 30 2030 92 101 (bookings), fax: +49 30 20 30 9 2249, e-mail: email@example.com. *
There are about a hundred cinemas in Berlin, although most of them only show movies dubbed in German, without subtitles. Listed below are some of the more important cinemas also showing movies in the original language (look for the OmU - "original with subtitles" - notation). Most movies which are dubbed into German are released a bit later in Germany. Tickets are normally €5-7. Monday to Wednesday are special cinema days with reduced admission.
- CineStar. The "CineStar Original" cinema located inside the Sony Center at the Potsdamer-Platz shows only movies in original version (e.g. in English, without subtitles).
- Babylon Kreuzberg. Also non-mainstream movies in this small cinema built in the 1950s.
- Central (near Hackesche Höfe). Repertory cinema located in an ex-squat.
- Kino Moviemento (between Kreuzberg and Neukölln). The oldest cinema deutschland (1907).
- Filmtheater Hackesche Höfe (4th floor of the Hackesche Höfe). Very broad range of movies.
- Kant Kino. One of the few old cinemas (founded 1912) left in Berlin's western city. Mostly non-mainstream European movies.
In Berlin, nearly all sports are on offer:
- The most popular sport is football, which is played all over the city. The Berlin FA lists all the clubs.
- Not to be missed is the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2006 world cup final. Hertha BSC Berlin , Berlin´s highest professional football team, plays there during the Bundesliga season in spring, fall and winter.
- Basketball. Alba Berlin, known as The Albatross are consistently the best basketball team in Germany, and one of the best in Europe.
- With fans crazier than most in the NBA, Albatross games at the o2 World arena are an exciting way to take in one of the world's greatest sports.
- Public swimming pools. Can be found around the city. Check out BBB for pool listings and opening times.
- Sailing, on one of the many lakes is also popular. You can find sailing clubs and most universities have ships as well.
- Golf. You can find golf clubs all around Berlin, although for non-members Motzen has one of the best.
- Ice hockey. The Berlin Eisbären (Polar Bears) play this fast, exciting and very physical sport during the winter. The excitement is heightened by the singing and chanting of the crowds, who are fueled by the copious quantities of wurst and beer available.
- Floorball, is booming faster than ever before in the German capital. A sum of teams defines the cascade of the local floorball scene, whereas the decorated Bundesliga site of BAT Berlin probably embodies the most prominent one.
- American Football. After the closing of NFL Europe and the related end of Berlin Thunder (triple winner of the World Bowl), the Berlin Adler (Eagles are Berlin´s No. 1 team playing in the German Football League. The Berlin Rebels currently (2015) also play in the first division German Football League.
- Australian Football. The Berlin Crocodiles host regular matches in the summer.
- Day Spa. In Riverside Hotel next to the Friedrichstadtpalast.
- Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa, Grand Hyatt Berlin Hotel, Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 2, ☎ +49 30 2553 1234, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Adlon Day Spa. One of the best spa's in town right next to the Brandenburg Gate in the Hotel Adlon
- Sana's Day Spa for Women (in Zehlendorf). Small spa offers privacy for women and daily fresh blended products.
Universities in Berlin
Berlin has three major universities, and one art university. Freie Universität was founded after World War II in West Berlin and today the city's largest university by number of students. Humboldt Universität is the oldest university in Berlin with an impressive record of alumni and professors – Albert Einstein, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to name but a few. During the Cold War it was the main university in East Berlin and after reunification there have been efforts to reinstate its former glory. The Technische Universität was founded in 1879 as Technische Hochschule Berlin with a good reputation for its research. The Universität der Künste Berlin is one of the largest institutions of music and arts in the world. This institution was for the most time of its existence called Hochschule der Künste, and you can still find the abbreviation HDK in the logo on some buildings.
- Goethe-Institut Berlin, Neue Schönhauser Str. 20, ☎ +49 30 259063, e-mail: email@example.com. Learn the German language with a variety of courses of different durations. Certificates from this institute are globally recognized as the standard for German language ability.
The current economic climate is stable but to find work in Berlin is not easy. A sound level of German improves your chance as only few multinational companies are present in Berlin. Any kind of skills (especially language) that separates you from the masses will definitely improve your chances for a job.
If you have an academic background then teaching English (Spanish, French & Latin are good, too) or private tutoring (e.g. math) for pupils is always a possibility as Berlin is a young city and education is in strong demand. Otherwise working in a bar might be an option but it'll be tough, because wages are low and big tips are uncommon. Chances are much better when big trade fairs (e.g. "Grüne Woche", bread & butter or ITB) or conventions take place so apply at temp & trade fair agencies. The hospitality industry and call centers are constantly hiring but wages are very low unless you can offer special skills (such as exotic languages) or background.
Berlin has a growing media, modeling and TV/movie industry. For daily soaps, telenovelas and movies most companies look for people with something specific. Apply at the bigger casting and acting agencies.
For English-language jobs, if might be worth checking out the classified ads of this monthly magazine for English-speakers, Exberliner.
Due to federal liberalisation, shopping hours are theoretically unlimited on weekdays. Nevertheless, many of the smaller shops still close at 20:00. Most of the bigger stores and nearly all of the malls are open additionally until 9 or 10PM from Thursday to Saturday. Sunday opening is still limited to about a dozen weekends per year, although some supermarkets located at train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten (under the S-Bahn bridge), Friedrichstraße, Innsbrucker Platz (U4 in the underground) and Ostbahnhof) are open also on Sundays. Many bakeries and small food stores (called Spätkauf) are open late at night and on Sundays in busier neighborhoods (especially Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain). Stores inside the Hauptbahnhof central station have long working hours (usually until about 22:00-23:00, also on Sundays.
The main shopping areas are:
- Ku'Damm and its extension, Tauentzienstraße remain the main shopping streets even now that the Wall has come down. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) at Wittenbergplatz is a must visit just for the vast food department on the 6th floor. It's reputedly the biggest department store in Continental Europe and still has an old world charm, with very helpful and friendly staff.
- Schloßstraße in Steglitz with the shopping center Schloss-Straßen-Center, Forum Steglitz, Karstadt, Boulevard Berlin, Naturkaufhaus and Das Schloss, between the subway stations U9 Walther-Schreiber-Platz and U9+S1 Rathaus Steglitz.
- Friedrichstraße is the upmarket shopping street in former East Berlin with Galeries Lafayette and the other Quartiers (204 to 207) as main areas to be impressed with wealthy shoppers.
The new great shopping center "Leipziger Platz 12 Mall of Berlin" is opening at September 2014 located 300 meters between Friedrichstraße and Leipziger Platz (U2 Potsdamer Platz or Mohrenstraße).
The renovated Galeria Kaufhof department store at Alexanderplatz is also worth a visit. The main shopping area for the alternative, but still wealthy crowd is north of Hackescher Markt, especially around the Hackesche Höfe. For some more affordable but still very fashionable shopping there is Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with a lot of young designers opening shops, but also lots of record stores and design shops. Constant change makes it hard to recommend a place, but the area around station Eberswalder Straße in Prenzlauer Berg, around Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg and around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain are always great when it comes to shopping.
For nice and trendy second-hand clothing and accessories visit Elementarteilchen - Second Hand für Frauen in the upcoming district Berlin-Wedding (Di-Sa 12-16, Amsterdamer Str. 4, Seestr. U6).
For cheap books, a nice choice is Jokers Restseller in Friedrichstraße 148, ☎+49 30 20 45 84 23) where there is a wide variety of secondhand books.
For souvenirs, have a look just in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche; these shops sell almost the same items as others, but are cheaper, but not all the staff speaks English. You can also get cheap postcards there (from €0.30 while the average price for normal postcard is €0.50-0.80).
For collectible stamps go to Goethe Straße 2 (Ernst Reuter Platz, U2), where you can find a Philatelic Post Office from the Deutsche Post. They generally speak English.
For alternative souvenirs (design, fashion and small stuff from Berlin designers and artists), go to ausberlin near Alexanderplatz; it's a bit hidden at the other side of Kaufhof at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
You can find dozens of flea markets with different themes in Berlin (mostly on weekends), but worth checking out is the big one at Straße des 17. Juni:
- Straße des 17. Juni, (between Ernst-Reuter-Haus and S-Bahn: Tiergarten).
- Mauerpark, (next to Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg. Use U-Bahn: Eberswalder Straße), on Sundays.
- Arkonaplatz, (close to Mauerpark). On Sundays, so it can be combined with a visit there.
Credit cards are becoming more common, but Germans still largely prefer cash, as well EC/Maestro cards. Most places in tourist zones will accept credit cards, but it is still a good idea to ask in advance if you intend to pay with one. Many restaurants require a minimum check amount, sometimes in excess of €30.
For Americans, Germany uses the chip-and-pin system so you may have trouble at places like unattended gas stations and automated ticket machines. Often, a cashier will be able to swipe the magnetic strip, but don't be surprised if someone refuses your credit card because it doesn't have a chip.
Ich bin ein Berliner
in some parts of Germany - but not Berlin, jelly doughnuts are known as Berliner, but in Berlin, they're called Pfannkuchen. This in turn means "pancake" almost everywhere else, so if you want a pancake in Berlin, you have to ask for Eierkuchen. Confused yet?
Lovers of street food rejoice! Berlin has an incredibly wide variety of different styles and tastes at very affordable prices (for European wallets, that is). You can find superb food in a small stall tucked away under the tracks of elevated U-Bahn stretches for well under five euros.
A staple in Berlin is currywurst. It's a bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder. You can find them all over Berlin by street vendors. It's a must try when in Berlin. Two renowned Currywurst stands are "Konnopke's Imbiss" below Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2 and "Curry 36" opposite the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg (only two stops south of Checkpoint Charlie). Both of these offer far friendlier service than many of Berlin's more upmarket eateries.
Another famous thing to eat in Berlin is Döner, a flat bread filled with lamb or chicken meat and vegetables, available at many Turkish stands.
Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes.
Berlin may seem like carnivore Heaven, but vegetarians and vegans can eat quite well. Berliners are generally environmentally conscious, and that extends to their food; most of the inner neighborhoods have a handful of good healthy vegetarian or vegan restaurants using local ingredients, though they tend to be more expensive than the ubiquitous kebab and sausage stands. If you're a vegetarian on a limited budget, many kebab restaurants have a good selection of roasted vegetables and salads, and you can usually get falafels (fried chickpea balls, suitable for vegans) and halloumi (a type of dense cheese) in place of meat.
All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down—it's not that common to accept credit cards and cash is preferred. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and MasterCard; all other cards will only be accepted in some upmarket restaurants. Please note that lately European debit cards are not always accepted because due to debit card fraud, some processing companies stopped intra-European cards from specific countries. This does not apply to debit cards that are from German banks. Better have cash or ask the restaurant staff.
One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and even the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though, The "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe since several administrative and religious buildings are located here.
For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukölln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebap restaurants. Prices start from €2 for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.
Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists and students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further. Up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.
Waiters and tipping
Except at very high-end restaurants, nobody will seat you. If you see an open table, just sit down. You may need to go get a menu yourself from another table or a pile near the cash register. If you sit outside, expect slightly slower service.
As in most European countries, you need to tell the waiter when you want to pay and leave. The waiter will come to you usually with a money purse, and the custom in Germany is to tell the waiter how much you’re paying (including the tip) when you receive the bill — don’t leave the money on the table. If there is confusion with the tip, remember to ask for your change, Wechselgeld (money back).
Add a 5-10% tip (or round up to the next Euro) to the bill if you are satisfied with the service. If you received shoddy service or are otherwise unsatisfied it is perfectly acceptable to not tip at all - waiters and waitresses have the same 8.50€ an hour minimum wage any other job has, so they don't depend on tips as the biggest part of their salary like in the US
All restaurant information is in the corresponding borough articles of
- Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain – Young and independent student area with a big Turkish community in Kreuzberg.
- City West – Heart of West Berlin with good quality restaurants.
- Mitte – Political and new center of East Berlin with upmarket restaurants.
- Schöneberg – City slickers and street cafe atmosphere.
- Prenzlauer Berg – Buzzing Prenzlberg and its lively student scene.
It is very common to go out for breakfast or brunch (long breakfast and lunch, all you can eat buffet, usually from 10:00-16:00, for €4 to €12 - sometimes including coffee, tea or juice). See the district pages of Berlin/City West#Breakfast & Berlin/East Central#Eat.
For more clubs, have a look at the district pages.
The club scene in Berlin is one of the biggest and most progressive in Europe. Even though there are some 200 clubs in the city, it's sometimes difficult to find the right club for you since the best ones are a bit off the beaten track and most bouncers will keep bigger tourist groups (especially males) out. Entrance is cheap compared to other big European cities, normally from 5 to €10 (usually no drink included).
The main clubbing districts are in the east: Mitte (especially north of Hackescher Markt and - a bit hidden - around Alexanderplatz), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (around Schlesisches Tor) and Prenzlauer Berg (around station Eberswalder Str.). Some mainstream clubs are located in Charlottenburg and at Potsdamer Platz. Electro and techno are still the biggest in Berlin, with lots of progressive DJs and live acts around. But there are also many clubs playing '60s beat, alternative rock and of course mainstream music. Clubbing days are Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday, but some clubs are open every day of the week. Partying in Berlin starts around midnight (weekends) and peaks around 2AM or 3AM in the normal clubs, a bit later in many electro/techno clubs. Berlin is famous for its long and decadent after hours, going on until Monday evening.
A good overview about what's going on close to the place you are staying is brought to you by joinjack.de. This website shows you parties directly on a map. Be sure to check Resident Advisor for the best parties before you go out.
Berliners love to drink cocktails, and it's a main socializing point for young people. Many people like to meet their friends in a cocktail bar before clubbing. Prenzlauer Berg (Around U-Bahnhof Eberswalder Str., Helmholtzplatz, Oderberger Straße & Kastanienallee), Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße, Oranienstraße and the area around Görlitzer Park and U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor), Schöneberg (Goltzstraße, Nollendorfplatz, Motzstraße for gays), and Friedrichshain (Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz) are the main areas.
At Warschauer Straße (which you can reach via S-Bahn and U-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) and more specifically Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz you can find a wide variety of bars. It is common for locals to meet at Warschauer to go to a bar there. Also Ostkreuz (Eastcross) and Frankfurter Allee are very famous meeting points. Especially to visit the alternative ("underground-/left-szene") locations in houseprojects (so called squats), like the Supamolly at Jessnerstreet (Traveplatz), the Scharni38 (Scharnweberstreet) and so on, or famous alternative clubs on the Revaler Straße, like the R.A.W. or the Lovelite on Simplonstraße.
There are lots of Irish bars all over the city, as there are in all European cities. If you like off-the-shelf Irish bars or watching football in English then you won't be disappointed, but in a city with new cool bars opening pretty much daily and a huge range from which to choose, you'll find that these cater mostly to the Irish construction workers and Germans attracted by Irish music, which is often played in them. The Irish pub in the Europa Center at Tauentzienstraße is famous. Located in the basement of a skyscraper, you will find a big Irish pub and a rowdy crowd on the weekend. It also claims to have the longest bar in all of Berlin!
There aren't as many illegal bars as there were in the '90s but bars open and close faster than you can keep up - check out the bar and cocktail guides in the bi-weekly magazines Tip or Zitty. For recommended bars, have a look at the district pages.
Brauhaus (breweries) brew and sell their own beer on the premises. There is usually a public viewing area onto the brewery. Try Gaffel Haus, Brauhaus Georgbraeu, Brauhaus Mitte, Brauhaus Spandau and Brauhaus Lemke.
Cafe Einstein is one particular example of a home grown coffee chain which has nice staff, great coffee and is fairly priced. In particular, the Einstein on Unter den Linden is as far from "junk coffee" as it's possible to be.
If you want to get some tap water, ask for "Leitungswasser" (if you just say "water" (Wasser), you will receive mineral water.) This is common if you drink coffee. They should not charge you for it but you should order another drink as well.
Berlin is still witnessing a construction boom of hotels and offices since the end of the Cold War. The boom leads to a significant oversupply of hotels which results in comparatively cheap prices even in the 5 star category (off-season prices of €110 per night are not unusual). Especially for a short visit, it may be best to stay at a place in Berlin-Mitte (around Friedrichstraße), as most of the main sights are located there. Due to its history most hotels in Berlin are still located in the City West (i.e. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf), especially close to Zoo station. Alexanderplatz and Anhalter Bahnhof have clusters of 2-3 star budget hotels (i.e. Ibis, Motel One). You'll find currently only budget hotels (Motel One and Meininger) located directly at the new main train station but some large constructions are in progress. The (oddly named) budget hotel chain 'Motel-One' operates various 2-star hotels in the city centre. There are also many 3-4 star 'NH Hotels' offering good value. All major hotel chains are present in Berlin. A good idea to check that the hotel is close to public transport (U-Bahn or S-Bahn) to avoid too long walks.
Cheapest are youth hostels (called Jugendherbergen, only for members) and hostels (similar to youth hostels, but for everyone, mostly backpackers stay here, usually in one to 32-bed rooms). You will also find bed and breakfast offers (often private) and boarding houses (Pension, more familiar and smaller than hotels). Be aware that the majority of private flats on platforms like AirBnB are offered illegaly in Berlin and contribute to the ongoing housing crisis. Try to choose your accommodation responsibly!
Check the district pages for individual accommodation listings. Popular hotel districts include:
- Mitte - mostly high-end hotels in the main tourist areas and some cheap hotels and hostels on the outskirts
- Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf - the largest number of mid-range and upscale hotels can be found here, mostly grouped around the Zoologischer Garten railway station and the Ku'damm
- Prenzlauer Berg - here you will find many independent small hotels, hostels and guesthouses in the relaxed atmosphere of this district
- Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg - the centre of alternative life in Berlin offers many suitably-themed accommodation opportunities, mostly hostels and guesthouses
You may find accommodation at reasonable prices in almost any district of Berlin, but be mindful of the time it may take to get from that place to where you want to visit, as Berlin is a very large city.
You can find internet cafes and telephone shops all around Berlin. Do a bit of research with the telephone shops because most have a focus region in the world. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests. The ubiquitous Einstein Coffee offers 30 minutes of free wifi for all patrons.
The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country (e.g. the United States) check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility. Note: The GSM iPhone, which works with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., works perfectly in Berlin.
A free wireless network covers parts of Berlin, but requires special software on your computer. More information including maps of Berlin with coverage is available online.
Berlin is a safe place but it has some not-so-well maintained areas, too. No specific rules apply with the exception of public transportation and tourist areas where pickpockets are a problem. Watch your bags during rush hours and at larger train stations.
The police in Berlin are competent, not corrupt; therefore, if you try to bribe them you are likely to spend at least a night behind bars to check your background. They are generally helpful to tourists. Most of the officers are able to speak English, so don't hesitate to approach them if you are frightened or lost. The nationwide emergency number is ☎ 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is ☎ 110.
Since the 1980s, there have been localized riots on Labour Day (May 1). In general they take place in Kreuzberg around Oranienstraße/Mariannenplatz. Nowadays they usually start the night before May 1, especially in the Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg), at Boxhagener Platz and in Rigaer Str. (Friedrichshain) and start again in the evening of May 1 in Kreuzberg and in the mentioned areas. The violent riots have become rather small since 2005 due to the engagement of the citizens who celebrate the Labour Day with a nice "myfest" in Kreuzberg and well-planned police efforts. It is still better to stay out of these areas from 20:00 until sunrise. Vehicles should not be parked in these area as this is asking for damage!
Racially-motivated violence is rare but the risk is higher on the outskirts of East Berlin. It is recommended for non-Caucasian tourists to be attentive in areas such as Lichtenberg, Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Treptow and Köpenick in the evening/night especially if alone.
In the bordering neighbourhood of the districts Neukölln and Kreuzberg (between Hermannplatz, Schönleinstrasse to Kottbusser Tor) and Wedding (Moabit and Gesundbrunnen) the risk of falling victim to robberies and assaults is slightly higher. Tourists should visit these areas with some caution during the night as a mixture of drunken party people and poor neighbourhoods might lead to trouble.
Although harmless, panhandlers have recently started to beg at local tourist spots such as Pariser Platz next to the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the Museuminsel. They are usually women accompanied by their daughters who ask if you speak English and say that they are from the new EU countries and trying to raise money to fly home. The story is false, so don't give them money, which would encourage further exploitation of the women and their kids. They also have a new tactic where they hand you a card telling their "story" and asking for money; beware that the children that they carry in their arms will search through your bags while you are reading the card. The best way to avoid this is simply to ignore them and not to respond when they ask you "Speak English?" If you feel scared, don't hesitate to contact the police, as they will help.
Prostitution is a legal business in Germany. Berlin has no major red-light district though some big brothels were built. Berlin has no "Sperrbezirk" (restricted areas for prostitutes) so the "apartments" or brothels are spread throughout the whole city. The Oranienburger Straße in Mitte is infamous for its prostitutes at night. These women are a tourist attraction and the ladies focus only on tourists to request exorbitant prices.
The proximity to Eastern Europe, relaxed visa rules, and the illegal migrant community increases the number of prostitutes. Advertisements are in the tabloids and online. Human trafficking and illegal immigration is a problem; therefore, police raids do take place and close down illegal places. Brothels and prostitutes must register like normal businesses, or they will be prosecuted for tax evasion. In general, the police officers are not interested in the clients (especially if you stay calm and don't try to argue) but you must have a photo ID (passport copy is fine) with you. Otherwise, you might spend a night at the police station while your background gets checked.
Some people from Berlin would ask you why you would ever want to leave, but there are a couple of nice places in close proximity - some even within reach of the Berlin S-Bahn. Brandenburg is mostly rural so a short drive will get you "away from it all" and right into picturesque nature.
- Potsdam is the capital of the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg, not far southwest of Berlin, and makes a perfect day trip. Especially the park of Sanssouci, a world heritage site with its great famous palaces, is worth a visit. You can get there with the S-Bahn S7 or Regional-Express RE1 to the station Potsdam Hauptbahnhof or Park Sanssouci (fare zone C). It takes about half an hour from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Friedrichstraße.
- Sachsenhausen, is in outer Oranienburg, a quiet suburb housing the remains of one of the few preserved Nazi concentration camps on German soil. There's also a small palace in the centre of Oranienburg.
- The Müritz Lake Region (Mecklenburgische Seenplatte) to the north is a national park with a few hundred lakes.
- To the south, Dresden is 2.5 hr and Leipzig is about 1.25 hours by train. Due to the intense competition along the Dresden-Berlin route, a bus ticket (2.5 to 3 hours) can be had starting at five Euros.
- The beautiful Baltic seashore (e.g. Usedom, Stralsund and Rugia) is close enough for a day trip by train.
- The Spreewald is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. It includes low-lying areas in which the river Spree meanders in thousands of small waterways through meadows and forests. It is a beautiful, unique landscape about one hour south of Berlin and well worth a day trip or a weekend trip to relax from the buzzing city life.
- Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border is within easy reach.
- Lutherstadt Wittenberg is about 40 minutes southeat of Berlin by ICE. Schlosskirche was the church where Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door. Across the street from there is a visitor's centre with great information. Great city to tour and one can easily explore on foot.
The motorway Raststätte Grunewald at the S-Bahn station Nikolassee is a good spot for hitching if you're heading south or west.
The Polish border is just some 90 km to the east of Berlin, therefore it might be interesting to do a trip to Szczecin (Stettin) which is about two and a half hours by train or Poznań (Posen) which is three hours by train or Wroclaw (Breslau) which is only 3-4 hours by car, depending on direction.