Please note, there are problems with the braking systems of the newer S-bahn trains, any line using them does have restricted service - the ring line, S1 and S2 for instance. Also the lines that run through zoo, Friedrichstrasse, Ostbanhof, the trains can be shorter and very crowded and you may have to change train occasionally. Still good service, but just be alert.
For older travellers one of the most stressful experiences is finding your way from the airport to the hotel.
Option one: Get a taxi directly from the airport to your hotel. It will cost some euros but it's worth it, I assure you.
Option two: Get the shuttle bus to the centre of the city. It will stop outside a McDonald's outlet. You will drag your luggage off and look for a taxi rank. You won't see one - only a lot of whizzing traffic. You will now curse the day you left home - but do not despair! There is a taxi rank but it is on the opposite side of the square from McDonalds. Drag your luggage over there, get a taxi to your hotel and collapse on your bed. Have a nice day!
Access for disabled people, elderly people, cyclists, anyone with a dog, or anyone with luggage.
In London maybe one eighth of the underground has step free access: In Berlin almost one eighth of the S Bahn and U Bahn (overground and underground) hasn't got step free access! The lifts are smooth to stop & start, and large enough to fit a bike, or a large pram as well as a few more people. Most of the platforms have no gap if they're at a "barriere frei" station and v minimal height difference (maybe a couple of inches at worst, but nowhere near the size of gaps on the London underground!).
Buy the welcome card - you can purchase it in advance (and pay a hefty shipping fee) or buy it at the airport at Gate 13. It provides 50% off of attractions and free subway transportation for the time period that you select.
Don't hesitate to try the bus system or subway. Both are inexpensive, intuitive, quick, and user-friendly.
Full report at www.travelmusings.net
City bus tours can be expensive but routes 100 and 200 in Berlin are regular (double-decker) services which pass most of the main sights in the city centre. Buy a pack of tickets (which can also be used on the S-bahn and U-bahn) and get on and off where you want.
A day (or more) ticket (Tageskarte) is the most economical option and can be bought from most BVG ticket offices, such as the one at Zoologischer Garten (Zoo).
A day travel ticket for all zones in Berlin (A,B,C) costs only 6 euros (tickets for fewer zones are slightly cheaper). For this you can travel to Tegel (and the other airports) and as far out as Potsdam - 19 miles from the centre of Berlin.
The highly atmospheric district of Kreuzberg was famed for its squat scene, punks and alternative culture (which was partly due to its status on the very edge of West Berlin). Now that the wall has come down its status as an 'alternative' district has diminished considerably. But despite encroaching gentrification, particularly in the west, it still has its own special character.
For an overview of Kreuzberg take U-bahn line U1 from Schlesisches Tor to Gleisdreick. Trains run along an elevated section. West Kreuzberg is traditionally more upmarket, whereas the east is still more down-at-heel.
The main sights include the Jewish Museum and the Transport and Technical Museum. Typical Berlin tenements survive in Kreuzberg, and there are particularly interesting blocks at Chamissoplatz and Riehmer's Hofgarten, between Yorckstrasse and Hagelbergerstrasse.
Kreuzberg is also a good area for budget accommodation and has decent bars and restaurants.
Kreuzberg begins immediately south of Checkpoint Charlie so it's within walking distance of the centre. U-bahn lines U1, U6 and U7 run through the district, as do S-bahn lines S1 and S2.
Several S-Bahn (a suburban rail network complementing the U-Bahn) routes run parallel throught the city centre. It's a cheap way of sightseeing and a good way of getting a feel for the city and the lie of the land.
A suggested route could be from Warschauer Strasse in the East to Zoologischer Garten in the West. This takes in some of Berlin's most famous addresses, including Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstrasse and Hackescher Markt. There are also 'panoramic' S-Bahn trips in specially adapted trains giving even better views (www.s-bahn-berlin.de).
S-Bahn routes S5, S7/S75 and S9 all run along the above route.
The public transport system in Berlin is very reliable and thanks to the graphic-design of Erik Spiekermann, navigating your way around this city couldn’t be easier. Nevertheless, on our last trip we hired a couple of bikes for the day and cruised the streets from east to west.
We were shocked at how much distance we covered and how many new and interesting places we found. Travelling by bike is cheap and safe. On most streets the cycle lane is on the pavement so you won’t have to worry about cars or buses.
We hired our bikes from Alexanderplatz, under the TV tower (Fernsehturm). This is a good central location to start your journey, north, south, east or west. The bikes were very comfortable and well maintained.
Ride the Stadtbahn (express local trains - not the U-Bahn) from Zoologischer Garten to Berlin Ostbahnhof station for a rooftop view of the many different characters of the city. Start in the heart of the old west and travel via the Tiergarten, new Berlin central station, government district, Freidrichstrasse, Museum Island and Alexanderplatz, ending up in the old East Berlin. Cheap, very frequent and clean. A good alternative is BVG Bus route 100, which links most of the same major sites and sights.
Zoologischer Garten station, just off Kurfurstendamm/Tauentzienstrasse or any S-Bahn station en route, see www.bvg.de for details of Berlin public transport
Unless you want to use the discounts and free-entry options its cheaper to buy one-day transport cards than the three-day Berlin welcome card. Note that both Schonefeld and Tegel airports are within the area for the card, so get it on arrival at the airport.
Find the local transport desk at Tegel (not obvious - ask) or get cards at the train station ticket office (above ground - don't head down the subway) at Schonefeld
The budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet) use Schönefeld airport, in the south-east. Take the S-Bahn into the centre of town, or the Airport Express from the same station. It’s cheap, fast, and - since this is Germany - punctual. Don’t take a taxi from Schönefeld airport to the city centre: it’s a long way.
Some airlines (like Air Berlin) arrive at Tegel airport. From here take the X9 bus to Zoologischer Garten.
Berlin's own public tourist bus route. The 100 sets off from Zoologischer Garten and goes past all the main sites - the Tiergarten, the Reichstag, Unter den Linden, and Berlin’s neo-baroque cathedral. The 200 goes in the same direction but takes a slightly different route via Potsdamer Platz. No need to get on one of those naff 'historic' tour buses.
You can take a ferry ride from Wansee to Kladow for free if you have a travelcard: it’s part of Berlin’s marvellous public transport network. Kladow is itself a great place to spend a day - stroll through the village and across the line of the Berlin Wall, past crystal clear lakes with good swimming beaches, to the Heilandskirche and castle at Sakrow. From Sakrow you can get a Viking ship in summer to Potsdam.
From Schonefeld (which is the location of one of Berlin’s airports), the S9 goes into central Berlin and north-west, and the S45 skirts along the south (taking in Schoneberg) and west of the city. These lines terminate at Shonefeld, so all trains from there should be going towards Berlin (there are suburban lines in other directions).
Buy and validate a ticket on the platform (there are no gates). A single fare for zone AB is €2.10, and a day ticket is €5 or €6.
Inspections are frequent and (this being Germany) rules must be obeyed. I have seen confused tourists, pensioners, businessmen and polite middle class families all being caught. No excuses accepted. The fine is €40.
Unlike London Underground most lines on the U-bahn run all night. We were out in Kreuzburg and had to get back to Rosenthaler Platz at 2.30am - think Elephant and Castle to Kings Cross. We went to the U-bahn at Mariennstrasse and found that trains were still running. We were able to get our connection OK too. Having said that, it's probably worth checking a timetable as some lines do stop at about 1am.
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