Berlin, a heady blend of grit and glamour in the northeast of Germany is the country’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.
Although 92% of the capital’s buildings were razed to the ground by World War II bombs, it has rebuilt itself with remarkable results over the decades, making its memorials, museums and cutting-edge architecture ripe for exploring.
Arriving at Berlin Tegel Airport
Berlin’s compact yet functional Tegel Airport sits about five miles northwest of the city centre. On landing, passport checks and customs are usually relatively swift, and the airport is well integrated into the city’s public transport network, making it easy to travel to and from.
Four BVG (Berlin Transport Services) stops are located right outside Terminals A and B and the TXL Express Bus runs at six-minute intervals towards the city centre via Main Station (Hauptbahnhof) to central Alexanderplatz (it takes around 37 minutes, depending on the time of day). Zoologischer Garten, to the west of the city, can be reached in approximately 20 minutes by Express Bus.
If you want to change onto the S-Bahn (Berlin’s rapid transit railway system), the Express Bus TXL will take you to Beusselstrasse station in just 10 minutes, where you can take the circular line. The U-Bahn network (which runs mostly underground) is just five minutes away from the airport via the Express Bus.
Tegel also has a direct connection to motorway A111 (exit Flughafen Tegel) which then links it to the A10, A110 and A115, reaching out in all directions across the city. Taxis are easy to flag down and car hire is clearly signposted.
Berlin’s comprehensive and efficient public transport system is operated by BVG and comprises the U-Bahn (the underground or subway system, which is usually the most efficient way of getting around town), the S-Bahn (or light rail, handy for longer distances) and buses and trams, which are ideal for shorter journeys.
One ticket, which you can be buy from bus drivers, station offices, vending machines at U- or S-Bahn stations and aboard trams, is valid for all forms of public transport. Remember to validate single tickets, except those brought from bus drivers and on trams, at station platform entrances.
Taxis can be ordered by phone, flagged down or picked up at a rank. Come evening, cars will often line up outside theatres, restaurants and bars and a fixed initial charge of €3.90 is applied. Then it’s €2 per kilometre up to 7km and €1.50 for each kilometre thereafter. It’s common practice to tip drivers around 10%.
The city is served by multiple car hire companies, with the big international brands maintaining branches at the airport, major train stations and throughout the city.
Due to the city’s division during the Cold War, Berlin actually houses central business districts in both its West and East boroughs. Kurfürstendamm, a Champs Elysees-style boulevard which is home to fashion houses and flashy car showrooms, is situated in the West, whereas Alexanderplatz is the real nucleus of East Berlin. You’ll also find a newly built business centre near the dazzling skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz, often described as the city’s Times Square.
The large and bustling Mitte district is colourful, cosmopolitan and jam-packed with sights. The vast and imposing Brandenburg Gate, possibly the city’s most famous landmark, sits here, along with the striking Reichstag building. Nestled in the southeastern corner of the sprawling Tiergarten central park, you’ll also find the Kulturforum – a collection of popular art museums that are some of the world’s best.
For authentic local life
Settled across Kreuzberg park, in West Berlin, Bergmannkiez is a pretty neighbourhood of café-lined streets, Parisian-style cobbles and a historic market square. Bergmannstrasse, the area’s main street, houses a 27,000 sq ft (2,500 sq m) market hall, dating back to 1891, which sells well-thumbed books, fresh seasonal produce and artworks. The wonderfully green Viktoriapark lies just to the west, and it’s here that you’ll find Berlin’s only waterfall.
Voltage: 230 V
Time zone: Central European Time (GMT +1) and Central European Summer Time (GMT +2)
- Languages: German, although most official offices also speak English.