Arriving in Berlin

Arriving in a new and foreign city can often be intimidating – not knowing the rules, the local customs or even where to buy a transport ticket. Berlin is no different in this regard, couple that with the famous Berliner Schnauze (Berliners are renowned for being quite harsh and a little gruff-they don’t mean it!) and it might make some want to turn around and catch the next plane home!

Don’t fear. Follow this guide to arriving and traveling around Berlin and it should make your introduction a lot easier!

Arrival by plane

Most visitors fly into one of Berlin’s two airports – Tegel and Berlin Schönefeld.

Landing into either airport can seem like a time warp, both are tiny and outdated and we are still waiting for our new airport to open (currently SIX years overdue and way over budget, so much for German efficiency!).

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Schönefeld Airport

If landing at Schönefeld the cheapest option to get to the centre of Berlin is by train.  Walk out of the main airport building and follow the covered walkway to the train station.

The best option is to take one of the frequent “Airport Express” trains. These are normally red double-decker trains. The RE7 travels via Ostbahnhof to Alexanderplatz, Hauptbahnhof and Zoologischer Garten. The RB14 takes the same route but continues to Charlottenburg and Spandau and the RE9 goes to Südkreuz and Potsdamer Platz and then to Hauptbahnhof.  There is usually a train every 15-20 minutes between 05:00-00:00.

A ticket for any of these trains will cost €3 – €4 (one-way tickets are always valid for 2 hours after the ticket has been stamped) and once you have purchased a ticket in one of the many machines in the station you must validate it by stamping it in the little red box located on each platform before boarding the train.

Another option is to take the S-Bahn. This is a slower option as it stops at more stations but these trains come more frequently. The ticket price is the same as covering the same journey on the Regional Train. The S9 and S45 trains take you into the city and connect with the city wide metro.

Taking the bus from the airport is also an option. Outside the train station you can take the X7 and X11 which runs regularly to Rudow U-Bahn station from where you connect to the metro system. The ticket price is the same and tickets can be purchased from the bus driver (try and have the correct change).

The final option from Schönefeld is the easiest yet most expensive. Taxis will be waiting outside the airport terminal 24 hours a day. The journey to the city centre takes approximately 30 minutes and should cost about €40.

Tegel Airport

Many long-haul flights arrive into Tegel and first-time visitors are often shocked by its tiny size. The location was initially a military training ground and was due to be converted into allotments at the end of the Second World War but this was cancelled due to the Berlin blockade. Berlin needed another airport as quickly as possible to accommodate the daily aid flights that were keeping the city alive. The French military that occupied that part of Berlin hastily built a runway, Europe’s longest at the time-hard to believe now, even using rubble from the destroyed buildings of Berlin.

The airport is 8km from the centre and is only served by roads, no train station here. Both taxis and buses pull up in front of the main entrance. Ticket machines are located on the pavement and a single ticket into the city centre will cost about €3.

The TXL bus takes you to Beusselstrasse S-Bahn station within 5 minutes which connects you to the Ring Bahn around Berlin.  The bus continues onto to Hauptbahnhof and finally to Alexanderplatz.

The X9 bus takes you to Jakob-Kaiser Platz U-Bahn station within a few minutes which connects you to the U7 underground line before continuing on to Zoologischer Garten. If you prefer to take a taxi then it should cost approximately €25 to the city centre.

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Arriving by train

For all those arriving into Berlin from another German city or for those doing their Eurorail trip around the continent you will most likely arrive in Berlin by train. There are several large stations in Berlin but most long-distance trains will stop at three big stations.

Zoologischer Garten (you hit this one first if arriving from the West, France/Holland/Belgium etc.), Ostbahnhof (the first arrival point from the East, Poland/Czech Republic etc) and Hauptbahnhof, Berlin’s central station that opened in 2006 and is currently Europe’s largest.

All three of these stations are connected by Berlin’s central S Bahn line (S3,S5,S7,S75) which can take you East/West across the city. A one way ticket will cost about €3 and must be validated/stamped before boarding any train. For those traveling with a Eurorail pass, Berlin’s S-Bahn (not U-Bahn) system is normally covered on your ticket and for all those with International train tickets to Berlin you can connect to the metro system to reach your final destination so long as you use it immediately after arriving.

Currently, Berlin Hauptbahnhof only has one U-Bahn line which connects the station with the government quarter and the Brandenburg Gate (in years to come this will extend to Alexanderplatz and former East Berlin.) A one-way ticket on this very short line will cost about €2.

Recently added at the Central station are trams. The tram stop can be found at the back of the train station. The M5 links central Berlin to Hackerscher Markt and takes you out East. The M8 line runs through Mitte via Rosenthaler Platz and the M10 takes you through Prenzlauer Berg to Friedrichshain ending at Warschauer Strasse. Tickets can be both purchased and validated on board and a one way ticket costs about €3.

Buses will connect you throughout the whole city from all three stations.

Arriving by Bus

Berlin has a large bus depot which is located in the far West of the city near the International Congress Centre, the ICC. It is named the Zentral-omnibus Bahnhof or ZOB for short.

After leaving your coach follow signs for the S-Bahn station. The closest station is Messe Nord/ICC which is located just a couple of minutes walk away. This station is on Berlin’s Ring Bahn system and can take you all around Berlin or alternatively take the train one station south and change at Westkreuz to join the central S-Bahn lines which connect you to the heart of Berlin. A one way ticket will cost about €3, valid for 2 hours.

Do you have any tips to add upon arrival to Berlin? If so, please share them below!