Berlin is known for its rich history, especially in the 20th Century when it was a city divided by the infamous Berlin Wall. Today, it’s considered one of Europe’s coolest places to visit, in no small part down to the minimalist bars, variety of restaurants and of course, the nightlife. It's very easy to get around with monthly passes, day tickets or tourist tickets available at the ticket machines.
The city itself has a lot of choice in terms of transport. You can use the trams, buses, underground (U-Bahn), overground (S-Bahn) and inner-city trains to hop your way around the city. You can travel via high speed ICE train and arrive at numerous stations in Berlin from other cities in Germany, including Munich.
Spring and Autumn are generally fairly mild and not as wet as in the UK. Summer is especially pleasant with highs often in the 30s. By contrast the winter is harsh, with the cold, dry air from the East making itself felt. Temperatures can vary from 35 degrees Celcius in summer to -20 Celcius or even colder in winter.
Fly from London Heathrow with British Airways to Tegel, 13km away north-west from the centre, and get the TXL Express bus to reach the centre within 40 minutes. You can fly to Schönefeld from Manchester or Luton, for example, with budget airlines such as EasyJet. The cheapest times to travel either early morning flights or on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Book flights about 3-4 weeks in advance to get the best deals.
Transport within Berlin is cheap and cheerful: buy an ABC ticket which is only 3-4 euros, or a day ABC ticket for 7 euros for unlimited travel on the tram, S-Bahn, U-Bahn and even inner-city regional trains - bargain!
You can fly cheaply from London with Easyjet or from Manchester with Ryanair. In winter months it is probably the cheapest time to visit Berlin, or if you book in advance. Don’t let the cold put you off - if you pack your thermals you’ll enjoy some great atmosphere in one of Europe’s liveliest cities.
BVG operates Berlin's public transport which includes trams, metros and buses, all except for the S-Bahn which belongs to Deutsche Bahn. A day ticket for zones A + B costs 7 EUR for unlimited transport use across even innercity regional trains. Driving in Berlin is not really recommended as it is busy; particularly in the city centre and around rush hour. Rush hour in Berlin is between 8:00 a.m to 10:00 a.m, then again when commuters are returning from work from 5:00 p.m to 6:30 p.m. Outside of these times, however, Berlin is quite a pleasure to drive around with its wide, spacious roads and a great deal of parking spaces. Parking for the whole day in the city centre can cost as much as €18.
Berlin is an extremely pedestrian-friendly city - particularly in the centre - where there are numerous squares and streets that have been entirely pedestrianised. However, don't underestimate its size - walking around the entire city can be long and tiresome. Want to hire a bike in Berlin? No problem. There is a bike-hire scheme as well as numerous private bike hire companies available at Spätis (24 hr shops) or hotels. Cycling is also a popular way to travel around the city because cycle paths are widely accessible in most parts of the city.
Berlin has several major train stations, with Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central station) being the largest. From Hauptbahnhof (also abbreviated to Hbf), you can travel to other parts of Germany on the high-speed ICE trains or you can get to almost anywhere in Berlin using the S-Bahn and U-Bahn lines, either the S5, S7, S75, and soon, the U5.
Several buses also stop at the station and there is the new M5 tram route, with the M8 and M10 routes serving the eastern parts of the city. Berlin Gesundbrunnen is a major station north of the city centre, providing connections to regional trains The station also lies on the Ringbahn line (the S41 goes clockwise and the S42 goes anti-clockwise) that circles the peripheries of the city, along with the S1, S2, S25 and U8.
The main bus station is called ZOB (Zentraler Omnibsbahnhof Berlin) which is in the west of the city with 35 platforms - making it one of the largest bus stations in Germany. Main bus providers are Flixbus, MeinFernbus and Berlin Linien Bus. The ZOB is located a short, well-sign posted walk from the S and U-Bahn station Kaiserdamm. Just follow the crowds.
Berlin's public transport network, run by BVG and VBB, is easy to use, well-connected and affordable. Start by finding a ticket machine at any station or boarding platform. The touch screen ticket machines feature several language options and accept cash or card. Choose your ticket type, from single journey to daily or weekly pass, and away you go. There are no turnstiles or barriers, as the BVG trusts you to buy a ticket, but don't forget to stamp the ticket for validation before use. The iconic yellow U-Bahn underground trains comprise of 10 lines, stop frequently and cover all central areas and attractions visitors wish to see. The S-Bahn above-ground trains connect, among others, the main train and bus stations, airports and a city ring line. A fleet of trams and buses compliment the routes between train stops. One ticket is valid on every line, whether train, bus or tram, and is good for 1.5 hours in one direction. Service runs from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on weekdays and 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Using Berlin's variety of transport options is a fun way to experience the buzz of the city and its people.
In Berlin, the temperature difference between seasons is huge, and can range from 85 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and go below 32 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. The winter season (January to April) can be cold and brutally windy with grey skies, but don't let this hinder you from touring Berlin and enjoying the rich culture, history, and exciting attractions that are scattered throughout the city. If you are not prepared for the freezing temperatures and windy weather, coupled with frequent showers of the harsh winters of Berlin, then it is recommended that you visit from May through September, which is the summer season. Summer usually has a larger amount of tourists that make the nightlife one of a kind, and you can enjoy the company of vacationers from all over the world in one spot. If you travel to Berlin during the summer, you can see many musical exhibitions and shows throughout the bustling city. Also, many street fairs occur during the summer and there are always a multitude of luxurious local spas for you to relax and enjoy yourself. Spring (mid-March to May) in Berlin can be wonderfully warm, and there are also fewer crowds and better prices during this part of the year.
The Berlin district of Mitte and its sizable pedestrian marketplace, Alexanderplatz, is your hub for walking around the city's central sights. The iconic TV-Tower spire rising from the "Alex" shopping square will help to orient you and also offers fantastic panoramic views from the top. In close proximity is the Nikolei Quarter, Berlin's medieval center, which is on the Museum Island. This is where you'll find the Baroque Berliner Dom church on the Spree. The Spree, Berlin's main waterway, is lined with cafes and historic architecture and is the best spot to catch a river boat tour. You'll see more museums and galleries as you stroll along Unter Den Linden, which brings you to another Berlin monument, the Brandenburg Gate. Beyond the Gate, stop at a biergarten in the forested Tiergarten park, or travel a bit further to the Zoological Gardens. Brandenburg Gate is also close to city's Government Quarter and Reichstag building, as well as the Hauptbahnhof central train station. Wander east along the river by foot or by bike, and you'll eventually reach the Eastside Gallery, where remnants of the Berlin Wall still stand. Another must-see within walking distance is Checkpoint Charlie, the Cold-War East-West crossing. Walking in Berlin is a great opportunity to see the city up close and personal.
The cuisine of Berlin tends to be hearty and rustic with pork as the main component of most dishes. The city has a strong pub culture, and food is a big part of that - with locals and visitors heading out each night to indulge in excellent beers and a range of delicious meals. One of the truly unique dishes that can be found in Berlin is Eisbein which is a slow-cooked pork knuckle with a crispy outer layer, that is served on a bed of sauerkraut (pickled cabbage). Street food and food festivals are an important part of the cuisine culture of Berlin. Head to Markthalle Neun to sample some of the street food dishes such as currywurst (a pork sausage served with curry ketchup) or a Berliner (a sweet donut with a jam filling). Thomas Eck in the Charlottenburg area of Berlin is an authentic German restaurant that serves a variety of sausages that can be washed down with their large selection of local beers. Those seeking a luxury dining experience should try Coda, a restaurant run by Chef Rene Frank and serving experimental cuisine. Vegetarians should head to Lia's Kitchen for a wide variety of unique vegetable dishes.
For a long time, Berlin has had a casual coffee culture. The emergence of chic third-wave coffee houses and specialty roasters such as The Barn and Five Elephant have this trend has drastically changed to satisfy the growing need for the world's favorite caffeine in this populous city. With Viennese and Arabic-inspired coffee houses, third-wave coffee producers in Berlin have gone above and beyond to keep this emerging trend on the rise. Thus, Berlin has fast become a national coffee mecca attracting thousands who have embraced the Kaffe und Kuchen (coffee and cake) culture in their daily routines. Some of Berlin's traditional coffee houses include Hallesches Haus favored for its stunning rustic ambiance, the Viennese-inspired Café Einstein Stammhaus, and Distrikt Coffee known for its bitter espressos. The Scandinavian-inspired Five Elephant coffee house laid the foundations for third-wave coffee houses. Others followed suit, including the Barn known for its extensive coffee menu, Bonanza Coffee famed for serving the best flat white in Berlin, and Concierge Coffee which has the perfect intimate setting. Common pastries and desserts offered in Berlin coffee houses include the Rheinische krapfen, black forest cake, sacher torte, and German cookies.