If you have your heart set on a trip to Berlin but you aren’t exactly sure how you’re going to get there yet, let me help you out! I lived in Berlin for several years and go back whenever I get the chance to; I’ve learned a thing or two about the ups and downs of getting in and out of the so-called Grey City, and fortunately for you, I’m all about sharing.
Berlin tourism is at an all-time high which is hardly surprising considering the city boasts not one but two airports, both of which are frequented by no-thrill airlines like Easy Jet, German Wings, etc. for next to nothing. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to snag a good deal on AirBerlin which tends to be a bit nicer than the low cost alternatives. It is important to note that most cheap airlines, with the exception of AirBerlin, will generally only fly into SXF, which is a bit further away from the city.
Germany is known for its fantastic railway system, especially the ICE trains. ICE trains tend to be a tad pricey, but if you can find an interesting offer, this can be a great way to relax and enjoy your trip to Berlin.
There are two main train stations in Berlin: the Hauptbahnhof and the Ostbahnhof. From there you can easily reach other parts of the city by train.
Berlin is a vast city, and there is no better way to explore it than by driving around the cities’ outskirts, so renting a car (or travelling in your own) is an option you should definitely consider. While I was living in Berlin, I would just rent a car whenever I needed one. I usually went for the Europacar rental place, which is located on the Alexanderplatz, right under the Park Inn Hotel. It is very easy to get in and out of the city for quick breaks from here. Driving down the autobahn is an adventure and not necessarily for the faint hearted seeing as there is no set speed limit here. You may want to opt up for an upgrade when renting a car, just to ensure you’re getting the full experience!
If you’re driving around Berlin in your own car, be aware that you need a sticker that allows you to drive in environmental zones. If you’re renting a car from a major rental company there’s no need to worry: your rental car will be foreseen with one.
Tegel airport is quite small and works with renowned airlines such as BA, Lufthansa and AirBerlin. If you’re planning to while away your wait by doing some serious duty-free shopping and stilling the hunger your travel nerves have instilled on you, I’ve got bad news for you: there’s really not much going on at this airport. Personally I am a fan of nosing around airports and doing a little shopping but Tegel is so small, there’s just enough room for a few little cafes where you can grab a snack, and a couple of select shops selling cliché Berlin tourism souvenirs. Once you walk through security there’s absolutely nothing to do so, my advice is to wait as long as you can before going through security.
There is no direct U-bahn (underground) to get you into the city from the Tegel airport, but the bus and taxi connections are great. The city is only around 8km from Tegel and you’ll arrive in Berlin relatively quickly.
Venturing into Berlin by bus will take approximately 30 minutes (depending on your final destination) and will cost you a mere 2.70 Euro. Be sure to keep in mind that cash rules in Germany; not all establishments accept normal credit/debit cards, especially outside of the tourist areas. This has been slowly changing over time, but it’s always wise to have some cash on you just in case.
The busses that arrive at Tegel are:
TXL – airport- S Beusselstrasse- S+U Hauptbanhof
X9 – airport – S+U Jungfernheide – S+U Zoologischer Garden
128 – airport – U Kurt Schmacher Platz – U Franz Neumann Platz – U Osloer Strasse
109 – airport – U Jakob Kaiser Platz – S+U Jungfernheide + S+U Zoologischer Garden
Tickets are available via a machine directly at the bus stop. They are simple to use and there are several languages available to choose from; should you get stuck, there are always people around who are happy to help. Make sure you scan your ticket on the reader once you get on the bus.
Schönefeld: This airport is relatively small as well, and many low budget airlines fly out to Schönefeld. Luckily it is bigger than Tegel and there are several shops passed security so the wait isn’t all that boring!
Traveling to the city from Schönefeld is a bit easier; located South of Berlin it is at an 11 km distance from the city.
Fortunately you can get a train (S-Bahn) directly from the airport. The S-Bahn runs every 10 minutes and it will cost you just 3.30EUR per ticket to get into the city. There are a lot of ways to save money on train tickets in Berlin – check out my short post about various discount tickets and ways to save Euros on train travel here. You can get your train ticket from the machines located in terminals A and D, or at the Schönefeld train station. Remember to scan your ticket in the reader before you get comfortable on the train; while Berlin doesn’t have any gates and you can technically just walk right on to the train, they do have plain clothed ticket inspectors, and if they catch you without a ticket you can face a fine of 80EUR+ and a whole lot of hassle.
You will need to take any of the following trains:
S9 – airport – Adlershof – Schöneweide – Ostkreuz – Schönhauser Allee – Pankow
S45 – airport – Adlershof – Schöneweide – Baumschulenweg – Neukölln – Südkreuz
Regional railways run every 30 minutes, also at a cost of 3.30Euros per ticket; they will take you to the main stations in Berlin in about 30 minutes.
RE7 – airport – Ostbahnhof – Alexanderplatz – Friedrichstrasse – Hauptbanhof – Zoologischer Garten – Wansee – Babelsberg – Michendorf – Bad Belzig – Dessau
RB – airport – Karlshorst – Ostbahnhof – Alexanderplatz – Friedrichstrasse – Hauptbahnhof – Zoologischer Garten – Spandau – Falkensee – Nauen
RB22 – Golm – Hauptbahnhof – Potsdam – Zoologischer Garten – Hauptbanhof – Friedrichstrasse
Several buses run from terminal A, but unless you enjoy the wheels of the bus going ‘round and ‘round forever, I would avoid taking the bus into the city from Schönefeld:
X7 – airport – U Rudow
163 – airport – S Grünau – S Adlershof – S Schöneweide
164 – airport – S Adlershof – S Kopenick – S Kaulsdorf
171 – airport – U Rudow – U Hermannplatz
Nightbus: (If you are arriving late)
N7 – airport – U Rudow – U Hermannplatz – U Jakob Kaiser Platz – S+U Spandau
N60 – airport – S Adlershof
Now, here’s something exciting I’d like to leave you with: did you know that both airports have an observation deck that is open to the general public? They are open from April to October until 8 pm, and November to March until 4pm. A single ticket costs 3Euros; this will buy you a full 360 degree view of the run ways and the planes flying in and out of the airport. If you love plane spotting like I do, this is definitely worth a visit.