Berlin, located in the northeastern part of the country, is the capital city of Germany. It is one of the sixteen states of Germany and has a population of 3.4 million, making it Germany's largest city.
Berlin's inhabitants live in a cluster of neighbourhoods, each with its own strong sense of identity. Having been two cities for much of the latter half of the last century, Berlin's sights are spread out, but they are connected by a highly developed and user-friendly transport system.
Before you get there
German is the official language. English is also widely spoken and understood.
Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals require a passport for travel to Germany. A visa is not required.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals require a passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days in six months if the passport is endorsed British Citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen with the right of abode in the UK, or British Subject with the right of abode in the UK. If the intended stay exceeds 90 days, British Citizens can obtain a visa after arrival. In all other cases a visa is required.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a passport for travel to Germany. A visa is not required.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australians require a passport for travel to Germany. A visa is not required.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a passport and a Schengen visa, which must be obtained prior to departure. Entry is not allowed on a temporary passport.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand citizens require a passport for travel to Germany. A visa is not required.
Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. Also required for non-EEA members are onward or return tickets, sufficient funds to provide financial support, and documents for further travel. Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, USA and New Zealand do not need to hold onward or return tickets.
New Year's Day (1 Jan), Good Friday (Mar/Apr), Easter Monday (Mar/Apr), May Day (1 May), Ascension Day (May/Jun), Whit Monday (early Jun), Day of Unity (3 Oct), Day of Reformation (31 Oct), Christmas Day (25 Dec), Boxing Day (26 Dec).
Berlin has a moderate climate with plenty of sunshine during the warm summers, and very cold, moist winters. Summer temperatures often top 86°F (30°C), but the weather in Berlin is also known to be rather unpredictable, and it is not unlikely that a hot sunny day may suddenly cloud over. Winter is marked by plentiful snowfalls and clear, frosty days, with temperatures touching on zero or below. Rain is spread throughout the year, but the rainiest months on average are June and August.
220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
The international access code for Germany is +49. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The city code for Berlin is (0)30.
The currency is the Euro (EUR). ATMs and exchange bureaux are widely available. Banks are closed on weekends, but exchange bureaux at airports and main railway stations are open daily from 6am to 10pm.
GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October)
Getting Around – Transport
Berlin-Tegel Airport (TXL) - The airport is situated five miles (8km) north west of the centre of Berlin.
Berlin’s public transport system is efficient and the combination of buses, trams, ferries, the U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (commuter rail) reaches every part of the city and its surrounds. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are the best ways of getting around; buses cover the parts of the city that cannot be reached by train, and East Berlin has a network of modernised, pre-war trams. One type of ticket is valid on all forms of transport and fares are divided into three colour-coded tariff zones. A number of passes are available, including daily, weekly or monthly tickets.
S-Bahn and U-Bahn - Berlin's train and underground rail networks are seamlessly integrated. Operating from 4am to past midnight, there are 13 S-Bahn and nine U-Bahn lines. Maps of the system are readily available and display the network as a simple whole.
Bus - Buses are not as quick as the rail system, but they're comfortable. After midnight they operate every half hour for the price of a regular ticket. Tickets are sold on board and stops are marked with an ‘H'.
Bicycle - On arrival in Berlin one will notice that cyclists are everywhere to be seen and getting around on a bicycle is the best way to enjoy the city when the weather is right, especially in the green spaces of the Tiergarten. Bikes can also be taken on ferries and trains. Cycling is recommended, especially in West Berlin, which is well-equipped with cycle paths and trains have special cars where bicycles can be carried.
Tram - This is a network of some 30 lines and exists only in what used to be the eastern part of the city.
Ferry - Although ferries ply Berlin's waterways, they're a minor public transport option. They are, nevertheless, an excellent way to discover the city from new angles, and a great means of getting to Wannsee.
Transport Tips - Ticketing on Berlin's various public transport services is fully integrated, which means you can use the same ticket on S-Bahn, U-Bahn, bus, tram and ferry services.
The Berlin CityTourCard, valid for two or three days, is a convenient way to use all forms of public transport. The ticket also entitles you to reductions on many city attractions. Buy your ticket at vending machines in railway (S-Bahn) and bus stations, and get it stamped in one of the Entwerter machines on board the bus or train.
The Berlin Welcome Card offers discounts on most of Berlin's major attractions, as well as free travel on public transport within the city for one adult and up to three children aged 6-13. Culture vultures are advised to buy the SchauLUST Museen Berlin ticket, which is valid for three consecutive days and allows free entry to over 50 museums. Both cards can be bought from railway stations and tourist information centres.
The Story of Berlin
Berlin Wall Documentation Centre
In Berlin, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping sprees, ranging from the overly expensive to the city's flea markets, antique markets and cheap bargain stores.
The main shopping districts are the Kurfürstendamm and Breitscheidplatz. Luxury designer boutiques can be found along the streets at the west end of Kurfürstendamm and in Friedrichstrasse. For some bargains, one should pop over to the Budapestststrasse and Tauenzienstrasse. One of the trendiest shopping streets is the Schönhauser Allee with countless independent shops selling the latest fashion and young independent designer labels. All the different shopping precincts have their own distinctive style and the best boutiques are often tucked away in backstreets or quiet courtyards.
Maybachufer Turkish Market
Kunst und Trödelmarkt
along the Kupfergraben near the Museumsinsel
Most major stores are open from 9.30am to 8pm daily and between 9am and 4pm on Saturdays. All stores are closed on Sundays, except for small stores in the main train stations.
Food and Drink
The city's flagship dish is the 'boulette', a combination of fried meatball and hamburger, which is often accompanied by 'Berliner Weiße', a traditional mix of beer and juice and is well-known even beyond the city's boundaries. The highly popular Doner Kebab, originally developed in Berlin but made famous by the Turkish, is one the most popular fast food dishes.
Berlin's culinary traditions have been immensely influenced over the years by its vibrant immigrant community and worldwide favourites such as spaghetti and pizza now have a firm place on the city's restaurant menus. Indian, Chinese, Greek and Thai cuisine are also becoming increasingly popular.
Some of Berlin's most popular restaurants are found in Oranienburger Street, which is the hub for a wide variety of restaurants.
Visitors in Berlin have a wide variety of options of how to spend their evenings in this vibrant city. Berlin offers plenty of Kneipes, which is the equivalent of a Briton’s local pub, where the local brews and old favourites can be sampled. Cabaret is also a popular pastime in Berlin. Live music clubs dominate a lot of the city where well-known and amateur acts are showcased.The Mitte district boasts some of Berlin’s top clubs and bars. Alternatively, one can take a night stroll around the city and enjoy the romance of Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg, stopping in at one of the local pubs for a glass of wine.
Sanssouci in Potsdam
United States Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 238 5174.
British Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 20 457-0.
Canadian Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 203 120.
Australian Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 880 088-0.
South African Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 220 730.
Irish Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 220 720.
New Zealand Embassy, Berlin: +49 (0)30 206 210.
Berlin Emergency Numbers
Emergencies: 110 (Police); 112 (Ambulance).