West Berlin: Wikis


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Berlin (West) / Westberlin
West Berlin
Allied-occupied sectors of Berlin

1949 – 1990

Flag of West Berlin


Location of West Berlin
The four occupation sectors of Berlin. West Berlin is in light blue, dark blue and purple. Borough borders as of 1987.
Historical era Cold War
 - Established 1949
 - Reunification 3 October 1990
History of Berlin
Coat of arms of Berlin
This article is part of a series
Weimar Republic (1919–33)
1920s Berlin
Greater Berlin Act
Nazi Germany (1933–45)
Welthauptstadt Germania
Bombing of Berlin in World War II
Battle of Berlin
Divided city (1945–90)
East Berlin
West Berlin
Berlin Wall
Berlin Blockade (1948–49)
Berlin Crisis of 1961
"Ich bin ein Berliner" (1963)
"Tear Down This Wall" (1987)
See also:
History of Germany
Margraviate of Brandenburg

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West Berlin was the name given to the western part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors established in 1945. It was in many ways integrated with, although legally not a part of, West Germany. The Soviet sector became East Berlin, which East Germany claimed as its capital, though the Western Allies did not recognise this claim, as they asserted that the whole city was legally under four-power occupation. The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 sealed the border to West Berlin, which since the end of the Second World War had been surrounded by communist East Berlin and East Germany.

With around two million inhabitants, West Berlin was the most populated city of Cold War-era Germany, although it did not officially belong to either of the two German states.



West Berlin, as of 1978.

The Potsdam Agreement established the legal framework for the occupation of Germany in the wake of World War II. According to the agreement, Germany would be formally under the sovereignty of the four major wartime Allies — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union — until a German government acceptable to them all could be reconstituted. Germany, taken in its borders of 1937, would be reduced by most of what used to be considered Eastern Germany (afterwards called the former eastern territories of Germany) and the remaining territory would be divided into four zones, each administered by one of the allies. Berlin, though surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation - established in most of Middle Germany -, would be similarly divided, with the western allies occupying an enclave consisting of the western parts of the city. According to the agreement, the occupation of Berlin would end only as a result of a quadripartite agreement. (This clause did not apply to Germany as a whole.)[citation needed] The Western allies were guaranteed three air corridors to their sectors of Berlin, and the Soviets also informally allowed road and rail access between West Berlin and the western parts of Germany (for more details see below the section on traffic).

At first, this arrangement was officially a temporary administrative expedient, and all parties declared that Germany and Berlin would soon be reunited. However, as the relations between the western allies and the Soviet Union soured and the Cold War began, the joint administration of Germany and Berlin broke down. Soon Soviet-occupied Berlin and western-occupied Berlin had entirely separate city administrations. In 1948, the Soviets tried to force the issue and expel the western allies from Berlin by imposing a land blockade on the western sectors (Berlin Blockade). The west responded by using its guaranteed air corridors to resupply their part of the city in what became known as the Berlin Airlift. In May 1949, the Soviets lifted their blockade, and the future of West Berlin as a separate jurisdiction was ensured. By the end of that year, two new states had been created out of occupied Germany — the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in the West and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) in the East — with West Berlin an enclave surrounded by, but not part of, the latter.

Legal status

According to the legal theory followed by the Western Allies, the occupation of most of Germany ended in 1949 with the declaration of the Federal Republic of Germany (23 May 1949) and the German Democratic Republic (7 October 1949). However, because the occupation of Berlin could only be ended by a quadripartite agreement, Berlin remained an occupied territory under the formal sovereignty of the allies. Hence, the Grundgesetz (constitution of the Federal Republic) had no application in West Berlin. Also West German federal law as such did not apply to West Berlin, but the House of Representatives of Berlin (German: Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin; the West Berlin legislature, reunited Berlin's legislature bears the same name) used to vote in every new federal law, periodically collected to bundles of several new laws, without debate to maintain legal equality with the pre-1990 Federal Republic of Germany.

In 1969 U.S. military vehicles roar through rush hour traffic in the residential district of Zehlendorf, a routine reminder that West Berlin was still legally occupied by the World War II Allies.

The Western Allies remained the ultimate political authorities in West Berlin. All legislation of the "Abgeordnetenhaus", the domestic state and the adopted federal law, only applied under the proviso of the confirmation by the three Western Allied commanders-in-chief. If they approved a bill, it was enacted as part of West Berlin's statutory law. If the commanders-in-chief rejected a bill, as was the case with West German laws on military duty, the respective law was not valid in West Berlin. West Berlin was run by the elected Governing Mayor and the Senate of Berlin (city government) seated at Rathaus Schöneberg. Governing Mayor and Senators (ministers) were to be approved by the Western Allies and thus derived their authority from the occupying forces, not from their electoral mandate.

The Soviets unilaterally declared the occupation of East Berlin at an end along with the rest of East Germany, but this move was not recognised by the Western Allies, who continued to view all of Berlin as a jointly occupied territory belonging to neither of the two states. This view was supported by the continued practice of patrols of Allied soldiers of all four Allies in all four sectors. Thus one could occasionally see Western Allied soldiers on patrol in East Berlin and Soviet soldiers patrolling in West Berlin. After the Wall was built, the western Allies regarded the East German intention to control Western Allied patrols when entering or leaving East Berlin as unacceptable. So, after protests to the Soviets, the patrols continued in both directions uncontrolled with the tacit agreement that the western Allies would not use their patrols for helping Easterners to flee to the West.[1]

However, in many ways, West Berlin functioned as the de facto 11th state of West Germany, and was portrayed on maps published in the West as being a part of West Germany. There was freedom of movement (to the extent allowed by geography) between West Berlin and West Germany. There were no separate immigration regulations for West Berlin: all immigration rules for West Germany were followed in West Berlin. West German entry visas issued to visitors were stamped with "valid for entry into the Federal Republic of Germany including Berlin (West)", authorising entry to West Berlin as well as West Germany itself.

The ambiguous legal status of West Berlin meant that West Berliners were not eligible to vote in federal elections; instead, they were indirectly represented in the Bundestag by 20 non-voting delegates chosen by the West Berlin House of Representatives. Similarly, the West Berlin Senate sent non-voting delegates to the Bundesrat. However as German citizens, West Berliners were able to stand for election; including Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was elected by means of his party's list of candidates. Also, men there were exempt from the Federal Republic's compulsory military service; this exemption made the city a popular home for West German youths, which resulted in a flourishing counterculture that became one of the defining features of the city.

Communist countries however did not recognise West Berlin as part of West Germany and usually portrayed it - in articles and maps - as a "third" German jurisdiction - called besondere politische Einheit (English: special political entity). On maps of East Berlin West Berlin often did not appear as an adjacent urban area but as a monochrome terra incognita, sometimes showing the letters WB, meaning West Berlin, but usually skilfully overlaid by the cartographers with the legend or pictures.


While East Germany established by way of its second constitution a separate East German nationality in 1967, a distinct West German nationality did not exist. Instead West Germany assumed the pre-WW2 all-German nationality to continue for all ethnic or naturalised Germans in West Germany, East Germany or any part of Berlin. So while West Berlin was not unanimously regarded as part of the Federal Republic, its citizens were treated equally to West German citizens by West German authorities nonetheless, save for the limitations imposed by its legal status.

This meant that West Berliners could circumvent part of these limitations if they had a second home in West Germany proper. For example, they could vote in Bundestag elections and they could be conscripted into West German military service if they did so.

Naming conventions

Colloquially Westerners called the Western sectors simply Berlin, almost always if distinction was not necessary. Officially, West Berlin was called "Berlin (West)" by the West German Federal government, and, for most of the period of its existence, "Westberlin" by the East German government, which suggested that West Berlin was not really part of "Berlin" as a whole; the latter began to use "Berlin (West)" in the late 1980s. Starting from 31 May 1961 East Berlin was officially called Berlin, Capital of the GDR (German: Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR, replacing the formerly used term Democratic Berlin), or simply "Berlin," by East Germany, and "Berlin (Ost)" by the West German Federal government, "Ost-Berlin", "Ostberlin" or "Ostsektor" by West German media.

These usages were so ingrained that one could deduce a source's political leaning from the name used for Berlin or its parts. East Germany, during its existence, considered East Berlin as an integral part of its territory, as well as the capital of the state. West Berlin, not formally part of either East or West Germany, technically remained a military occupation zone until 3 October 1990, the day of unification of East Germany, East and West Berlin with the West German Federal Republic of Germany. The West German Federal Government, as well as the governments of most western nations, considered East Berlin to be a "separate entity" from East Germany.[2]

After the Wall had been built

President John F. Kennedy addressing from Rathaus Schöneberg the people of Berlin on Rudolf-Wilde-Platz (today's John-F.-Kennedy-Platz), 26 June 1963.
President Kennedy, Governing Mayor Brandt and Chancellor Adenauer (from left) standing in an open limousine in Rheinstraße on 26 June 1963, view to the city hall of Friedenau.

On 26 June 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin and gave a public speech known for its famous phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner."

The Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971) and the Transit Agreement (May 1972), helped to slightly ease the tensions over West Berlin and at a practical level made it easier, though with nightmarish restrictions, for West Berliners to travel to East Germany and simplified the bureaucracy for Germans travelling along the autobahn transit routes.

At the Brandenburg Gate in 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan provided a challenge to the then-Soviet premier: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

On 9 November 1989 the Wall was opened, and the two cities were once again physically — though still not legally — united. The so-called Two Plus Four Treaty, signed by the two German states and the four wartime allies, paved the way for German reunification and an end to the western occupation of West Berlin. On 3 October 1990 West Berlin and East Berlin were united as the city of Berlin, which then acceded to the Federal Republic as a state, along with the rest of East Germany. West Berlin and East Berlin thus both formally ceased to exist.


West Berliners could travel to West Germany and all Western and non-aligned states at all times, except of the period of the Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union (24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949), due to restrictions of passenger flight capacity.

However travelling from and to West Berlin, with the exception of air travel, would always involve passing through GDR controls, due to West Berlin's being an enclave surrounded by either East Germany or East Berlin. West Berliners bearing West German passports, which the Federal Republic of Germany issued if demanded, showing West Berlin as their place of residence, were refused to cross any border under East German control and were denied entrance by any country of the Eastern Bloc. According to them West Germany was not entitled to issue legal papers for West Berliners. However West Berliners travelling with West German passports giving a more or less veracious secondary address in West Germany as their actual residence were treated like West Germans by the East German border controllers.

Since West Berlin itself was not a sovereign state, it did not issue passports of its own. So the modus vivendi found, was that West Berliners could travel, each using his auxiliary identity card (German: Behelfsmäßiger Personalausweis), issued by the city state of Berlin (West), showing his address in Berlin, and not showing any West German federal symbols and not mentioning to which country the card-bearer actually belonged. From 11 June 1968 East Germany compelled West Berlin and West German transit passengers to get a transit visa (German: Transitvisum), issued at entering East Germany, since by its second constitution East Germany considered West Germans and West Berliners as foreigners. Since identity cards had no pages to stamp visas, the Eastern visa departments stamped their visas onto separate leaflets then loosely stuck into the identity cards, which until the mid-1980s were still little booklets. The new concomitant fee of West German Deutsche Mark (DM) 5, levied by East Germany from the transit passengers was regarded in the West as an injust charge and therefore reimbursed to them on demand by the West German Federal Government.

Once having passed East Germany, heading for a non-aligned or Western country demanding a visa, like the USA, West Berliners would again need a West German passport - accepted showing whichever residence -, because a mere identity card did not suffice. However, for countries which did not demand from West Berliners (and West Germans) stamped visas to enter (like the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and many members of the then European Economic Community, following agreements preceding today's Schengen Agreement), West Berlin identity cards were also valid for entry. Once and again East Germany selectively banned travellers on their way through East Germany. From 13 April 1968 ministers and leading officials of the West German Federal Government were denied passage - until further notice. In January 1970 East Germany interrupted transit traffic several times, because parliamentary committees of the West German Bundestag met for sessions in West Berlin, which - according to the East German authorities - they were not allowed to do, since West Berlin was not a part of West Germany.


Traffic with West Berlin by car through East Germany

When travelling between West Berlin and the rest of the world through East Germany the border controllers demanded every passenger from all over the world to bear a valid passport, except West Berliners, whose identity cards were accepted instead. If one travelled between West Berlin and Denmark, West Germany or Sweden, East German border controllers issued a transit visa for a fee of 5 Western Deutsche Mark on entering East Germany at one of the border compulsory checkpoints at the start of each established transit route (German: Transitstrecke). In 1968 visas also became obligatory for West Germans and West Berliners. Travelling between West Berlin and Poland or Czechoslovakia through East Germany, each passenger was further required to present a valid visa for the destination country, to obtain the necessary East German transit visa.

For road traffic there were transit routes connecting West Berlin, usually autobahns and other highways, indicated by Transit signs. Transit travellers (German: Transitreisende) were prohibited to leave the transit routes, occasional controls would check for deviators. There were four transit routes between West Berlin and West Germany. One between West Berlin's Heerstraße with the East German checkpoint in Dallgow until 1951, thereafter in Staaken reaching Northern Germany originally via highway F 5 at the Eastern checkpoint in Horst (a part of today's Nostorf) and the Western Lauenburg upon Elbe, gradually replaced until 20 November 1982 by a new autobahn crossing at Zarrentin (E)/Gudow (W).[3] On 1 January 1988 the new Stolpe checkpoint opened on this route to West Berlin. This is part of today's Hohen Neuendorf (E)/Berlin-Heiligensee (W).

The second route led to Northwestern and Western Germany - following today's A 2 - crossing the inner German border at Marienborn (E)/Helmstedt (W), also called Checkpoint Alpha, the third to Southwestern Germany using today's A 9 and A 4 and crossing at Wartha (E)/Herleshausen (W) and the fourth (today's A 9) to Southern Germany crossed originally at Mount Juchhöh (E)/Töpen (W) and later at Hirschberg upon Saale (E)/ Rudolphstein (a part of today's Berg in Upper Franconia) (W).

East German border crossing Potsdam-Drewitz on 31 March 1972: Applying eastern lead seals to western trucks, entering the transit route, in order to inhibit eastern refugees from hiding in the loading space.

The latter three routes used autobahns built in the Nazi era and left West Berlin at Checkpoint Dreilinden, also called Checkpoint Bravo (W)/Potsdam-Drewitz (E). Then there were transit routes to Poland northeastwards via today's A 11 to Nadrensee-Pomellen (East Germany, GDR)/Kołbaskowo (Kolbitzow) (PL), eastwards via today's A 12 to Frankfurt upon Oder (GDR)/Słubice (PL), and southeastwards via today's A 13 and A 15 to Forst in Lusatia/Baršć (GDR)/Zasieki (Berge) (PL). Further routes led to Denmark and Sweden by ferry between Rostock (GDR) and Gedser (DK) and by ferry between Sassnitz (GDR) and Rønne (DK) or Trelleborg (S) and two other to Czechoslovakia via Schmilka (GDR)/Hřensko (Herrnskretschen) (ČSSR) and via Fürstenau (a part of today's Geising) (GDR)/Cínovec (Cinvald/Böhmisch Zinnwald) (ČSSR).

The transit routes were used for East German internal traffic as well. This meant that transit passenger could meet with East Germans and East Berliners at motorway restaurants. On leaving East Germany the border controllers could calculate from the time of entry if a traveller spent much more time than necessary to cross the country. Excessive time would arouse their suspicion, that the traveller left the route or met with Easterners. Western coaches, however, were only allowed to stop at service areas especially reserved for them, since East Germany feared Easterners would use them as a means to flee into the West.

On 1 September 1951 East Germany, always short in foreign exchange, started to levy road toll from cars passing through the transit routes. At first the toll amounted to Eastern Deutsche Mark 10 per passenger car and 10 to 50 for lorries, according to their size. Eastern Deutsche Marks had to be bartered at the arbitrarily dictated rate of 1 : 1 for Western Deutsche Marks. On 30 March 1955 East Germany raised the toll for passenger cars to 30 Deutsche Marks, but reduced it in June again to the old level after West German protests. Following a new agreement between East and West Germany starting from 1 January 1980 the Western Federal Government paid an annual lump sum (German: Transitpauschale) of 50 million Western Deutsche Marks to the Eastern government, so that transit passengers were no further bothered with tolls, which were back then still unknown in East and West Germany.

Railway Traffic to West Berlin passing through East Germany

Four transit train connections - earlier also called interzonal train (German: Interzonenzug) -, not open for ordinary passengers within East Germany and thus only stopping for Eastern border controllers once entering and again when leaving East Germany, connected West Berlin with Hamburg via Schwanheide (E)/Büchen (W) in the North, with Hanover via Marienborn (E)/Helmstedt (W) in the West, with Frankfurt upon Main via Gerstungen (E)/Hönebach (W) in the Southwest and with Nuremberg via Probstzella (E)/Ludwigsstadt (W) in the South of West Germany. Until the construction of the Berlin Wall interzonal trains would also stop once on their way within East Germany for travellers having the necessary visa to enter or leave East Germany, respectively. For travelling by train to Czechoslovakia, Denmark (by ferry), Poland, or Sweden (by ferry) one had first to enter East Berlin or East Germany with the necessary visa and then transfer to an Eastern international train for the respective destination - on its course within East Germany also serving internal traffic. One railway connection between West Berlin and Oebisfelde (E)/Wolfsburg (W) was reserved for freight trains only.

On taking over their occupation sectors in West Berlin in July and August 1945 the three Western Allies and the Soviet Union decided that the railways, operated up until then by the national German Deutsche Reichsbahn (1920-1949), should continue to be operated (and reconstructed) by the same body in all four sectors. So West Berlin had - with the exception of some small private railway lines - no separate railway administration. Furthermore, the operation of the Reichsbahn's Berlin S-Bahn electric metropolitan transport network, having developed from commuter trains, was subject to the same agreement. After the foundation of East Germany on 7 October 1949 the East German government continued to run all the railways in its territory under the official name Deutsche Reichsbahn, by so doing it maintained responsibility for almost all railway transport in all four sectors of Berlin. The legal necessity of keeping the term 'Deutsche Reichsbahn' explains the surprising use of the word 'Reich' in the name of an official organisation of the communist GDR. Another anomaly was that the GDR controlled 'Bahnpolizei', the Reichsbahn's railway police, were entitled to patrol station premises and other railway property in the whole city including West Berlin; an East German police force operating in West Berlin stations, freight yards and along the tracks.

After the Berlin Blockade transit trains (German: Transitzüge) would leave and enter West Berlin only via one line through Berlin-Wannsee railway station (W) and Potsdam Griebnitzsee railway station (E). All transit trains would start or end in East Berlin, thus passing only through West Berlin with one single stop in the Western Berlin Zoologischer Garten railway station, which became West Berlin's main station. Until 1952 the Reichsbahn also allowed stops at other stations on the way through the Western sectors. After the tensions between East and West Germany eased, starting on 30 May 1976 transit trains going westwards, southwestwards or southwards were once again stopped at the Western station of Wannsee. For transit trains going northwestwards a shorter line was reopened on 26 September 1976 with an additional stop at the then Berlin-Spandau railway station, entering East Germany at Staaken. Among the Reichsbahn's employees, working in West Berlin, there were many West Berliners. Their employer, being an East German entity, whose proceeds from ticket sales for Western Deutsche Marks had to add up for East Germany's much needed foreign exchange revenues, tried to spend as few Western Deutsche Marks on wages and social safety net contributions as possible. Therefore West Berliners employed by the Reichsbahn were paid partly in Eastern currency, combined with the privilege to also spend that money in the East and export their purchases to West Berlin, which was something not allowed to the same extent for other Westerners. They were trained in East Germany and employed under East German labour laws.[4] As to their health care West Berliners, employed by the Reichsbahn, were not included in the Western health insurance system. The Reichsbahn ran its own hospital for them in West Berlin, the building is now used as the headquarters of Bombardier Transportation. For difficult cases they would seek treatment in a hospital in East Berlin. In emergencies they could however use normal West Berlin doctors and hospitals, which would then be paid for by the Reichsbahn, but otherwise they had to pay cash.

The GDR used the western stations to distribute propaganda and display posters with slogans like "Americans Go Home." On 1 May, May Day, a state holiday in East and West, S-Bahn trains were sometimes decorated with the East German state flag and a red flag.

Traffic with West Berlin by inland vessels through East Germany

Two waterways via the rivers Havel - crossing at the East German border control in Nedlitz (a part of Potsdam-Bornstedt) - continuing through the Elbe-Havel Canal and then either taking the Elbe northwestwards crossing the border again at Cumlosen (E)/Schnackenburg (W) or westwards following the Mittellandkanal to Buchhorst (Oebisfelde) (E)/Rühen (W) were open for inland navigation, but only freight vessels were allowed. Western freight vessels were also compelled to stop only at service areas reserved for them, because East Germany feared Easterners could try to hide on them. By these waterways West Berlin stayed connected with the western European inland navigation network, connecting to seaports like Hamburg and Rotterdam as well as industrial areas such as the Ruhr Area, Mannheim, Basel, Belgium and eastern France.

At taking their occupation sectors in West Berlin in July and August 1945 the Western Allies and the Soviet Union had decided that the operation and maintenance of the waterways and locks, run until then by the national German directorate for inland navigation (German: Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Berlin), should also in future be continued and reconstructed by it in all four sectors. So West Berlin had - except of some later built canals and locks - no separate inland navigation authority, but the East Berlin-based authority operated and maintained - after a fashion - most waterways and locks.

The western entrance to the Teltowkanal, connecting several industrial areas of West Berlin for heavy freight transport, was blocked by East Germany in Potsdam-Klein Glienicke, so that the vessels going there had to float a long deviation via the river Spree through West and East Berlin's city centre to enter the canal from the East. Only on 20 November 1981 East Germany reopened the western entrance. For this purpose East Germany opened two more vessel border checkpoints - Dreilinden and Kleinmachnow - because the border between East Germany and West Berlin criss-crossed the waterway in its western course four times. Another transit waterway connected West Berlin via the East German vessel checkpoint at Hennigsdorf and the Oder-Havel Canal with the Oder river and Polish Szczecin (Stettin).

Traffic with West Berlin by plane over East Germany

Eastern refugees boarding a plane at Tempelhof Airport to fly into West Germany, 1953.

Flights were the only connection between West Berlin and the Western world not under East German control. British European Airways opened the first regular service for civilians on 4 July 1948 between West Berlin and Hamburg. Tickets were originally sold for Pound sterling only. Especially West Berliners and West Germans, who had earlier fled East Germany or East Berlin and thus feared to be imprisoned, once entering East Germany or East Berlin, depended on flights.[5] In order to allow people fearing Eastern imprisonment to fly from and to West Berlin the western Federal Government subsidised the flights.

The only three permissible West Berlin Air Corridors.

The flights between West Germany and West Berlin were under Allied control by the quadripartite Berlin Air Safety Center. In its procedures and agreements, frozen to invariable rules by the Cold War, three air corridors to West Germany only were provided, which were exclusively open for British, French or U.S. military planes or civilian planes registered with companies in those countries.

The airspace controlled by the Berlin Air Safety Center comprised a radius of 20 miles (32.12 km) around the seat of the Center in the Kammergericht building in Berlin-Schöneberg - thus covering most of East and West Berlin and the three corridors, of the same width - one northwestwards to Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel Airport, one westwards to Hanover, one southwestwards to Frankfurt upon Main (Rhein-Main Air Base). Also the airspace expanding to a width of 20 miles (32 km) over the German-German border was subject to the control by the Berlin Air Safety Center.

No change as to allowing other civil airlines did emerge. Therefore the West German Lufthansa and most other airlines could not fly to West Berlin. Flights of Lufthansa or the East German Interflug between East and West Germany (such as between West German Cologne and Hamburg and East German Leipzig) existed from August 1989 on, but had to go either through Czechoslovakian or Danish airspace, circumventing the prohibited zone along the German-German border.

Traffic between West Berlin and East Germany proper

Until 1953 travelling from West Berlin into East Germany, which had been until 7 October 1949 the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany, thereafter named the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was possible under the regulations fixed by the three Allied military governments (the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SVAG), the Control Commission for Germany – British Element, and the Office of Military Government/United States (OMGUS)) for the Interzonal traffic between their adjacent occupation zones. On 27 May 1952 East Germany started to shut its borders with West Germany and West Berlin. West Berliners were only allowed to enter East Germany, including the adjacent suburbs outside the 115 km-long municipal borders in the North, West and South of West Berlin, with an entry permit, in most cases denied by the East German authorities. East German controls were established on roads in East German suburbs of West Berlin. Most streets were gradually closed for travel into East Germany. The last checkpoint to remain open was that at Glienicker Brücke towards Potsdam, before East Germany closed it on 3 July 1953. Also the checkpoint at Staaken's Heerstraße was then closed for traffic into East Germany, but remained open for transit travels to West Germany.

This was especially painful for West Berliners, who had friends and family in East Germany. However at this stage East Germans were still allowed to enter West Berlin. More difficult was the situation with a number of Berlin's cemeteries located in East Germany. Due to Berlin's fast urbanisation until the 1940-s many newly found Protestant and Catholic congregations could only find affordable grounds for graveyards outside the city, with those congregations now located in what had become West Berlin and the cemeteries in East Germany. Catholic congregations in Berlin-Charlottenburg had their own cemetery called Friedhof vor Charlottenburg (in English: Cemetery in front/outside of Charlottenburg), located west in West Berlin's East German suburb of Dallgow. A number of Evangelical congregations in Berlin's southwestern quarters operated the huge denominational Southwestern Churchyard (German: Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf) and right adjacent of it the Borough of Wilmersdorf, now a part of West Berlin, ran two non-denominational forest cemeteries (German: Wilmersdorfer Waldfriedhof Stahnsdorf and Wilmersdorfer Waldfriedhof Güterfelde), since June 1913 connected to Berlin by an own - later electrified S-Bahn - line ending at Stahnsdorf station in now East German Stahnsdorf, south of West Berlin. Some poorer Evangelical congregations in Berlin's central boroughs of Kreuzberg and Wedding, now in West Berlin, had their denominational graveyards in the Eastern Churchyard (German: Ostkirchhof Ahrensfelde) in East Berlin's eastern suburb of Ahrensfelde. Now West Berliners, wishing to visit the grave of a relative or friend in one of these cemeteries were excluded - this particularly affected Catholics on All Saints day - as well as widows and widowers, who wanted to be buried beside their spouses. Up until 1961 East Germany reluctantly issued permits to West Berliners to visit the cemeteries on the Catholic feast of All Saints on 1 November and on the Protestant Day of Repentance and Prayer.[6]

Between 1948 and 1952 the Reichsbahn started the process of connecting its suburbs beyond the western limits of West Berlin to its own overall Berlin S-Bahn network. Local trains from these areas which formerly went into and through West Berlin serving stations in that part of the city, line by line began to not stop in western stations or to terminate service short of West Berlin altogether. In the latter case these trains would terminate at the last interchange stops of the S-Bahn. Private West Berlin railway lines like the Neukölln-Mittenwalder Eisenbahn (NME), connecting the East German Mittenwalde with West Berlin-Neukölln and the Bötzowbahn between West Berlin-Spandau and East German Hennigsdorf, were disrupted on 26 October 1948 and August 1950, respectively, at the border between West Berlin and East Germany. Tramways and bus routes, operated by West Berlin's public transport operator Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe Gesellschaft (BVG-West) and connecting West Berlin with its East German suburbs had to be given up on 14 October 1950, after West Berlin tram and bus drivers had been arbitrarily arrested by East German police on several occasions.[7]

The Eastern Reichsbahn shut down all of West Berlin's terminus stations redirecting the trains that usually went there to stations in East Berlin, starting with Berlin Görlitzer Bahnhof - closed on 29 April 1951 -, before serving rail traffic with Görlitz and the Southeast of East Germany, on 28 August 1951 Berlin Lehrter Bahnhof followed suit, with trains from the western and northwestern parts of East Germany being redirected to stations in East Berlin and trains from West Germany being redirected to the Western Berlin Zoologischer Garten. Finally the Reichsbahn closed down both Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof and Berlin Nordbahnhof, on 18 May 1952. The Anhalter Bahnhof had been until then the terminus for trains from Anhalt and other southwestern parts of East Germany (so-called Middle Germany) as well as from West German Southern Germany. Western trains again were redirected to Zoo station, trains from East German destinations to East Berlin. Nordbahnhof, until 1 December 1950 known as Berlin Stettiner Bahnhof, used to serve the railway traffic to and from Stettin and after World War II with Hither Pomerania in the Northeast of East Germany. Nordbahnhof was actually situated in East Berlin, its connection with East Germany, however, led for a short stretch through the West Berlin Borough of Wedding.

On 28 August 1951 the Reichsbahn opened a new connection - from Spandau via Berlin Jungfernheide station - for the S-Bahn lines connecting East German suburbs to the west of West Berlin (namely Falkensee, Staaken) with East Berlin, circumventing the centre of West Berlin. The next stage in the Reichbahn's process of cutting off West Berlin from its East German suburbs was the introduction of traverse S-Bahn trains (German: Durchläufer), which began in June 1953. These services started in the East German suburbs adjacent to West Berlin (such as Falkensee, Potsdam, Oranienburg, Staaken, and Velten), traversing West Berlin non-stop to halt again at stations in East Berlin. From 17 June to 9 July 1953 East Germany blocked off any traffic between East and West due to the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

From 4 October in the same year, all S-Bahn trains crossing the border between East Germany and East or West Berlin had to stop on the East German side for a border control. Also patrols and controls were intensified on East German streets leading to East or West Berlin. Since East Germany did not yet dare to control at the border between East and West Berlin, travellers from East Germany were checked before entering any part of Berlin, to detect suspects under apprehension of absconding westwards or smuggling rationed or rare goods into West Berlin.[8] One other purpose of these controls was watching out for West Berliners, who were still allowed to freely enter East Berlin, but not to cross its municipal border into East Germany proper without a special permit.

Starting in 1951 the Reichsbahn constructed the Berlin orbital railway line (German: Berliner Außenring (BAR)), connecting all the train routes heading for West Berlin and collecting the intra-GDR traffic from them, taking it straight to East Berlin, but by-passing West Berlin. With the gradual completion of the circuit, Sputnik express trains collected the commuters in the East German suburbs around West Berlin to bring them into East Berlin and back without crossing western sectors. Once the completed Außenring was operating the need for traverse S-Bahn trains disappeared and thus they ended on 4 May 1958. With the construction of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 any remaining railway traffic between West Berlin and its East German suburbs ended. The traffic between East and West Berlin was sharply reduced and restricted to few checkpoints fully under GDR control. East Berliners and East Germans were thus banned from freely entering West Berlin. However, people from all over the world, with the exception of West Berliners, who had been totally banned until 1963, were still given visas for East Berlin only - not including East Germany proper - at crossing one of the checkpoints at the Wall. In order to watch out for such visitors trespassing East Berlin's 117-kilometre (73 mi)-long municipal border towards East Germany controls and patrols on streets and railway lines connecting East Berlin and East Germany continued, less frequent though, until 1977.

Following the policy of détente of the Federal Government under Chancellor Willy Brandt, formerly Governing Mayor of West Berlin, West Berliners were allowed again to apply for visa to visit East Germany, which it granted much less restrictively then in the period until 1961. So from 4 June 1972 West Berlin's public transport operator BVG was able to open its first bus line into the East German suburbs since 1950 (line E to Potsdam via Checkpoint Bravo as it was known to the US military). Of course this route was only open to persons bearing all the necessary East German permits and visas. For visits to East Germany, visas provided, West Berliners could use four checkpoints along the East German border around West Berlin: The two transit checkpoints Dreilinden (W)/Drewitz (E) and Berlin-Heiligensee (W)/Stolpe (E) as well as the old transit checkpoint at Heerstraße (W)/Staaken (E) and the checkpoint at Waltersdorfer Chaussee (W)/Schönefeld (E), which was also open for transit travellers, who took international flights from the then East German Schönefeld Airport. An East German bus line - not open for Easterners - connected via the latter checkpoint the airport with West Berlin's Zoo station, stopping also at other traffic hubs within West Berlin.

While East Germans could always freely enter West Berlin, if East Germany allowed them to leave, which was the case from 9 November 1989 on, West Berliners and West Germans were only allowed to freely enter East Germany from 22 December 1989, when East Germany stopped demanding visas and the compulsory exchange of 25 Western Deutsche Marks per day. On 30 June 1990 all passport controls ceased.

Traffic between East and West Berlin

While East and West Berlin became formally separate jurisdictions in September 1948, and while there were travel restrictions in all other directions, for more than a decade, freedom of movement existed between the western sectors and the eastern sector of the city. However, time and again Soviet and later East German authorities imposed temporary restrictions for certain persons, certain routes, and certain means of transport. Gradually the eastern authorities disconnected and separated the two parts of the city.

While the Soviets blocked all transport to West Berlin (Berlin Blockade between 24 June 1948 to 12 May 1949) they increased the supplies for food in East Berlin, to gain the compliance of West Berliners who at that time still had free access to East Berlin. West Berliners, buying food in East Berlin, were regarded approving the Soviet attempt to repress the Western Allies from West Berlin, which was considered as support by the communists and as treason by most Westerners. Until that time all over Germany food and other necessary supplies had been available only with ration stamps issued by one's municipality, this was until the Communist putsch in Berlin's city government in September 1948 - the unitary City Council of Greater Berlin (German: Magistrat von Groß Berlin) for East and West.

By July 1948 a mere 19,000 West Berliners out of a total of almost 2 million covered their food requirements in East Berlin. So 99% of the West Berliners preferred to live with shorter supplies than before the Blockade but support the Western Allies' position. In West Germany rationing of most products had ended with the introduction of the Western Deutsche Mark on 21 June 1948. The new currency was also introduced in West Berlin on 24 June and this, at least officially was the justification for the Soviet Blockade due to which, rationing in West Berlin had to continue. However in the course of the Berlin Air Lift some supplies were increased beyond the pre-Blockade level and therefore certain rations in West Berlin were raised.

While West Berliners were officially welcome to buy food in East Berlin, the Soviets tried to prevent them buying other essential supplies there, particularly coal and fuel. For this reason, on 9 November 1948, they opened checkpoints on 70 streets entering West Berlin and closed the others for horse carriages, lorries and cars, later (16 March 1949) the Soviets erected roadblocks on the closed streets. From 15 November 1948 West Berlin ration stamps were no longer accepted in East Berlin. All the same, the Soviets started a campaign with the slogan The smart West Berliner buys at the HO (German: Der kluge West-Berliner kauft in der HO), the HO being the Soviet zone chain of shops. They also opened so-called "Free Shops" in the Eastern Sector, offering supplies without ration stamps, but at extremely high prices in Eastern Deutsche Marks. Ordinary East and West Berliners could only afford to buy there if they had revenues in Western Deutsche Mark and bartered the needed Eastern Deutsche Mark on the spontaneous currency markets, which developed in the British sector at the Zoo station. There demand and supply determined a barter ratio in favour of the Western Deutsche Mark with more than 2 Eastern Deutsche Marks offered for one Western Deutsche Mark. After the Blockade - when holders of Western Deutsche Marks could buy as much they could afford, up to five and six east marks were offered for one west mark. In the East however, the Soviets had arbitrarily decreed a rate of 1 for 1 and exchanging at other rates was criminalised.

On 12 May 1949 the Blockade ended and all roadblocks and checkpoints between East and West Berlin were removed. The Berlin Airlift, however, continued until 30 September 1949 to amass sufficient supplies in West Berlin in readiness for another possible blockade, ensuring that an airlift could then be re-started with ease. On 2 May 1949 the power stations in East Berlin again started to supply West Berlin with sufficient electricity, which had to be rationed to some hours a day after the usual supplies had been interrupted at the start of the Blockade. However, the Western Allies and the West Berlin City Council decided to be self sufficient in terms of electricity generation capacity, to be independent of Eastern supplies and not to be held to ransom by the eastern authorities. On 1 December 1949 the new powerhouse West (German: Kraftwerk West, in 1953 renamed after the former Governing Mayor of West Berlin into Kraftwerk Reuter West) went on line and West Berlin's electricity board declared independence from Eastern supplies. However, for a time Eastern electricity continued to be supplied albeit intermittently. Supply was interrupted from 1 July until the end of 1950 and then started again until 4 March 1952, when the East finally switched it off. From then on West Berlin turned into an 'electricity island' within a pan-European electricity grid that had developed from the 1920s, because electricity transfers between East and West Germany never fully ceased. The 'electricity island' situation was noticed most in situations of particularly high demand; in other areas of Europe peaks in demand could be met by tapping into electricity supplies from neighbouring areas, but in West Berlin this was not an option and for certain users the lights would go out.

In 1952 West Berliners were restricted entry to East Germany proper by means of a hard-to-obtain East German permit. Free entry to East Berlin remained possible until 1961 and the building of the Wall. Berlin's underground (Untergrundbahn, U-Bahn) and Berlin's S-Bahn (a metropolitan public transit network), rebuilt after the war, continued to span all occupation sectors. Many people lived in one half of the city and had family, friends, and jobs in the other. However, the East continuously reduced the means of public transport between East and West, with private cars being a very rare privilege in the East and still a luxury in the West.

Starting on 15 January 1953 the tram network was interrupted. East Berlin's public transport operator Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG-East, BVB as of 1 January 1969) staffed all trams, whose lines crossed the sectorial border, with women drivers, which were not permitted as drivers by the BVG (West), West Berlin's public transport operator. Instead of changing the Western rules, so that the Easterly intended interruption of the cross-border tram traffic would not happen, the BVG (West) insisted on male drivers. So cross-border tram traffic ended on 16 January.[9] In East German propaganda this was a point for the East, arguing that the West did not allow drivers coming with their trams from the East to continue along their line into the West, but remaining silent on the fact that the end of cross-border tram traffic was most welcome to the East. The underground and the S-Bahn networks, except the above-mentioned traverse S-Bahn trains, continued to provide services between East and West Berlin. However, occasionally the East Berlin police - in the streets and on cross-border trains in East Berlin - identified suspicious behaviour (such as carrying heavy loads westwards) and watched out for unwelcome Westerners.

Once in a while West Germans were banned from entering East Berlin. This was the case between 29 August and 1 September 1960, when so-called homecomers (German: Heimkehrer) from all around West Germany and West Berlin met for a convention in that city. The homecomers from a long compulsory detention in the Soviet Union - with their special experiences there - were highly unwelcome in East Berlin.[10] Since they could not be recognised by their identification papers all West Germans were banned for these days from East Berlin. West Berliners were allowed, since the quadripartite Allied status quo provided for their free movement around all four sectors. From 8 September 1960 on, the East subjected all West Germans to apply for a permit before entering East Berlin.

As the communist dictatorship in the East intensified, and the economic recovery in the West significantly outperformed the Eastern development, more than hundred thousand East Germans and East Berliners left East Germany and East Berlin for the West every year. East Germany closed the borders between East and West Germany and sealed off the border with West Berlin in 1952; but because of the quadripartite Allied status of the city, the 46 km-long border between East and West Berlin remained open. As there was freedom of movement between West Berlin and West Germany, Easterners could use the city as a transit point to West Germany, usually travelling there by air.

To stop this drain of people defecting, the East German government built the Berlin Wall, thus physically closing off West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany, on 13 August 1961. All Eastern streets, bridges, paths, windows, doors, gates or sewers opening to West Berlin were systematically sealed off by walls, concrete elements, barbed wire or bars. The Wall was directed against the Easterners, who by its construction were no longer allowed to leave the East, except with an Eastern permit, not usually granted.

Westerners were still granted visas on entering East Berlin. Initially eight street checkpoints were opened, and one checkpoint in the Berlin Friedrichstraße railway station, which was reached by one line of the Western underground (today's U 6), two Western S-Bahn lines, one under and one above ground (approximate to today's S 2 and S 3, however lines changed a lot from 1990 onwards), and transit trains between West Germany and West Berlin started and ended there.

Map showing location of the Berlin Wall and transit points

The eight street checkpoints were - from North to South along the Wall - on Bornholmer Straße, Chausseestraße, Invalidenstraße, Brandenburg Gate, Friedrichstraße (Checkpoint Charlie in US military denomination, since this crossing was to their sector), Heinrich-Heine-Straße (also Checkpoint Delta), and Sonnenallee.

An eastern water cannon vehicle directed at western protesters in front of the Brandenburg Gate, August 1961

When the construction of the Wall started after midnight early on 13 August, West Berlin's Governing Mayor Willy Brandt was on a West German federal election campaigning tour in West Germany. Arriving by train in Hanover at 4a.m. he was informed about the Wall and flew back to West Berlin's Tempelhof Central Airport.

In the course of the day he protested along with many other West Berliners on Potsdamer Platz and at the Brandenburg Gate. On 14 August, under the pretext that Western demonstrations required it, the East closed the checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate, 'until further notice', a situation that was to last until 22 December 1989, when it was finally reopened.

On 26 August 1961 East Germany generally banned West Berliners from entering the Eastern sector. West Germans and other nationals however could still get visas on entering East Berlin. Since intra-city phone lines had been cut by the East already in May 1952 (see below) the only remaining way of communication with family or friends on the other side was by mail or at meeting in a motorway restaurant on a transit route, because the transit traffic remained unaffected throughout.

On 18 May 1962 East Germany opened the so-called Tränenpalast checkpoint hall (English: Palace of Tears) at Berlin Friedrichstraße station, where Easterners had to say a sometimes tearful farewell to returning Westerners as well as the few Easterners who had managed to get a permit to visit the West. Up until June 1963 the East deepened its border zone around West Berlin in East Germany and East Berlin by clearing existing buildings and vegetation to create an open field of view, sealed off by the Berlin Wall towards the West and a second wall or fence of similar characteristics to the East, observed by armed men in towers, ordered to shoot possible refugees.

Western police awaiting an eastern border controller at the opening of a new pedestrian border crossing. View into the vaults of Oberbaumbrücke, 21 December 1963.

Finally in 1963 West Berliners were again allowed to visit East Berlin. On this occasion a further checkpoint for pedestrians only was opened on the Oberbaumbrücke. West Berliners were granted visas for a one-day-visit between 17 December 1963 and 5 January the following year. 1.2 million out of a total 1.9 million West Berliners visited East Berlin during this period. In 1964, 1965 and 1966 East Berlin was opened again to West Berliners, but each time only for a limited period.

West Berliners entering East Berlin at the border crossing Chausseestraße on 28 December 1963 after having been banned from visiting the eastern sector for more than two years.

East Germany found particular joy in playing with the different legal statuses it assigned to East Germans, East Berliners and West Germans and West Berliners, as well as citizens from other countries in the world. Up until 1990 East Germany designated each Border crossings in East Berlin for certain categories of persons, with only one street checkpoint being open simultaneously for West Berliners and West Germans (Bornholmer Straße) and Berlin Friedrichstraße railway station being open for all travellers.

On 9 September 1964 the East German Council of Ministers (government) decided to allow Eastern pensioners to visit family in West Germany or West Berlin. According to the specified regulations valid from 2 November on Eastern pensioners could apply, and were usually allowed, to travel into the West to visit relatives once a year for a maximum of four weeks. If pensioners decided not to return, the government did not miss them as manpower, unlike younger Easterners, who were subject to a system of labour and employment, which demanded almost everybody work in the Eastern command production system.

On 2 December 1964 East Germany, always short of hard currency, decreed that every Western visitor had to buy a minimum of 5 Eastern Mark der Deutschen Notenbank per day (MDN,[11] 1964-1968 the official name of the East German mark, to distinguish it from the West Deutsche Mark) at the still held arbitrary compulsory rate of 1 : 1. The five marks had to be spent as exporting Eastern currency was illegal, which is why importing it, after having bargained for it at the currency market at Zoo station, was also illegal. Western pensioners and children were spared from the compulsory exchange (officially in German: Mindestumtausch, i.e. minimum exchange). Not long after East Germany held the first cash harvest from the new compulsory exchange rules by allowing West Berliners to visit East Berlin once more for a day during the Christmas season. The following year, 1965, East Germany opened the travelling season for West Berliners on 18 December. In 1966 it opened for a second harvest of Western money between the Easter (10 April) and Pentecost (29 May) holidays and later again at Christmas.

The situation only changed fundamentally after 11 December 1971 when, representing the two German states, the Western Egon Bahr and the Eastern Michael Kohl signed the Transit Agreement. This followed by a comparable agreement for West Berliners, once more allowing regular visits to East Germany and East Berlin.

After ratification of the Agreement and specifying the pertaining regulations West Berliners could apply for the first time again for visas for any chosen date to East Berlin or East Germany from 3 October 1972 onwards. If granted, a one-day-visa entitled them to leave the East until 2a.m. the following day. West Berliners were now spared the visa fee of 5 Western Deutsche Marks, not to be confused with the compulsory exchange amounting to the same sum, but yielding in return 5 Eastern marks. This financial relief did not last long, because on 15 November 1973 East Germany doubled the compulsory exchange to 10 Eastern marks, payable in West German Deutsche Marks at par.

One-day-visas for East Berlin were now issued in a fast procedure on entering East Berlin; visas for longer stays and visas for East Germany proper needed a prior application, which could be a lengthy procedure. To ease the application for West Berliners seeking such Eastern visas, the GDR Foreign Ministry was later allowed to open Offices for the Affairs of Visits and Travelling (German: Büros für Besuchs- und Reiseangelegenheiten) in West Berlin, but were not allowed to show any official symbols of East Germany. The Eastern officials working commuted every morning and evening between East and West Berlin. Their uniforms showed no official symbols except the name Büro für Besuchs- und Reiseangelegenheiten. They accepted visa applications and handed out confirmed visas issued in the East, to the West Berlin applicants. A shed formerly housing one such Büro für Besuchs- und Reiseangelegenheiten can be found on Waterlooufer 5-7 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, close to Hallesches Tor underground station.[12] The disagreement about Berlin's status was one of the most important debates of the Cold War.

Another form of traffic between East and West Berlin was the transfer of West Berlin's sewage into East Berlin and East Germany through the sewer pipes built in the late 19th and early 20th century. The sewage flowed into the East because most of the pre-war premises for sewage treatment, mostly sewage farms, happened to be in the East after the division of the city. Sewer pipes, however, once discovered as a way to flee the East, were blocked by bars. West Berlin paid for the treatment of its sewage in Western Deutsche Marks which were desperately needed by the Eastern government. Since the methods used in the East did not meet Western standards, West Berlin increased the capacity of modern sewage treatment within its own territory, so that the amount of its sewage treated in the East has considerably reduced by the time the Wall came down.

Similar was the situation with refuse. The removal, burning or disposal of the ever-growing amount of West Berlin's rubbish became a costly problem, but here too an agreement was found, since West Berlin would pay in Western Deutsche Marks. On 11 December 1974 East Germany and West Berlin's garbage utility company BSR signed a contract to dispose of refuse on a dump right beside the Wall in East German Groß-Ziethen (today a part of Schönefeld). An extra checkpoint, solely open for Western bin lorries was opened there. Later a second dump, further away, was opened in Vorketzin, a part of Ketzin.

As for the S-Bahn, operated in all of Berlin by the East German Reichsbahn, the construction of the Wall meant a deep cut into its integrated network of lines, especially for Berlin's circular S-Bahn line around all of the Western and Eastern inner city. The lines were separated and those mostly located in West Berlin were continued, but only accessible from West Berlin with all access in East Berlin closed. However, even before the Wall had been built, West Berliners increasingly refrained from using the S-Bahn, since boycotts against it were issued, the argument being that every S-Bahn ticket bought provided the GDR government with valuable Western Deutsche Marks.

East Berliners, just having passed the now open eastern checkpoint Bornholmer Straße, passing Bösebrücke into the French sector of Berlin on 18 November 1989.

Usage dropped further as the Western public transport operator BVG (West) offered parallel bus lines and expanded its network of underground lines. After the construction of the Wall usage dropped so much that running the S-Bahn lines in West Berlin turned into a loss-making exercise: wages and maintenance costs - however badly it was carried out outdid the proceeds from ticket sales. So the Reichsbahn finally agreed to surrender operation of the S-Bahn in West Berlin, as had been determined by all Allies in 1945, and on 29 December 1983 the Allies, the Senate of Berlin (West; i.e. the city state government) and the Reichsbahn signed an agreement to change the operator from Reichsbahn to BVG (West) which took effect on 9 January 1984.

On 9 November 1989 East Germany opened the borders for East Germans and East Berliners, who could then freely enter West Berlin. West Berlin itself had never restricted their entry. For West Berliners and West Germans the opening of the border for free entry lasted longer. The regulation concerning one-day-visas on entering the East and the compulsory minimum exchange of 25 Western Deutsche Marks by 1989, continued. However, more checkpoints were opened. Finally on 22 December 1989 East Germany granted West Berliners and West Germans free entry without charge at the existing checkpoints, demanding only valid papers. Eastern controls were slowly eased into spot checks and finally abolished on 30 June 1990, the day East and West introduced the union concerning currency, economy and social safety (German: Währungs-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialunion).

Traffic between different parts of West Berlin crossing the East

Map of divided Berlin, indicating by the broken line at Berlin's western border the territorial redeployment decided by the Allies. Five greater of West Berlin's twelve exclaves are also shown.

East and West Berlin's borders took a complicated course, including enclaves and exclaves, since the borders followed the municipal borders of its components, which had developed since the 12th century with some occasional redeployments in 1920 - by the Greater Berlin Act, in 1938 - by a simplification of some borough borders within Greater Berlin and by the Allies in August 1945, e.g. shaping the British sector that way, that it would include the entire Wehrmacht airfield at Berlin-Gatow in the southwestern corner of this sector. In return the geographically western section of West Berlin's quarter Staaken - at the western most end of the British Sector, was handed over to the Soviets. This caused the confusing fact, that as of 1951 the geographically western Staaken was an exclave of the politically Eastern East Berlin at the geographically western outskirts of West Berlin, while the geographically eastern Staaken remained with the politically Western British sector, thus West Berlin.[13]

By the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (1971) the Allies empowered West Berlin to negotiate territorial redeployments with East Germany. On 20 December 1971 the first territorial redeployment took place, concerning the exclaves numbered 1–3, 6, 8, 10 and 11 mentioned below, connecting the latter with West Berlin and ceding the former six to East Germany as well as including a payment of four million West German Deutsche Marks to the East. The remaining exclaves were either ceded (No. 5, 7 and 12) to East Germany or territorially connected with West Berlin (No. 4 and 6) in a second redeployment in 1988.

West Berlin's twelve exclaves were the following:

  • 1–3 Böttcherberg (German) (0.30 ha/0.74 acre): three unconnected, uninhabited and unused pieces of land, belonged to West Berlin's Borough of Zehlendorf, ceded to East Germany in 1971, since then a part of Potsdam.
  • 4 Erlengrund (German) (0.51 ha/1.26 acre): Allotment club, seasonally inhabited, belonging to the Borough of Spandau, territorially connected with West Berlin, when East Germany ceded the interjacent tract of land in 1988. Until 1988 the allotmentiers had to pass supervised by East German controllers on their short way between Erlengrund and the rest of West Berlin. Other passengers, like friends and family, let alone strangers, were not allowed to pass, except of emergency rescuers. The path connecting Erlengrund was fenced on both sides not allowing Easterners to enter.
  • 5 Falkenhagener Wiese (45.44 ha/112.28 acre): unused grassland, belonged to the Borough of Spandau, ceded to East Germany in 1988, since then a part of Falkensee.
  • 6 Fichtewiese (German) (3.51 ha/8.67 acre): Allotment club, seasonally inhabited, belonging to the Borough of Spandau, territorially connected with West Berlin, when East Germany ceded the interjacent tract of land in 1988. Until 1988 the allotmentiers had to pass East German controls on their short way between Fichtewiese and the rest of West Berlin. Other passengers, like friends and family, let alone strangers, were not allowed to pass, except of emergency rescuers. The path connecting Fichtewiese was fenced on both sides not allowing Easterners to enter.
  • 7 Finkenkrug, (3.45 ha/8.53 acre): inhabited by East Germans, five km away from West Berlin's border, belonged to the Borough of Spandau, ceded to East Germany in 1971, since then a part of Falkensee.
  • 8 Große Kuhlake (8.03 ha/19.84 acre): unused grassland, belonged to the Borough of Spandau, ceded to East Germany in 1971.
  • 9 Laßzins-Wiesen (13.49 ha/33.33 acre): unused grassland, belonged to the Borough of Spandau, ceded to East Germany in 1988, since then a part of Schönwalde.
  • 10 Nuthewiesen (German) (3.64 ha/8.99 acre): uninhabited wet meadows, belonged to the Borough of Zehlendorf, ceded to East Germany in 1971, since then a part of Potsdam.
  • 11 Steinstücken (12.67 ha/31.31 acre): inhabited by West Berliners, belonging to the Borough of Zehlendorf, territorially connected with West Berlin, when East Germany ceded the interjacent tract of land in 1971. Until 1971 the inhabitants had to pass East German controls on their way between Steinstücken and the rest of West Berlin. Other passengers, like friends and family, let alone strangers, were not allowed to pass, except of emergency rescuers and handcrafters for repairs. The road connecting Steinstücken was immured on both sides not allowing Easterners to enter it.
  • 12 Wüste Mark (German) (21.83 ha/53.94 acre): despite its name, no wasteland but a seasonally tilled acreage, belonging to the Borough of Zehlendorf, ceded to East Germany in 1988, since then a part of Stahnsdorf. Wüste Mark is a tract of land adjacent to Wilmersdorf's forest cemetery in Güterfelde. Until 1988 the West Berlin farmer tilling the land was allowed to cross with his tractor through East Germany after announcement following a fixed regulation.

When the Wall was built in 1961 three metro lines starting in northern parts of West Berlin, passed through tunnels under the Eastern city centre and ended again in southern parts of West Berlin. The lines concerned were today's underground lines U 6 and U 8 and the S-Bahn line S 2 (today partly also used by other lines). On the sealing off of West Berlin from East Berlin by the Berlin Wall the entrances of the stations on these lines located in East Berlin were shut, however western trains were allowed to continue to pass through without stopping. Passengers in these trains experienced the empty and barely lit ghost stations where time had stood still since 13 August 1961. West Berlin's public transport operator BVG (West) paid the east an annual charge in Western Deutsche Marks for its underground lines to use the tunnels under East Berlin. U 6 and S 2 also had one subterranean stop at the Eastern Berlin Friedrichstraße railway station, the only station beneath East Berlin where western U Bahn trains were still allowed to stop. Passengers could change there between U 6, S 2 and the elevated S 3 (then starting and ending in Friedrichstraße) or for the transit trains to West Germany, buy duty free tobacco and liquor for west marks in GDR run kiosks, or enter East Berlin through an inbuilt checkpoint.

Post and telecommunications

West Berlin had its own postal administration first called Deutsche Post Berlin (1947-1955) and then Deutsche Bundespost Berlin, separate from West Germany's Deutsche Bundespost, and issuing its own postage stamps until 1990. However the separation was merely symbolic, in reality West Berlin's postal service was completely integrated with West Germany's, using the same postal code system. East and West delivered each other postal battles in 1948/1949 (during the Blockade) and 1959/1960 (World Year of the Refugees) refusing to transport messages with stamps showing values in the new East or West German currency or with special stamps showing subjects related to the Blockade or the fate of the World War II refugees.

The Post Office also ran the telephone network in Berlin. It was in a sorry state in all four sectors, because by July 1945, before the Western Allies took control of their sectors, the Soviets had dismantled and deported almost all automatic telephone switches, allowing direct dialling instead of operator connected calling. So Berlin's telephone network dropped from hundreds of thousands of connected telephones to a mere 750 in use by end of 1945, all of which were assigned to Allied staff or utility services. Rebuilding the system became a lengthy enterprise because of the post-war economic crisis and the following Berlin Blockade. On 25 February 1946 calls between Berlin and any of the four Allied zones of occupation were again made possible. In April 1949 the Eastern branch of the Deutsche Post disconnected all 89 existing telephone lines from West Berlin into the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany.

Meanwhile West Berlin was integrated into the West German telephone network, using the same international dialling code as West Germany, +49, with the area code 030. On 27 May 1952 the Eastern Deutsche Post cut all 4,000 lines connecting East and West Berlin. In order to reduce Eastern tapping of telecommunications between West Berlin and West Germany microwave radio relay connections were built, which wirelessly transmitted telephone calls between antenna towers in West Germany and West Berlin, where two of which were built, one antenna in Berlin-Wannsee and later a second in Berlin-Frohnau, finished on 16 May 1980 with a height of 358 m (1,175 ft) (this tower was demolished on 8 February 2009).

Following the détente, on 31 January 1971 East Germany allowed the opening of 10 telephone lines between East and West Berlin. The Western area code for East Berlin was then 00372 (international access prefix 00, East German country code 37, area code 2). Calls from East Berlin were only possible via the operator. On 24 June 1972 East Germany opened 32 local exchanges (including Potsdam) in the East German suburbia of West Berlin for calls from West Berlin. From 14 April 1975 East Berliners could once again dial directly to West Berlin, without the operator. East Germany conceded to an increase in lines between East and West Berlin to 120 on 15 December 1981. However, private phones were very rare in the East. In 1989, the 17 million East Germans (including East Berliners) were served by only 4 million telephones, only half of which were installed in private homes, the rest being in offices, companies, public telephone kiosks, and the like.

Boroughs of West Berlin

West Berlin comprised the following boroughs:

In the American Sector:

In the British Sector:

In the French Sector:

See also

External links


  1. ^ The embassies of the Western Allies, later opened in East Berlin, were officially not called - e.g. - embassy of the French Republic to the German Democratic Republic, to whose territory East Berlin did not belong according to Western opinion, but embassy of the French Republic in Berlin.
  2. ^ "Germany, East." Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 11. Funk & Wagnalls, Inc., 1990. ISBN 0-8343-0091-5
  3. ^ According to the German-German Traffic Agreement of 29 November 1978 the transit via highway F 5 was replaced by a new autobahn connecting Hamburg with Wittstock (today's A 24), from there on using the existing autobahn between Berlin and Rostock (today's A 19). The West German Federal Government paid DM 1.2 billion to co-finance the construction of these roads. East Germany, always short of foreign exchange, showed a certain willingness to cooperate whenever Western payments were involved.
  4. ^ This was felt in 1980. The Reichsbahn tried to reduce its losses from operating West Berlin's S-Bahns by reducing the staff and the operation time in the evenings and nights. This would have further reduced the salaries of the remaining employees, who earned in the late hours night work bonuses. Anyway being worse paid than West German railway workers the West Berlin S-Bahn employees went on strike, which was legal in capitalist West Berlin, but illegal in communist East Berlin because it was regarded an act of illoyalty against the communist party, conceiting itself to be the avant-garde of the workers' class, and therefore always right, who was in control of the Reichsbahn. The strikers occupied the signal towers inhibiting any rail traffic in West Berlin as of 20 September. With the help of Soviet patrollers in West Berlin eastern railway workers recaptured the signal towers on 22 September and later other railway premises too. More than 200 West Berlin Reichsbahn employees, refraining from returning to work, were then fired. This was illegal by western law, because striking does not provide legal grounds for a dismissal. However, the Reichsbahn was out of western jurisdiction, so the western government paid the fired people unemployment benefits, even though the Reichsbahn had never paid contributions for them to the western public unemployment insurance.
  5. ^ East Germany demanded East Germans and East Berliners to get an East German permission first, before leaving its borders. However permissions were usually denied, so most had to take their liberty of fleeing - if they dared to get shot or caught by Eastern border controllers and then imprisoned. Taking one's liberty of fleeing had been criminalised in the East as Republikflucht.
  6. ^ Buß- und Bettag is celebrated by the Protestant church bodies in Germany in November on the penultimate Wednesday before the new Protestant Liturgical year (First Sunday of Advent).
  7. ^ The BVG (West) gave up those sections of its lines extending into East German territory, like the southern end of tram line 47 to Schönefeld, the southwestern end of tram line 96 to Kleinmachnow as well as two bus lines to Glienicke at the Nordbahn, north, and to Falkensee, northwest of West Berlin.
  8. ^ S-Bahns were checked at Hoppegarten, Mahlow and Zepernick on East German territory adjacent to East Berlin and in Hohen Neuendorf, Potsdam-Griebnitzsee and Staaken-Albrechtshof on East German territory adjacent to West Berlin. On 4 June 1954 the Bahnhof Hennigsdorf Süd was opened adjacent to West Berlin, an extra new station set aside solely for controls.
  9. ^ It took the BVG (West) until 1 November 1973 to employ the first female bus driver, by which time all tram lines had been closed down in West Berlin.
  10. ^ Homecomers were either German civilians, who had been deported into the Soviet Union from those territories it conquered, or former Wehrmacht soldiers and SS fighters, whom the Soviet Union caught as prisoners-of-war, and all of them from both groups had worked for many years as forced labourers in the Soviet Union, before they were finally allowed to leave.
  11. ^ Literally in English: Mark of the German Bank of Issue, which was then the name of the East German state bank.
  12. ^ Wissenswertes über Berlin: Nachschlagewerk für zuziehende Arbeitnehmer von A-Z (11968), Senator für Wirtschaft und Arbeit (ed.), Berlin (West): Senator für Wirtschaft und Arbeit, 121986, p. 117. No ISBN.
  13. ^ Between 1951 and 1961 western Staaken was an exclave of East Berlin's then Borough of Mitte (smaller than the new Mitte borough designed in 2001). After that western Staaken became a part of the East German Governorate of Potsdam. On 3 October 1990, the day of German unification western Staaken was reincorporated into united Berlin.
Preceded by
European City of Culture
Succeeded by

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Berlin article)

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see Berlin (disambiguation).
Berlin is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Berlin panorama from Siegessäule: Reichstag with dome (left), TV Tower (center), Brandenburg Gate (right)
Berlin panorama from Siegessäule: Reichstag with dome (left), TV Tower (center), Brandenburg Gate (right)

Berlin [1] is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states (Länder) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and has a population of 4.5 million within its metropolitan area and 3.4 million from 190 countries within the city limits. Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, for its internationality and tolerance, for its lively nightlife, for its many cafes, clubs, and bars, for its street art, and for its numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin's architecture is quite varied. Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the city center, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultramodern glass and steel structures in Potsdamer Platz. Because of its tumultuous history, Berlin remains a city with many distinctive neighborhoods.

The 12 new Boroughs (shaded) and 23 old Districts (names) of Berlin
The 12 new Boroughs (shaded) and 23 old Districts (names) of Berlin
Mitte (Mitte, Tiergarten, Wedding,)
The historical center of Berlin, the nucleus of the former East Berlin, and the emerging city center. Cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries and clubs are abundant throughout the district, along with many sites of historic interest. The northern (Wedding) part of the borough is more humble and working class.
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg)
Associated with the left wing youth culture, artists and Turkish immigrants, this borough is somewhat noisier than most, packed with lots of cafes, bars, clubs and trendy shops, but also with some museums in Kreuzberg near the border to Mitte.
Pankow (Prenzlauer Berg, Weißensee, Pankow)
Prenzlauer Berg is a trendy district in the former East Berlin which is undergoing gentrification and is located north of the city center. Popular with students, artists and media professionals, it is made up of lots of cafes and bars. Pankow was once synonymous with the East German government, and the villas the SED leaders inhabited still exist.
Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Ku'Damm)
This borough is the heart of City West and contains the Schloss Charlottenburg. Ku'Damm (short for Kurfürstendamm) is, along with Tauentzienstraße, one of the main shopping streets in former West Berlin, especially for luxury goods. Many great restaurants and hotels are here and also on the side roads. The Olympic Stadium in the northwest of the borough is home to soccer club Hertha BSC and large concerts.
Spandau (Spandau)
Spandau, at the far northwestern end of Berlin, is very much its own city to the locals, so much so that Spandauers "go to Berlin" when travelling east. Older than Berlin, it developed around its beautiful old town, and the imposing Zitadelle (citadel) regularly plays host to excellent concerts well worth the detour required.
Steglitz-Zehlendorf (Steglitz, Zehlendorf)
Zehlendorf is one of the greenest and wealthiest districts in Berlin and the biggest university in town (Freie Universität) is located here, but often ignored are the great museums and some important historical buildings, as well as the city's primary botanic garden and beautiful lakes in the south.
Tempelhof-Schöneberg (Tempelhof, Schöneberg)
This borough is something of a mismatch. The north is generally a cosy area for ageing hippies, young families and homosexuals. Famous are the markets on Saturdays, the street cafes (e.g. Akazienstraße) and the laissez-faire life style. The southern part (Tempelhof) is more suburban in character, but the visitor may be interested in the Trabrennbahn Mariendorf, a harness racetrack.
Neukölln (Neukölln)
Neukölln has had it rough. It is commonly perceived by outsiders as a hotbed of failing schools, violence and petty crime. The visitor who gives it a try however might find much to like between the cautiously gentrifying areas around Hermannplatz with its quirky pubs and the Britzer Garten, a spacious park that played host to the 1985 Federal Garden Show.
Treptow-Köpenick (Treptow, Köpenick)
Treptow is a struggling postindustrial district with much unemployment that has a rather limited range of offerings to the visitor. Köpenick is different. The swaths of forest around Berlin's largest lake, Müggelsee and the nice old town of Köpenick itself beg to be discovered on bikes and using the S-Bahn.
Marzahn-Hellersdorf (Marzahn, Hellersdorf)
This eastern borough has a not entirely deserved reputation for being a vast collection of dull highrise apartment blocks. After all, it contains the Erholungspark Marzahn, a large park where various ethnic styles of garden design are explored.
Lichtenberg (Lichtenberg, Hohenschönhausen)
In Karlshorst in the south of this underappreciated borough, the museum at the site of the 1945 surrender to the Soviet army is of interest, the Hohenschönhausen part contains the former Stasi prison, an essential visit for anyone interested in East German history. Berlin's Eisbären ice hockey team plays here as well.
Reinickendorf (Reinickendorf)
Reinickendorf has pretty lakes in the northwest and Lübars, a charming rural enclave with a historic village square and church, in the northeast. Tegel Airport, located here as well, is due to close in 2011.

In Berlin there is more than one downtown area. Berlin has many boroughs or districts, called Bezirke, and each borough has its distinctive style. Each Bezirk is composed of several Kieze—a Berlin term referring to "neighbourhood," with their unique style. Some boroughs of Berlin, as noted below, are more worthy of a visitor's attention than others.

Since January 2001, Berlin has been officially divided into 12 new large boroughs (Bezirke), which is a consolidation of the 23 old, smaller districts (Stadtteile, Bezirke) undertaken for administrative efficiency. The smaller districts still remain foremost in popular conceptions of the city and are generally of a more practical size and cultural division for visitors as well. New borough names are usually compounded from the old district names (e.g. Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf merged to Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf). To make things more confusing, the name Mitte, which was the name of one of the old smaller district that was consolidated, is also used for the new large borough. So much for efficiency.

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

The foundation of Berlin was very multicultural. The surrounding area was populated by Germanic Swabian and Burgundian tribes, as well as Slavic Wends in pre-Christian times, and the Wends have stuck around. Their modern descendants are the Sorbian Slavic-language minority who live in villages southeast of Berlin near the Spree River.

In the beginning of the 13th century, two towns (Berlin and Cölln) developed on each side of the river Spree (today the Nikolaiviertel and the quarter next to it beyond the river). As the population grew, the towns merged and Berlin became a center for commerce and agriculture. This area stayed small (about 10,000 inhabitants) up to the late 17th century, because of the 30 years' war in the beginning of the 17th century, which led to death of about half of the population.

Since the the late 17th century, when large numbers of French Huguenots fled religious persecution, Berlin has welcomed religious, economic and other asylum seekers. 1701 Berlin became the capital of Prussia and in 1710 Berlin and surrounding former autonomous cities were merged to a bigger Berlin. In 1871 Berlin became the capital of the new founded German Reich and a few years later, it became a city with more than one million inhabitants because of the immensely growing industry. Shortly after the first World War, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it now. After the coming into power of the National Socialists, Berlin became the capital of the so called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler (though the triumph of Hitler and his companions started in the south of Germany).

WW II led to destruction of most of central Berlin, thus many of the buildings which we see nowadays are reconstructed or planned and built after the war, which led to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sector, East Berlin belonged to the USSR). In 1949 the GDR was founded with East Berlin as its capital - West Berlin belonged to West Germany (with Bonn as the capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, the latter built a wall between the countries and around West Berlin, so the division was complete.

In 1989 the German revolution took place -subsequently leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall- and in 1990 West and East Germany were merged officially together with Berlin becoming the capital of reunified Germany.

After WW II and the building of the wall, large numbers of immigrants from Turkey were invited to West Berlin to work in the growing industry sector; in East Berlin the jobs were done mostly by Vietnamese immigrants. But also people from other communist countries, including the former Yugoslavia, not to mention Soviet soldiers who refused to return home, have helped to make Berlin more multicultural than ever.

Berlin is also a youth-oriented city. Before German unification, West Berliners were exempt from the West German civil/military service requirement. Social activists, pacifists and anarchists of all moved to Berlin for that reason alone. Musicians and artists were given state subsidies. It was easy to stay out all night thanks to liberal bar licensing laws, and staying at university for years without ever getting a degree was a great way to kill time. In contrast with most of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg is said to have the highest per-capita birth rate in Europe (in fact it just seems so because of the high percentage of young women in the district).

After the fall of the wall, Berlin - especially the former East - has evolved into a cultural mecca. Artists and other creative souls flocked to the city in swarms after reunification, primarily due to the extremely low cost of living in the East. Despite the increased prices and gentrification as a result, Berlin has become a center for art, design, multimedia, electronic music, and fashion among other things. The particularly high number of students and young people in the city has only helped this cause. Just stroll down a street in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, or Mitte to get a glimpse of the new East Berlin.

The old and new of Berlin - Marienkirche & TV Tower
The old and new of Berlin - Marienkirche & TV Tower

Some famous artists of the region and their best-known works include Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Bertolt Brecht (Threepenny Opera), Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire (German: Der Himmel über Berlin)), Blixa Bargeld/Einstürzende Neubauten, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum), members of the Bauhaus architectural movement and many more.


Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, dating to the thirteenth century, and it has always had a reputation as a place filled with people from elsewhere. Someone who has lived in Berlin for ten years will see themselves as a "true Berliner," looking down on the person who has been there for only five. It may seem tough to find someone born and raised here! This is part of Berlin's charm: it never gets stuck in a rut.

A certain uneasy detente still exists between some former residents of East and West Berlin (and Germany). Wessi evolved as a derogatory nickname for a West German; its corollary is Ossi. The implication here is that after reunification, the West Germans automatically assumed the way they do things is the right way, and the way the Easterners should start doing it, too. Westerners got a reputation for being arrogant. They saw the Easterners as stubborn Communist holdouts interested only in a handout from the "rich West." Consider a shirt for sale in a shop inside the Alexanderplatz Deutsche Bahn station: Gott, schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind/und Wessies die im Osten sind ("God, protect me from the storm and wind, and Wessies who are in the East"). Another such stereotype is reflected by the short poem: Der Ossi ist schlau und stellt sich dumm, beim Wessi ist es andersrum ("The Ossi is sly and pretends to be simple-minded, and with the Wessi, it relates the other way around"). However, most of the younger generation do not share such biases.


German is of course the main language in Berlin but you can easily find information in English and sometimes in French. Due to the football World Cup in 2006 all public transportation staff got language training and should be able to help you in English (although possibly with a strong German accent). If you seem to be lost or hesitating in a public transport station a member of staff could come to your assistance but don't count on that. You can easily approach a group of (preferably young) bystanders and ask for advice in English, but try to speak slowly and with a kind of British English accent, which is taught at schools in Germany. People will generally be quite helpful, but do not completely rely on this, as even Berliners often do not know all the exact details about their own city's geography, or even on transport schedules, and rather rely on their talent to somehow improvise or even ask fellow Berliners for the way once they do not find the address they want to reach.

Most people under 40 in Berlin are able to speak English with varying degrees of fluency, but it might not be as widely spoken as you might expect, so a few key German phrases are worth having, especially in the suburbs and less touristy places. Basic French and Russian is partly spoken because French in West Berlin and Russian in East Berlin were taught in schools.

There are some words in Berlin that differ from regular German, especially in the former East Berlin. Here, the language preserved a certain level of dialect.

Schrippe: Roll.

Stulle: Sandwich.

Broiler: grilled chicken.


One of the most important "products" produced in Berlin by both academic and company-sponsored institutes is research. That research is exported around the world. German labor is highly efficient but comes at high cost. Strong trade unions, the end of West Berlin's pre-reunification subsidies and Germany's dense regulatory environment forced industry to concentrate on high quality and expensive products. Students, housewives and self-employed people are not included in Berlin's official unemployment rate, currently standing at 14 percent.


Berlin is - at least in many parts - a beautiful city, so allow enough time to get to see the sights. A good map, such as the Rough Guide Berlin map, is highly recommended. While the public transport system is superb, it can be confusing to visitors, due to a lack of directional signs in some of the larger stations, so a good transit map is also essential. Be sure to note the final station/stop of the S-bahn or U-bahn, since that is usually the way direction of travel is indicated. Roads into Berlin can also be confusing, so study your route and drive carefully. Signs point to city boroughs or districts rather than indicating compass directions, so it's a good idea to get to know where the various boroughs or districts lie in relation to each other. This also applies to cyclists.

Berlin's Tourist Information Office [2] is an excellent resource for finding out more about Berlin, providing a wealth of practical information and useful links.

Get in

As the city was divided into two during the Cold War, many major parts of Berlin's infrastructure — such as airports — were built on both the east and west side. After the demolition of the Wall, the challenge has been to merge these formerly independent systems into one that serves all people in the metropolitan Berlin area.

By plane

Berlin has two airports [3]:

  • Tegel International Airport (ICAO: EDDT, IATA: TXL) located in the north-west of the city it's the main airport for flag carriers (Lufthansa, BA, Air France-KLM, Delta etc) and hub for domestic flights as well. The original airport was designed as a hexagon but today two other terminals try to handle the flights of Air Berlin (most flights in Terminal C) and other budget carriers (mostly in terminal D). All flag carrier flights leave from the main terminal building A (Terminal B nowadays contains just the bus gates of Terminal A for Non-Schengen flights), and is also where all airlines lounges are.

Buses from Tegel International Airport operate to S+U Alexanderplatz, Hauptbahnhof (bus TXL), and S+U Zoologischer Garten (buses X9 and 109) for the standard ticket fare. Caution! Do not take any train to the "Tegel railway (S-Bahn) station", which is not connected to the airport, but rather to the suburban village called Tegel. It is not possible to walk or to otherwise get easily to the airport from that station. Tegel International Airport does not have any railway station. Any indication to a Tegel railway station refers to the remote S-Bahn station, even if railway staff at stations in other cities might tell otherwise.

  • Schönefeld (ICAO: EDDB, IATA: SXF) The former East Berlin airport southeast of the city center is the base for most low-cost airlines (e.g. easyJet, Ryanair and Germanwings) and charter flights in addition to traffic from Eastern Europe

The airport is served by the S-Bahn and regional trains. Normally The S-bahn trains will take You to the center of Berlin but right now (oct. 2009), renovations on the Ostktreutz train station has stopped this service and You need to go by S-bahn to Ostkreutz and change there. There are also less regular but faster regional trains that cost the same and stop at these major train stations too. In S-Bahn and regional trains between the airport (zone C) and the city (zone A,B), the public transport ticket (zones A,B,C for €2.80) can be used. Stamp the ticket to validate it before boarding.

  • The construction of the new Airport Berlin Brandenburg International[4] has started at Schönefeld and the new airport is scheduled for opening in autumn 2011. After the opening all air traffic in the Berlin-Brandenburg region will be bundled at BBI and the Tegel airport is going to be closed down.

There are numerous direct flight connections between Berlin and major German & European cities. For historical reasons intercontinental direct flights to Berlin were limited. The German flag carrier Lufthansa will mostly fly to its major hub airports Frankfurt and Munich and offer connecting flights to Berlin on a near hourly basis.

The international flights to Berlin are:

  1. Delta and Continental Airlines have daily nonstop flights to Berlin from New York
  2. Qatar Airways flies twice daily to Doha
  3. Hainan Airlines flies (in code-share with Air Berlin) to Beijing
  4. Air Berlin flies thrice weekly to Bangkok.

By bus

Berlin is serviced from over 350 destinations in Europe[5]. Due to a German law supporting the German national railway there is only one bus corporation connecting Berlin with these destinations[6]. Long distance buses arrive at Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (Central Bus Terminal) in Charlottenburg. From there take the S-Bahn (station Messe Nord) or bus into town.

The new Hauptbahnhof
The new Hauptbahnhof

Berlin is served by ICE, InterCity and EuroCity trains by the national German train corporation Deutsche Bahn [7] (DB) which offers connections between Berlin and other German and major European cities. If you arrive in Berlin on a national (non-regional) DB trip, you are entitled to use your ticket in the whole local transport to your final destination within the city (Zone A).

Several night trains from/to Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, Vienna and Budapest (special offer for 29 euros in one direction) travel every day. They are popular with backpackers so reservations are recommended. Long-haul trains to Eastern European cities (Warsaw, Kaliningrad and Moscow) mostly use the Bahnhof Lichtenberg in Eastern Berlin. Make sure you have a reservation because these lines are also very popular.

Some private train companies such as Veolia [8] offer connections to smaller cities in Eastern Germany.


During the times of its division, Berlin had two main train stations: Zoologischer Garten (colloquial nameBahnhof Zoo) in the West, and Ostbahnhof in the East. The new 'Hauptbahnhof' may be titled 'Lehrter Bahnhof' on older maps & is situated between the S-Bahn stations Friedrichstrasse and Bellevue.

The new building for the central station Hauptbahnhof [9] was opened in May 2006 and together with Südkreuz (southern cross) and Ostbahnhof (eastern station) - plus minor Gesundbrunnen in the north and Spandau in the north west - form the backbone of all connections. All are connected to either S- or U-Bahn (and in the future, both). All trains travel through central station and a second major hub (depending on the destination you travel to or arrive from). Trains in the regional area (Berlin and Brandenburg) mostly use these stations. Regional trains stop at several stations within Berlin.

By car

All main roads and motorways join the Berliner Ring, or the A10, from which you can access the inner city. The city motorway is usually very crowded during rush hour.

As of January 1, 2008, Berlin requires all cars to have a "Low Emissions" sticker in order to enter the city center (Low Emision Zone, "Umweltzone"). Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several weeks in advance) is available here [10].

Get around

Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is available), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English. If you ask for a short trip (Kurzstrecke), as long as its under 2km and before the taxi driver starts the meter running, the trip normally is cheaper, 3,50 euros (as of apr2009). This only applies if you flag the taxi down on the street, not if you get in at a taxi rank.

Check the Berlin route planner [11] (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn and trams, or to print your personal journey planner. The route planer can also calculate the fastest door-to-door connection for you destination for any given day and hour. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have a detailed fare list on their web site [12].

If you don't know how to get somewhere, or how to get home at night, call +49 30 19449, the Customer Service of the BVG. There are also facilities in most U-Bahn and some S-Bahn stations to contact the Customer Service directly. In 2005 the BVG introduced Metro lines (buses and tram) that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All lines are marked with a big orange plate and a white M.

It's also worth noting that the house numbers do not necessarily run in one direction (up or down). On a lot of streets, the numbers ascend on one side and descend on the other. Especially on long streets check the numbering scheme first: you can find the name of the street and the numbers on that block at nearly every street corner.

Different to what is usual in some English-speaking countries, Germans usually add the word for "street", "square", "park", etc. when they mention the name of a locality. Thus, they would not simply refer to "Kurfürsten" when talking about Kurfürstenstraße (Kurfürsten street), as this could also mean "Kurfürstendamm", which is a different road at a different place. "Schloss", which simply means "palace", could refer to any of the palaces in Berlin, as well as to one of the two roads called "Schlossstraße", a shopping centre called "Das Schloss", or the "Schlossplatz" in the Mitte district.

Berlin WelcomeCard. Other tickets are printed similarly.
Berlin WelcomeCard. Other tickets are printed similarly.

Berlin uses a zone system, but you are unlikely to need to go beyond zone A & B, except on trips to Potsdam or to the Schönefeld Airport (SXF). This is a very large area. The public transport system (U, S-Bahn, bus, tram) uses a common ticket.

Standard tickets (€ 2.10 for A & B) are valid for any travel within two hours of validation, in a single direction, within the appropriate fare zones. There is no limit to transfers. For a single journey you can buy a cheap Kurzstrecke for €1.30, but this is only valid for 3 stops on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (six stops by bus or tram); no transfers are permitted.

Several options are available for unlimited travel. Prices listed here are only for zones A and B, prices for A, B, and C cost marginally more. Check the machines for the actual prices:

  • A Tageskarte (day card) (€ 6.10).
  • Quadruple card "4 Fahrten Karte" (4 single trips bought at once for a reduced price) €8
  • The Berlin CityTourCard [13]: ticket valid for all public transport services in Berlin, Potsdam and the surrounding area and a discount card for many tourist attractions; available in four version: 48 hrs, tariff zone AB € 15.50 or tariff zone ABC € 17.50 / 72 hrs, tariff zone AB € 20.50 or tariff zone ABC € 23.00; a folded leaflet with inner city map and an overview of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn railway networks of Berlin is included; buy the CityTourCard at any ticket counters, ticket machines of the BVG and S-Bahn Berlin, hotels in Berlin, at the Berlin airports or at the main station (Hauptbahnhof Berlin) or online.
  • The Berlin CityTourCard Museumsinsel [14]: valid for 72 hours in the tariff zone AB plus free admission to all museums on the Museumsinsel of Berlin (Old National Gallery, Old Museum, Bode Museum, New Museum (closed until autumn 2009) and Pergamon Museum); it costs € 29.90; a folded leaflet with inner city map and an overview of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn railway networks of Berlin is included; buy the CityTourCard Museumsinsel in hotels, at the main station (Hauptbahnhof), Tegel airport and Schoenefeld airport, Zoologischer Garten, Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße or online
  • The Berlin WelcomeCard [15] (€ 16/21 for 2/3 days); discounts at many of Berlin's tourist attractions. Do check if it is suitable for your purposes.
  • Weekly passes (€ 26,20).
  • Small group ticket (€ 15.90) for up to five persons. If you are traveling more than two trips a day, this ticket is cost-effective for three persons and above.

Purchasing tickets:

All tickets are available at vending machines at U- and S-Bahn platforms. English and other European languages are available. Payment is mostly by local bank cards and coins, and banknotes. If you need assistance most larger stations have staffed ticket counters where you can ask questions and buy tickets. Buses will accept cash, and make change for tickets. Hotels may sell tickets as well.

In some places like Zoologischer Garten and Eberswalder Straße, people will try to sell used tickets to you. Be aware that you can go only one direction with a single-journey ticket (check the validation stamp and be careful as this could also be a pickpocket trick). Don't pay more than half the price.

Validating tickets:

You need to validate your ticket using the machines on the U- and S-bahn platforms or in the bus. The machines are yellow/white in the U-Bahn and the bus, and red on S-Bahn platforms. Validation simply means the machine prints a time stamp onto the ticket. Once validated, a ticket which is still valid will not have to be re-validated before each single trip. Whilst it might be tempting to try to avoid buying a ticket, be advised that plain-clothed inspectors do patrol the trains and that there is a €40 fine if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket. If caught attempt to show a state/providence id if you are from outside the EU this will make it less likely that your ticket will ever be mailed to you.

A bizarre saga involving safety violations and technical problems by the S-Bahn has led to major disruptions in 2009, with eight routes and up to 70% of services cancelled. As of November 2009 all mayor lines are in service again. You should nevertheless expect some inconveniences, mainly crowded trains during Rush Hours. Trains may also be not as punctual as usual.

Berlin has an amazingly efficient S-Bahn [16], trains run roughly every 10 minutes during daytime, every 5 minutes during rush-hour and every 20 minutes during the night and on weekends. Most S-Bahn lines run on an east-west route between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz via the stops Warschauer Straße, Ostbahnhof, Jannowitzbrücke, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Bellevue, Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg. Other lines run along a circle track around the city, most notably the S 8 and the S 41, S 42, S 45, S 46 lines.

U-Bahn route map
U-Bahn route map

The Berlin U-Bahn (subway/metro) is something to behold; it is so charmingly precise! There are no turnstiles to limit access, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checker you will be fined €40 so it is probably not worth the risk. All U-Bahn stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.

Detailed maps can be found in every U-Bahn station and on the trains. Don't be confused by the alternative tram maps. U-Bahn stations can be seen from far by their big, friendly blue U signs. Together with the S-Bahn [17] (which is administered by Deutsche Bahn and mostly runs aboveground), the U-Bahn provides a transportation network throughout greater Berlin that is extremely efficient and fast. On weekend (Friday to Sunday), as well as during the Christmas and New Year holidays, all U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines (except line U4) run all night, so returning from late night outings is easy, especially given the average start time of most 'parties' in Berlin (11PM to 1AM). During the week there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from appr. 1AM to 4:30AM, but metro trams/buses and special Night Buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour from 12:30AM to 4:30AM.

By tram

The trams are mostly in East Berlin, as in the West the tram lines were removed to facilitate more vehicular traffic. If you don't have a ticket already, you can buy one inside the tram.

Two types of tram service are available. Metrotrams frequent more often as well as by night. Tram routes not so identified stop more frequently and may even include picturesque single-track rides through forested areas far east of the Mitte district.

By bus

Although buses are the slowest form of public transport, the yellow double-decker buses are part of Berlin's transit landscape and they will take you to almost anywhere in Berlin. Besides the normal metro buses, there are also express buses (indicated by an X), but these don't halt at every stop.

The most famous bus line, especially for tourists, is bus route 100, which leaves from Zoo Station ("Berlin Zoologischer Garten") or - if you want to go the other way round - Alexanderplatz. This crosses most of historic Berlin, including many of the sites listed here. For the price of a city bus ticket or daily pass, it's possible to see many of the landmarks of Berlin from one of these yellow double-decker buses. Sit up top as it's easier to see the Reichstag, as well as the many historic buildings on Unter den Linden. If you're lucky, you'll get the legendary bus-driver who delivers a commentary (in Berlin-accented German) on the trip. Line 200 takes nearly the same route, but it goes through the modern quarters around Potsdamer Platz. Either ride is a must for any visitor to Berlin.

By bicycle

Cycling is another great way to tour Berlin [18].

Berlin has few steep hills and offers many bicycle paths (Radwege) throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). These include "860 km of completely separate bike paths, 60 km of bike lanes on streets, 50 km of bike lanes on sidewalks, 100 km of mixed-use pedestrian-bike paths, and 70 km of combined bus-bike lanes on streets (City of Berlin, 2007)" (Pucher & Buehler, 2007 [19]). Bicycles are a very popular method of transportation among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic. Bicycle rentals are available in the city, although the prices vary (usually from €7.50 per day). In addition, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) placed many public bicycles [20] throughout the city in 2003. These can be unlocked by calling a number on the bicycle with a cellphone, after registering with the service. Seeing Berlin by bicycle is unquestionably a great way to acquaint the traveler with the big tourist sites, and the little sprees and side streets as well. Although it's good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many Bus Stations. You can create your own bicycling maps online, optimized by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favorite paving [21]. If you are not familiar with searching your own way through the city or you want more explanation of the sights you visit, you can get guided bike tours (with bike included) on Berlin Bike [22].

Berlin is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Bode-Museum is part of the Museumsinsel
Bode-Museum is part of the Museumsinsel

Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people 16 years of age or older - usually €6 to €8 (a day ticket with which one can also visit the other state museums is the only thing available and doesn't count for special exhibitions) for the big museums. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. However, the state-run museums [23] grant free entrance four hours before closing every Thursday. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass 'Museumspass' SchauLUST-MuseenBERLIN [24] for €19 (reduced €9.50), which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the approximately 70 state-run museums and public foundations. Most museums are closed on Mondays; notable exceptions include the Altes Museum [25] and the Deutsches Historisches Museum[26], which are open daily.

A short list of important museums (for a more detailed list check the district articles) are:

  • Museumsinsel [27]. Literally "Museum Island", this area is best known for the vast Pergamon-Museum, which houses an extensive collection of ancient Greek, ancient Middle-Eastern and Islamic art and architecture. Other museums which belong to the Museum Island are the Altes Museum (with the Egyptian and the antique collection), the Alte Nationalgalerie (with mainly German paintings of the 19th century) and the reopened Bode-Museum with its fantastically presented sculpture collection and Byzantine art. The recently reopened Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection, Neaderthal and other pre-historic archeological finds, and some of the treasures unearthed at Troy. This is the only museum on Museums Insel that requires a timed entry ticket. It's best to get a timed ticket online ahead of time as time slots fill up quickly.
  • Deutsches Historisches Museum, Unter den Linden 2, Tel. +49 30 203040 [28]. German historical museum covering everything from pre-history right up to the present day. One can spend many, many hours here!
  • Jüdisches Museum, Lindenstraße 9-14, Tel. +49 30 25993 300 [29]. 10AM-8PM. Jewish Museum. Learn about the history of Jews in Germany. Permanent exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history, changing exhibitions and impressive modern architecture by Libeskind. There is a small unrelated Jewish Museum at the Oranienburger Straße Synagogue.
  • Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, Tel. +49 30 266 2951 [30]. At the Kulturforum. Thousands of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th century. Works from Dürer, Raffael, Tizian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens.
  • Neue Nationalgalerie, Potsdamer Straße 50, Tel. +49 30 266 2951 [31] At the Kulturforum. Art from the 20th Century. This museum often houses temporary exhibitions during which the permanent collection is usually not on display. (As of December, 2009, the permanent collection is closed while the building undergoes repairs.)
  • Museum für Naturkunde [32]. Near the main railway station. Natural science museum with a big collection of dinosaur skeletons, fossils and minerals. Reopened after restoration in late 2007.
  • Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie [33]. This museum is situated at the most famous historical checkpoint between the two Berlins.
  • Museum of European Cultures [34]. The biggest of its sort in Europe. At the museum district of Dahlem.
  • Ethnological Museum [35]. Again one of the world's most comprehensive museums. At the museum district of Dahlem. Well worth a visit for its splendid collection of Pre-Columbian archaeology! It now includes the:
  • Topography of Terror [36]. This open-air museum documents the terror applied by the Nazi regime. It consists of excavated prison cells located directly under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
  • DDR Museum [37]Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 1, 10178 Berlin. This small museum just over the river from the Berliner Dom. Really interesting with all the displays in German and English, it gives a good insight into life in the former GDR.
  • Musikinstrumenten-Museum[38]Tiergartenstraße 1 (am Kulturforum), 10785 Berlin. This museum is part of the Staatliches Institu für Musikforschung PK and has an amazingly wide range of historic and unusual instruments on display.
  • Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité [39] Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin. Interesting exhibition charting the development of European hospitals from the 14th Century to the present day.
  • Ramones Museum Berlin [40]. The Ramones Museum Berlin pays tribute to the Punk band The Ramones. It displays more than 300 unique and original Ramones memorabilia.
  • The "Berlinische Galerie" [41] is the city museum for modern art, architecture, and design. The museum is just around the corner from the Jewish Museum at Alte Jakobstraße 124-128.

Private art galleries

As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not-so-crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg). A directory listing of all Berlin's art galleries can be found on The Art of Berlin: Complete Berlin Art Gallery Directory [42]

  • Art Center Berlin Friedrichstraße [43], Friedrichstraße 134, Tel. +49 30 27879020. Four floors of exhibitions with a relatively good variety of genres and artists. A very nice oasis of calm from the busy Friedrichstraße.
  • Galerie Eigen & Art, Auguststraße 26, Tel. +49 30 280 6605 [44]. One of the most famous German art galleries, home to the Neue Leipziger Schule (Neo Rauch et al.)
  • loop -- raum fur aktuelle kunst [45], Jägerstrasse 5, 10117. Known for being the "incubator" of future famous Berlin artists. Primarily featuring sculpture video, and painting.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

There are some historically interesting and architecturally remarkable churches which are the following:

  • Berliner Dom— The biggest and most impressive church in Berlin, built at the turn of the century (19th/20th) as an expression of imperial power. Located next to the museum island. Entrance is €5, and you can climb on top of the dome for a beautiful view over the Berlin center.
  • The Twintowers of the Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) and the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral) face each other at the Gendarmenmarkt in Central Berlin, flanking the Konzerthaus.
  • Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche— Highly symbolic church, dating back to 1891-95, with two modern buildings designed by Egon Eiermann in 1961, a hexagonal bell tower and an octagonal worship hall, aside the ruins from World War II.
  • Marienkirche— Located near Alexanderplatz, this is not only the highest church tower in Berlin (90 m), but also one of the oldest churches left in the historical center of Berlin (which is totally torn down in this area). Entrance is free and inside are many treasures from the old days.
  • Nikolaikirche— The oldest church in Berlin, dating back to the beginning of 13th century (at least the stones next to the ground). Does not serve as a church. Changing exhibitions inside, entrance free.
  • St. Hedwigs Kathedrale— Domed Church located at Bebelplatz/Unter den Linden, the oldest (mid 18th century) and one of the biggest Catholic churches in Berlin, interior was redesigned in a modern style in the 1950s - but still many treasure chambers in the basement.
  • Friedrichswerdersche Kirche— Nice church located near Unter den Linden/Museum Island, finished in 1830 by Schinkel - English Neogothic style. Nice exhibition inside (neoclassical statues and an exhibition about Schinkel's life and work upstairs), entry is free.
Glass dome and spiral walkway inside the Reichstag
Glass dome and spiral walkway inside the Reichstag

While Berlin has relatively few high-rise buildings, there are several monuments with observation decks. Probably the most famous of all is the TV Tower near Alexanderplatz, the tallest tower in Germany and second largest in Europe, which has a rotating café at the top spinning 360 degrees in just 30 minutes! 40 seconds is all it takes to reach the top by lift. But there are also other great observation desks, the main ones are listed below (for others have a look in the district pages).

  • Reichstag— The German Parliament building, near the Brandenburg gate, was renovated by Sir Norman Foster and reopened in 1999 with a spectacular new glass dome[46], which offers a great view of Berlin. Be prepared for long lines (sometimes 1 hour) and an extensive security check. Free entrance is through the West portal. The Reichstag is open from 8AM-midnight, daily, however the last entrance is at 10PM. Visitors may pre-book [47] free tours of the building, avoid standing in line for the dome, and enter with confirmed reservation at scheduled times through the north portal.
  • Berliner Funkturm— 150 meter high lattice tower with open-air observation deck 124 meters above ground. Only observation tower on insulators! Located in the Western fair district, out of city center.
  • Berliner Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz [48]. The TV tower is Germany's tallest construction: 368 meters high. Observation deck 204 meters above ground. Costs €10,00 as of Sep 2009. Be wary of the weather changing; the fog can come in during the rather long queues and you may not be able to see anything at the top. There is a restaurant and a bar in the observation deck. You need to buy tickets from the ticket office, then join a separate queue to get into the tower.
  • Siegessäule (Victory Column), Tiergarten. An old (1865-1873), 60 meter high monument with panoramic views of the very center of the city. Unfortunately there is no elevator, so be prepared for 285 steps. The statue of Victoria on the top is the place where the angels congregate in the famous film "Der Himmel über Berlin" by Wim Wenders. It has also become something of a symbol for the annual Love Parade techno music festival.
  • Kollhoff Tower, Potsdamer Platz [49]. The fastest elevator in Europe takes you approximately 100 meters high.
  • Europa Center, Zoologischer Garten,[50]. Shopping center with a panorama floor at the 20th floor (90 meters). In Budapester Straße, overlooking Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church. Entrance is €4 or €2 if you show a receipt from one of the restaurants in the Europa Center.
  • Europe Centre-Berlin Window— 100 meter high building in Berlin City West with a breathtaking 360 degrees view over the capital. An elevator takes you to the 20th floor.Upstairs you can have a drink if you'd like. 4,50 EUR for adults, 3 EUR for seniors, students and groups.Daily 10AM-6PM. Tauentziestrasse 11, next to Saturn Market(enter on the first floor)

Berlin is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Berlin does not attempt to hide the less savory parts of its history: a visit to the Topography of Terror [51] (Mitte), for example, provides interesting but sobering insights into the activities of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years (1933-1945). Many of the walking tours also discuss scenes both of Nazi activity and of Cold War tension and terror.

  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe [52].

Opened in the spring of 2005, this gigantic abstract artwork covering an entire block near the Brandenburg Gate, including an underground museum with extensive details on the Holocaust and the people who died during it. The blocks start out at ground level on the outer edges of the memorial, and then grow taller towards the middle, where the ground also slopes downwards. 3.5 million visitors in the first year make it one of the most visited memorials in Berlin - and it's worth it, as it's one of the most impressive memorials in Berlin.

Remaining Section of the Berlin Wall
Remaining Section of the Berlin Wall
  • Berlin Wall— A large stretch of intact Wall can be found to the east of the city center along the River Spree in Mühlenstraße near the Oberbaumbrücke.

Known as the East Side Gallery [53], it is a section of the wall that is preserved as a gallery. This can be easily reached from Ostbahnhof or Warschauer Straße. It has many beautiful murals, politically motivated and otherwise. Another place to try is near the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum, currently under reconstruction. Two small pieces are also in Potsdamer Platz and in its neighbourhood at the corner between Ebertstraße and Bellevuestraße).

  • Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) [54]. (U-Bahn Bernauer Straße U8 or S-Bahn Nordbahnhof S1, 2, or 25, follow the signs in the stations - wall is Mauer in German). Often missed by tourists but an absolute must for anyone interested in this part of the city's history. It's a memorial to those who died crossing so you won't, fortunately, get the tackiness of the Checkpoint Charlie area; instead you will be left with a haunting feeling of what life with the wall may have been really like. The monument itself is a gigantic wasted opportunity, blank and featureless. The inscription on the outside, declaring it a monument to the victims of the "communist reign of violence", has sparked emotional debates and angered many local residents. The documentation center across the street on Bernauer Straße is excellent although most of the documentation is in German. The viewing platform gives you a tiny hint of the true scale of the Wall and how terrifying the "no man's land" between the two sections of walls must have been. When the documentation center is closed, both walls can be visited. There is some space between the concrete plates which allow you to look at the area between the walls. There are also several small holes.
The Memorial is on Bernauer Straße which itself is a street with a great deal of Wall history: the first recorded Wall-related death of the notorious Peter Fechter was here, as was one of the famous tunnels and the famous photograph of the GDR border guard leaping over the barbed wire. Various monuments can be found along the entire length of the street, documenting nearby escape attempts and tunnels; captions are in German, English, French, and Russian. The Memorial itself is a complete section of 4th generation wall - both inside and outside sections, and you can peer through from the east side to see the remains of the electric fence and anti-tank devices in the death strip. It really helps you understand what an incredible feat it was to get from one side to the other -- and why so many died doing it.
Checkpoint Charlie 1982 [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]
Checkpoint Charlie 1982 [Photo: Rolf Palmberg]
Checkpoint Charlie 2007
Checkpoint Charlie 2007
  • Checkpoint Charlie— Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, is no more.

Formerly, it was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin that permitted foreigners passage. Residents of East and West Berlin were not allowed to use it. This contributed to Checkpoint Charlie's mythological status as a meeting place for spies and other shady individuals. Now the remains of the Berlin Wall have been moved to permit building, including construction of the American Business Center and other institutions not given to flights of John Le Carré-inspired fancy.

At the intersection of Zimmerstraße and Friedrichstraße is the famous "You Are Leaving the American Sector" sign. The actual guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie is now housed at the Allied Museum on Clayallee. For a more interesting exhibit go to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. This is a private museum with kitschy memorabilia from the Wall as well as the devices GDR residents used to escape the East (including a tiny submarine!).
Checkpoint Charlie gained its name from the phonetic alphabet; checkpoints "Alpha" and "Bravo" were at the autobahn checkpoints Helmstedt and Dreilinden respectively. Checkpoint Charlie's atmosphere was not improved at all on 27 October 1961 when the two Cold War superpowers chose to face each other down for a day. Soviet and American tanks stood approximately 200 meters apart, making an already tense situation worse.
  • Tempelhof airport was used in the Berlin Airlift (Berliner Luftbrücke) in 1948-49; in 1951 a monument was added to commemorate the airlifts over the Berlin Blockade. The airport was featured in movies like Billy Wilder's "One Two Three". The terminal building is still fascinating; the halls and neighbouring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe, are still known as the largest built entities worldwide, and was described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as "the mother of all airports".


Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the west is the historic zoo that has been a listed company since its foundation. It's an oasis in the city and very popular with families and schools.

  • Berlin Zoo [55]. The largest range of species in the world. The zoo lies directly in the heart of the City West (opposite Bahnhof Zoo at Hardenbergplatz) and is especially famous for its panda bears and Knut, the polar bear cub born in captivity in late 2006. The Elephant Gate (Budapester Straße) is the second entrance next to the Aquarium and a traditional photo stop for most visitors because of the architecture.
  • Aquarium [56]. Part of the Berlin Zoo, located at Budapester Straße in an historic building. Still the largest aquarium in Germany and a host to an amazing variety of fish, crocodiles etc. One of the best places on a rainy day with children.
  • Tierpark Berlin [57]. Located in Friedrichsfelde, the Tierpark is more spacious than the historic Berlin Zoo and has been open for some 50 years. The compound also comprises a small château with its adjacent park.
"Molecule Men" statue at Berlin Osthafen
"Molecule Men" statue at Berlin Osthafen

Go on a Tour of Berlin - the Mitte and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.

  • Alternative Berlin, [58]. English tour starting at 11.00AM each morning at Alexander Platz TV tower in front of Starbucks coffee. This tour uses Berlin's transit system to cover a massive amount of territory and focuses on the underground sites and sounds of Berlin, including art & graffiti culture, technological wonders, and landmarks of rock & electronic music. Free (but tipping is more or less standard).  edit
  • The Berlin Experts, [59]. Offers daily in-depth walking tours of Berlin's architecture, history, and culture. All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Deconstruction/Construction Tour which provides an offbeat perspective of contemporary Berlin. They also offer special tours for cruise ship passengers.  edit
  • Stern und Kreisschiffahrt, [60]. By far the biggest boat company in Berlin. They offer tours on most lakes.  edit

Guide yourself:

  • Berlin By Numbers [61]. Free guide in English using your mobile phone browser. Linked Wikipedia articles in all languages.
  • Admission Free Berlin, [62]. Website giving a daily overview about free sights, parties and cultural events in Berlin.


Pick up a copy of Exberliner [63], the monthly English-language paper for Berlin to find out what's on, when and where. It provides high quality journalism and up-to-date listings. If you understand German, the activity planners for the city, zitty [64] and tip [65], are available at every kiosk or get Stadtkind [66] for free at several clubs and bars. Be prepared to choose among a huge amount of options.

  • Parks

Berlin has many great parks which are very popular in the summer. Green Berlin [67] operates some of them.

  • Tiergarten is Berlin's largest park and hosts the Love Parade in July. In the summer and on weekends you will see loads of families with their barbecues.
  • Viktoriapark (Kreuzberg) offers superb panoramic views across south Berlin. National monument by Schinkel on top of it.
  • Schlosspark Charlottenburg is inside the area of the Charlottenburg Palace [68], but the green area of the park is free, so you can go there to have a walk even if you are not interested in the palace. It covers a large area and you can get in from the entrance just near the "New Pavillon" (Neuer Pavillon a.k.a. Schinkelpavillon) placed on the right of Luisenplatz. The nearest station is Sophie-Charlotte Platz on the U2.
  • World's Garden (Gärten der Welt) in Marzahn. Inside you can find a large, well-established Chinese garden, a Korean garden, a small Bali's Garden/Glasshouse, an Oriental Garden with nice fountains and a cloister and a Japanese garden which is a project by the city partnership of Berlin and Tokyo. Open daily from 9AM-4PM, in April and October until 6PM, from May-September until 8PM. Best time for a visit is in spring or summer. Entrance is 3 €. To get there, take the S7 until "Marzahn" station and continue with bus 195 until Eisenacher Straße.
  • Lakes, Beaches
  • Wannsee is called Berlin's "bath tub". The Strandbad Wannsee is the most famous bathing area for locals. Take the S-Bahn lines S1 or S7 to the station Nikolassee and follow the crowd!
  • Müggelsee in the south east of Berlin is a popular swimming spot.
  • Berlin Film Festival, [69]. The city's largest cultural event and an important fixture in the global film industry's calendar (up there with Cannes and Venice). 150,000 tickets sold, 500 films screened and a host of associated parties and events every year. In contrast to e.g. Cannes, most screenings at the Berlinale are open to the public. Tickets are inexpensive and relatively easy to get for the "International Forum of Young Film" screenings and the "Berlinale Panorama" (movies which are not in the competition).  edit
  • Lange Nacht der Museen, +49 30 90 26 99 444, [70]. A large cultural event in January and August with museums open until 2AM and extra events around the city.  edit
  • Fête de la Musique, [71]. All kinds of music around the city on this day coordinating with a similar day in several French cities.  edit
  • Oberbaumbrücke Festival, (just under the Oberbaumbrücke). In August (check the exact dates). artists are selling their works, amateur tango dancers are giving public performances and you can contribute to a collaborative painting on a very long canvas spread on the street along the festival.  edit
  • Christopher Street Day - as the Germans name their gay prides - is a well-known annual political demonstration for the rights of the gay culture organized in all major German cities. Even if you are indifferent about the issue, the Christopher Street Day is usually a worthwhile sight as many participants show up in wild costumes.
  • Fuckparade [72] in August. The Fuckparade (Hateparade in the early days) started as an antiparade or demonstration against the commercialized Love Parade, and was first on the same date as the Love Parade but later the date was shifted. The Fuckparade is a political demonstration, with political speeches at the beginning and the end and the parade with music between. The general motto of the Fuckparade is "against the destruction of the club scene". The music is quite different than at the Love Parade: mostly independent/alternative/extreme electronic music.
  • Hanf Parade in August. The Hanfparade is the biggest European political demonstration for the legalization of hemp for use in agriculture and as a stimulant.
  • Karneval [73] in late February or early March. As a lot of people in Berlin originally came from the southern or western area of Germany where Fasching, Fastnacht or Karneval is celebrated, a carnival parade was also established in Berlin. It grew bigger and bigger (about 500.000 to 1 million people watching), but the costumes and cars are rather boring and the people are not as dressed up as in the "original" big carnival parades (Cologne, Mainz, Düsseldorf). Since 2007 the traditional route across Kurfürstendamm was chosen.
  • Karneval der Kulturen [74] in May or June (on Whit Sunday). The idea of the "Carnival of Cultures" is a parade of the various ethnic groups of the city showing traditional music, costumes and dances. Other more modern, alternative and political groups also participate. Similar events are also held in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

Theatre, Opera, Concerts, Cinema

Berlin has a lot of theater houses, cinemas, concerts and other cultural events going on all the time. The most important ones are listed here.


  • Deutsches Theater. Classical theater with impressive line up of actors and directors.
  • Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz. Sometimes controversial, modern theater.
  • Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz [75]. Modern theater.
  • Theater am Kurfürstendamm [76]. Popular theater with tv celebrities in modern plays.
  • Theater des Westens [77]. A historic theater in the former West Berlin, only musicals today.
  • Friedrichstadtpalast [78]. Cabaret shows and revues with actresses from the former East German ballet.
  • Berliner Ensemble [79]. Contemporary theater.
  • English Theater Berlin[80] Theater that features all plays/music theater in English


  • Komische Oper [81]. Modern operas.
  • Deutsche Oper [82]. Classic opera house of West Berlin.
  • Staatsoper Unter den Linden [83]. The impressive building and royal history make the building alone worth a visit.
  • Neuköllner Oper [84]. Voted several times best off-opera house and known for its modern and contemporary pieces. Mostly in German as usually relating to developments in Germany. Very creative and innovative.


There are about a hundred cinemas in Berlin, although most of them are only showing movies dubbed in German, without subtitles. Listed below are some of the more important cinemas also showing movies in the original language (look for the OmU - "original with subtitles" - notation). Most movies which are dubbed in German are released a bit later in Germany. Tickets are normally €5 to €7. Monday to Wednesday are special cinema days with reduced admission.

  • CineStar [85]. The "CineStar Original" cinema located inside the Sony Center at the Potsdamer-Platz shows only movies in original version (e.g. in English, without subtitles).
  • Babylon Kreuzberg [86]. Also non-mainstream movies in this small cinema built in the 1950s.
  • Central [87]. Repertory cinema located in an ex-squat near Hackesche Höfe.
  • Eiszeit [88].
  • Filmtheater Hackesche Höfe [89]. Located on the 4th floor of the Hackesche Höfe. Very broad range of movies.
  • Neue Kant Kinos [90]. One of the few old cinemas (founded 1912) left in Berlin's western city. Mostly non-mainstream European movies.

Concert Houses

  • Philharmonie [91]. Berlin Philharmonic orchestra is one of the best in the world. Famous building and outstanding musicians make a reservation essential. Cheaper tickets are usually available 2-4 hours before the concert if not sold out.
  • Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt.


In Berlin you can do virtually all sports

  • The most popular sport is soccer, which is played all over the city. The Berlin FA [92] lists all the clubs. Not to be missed is the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2006 world cup final. Hertha BSC Berlin [93], Berlin´s highest professional football team, plays there during the Bundesliga season in spring, fall and winter.
  • Basketball: Alba Berlin [94], known as The Albatross are consistently the best basketball team in Germany, and one of the best in Europe. With fans crazier than most in the NBA, Albatross games at the o2 World arena are an exciting way to take in the world's second greatest game.
  • Public swimming pools can be found around the city. Check out BBB [95] for pool listings and opening times.
  • Sailing on one of the many lakes is also popular. You can find sailing clubs and most universities have ships as well.
  • Golf is popular as well: at U-Bahn station Gleisdreieck, for instance, there is a driving range [96] with an amazing view on Potsdamer Platz and very popular with business travelers. You can find golf clubs all around Berlin, although for non-members Motzen has one of the best.
  • Ice hockey: The Berlin Eisbären (Polar Bears) [97] play this fast, exciting and very physical sport during the winter. The excitement is heightened by the singing and chanting of the crowds, who are fueled by the copious quantities of wurst and beer available.
  • American Football: After the closing of NFL Europe and the related end of Berlin Thunder (triple winner of the World Bowl), the Berlin Adler (Eagles) [98] are Berlin´s No. 1 team playing in German Football League.
  • Australian Football: The Berlin Crocodiles [99] host regular matches in the summer.


Spas are very trendy.

  • Day Spa [100]. In Riverside hotel next to the Friedrichstadtpalast.
  • Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa, Grand Hyatt Berlin Hotel, Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 2, +49 30 2553 1234 (), [101].  edit
  • Adlon Day Spa [102] One of the best spa's in town right next to the Brandenburg Gate in the Hotel Adlon


Berlin has three major universities:

  • Freie Universität, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, +49 (0/30) 838-1, [103]. Founded after World War II in West Berlin and today the city's largest university by number of students, the Freie Universität has an impressive range of faculties and outstanding professors.  edit
  • Humboldt Universität, Unter den Linden 6, +49 (0/30) 2093 - 0 (fax: +49 (0/30) 2093 - 2770), [104]. The oldest university in Berlin with an impressive record of alumni and professors – Albert Einstein, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, to name but a few. During the Cold War it was the main university in East Berlin and after reunification there have been efforts to reinstate its former glory.  edit
  • Technische Universität, Straße des 17. Juni 135, +49 (0/30) 314-0 (fax: +49 (0/30) 314-23222), [105]. Technical university founded in West Berlin after World War II with a good reputation for its research.  edit

There are several smaller universities and colleges in Berlin but the current restructure of the university makes it difficult to give an overview. The responsible senator of the City of Berlin has a good overview page. [106]


The current economic climate deteriorates but it is not impossible to find work in Berlin. A sound level of German improves your chances as only few multinational companies are present in Berlin. Any kind of skills (especially language) that separates you from the masses will definitely improve your chances for a job.

If you have an academic background then teaching English (Spanish, French & Latin are good, too) or private tutoring (e.g. math) for pupils is always a possibility as Berlin is a young city and education is in strong demand. Otherwise working in a bar might be an option but it'll be tough, because wages are low and big tips are uncommon. Chances are much better when big trade fairs (e.g. "Grüne Woche" or ITB) or conventions take place so apply at temp & trade fair agencies. The hospitality industry and call centers are constantly hiring but wages are very low unless you can offer special skills (such as exotic languages) or background.

Berlin has a growing media, modeling and TV/movie industry. For daily soaps, telenovelas and movies most companies look for people with something specific. Apply at the bigger casting and acting agencies.

For English-language jobs, if might be worth checking out the classified ads of this monthly magazine for English-speakers, Exberliner [107].

Berlin is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Due to federal liberalization, shopping hours are theoretically unlimited. Nevertheless, many of the smaller shops still close at 8PM Most of the bigger stores and nearly all of the malls are open additionally until 9 or 10PM from Thursday to Saturday. Sunday opening is still limited to about a dozen weekends per year, although some supermarkets located at train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstraße, Innsbrucker Platz and Ostbahnhof) are open also on Sundays. Many bakeries and small food stores (called Spätkauf) are open late at night and on Sundays in busier neighborhoods (especially Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain). Stores inside the Hauptbahnhof central station have long working hours (usually until about 10 or 11PM), also on Sundays.

The main shopping areas are:

Ku'Damm and its extension, Tauentzienstraße remain the main shopping streets even now that the Wall has come down. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) at Wittenbergplatz is a must visit just for the vast food department on the 6th floor. It's reputedly the biggest department store in Continental Europe and still has an old world charm, with very helpful and friendly staff.

Friedrichstraße station
Friedrichstraße station

Friedrichstraße is the upmarket shopping street in former East Berlin with Galeries Lafayettes and the other Quartiers (204 to 207) as main areas to be impressed with wealthy shoppers. The renovated Galeria Kaufhof department store at Alexanderplatz is also worth a visit. The main shopping area for the alternative, but still wealthy crowd is north of Hackescher Markt, especially around the Hackesche Höfe. For some more affordable but still very fashionable shopping there is Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with a lot of young designers opening shops, but also lots of record stores and design shops. Constant change makes it hard to recommend a place, but the area around station Eberswalder Straße in Prenzlauer Berg, around Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg and around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain are always great when it comes to shopping.

For cheap books, a nice choice is Jokers Restseller in Friedrichstraße 148 (tel +49 30 20 45 84 23) where there is a wide variety of secondhand books. For souvenirs, have a look just in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche; these shops sell almost the same items as others, but are cheaper, but not all the staff speaks English. You can also get cheap postcards there (from €0.30 while the average price for normal postcard is €0.50-0.80). For collectible stamps go to Goethe Straße 2 (Ernst Reuter Platz, U2), where you can find a Philatelic Post Office from the Deutsche Post. They generally speak English. For alternative souvenirs (design, fashion and small stuff from Berlin designers and artists), go to ausberlin [108] near Alexanderplatz; it's a bit hidden at the other side of Kaufhof at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.

Flea markets

You can find dozens of flea markets with different themes in Berlin (mostly on weekends), but worth checking out is the big one at Straße des 17. Juni:

  • Straße des 17. Juni, between Ernst-Reuter-Haus and S-Bahn: Tiergarten.
  • Mauerpark, on Sundays, next to Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg (U-Bahn: Eberswalder Straße).
  • Arkonaplatz, on Sundays, close to Mauerpark, so it can be combined with it.

Ich bin ein Berliner

Everywhere in Germany outside Berlin, jelly doughnuts are known as Berliner, but in Berlin, they're called Pfannkuchen. This in turn means "pancake" everywhere else, so if you want a pancake in Berlin, you have to ask for Eierkuchen. Confused yet?

A staple in Berlin is currywurst. It's a bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder. You can find them all over Berlin by street vendors. It's a must try when in Berlin. Two renowned Currywurst stands are "Konnopke's Imbiss" below Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2 and "Curry 36" opposite the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg (only two stops south of Checkpoint Charlie). Both of these offer far friendlier service than many of Berlin's more upmarket eateries.

Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes. Vegetarians can eat quite well with a little bit of research and menu modification even if Berlin seems like a carnivore heaven with all the sausage stands. Many kebab restaurants have a good selection of roasted vegetables and salads. Falafels are also tasty and suitable for vegetarians.

All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down -- it's not that common to accept credit cards and cash is usually preferred. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and Mastercard; all other cards will only be accepted in some upmarket restaurants.

One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and even the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though, The "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe since several administrative and religious buildings are located here.

For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukölln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebap restaurants. (Berlin was the birthplace of the Döner Kebab about 30 years ago.) Prices start from 1,50 € for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.

Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists and students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further. Up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.

Waiters and tipping

The custom in Germany is to tell the waiter how much you're paying when you receive the bill - don't leave the money on the table. If there is confusion with the tip, remember to ask for your change, Wechselgeld (money back).

Add a 5-10% tip (or round up to the next Euro) to the bill if you are satisfied with the service, but remember that even if waiters don't get paid much anywhere, in Western Europe they are not dependent on tips to make a living as they are in the U.S., and it is possible to live on one's hourly wage. If the service has been very good and friendly feel free to tip more (especially when they help you with the language!).


All restaurant recommendation are in the corresponding borough articles of

  • Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain— Young and independent student area with a big Turkish community in Kreuzberg.
  • City West/Charlottenburg Heart of West Berlin with good quality restaurants.
  • Mitte Political and new center of East Berlin with upmarket restaurants.
  • Schöneberg City slickers and street cafe atmosphere.
  • Pankow Buzzing Prenzlberg and its lively student scene.


It is very common to go out for breakfast or brunch (long breakfast and lunch, all you can eat buffet, usually from 10AM to 4PM, for €4 to €12 - sometimes including coffee, tea or juice). Here are some special tips (especially see the district pages of Berlin/Tempelhof-Schöneberg#Breakfast & Berlin/Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg#Eat):

For children

  • Charlottchen, Droysenstraße 1, tel +49 30 324 47 17. Buffet breakfast and institution for parents and prepared for children of all ages, indoor play room!
  • Strandbad Mitte, Kleine Hamburger Straße 16, tel+49 30 24 62 89 63. Playground next to the restaurant and good breakfast.

Buffet breakfast (brunch)

  • City Guesthouse Pension Berlin, Gleimstraße 24, tel +49 30 4480792 [109]. Breakfast buffet, daily 8AM to 11AM, price per person 05,00€
  • Cafe Sarotti-Höfe, Mehringdamm 57, tel +49 30 60 03 16 80. Located in a former chocolate factory with buffet for €6! U6/U7, Mehringdamm.
  • Operncafé, Unter den Linden 5, tel +49 30 20 26 83. On Sundays, they have a nice jazz brunch with live music in an intimate atmosphere (reservation strongly recommended), all other days, a standard buffet applies. Bahnhof Friedrichstraße.
  • Grüne Lampe, Uhlandstraße 51, tel +49 30 88 71 93 93. Excellent Russian breakfast buffet.

Individual style

  • Telecafé, Panoramastraße 1a, tel +49 30 242 33 33. Enjoy breakfast in front of a city view right at the top of the Fernsehturm.
  • Dachgartenrestaurant Käfer, Platz der Republik 1, tel+49 30 22 62 99 0. Breakfast from 9-10:30AM at the top of the Germany's parliament.
  • Oderberger Straße, street in Prenzlauer Berg with a large variety of breakfast cafés.


  • Café im Literaturhaus, Fasanenstraße 23, tel +49 30 882 54 14. Classical style, waiters in livreé.
  • Desbrosses, Potsdamer Platz 3, Tel. +49 30 337 77 64 00. The Ritz Carlton imported a whole French brasserie which freshly bakes bread.
  • At Warschauer Straße (which you can reach via S-Bahn and U-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) and more specifically Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz you can find a wide variety of bars. It is common for locals to meet at Warschauer to go to a bar there.
  • Cafe Einstein is one particular example of a home grown coffee chain which has nice staff, great coffee and is fairly priced. In particular, the Einstein on Unter den Linden is as far from "junk coffee" as it's possible to be.
  • Brauhaus (brewpubs) brew and sell their own beer on the premises. There is usually a public viewing area onto the brewery. Try Gaffel Haus [110], Brauhaus Georgbraeu [111], Brauhaus Mitte [112] and Brauhaus Lemke [113].
  • There are lots of Irish bars all over the city, as there are in all European cities. If you like off-the-shelf Irish bars or watching football in English then you won't be disappointed, but in a city with new cool bars opening pretty much daily and a huge range from which to choose, you'll find that these cater mostly to the Irish construction workers and Germans attracted by Irish music, which is often played in them. The Irish pub in the Europa Center at Tauentzienstraße is famous. Located in the basement of a skyscraper, you will find a big Irish pub and a rowdy crowd on the weekend. It also claims to have the longest bar in all of Berlin!
  • If you want to get some tap water in a bar ask for "Leitungswasser" (if you just say "water" (Wasser), you will receive mineral water.) This is common if you drink coffee. They should not charge you for it but you should order another drink as well.


Berliners love to drink cocktails, and it's a main socializing point for young people. Many people like to meet their friends in a cocktail bar before clubbing. Prenzlauer Berg (Around U-Bahnhof Eberswalder Str., Helmholtzplatz, Oderberger Straße & Kastanienallee), Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße, Oranienstraße and the area around Görlitzer Park and U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor), Schöneberg (Goltzstraße, Nollendorfplatz, Motzstraße for gays), and Friedrichshain (Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz) are the main areas. There aren't as many illegal bars as there was in the '90s but bars open and close faster than you can keep up - check out the bar and cocktail guides in the bi-weekly magazines Tip or Zitty. For recommended bars, have a look at the district pages.


For more clubs, have a look at the district pages.

The club scene in Berlin is one of the biggest and most progressive in Europe. Even though there are some 200 clubs in the city, it's sometimes difficult to find the right club for you since the best ones are a bit off the beaten track and most bouncers will keep bigger tourist groups (especially males) out. Entrance is cheap compared to other big European cities, normally from 5 to €10 (usually no drink included).

The main clubbing districts are in the east: Mitte (especially north of Hackescher Markt and - a bit hidden - around Alexanderplatz), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (around Schlesisches Tor) and Prenzlauer Berg (around station Eberswalder Str.). Some mainstream clubs are located in Charlottenburg and at Potsdamer Platz. Electro and techno are still the biggest in Berlin, with lots of progressive DJs and live acts around. But there are also many clubs playing '60s beat, alternative rock and of course mainstream music. Clubbing days are Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday, but some clubs are open every day of the week. Partying in Berlin starts around midnight (weekends) and peaks around 2AM or 3AM in the normal clubs, a bit later in many electro/techno clubs. Berlin is famous for its long and decadent after hours, going on until Monday evening.


  • 40 Seconds, Potsdamer Strasse 58, 030 890 642 41 (), [114]. Named for the amount of time it takes the elevator to reach the dance floor, this posh club has three roof terraces, a dinner area, and an amazing view of the city. Features mainstream R'n'B and house music. Come here in the summer when it's warm.  edit
  • Felix, Behrenstraße 72, tel +49 (0)30 20946329‎ [115]. Stylish club and restaurant on the back side of the Hotel Adlon. It is known for the very popular Thursday afterwork party of the working rich and its weekend upstyle crowd.
  • Week-End, Am Alexanderplatz 5 (the building with the Sharp sign on top) [116]. Located in the 12th floor of a GDR office building. Amazing views over the city in classical club style for young people. Parties till the dawn. Recently complemented by the new afterhours club 15th Floor in the same building, as well as a roof bar. Electro, techno and house.


  • Watergate, Falckensteinstraße 49 (U Schlesisches Tor / S Warschauer Straße), [117]. Great electronic/drum'n'bass club with two floors directly at the Spree River - great panoramic view. Open Wednesday (only one floor), Friday, Saturday. Tough door policy.
  • Maria am Ostbahnhof, Stralauer Platz 34/35 (next to Schillingbrücke) [118]. Cool location with lots of progressive live sets and concerts (mainly electro/techno, but also independent/alternative Pop/Rock concerts).
  • Berghain/Panorama Bar, Am Wriezener Bahnhof (S Ostbahhof), [119]. A huge techno club with a gay majority (Berghain) in an old power generation plant. Be prepared for a tough door policy. Not for teenagers, no cameras allowed (mobile phones with a camera are now allowed, but holders are expressly warned not to use them). Open Saturdays; Panorama Bar (mainly straight crowd) upstairs additionally on Fridays. Parties until Sunday afternoon. Music is extremely loud, for sensitive people, it is recommended not to stay on the dance floor for too long. However, as the sound system is technically high advanced, it is even possible to talk and be understood on the dancefloor.


  • Tresor, Köpenicker Str. 59-73 [120]. Perhaps THE Berlin techno club. The old venue was closed in 2005 but Tresor reopened in May 2007 in an old power plant in the southeast of Berlin-Mitte.
  • Kaffee Burger/Russendisko, Torstraße 60, tel +49 30 280 464 95. Bar and club with GDR living room atmosphere. Russendisko is performed every second Saturday by author Wladimir Kaminer. Sometimes live music (Neo-Polka).
  • White Trash Fast Food, Schönhauser Allee 6-7, tel+49 30 50 34 86 68, [121]. Chinese decoration in the location of an ex big Irish pub makes you feel like you're in a Tarantino movie. Alternative concerts, cowboy hats, beards and '60s to '70s style - if those are your things then you have a new home. It also has a restaurant with great burgers and self-brewed beer.
  • KitKatClub, now in the Sage Club, Köpenicker Str. 76, [122]. A very famous address, a unique clubbing concept mixing techno/electro/trance music with sexual freedom. Be careful and open-minded, and respect the strict dress code. Nonstop party from Saturday night to Sunday evening. The owner of the KitKatClub (Simon Thaur) is also famous for his extreme-fetish porno movies.


After the end of the Cold War, Berlin witnessed a construction boom of hotels and offices. The boom led to a significant oversupply of hotels which resulted in comparatively cheap prices even in the 5 star category. (Off-season prices of €100 per night are seen). Especially for a short visit, it may be best to stay at a place in Berlin-Mitte (around Friedrichstraße or Alexanderplatz for example), as most of the main sights are located there. Due to its history most hotels in Berlin are still located in the western part of town (i.e. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf). You won't find any hotels located directly at the new main train station but they plan to build some in the near future.

Cheapest are youth hostels (called Jugendherbergen, only for members) and hostels (similar to youth hostels, but for everyone, mostly backpackers stay here, usually also in one and two-bed rooms). You will also find bed and breakfast offers (often private) and boarding houses (Pension, more familiar and smaller then hotels).

Check the district pages for individual accommodation listings. Popular hotel districts include:

Accommodations are also available in Berlin's surroundings. Due to the public transport services it's no problem to spent the night in one of the suburbs and to discover the city during the day. But if you want to stay longer in the evening in Berlin or experience the nightlife then it's better to stay in the city center.


You can find internet cafes and telephone shops all around Berlin. Do a bit of research with the telephone shops because most have a focus region in the world. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests.

The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country (eg.the United States) check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility.

A free wireless network covers parts of Berlin, but requires special software on your computer. More information including maps of Berlin with coverage is available online, [123].

Stay safe

Berlin is a safe place but it has some not-so-well maintained areas, too. No specific rules apply with the exception of public transportation and tourist areas where pickpockets are a problem. Watch your bags during rush hours and at larger train stations.

The police in Berlin are competent and not corrupt therefore if you try to bribe them you are likely to spend a night behind bars to check your background. They are generally helpful to tourists. Most of the officers are able to speak English, so don't hesitate to approach them if you are frightened or lost. The nationwide emergency number is 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is 110.

Since the 1980s there have been localized riots on Labour Day (1st May). In general they take place in Kreuzberg around Oranienstraße/Mariannenplatz. Nowadays they usually start the night before May 1st, especially in the Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg), at Boxhagener Platz and in Rigaer Str. (Friedrichshain) and start again in the evening of May 1st in Kreuzberg and in the mentioned areas. The violent riots became rather small since 2005 due to the engagement of the citizens who celebrate the Labour Day with a nice "myfest" in Kreuzberg and well-planned police efforts. It is still better to stay out of these areas after 8PM until sunrise. Vehicles should not be parked in these areas either!

Racially-motivated violence is rare but the risk is higher on the outskirts of East Berlin. It is recommended for non-Caucasian tourists to be attentive in areas such as Lichtenberg, Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Treptow and Köpenick in the evening/night especially if alone.

In the bordering neighbourhood of the districts Neukölln & Kreuzberg (between Hermannplatz, Schönleinstrasse until Kottbusser Tor) and Wedding (Alt-Moabit & Märkisches Viertel) the risk of falling victim to robberies and assaults is slightly higher. Tourists should visit these areas with some caution during the night as a mixture of drunken party people & poor neighbourhoods might lead to trouble.

Although harmless, gypsy panhandlers have recently started to beg at local tourist spots such as Pariser Platz next to the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the Musueminsel. They are usually women accompanied by their daughters who ask if you speak English and explain that they are from Bosnia and trying to raise money to fly home. The story is not true so don't give money, which would encourage further exploitation of the women and their kids. If you feel scared don't hesitate to contact the police as they will help.


Prostitution is a legal business in Germany. Berlin has no major red-light district though some big brothels were built (biggest is Artemis) or are in the permission process. Berlin has no "Sperrbezirk" (restricted areas for prostitutes) therefore the "apartments" or brothels are spread through out the whole city. The Oranienburger Straße (Mitte) is infamous for its prostitutes at night. These women are a tourist attraction and the ladies focus only on tourists to request exorbitant prices.

The proximity to Eastern Europe, relaxed visa rules and the illegal community increases the number of prostitutes. Advertisements are in the tabloids and especially the internet. Human trafficking and illegal immigration is an increasing problem therefore police raids do take place and close down illegal places. Brothels & prostitutes must be registered like normal businesses otherwise it's tax evasion. In general the police officers are not interested in the clients (if you stay calm and don't try to argue) but you must have a photo ID (copy of passport is ok) with you. Otherwise you might spend a night at the police station until your ID is checked.

  • Potsdam is the capital of the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg, not far southwest of Berlin, and makes a perfect day trip. Especially the park of Sanssouci, a world heritage site with its great famous palaces, is worth a visit. You can get there with the S-Bahn S7 or Regional-Bahn RE1 to the station Potsdam Hauptbahnhof or Park Sanssouci (fare zone C). It takes about half an hour from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Friedrichstraße.
  • Sachsenhausen is in outer Oranienburg, a quiet suburb housing the remains of one of the Nazi concentration camps on German soil. There's also a small palace in the center of Oranienburg.
  • The Müritz lake region to the north is a national park with a few hundred lakes.
  • To the south, Dresden is 2.5 hrs & Leipzig is about one hour by train.
  • The beautiful Baltic seashore (e.g. Usedom) is near enough for a day trip by train.
  • The Spreewald is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. It includes low-lying areas in which the river Spree meanders in thousands of small waterways through meadows and forests. It is a beautiful, unique landscape about one hour south of Berlin and well worth a day trip or a weekend trip to relax from the buzzing city life.
  • Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border is within easy reach.
  • Lutherstadt Wittenberg is about 1.5 hours south of Berlin. Schlosskirche was the church where Martin Luther hung his Theses. Across the street from there is a visitor's center with great information. Great city to tour and one can easily explore on foot.
  • The Raststaette Grunewald at the S-Bahn station Nikolassee is a good spot for hitching if you're heading south or west.
  • Bernau is a small town north of Berlin with some medieval remains from the 14th and 15th centuries, such as a city wall and the late Gothic church St. Marien. The S-Bahn S2 takes you there in about half an hour from S-Bahn station Friedrichstraße.

The Polish border is just some 90km to the east of Berlin, therefore it might be interesting to do a trip to:

This is a guide article. It has a variety of good, quality information including hotels, restaurants, attractions, arrival and departure info. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

West Berlin

  1. The western part of Berlin, between 1949 and 1990


  • German: West-Berlin

See also


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