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Berlin Transportation: The New U55, cheapo tour bus, party tram, and more

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Berlin's newest U-Bahn line. Photo by Blogging Dagger.
Berlin's newest U-Bahn line. Photo by Blogging Dagger.

It may only have three stops, but Berlin’s newest (and shortest) subway line, the U55, makes it easier than ever to explore the city’s major sights.

Designed with tourists and politicos in mind, the U55 conveniently links the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) to the Hauptbahnhof (central train station), with a stop in the heart of the Regierungsviertel (the government district, where the Reichstag and the Kanzleramt are located) in between. When the U55 debuted on August 8, 2009, 70,000 passengers hopped on for the three-minute ride.

Situated at the base of the landmark-studded Pariser Platz, the sleek Brandenburger Tor station, sheathed in marbled brown stone, is the most architecturally interesting of the new stops. The station also comes with a free museum: photo collages along the walls provide a history of the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate, which was once blockaded by the Berlin Wall. (Look out for the photo of John F. Kennedy with the city’s then-mayor Willy Brandt.)

Cheapo transit ticket tips

The U55 is only one tiny link in Berlin’s vast transportation chain. Because it’s nearly impossible to explore the sprawling metropolis without catching a U-bahn (subway), S-bahn (commuter rail), Tram (streetcar), or Bus, getting to know the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is key for a stress-free and Cheapo visit. Even if you prefer the other Cheapo-friendly way to get around Berlin—by rental bike—you’ll inevitably “get on board” at some point during your stay.

Don’t make the mistake of shelling out €2.10 for an “Einzelfahrausweis” (single ticket) or €1.30 for a “Kurzstrecke” (short ride, between 1–6 stops) every time you take a ride. Snap up a “Tageskarte” (day ticket, €6.10) or a “7-Tage-Karte” (7-day card, €26.20) instead, and you’ll not only get your money’s worth, but you’ll also give your feet a break from all that walking.

Check out the BVG’s website for complete details about fares and to download the free “Discovering Berlin by Train and Bus” flier. It includes a transport map and a city map marked with major sights.

The U55's celebratory first ride. Photo by Blogging Dagger.

The U55′s celebratory first ride. Photo by Blogging Dagger.

Free Tourist Bus: The bus 100 and 200

The BVG does more than schlep you from Point A to B. The bus lines 100 and 200 double as unofficial city tour buses. As you travel between Zoologischer Garten in the west and Alexanderplatz in the east, you’ll pass by nearly every major landmark, including the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church) on Kufürstendamm, the angel-capped Siegesäule (Victory Column) in Tiergarten, and the Brandenburger Tor at the base of Unter den Linden. Climb to the top of the double-decker bus, grab a window seat, and enjoy the view—all for €2.10.

Beer and a tram ride: The M10

To sample Berlin’s nightlife without paying a cover charge, buy a beer at a late-night kiosk and take a ride on the M10 streetcar, which travels between Nordbahnhof (on the Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg border) and Warschauer Strasse (on the Friedrichshain/Kreuzberg border).

When night falls, the so-called “party express” tram turns into club of sorts: club-crawlers and bar-hoppers, beers in hand, hitch a ride on the way to party spots in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg. You’ll see a kaleidoscope of types: hyped-up dance-clubbers, low-key hipsters, pierced punks, and chained gothsters. (If you join them out on the town, a night bus, designated with an N, will take you home after the festivities.)

Sea even more: The F10

The BVG will even take you out to sea. You can cross two of the city’s largest lakes, the Wannsee in the west and the Müggelsee in the east, by ferry.

If you’re out west, pick up the F10, which docks just outside the Wannsee S-bahn stop, for a ride across the tree-fringed lake to the village of Kladow. Over in the east, take either the F23 or the F24 to criss-cross the vast Müggelsee, which includes the smaller Kleiner Müggelsee, a popular swimming hole, and the Grosser Müggelsee, which fills up with sail boats on sunny days.

About the author

Susan Buzzelli

About the author: A Pittsburgh native, Susan Buzzelli has been a sworn Germanophile since she spent a high school summer as an exchange student in Buxtehude. After stints in Dresden, Munich, and Hamburg she settled (possibly for good) in Europe’s most dynamic city: Berlin. When she isn't exploring Berlin, she's traveling throughout Germany (with an occasional hop over the border). Her comprehensive guidebook to Germany, Zeitguide Germany, will be published soon. Look for updates on her website, www.susanbuzzelli.com.

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