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Berlin’s two local rail networks (respectively called the S-Bahn and U-Bahn) are more than merely functional ways of getting around the city. They are destinations in their own right and — as Baedeker might have put it — certainly worth a detour.
From art nouveau to art deco
Swedish architect Alfred Grenander designed the showpiece entrance hall to Wittenbergplatz U-Bahn station (routes U1, U2 and U15). It is a wonderful piece of art nouveau design, far too good to merely dash through. One can trace how Grenander’s work as an architect developed over the years by visiting his various stations around Berlin.
Krumme Lanke (U1), built 17 years after Wittenbergplatz, is a good example of Grenander’s later work: a superb essay in art deco and one that with its curved lines and “bridge-of-a-ship” look includes early elements of streamline moderne. (Londoners might note the similarity with some of Charles Holden’s designs for the Piccadilly Line. There’s surely a book just waiting to be written: From Krumme Lanke to Southgate).
A hint of the exotic
From Krumme Lanke it is just a 10-minute walk to the nearest S-Bahn station at Mexikoplatz (S1), which as fine an example of German Jugendstil as you’ll see anywhere in the German capital. On the S1, it is just a short ride (three stops) from Mexikoplatz to Lichterfelde West, which is another flight of fancy — the S-Bahn station is in the style of a Tuscan villa.
You’ll also find Italian accents at the Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station (S5, S7, S9, S75). It’s a much fussier design than Lichterfelde West, and in our view altogether more successful. It’s a neat piece of Italian Renaissance with Moorish overtones.
Architect Rainer Rümmler was responsible for the design of many West Berlin stations during the second half of the last century — a period when the U-Bahn network was progressively extended. One of our favourites is Rathaus Spandau at the western extremity of the U7. It was Rümmler’s local station as it happens for he lived in Spandau. The underground platforms are a great spot to sit and relax for an hour — the space has the feel of a monumental crypt with its polished stonework, restrained use of colour and striking lighting.
Station hopping in search of architecture and design is of course a sport not reserved only unto Berlin. We are surely not the only visitors who have ridden the Prague metro out to Rajská zahrada merely to view the railway station. This blue-themed glass structure is a striking piece of postmodern design.