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Getting around Berlin

Public transport

The stereotype goes that German trains are so efficient you could set your watch by them. Of course there are always exceptions, but on the whole Berlin's extensive transport network is more likely to enforce that stereotype than contradict it.

The German capital is vast but extremely well served by public transport, which is probably why Berlin is said to have one of the lowest numbers of cars per capita in Europe. Of course there are still the usual issues for motorists like traffic jams and parking, but the city's road network and relative lack of vehicles makes it far easier to drive around than some of Europe's other capitals.

Berlin has a highly integrated transport system comprising U-Bahn (underground), S-Bahn (commuter rail), bus and tram services, with easy connections to regional and mainline rail services. Information on fares, routes and timetables is available from Berlin Transport Services (BVG) (tel: +49 30 2560; www.bvg.de).

Tickets are priced for either two or three zones – almost all visitors will use the AB tariff (though note that Schönefeld Airport lies within zone C). The CityTourCard combines transport in zones A and B or A, B and C and an advantage card offering discounts on tourist attractions, restaurants and cafes.

The Berlin Welcome Card allows free public transport in Berlin and up to 50% discounts from 200 attractions. Alternatively, visitors can also choose Berlin Welcome Card All Inclusive which includes free entry to 30 attractions. You can buy them at any ticket counter or machine or purchase them online and print them off before your trip to Berlin.

There are no ticket barriers at U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, which makes it tempting not to pay for your journey. However, plain-clothed inspectors have a habit of springing up and issuing fines for those without tickets. When transport is so reasonably priced, it’s silly to take the risk.

Taxis

Taxis in Berlin are plentiful, cheap and scrupulously honest. It is standard practice to simply round up the price to the nearest euro, though for longer journeys, add a couple. You can book taxis with Taxi-Funk Berlin (tel: +49 30 443 322) and Würfelfunk (tel: +49 30 210 101).

Driving

Berlin has an excellent public transport system, so it should not be necessary to drive in the city. However, if you are planning on driving it's worth bearing in mind that the city centre is a 'Particle Free Emission' area and drivers must display a specially approved sticker in their car or risk a fine. The ticket is available from Umwelt Plakette (www.umwelt-plakette.de).

You have to pay for parking in much of the city centre. Where parking is free, it's notoriously difficult to find a spot. If you do have a car, there are plenty of multistorey car parks throughout Berlin, as well as Park and Ride areas beside many S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations.

Car hire

All of the major car hire firms are represented in Berlin and all have multiple locations throughout the city. Some of the most central are Avis (tel: +49 30 230 9370; www.avis.com) and Europcar (tel: +49 30 240 7900; www.europcar.de). Drivers must be over 21 years old and require a valid national driving licence. Some car hire firms allow a minimum age of 18 years but charge a special rate for young drivers. 

Bicycle hire

Cycling is an extremely popular way of getting around Berlin and it's fairly easygoing too, thanks to the city's flat terrain and extensive network of cycle paths. Bicycle hire is available from fahrradstation, Leipziger Strasse 56 (tel: 0180 510 8000, in Germany only; www.fahrradstation.de), or Fat Tire Bike Rentals, Panoramastrasse 1A (tel: +49 30 2404 7991; www.fahrradverleihberlin.com). There are also bikeshare schemes run by nextbike (+49 30 6920 5046; www.nextbike.de/en/berlin) and Deutsche Bahn/LIDL-Bike (www.callabike-interaktiv.de/de/staedte/Berlin).

Featured Hotels

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Soho House Berlin

Part of the Soho House empire, this private club and boutique hotel is based in Mitte, east Berlin's achingly hip heart. The 40 bedrooms vary enormously in price and layout, but all include vintage furniture and quirky features such as record players. Bring your swimmers for the glamorous rooftop pool.

Honigmond Berlin-Mitte

This gem of a hotel is a real find - the building's exterior doesn't suggest its gorgeous combination of period features and swish modernity. The rooms have antiques scattered throughout, and the breakfast is excellent. There's a second property too on a nearby street, in much the same style.

Ritz-Carlton Berlin

Expect the full whistles and bells of an international five-star chain hotel at this sumptuous 300-room property on Potsdamer Platz. Notable features include four restaurants and bars, among them the Tea Lounge, known for its ceremonial afternoon teas. Underground parking is another perk.

Ostel

The prices vary enormously here at this retro showcase for the garish/fabulous interior design of the former East Germany. Part hotel and part museum, this is definitely one of Berlin's more idiosyncratic places to stay; prepare for lots of brown and orange. It's also a stone's throw from techno temple Berghain and the adjacent attractions of hipster Friedrichshain.

Hüttenpalast

Based in a one-time vacuum cleaner factory, this wonderfully eccentric "hut palace" offers colourful accommodation in a range of indoor vintage caravans and repurposed huts. Standard rooms are on offer too – they give more space but they're not nearly so much fun. The backyard has been transformed into a wild garden.

Das Stue

Billed as Berlin's first luxury boutique hotel, the none-more-cool Das Stue sits on the southwestern fringe of the Tiergarten park. It's full of grand design touches, while the rooms themselves are modern with hardwood floors. The hotel also plays home to a spa and, in Cinco by Paco Pérez, a Michelin-starred restaurant.