Berlin has a splendid public transport network (even if the locals wish to complain about it). It is fast, particularly reliable and good value for money. It also runs all night, every day of the week.
S-Bahn and U-Bahn are the backbone of the public transport network. If you're only in Berlin for a short time, these are the most convenient to navigate - the only buses you might need are the 100 and 200 "sightseeing" routes.
Short for "Schnell-Bahn" (Fast train), the S-Bahn is a principally above-ground network of local trains run by state rail operator DB. Lines run from the suburbs on to three principal routes through the city center:
- The Stadtbahn: this east-west route runs through the middle of Berlin, connecting its eastern and western centers and all the main stations, including Zoo, Hauptbahnhof, Friedrichstrasse (Station), Alexanderplatz and Ostbahnhof.
- The Nord-Süd-Bahn: this north-south route connects the area around Friedrichstrasse, Unter den Linden and Potsdamer Platz with the Berlin-Gesundbrunnen and Südkreuz intercity stations.
- The Ringbahn: this is Berlin's circle line, running in a continuous loop around the outside of the city center. Convenient if you know where you are going, but not much use for sightseeing.
All S-Bahn lines are numbered, but the trains and signs on stations only present the destination and maybe some of the relevant stations en route, so sometimes it's difficult to tell which way a train is going. The S-Bahn's symbol is a stylised "S" on a green background.
U-Bahn means "Untergrund-Bahn" or underground train (subway / metro) - as the name suggests, it runs in particular below ground, although there are some elevated sections. The U-Bahn is run by the BVG, Berlin's transport company.
There are 9 lines, everything enumerated; as with the S-Bahn trains only show the destination, but there are line maps on the platforms and on trains to help navigation. The U-Bahn's logo - as in other German cities - is a white "U" on a blue background.
Berlin enjoys of a sophisticated bus network. For short-term visitors the most main lines are 100 and 200 between Zoo Station and Alexanderplatz which take in the important sites.
Berlin's tram network is concentrated in the former East Berlin: West Berlin got rid of its trams in the 1960s, and they are only slowly making a comeback.
The BVG also runs a few ferries crossing the city's lakes and rivers (including one rowboat ferry!) These are all way outside the city center.