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Berlin City Breaks - What to do, how to travel, where to stay

Berlin has become a premier city break destination, and it's not difficult to see why: It has all the ingredients for a successful, enjoyable and affordable stay: Plenty of things to see and do, a wide range of bars and restaurants, with an excellent public transport system to take you where you want to go.

Despite its status as German federal capital, Berlin has been suffering from economic stagnation. That's good news for tourists because prices are relatively low, and you'll find some amazing hotel deals which would be unheard of in Munich, Paris or New York. The best deals are to be found via the internet. As well as the price advantage, it's quick and easy to find, book and pay for accommodation.

easyJet Boeing 737 at Schönefeld Airport Berlin
easyJet Boeing 737 at Berlin Schönefeld Airport

Nowadays it's cheaper and more convenient than ever to travel to Berlin from the UK. Ryanair fly four times a day from London Stansted. EasyJet also offer good value fares from London and Liverpool, though not as low as Ryanair. Air Berlin flies to Berlin from London and Manchester. On all low cost carriers you need to book early and avoid Friday to Monday. It's possible to go by train, take a Eurolines bus or even drive on the autobahns in a car or a minibus, but bear in mind that Berlin is 500 miles from the Channel.

EasyJet and Ryanair fly to Schönefeld Airport on the southern outskirts of what used to be East Berlin, the GDR capital. The former Communist airport is about 40 minutes from the centre by train. Air Berlin fly to West Berlin's Tegel. It was built well inside West Berlin, making it convenient for the city, and is served by an airport bus though there's no train connection. Tempelhof Airport is in the middle of the city but has been earmarked for closure. As soon as possible you should buy a Berlin day ticket. At just 5.60 euros (£3.70) per person it gives you unlimited access to all public transport until 3am the next morning. You can get it from machines on train platforms and on board trams. Other tourist tickets are also available from the machines which have instructions in English. Don't forget to stamp it with the date and time in one of the small red machines on the platform bus or tram.

Public transport consists of S-Bahn - the city suburban rail system - which operates on a large network of lines mostly over ground. Its symbol is a green S. The U-Bahn or underground - symbol: a white U on a blue background - runs on its own lines mostly underground. In the east there are trams, and all over city, highly efficient and well designed buses, both single and double decker, are at your disposal. Riding on the top deck can be a spectacular and cost-effective way to see the city. I recommend the 100 which links Zoo Station in the west and Alexanderplatz in the east. With your day ticket, the whole of Berlin is at your fingertips. There are no ticket barriers as in London, but have your ticket ready for random inspections and don't forget to stamp it before use! There are open-top tour buses, which are informative and convenient.

Berlin restored Gendarmenmarkt
Berlin's restored Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin is not as architecturally resplendent as certain other capitals in Europe, such as Rome, Prague or Paris. That's because much of it was flattened during World War Two. Most of the east was reconstructed in Communist style with concrete tower blocks. But in the historic centre, formerly East Berlin, there are many architectural gems. To understand the layout of Berlin, buy a map or visit www.stadtplandienst.de

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Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2005-10-16

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