Berlin’s Underground Transportation System
This city is principally known as the capital of Germany and the home of the once build infamous Berlin Wall. It is located at the northeastern part of the country and it is one on the German Lander. It has more than 3 million citizens in its area and it is the most populated city in the country and in Central Europe and the 5th most populated city in the European Union.
Founded in 1237, Berlin is one of the most influential places regarding politics in the European Union, and in 2006 it was declared as the City of Design by the UNESCO. This city also have one of the most organized and efficient public transportations in all Europe regarding underground systems what makes Berlin one of the major metropolitan cities in the world.
Whenever you decide to go visiting Berlin, you have to take into account that the subway or underground is called U-Bahn (that is short for the German word Untergrundbahn, which means “underground railway” in English”). First opened in 1902, the U-Bahn is the rapid transit railway and the major part of the city’s public transportation with 173 stations, all spread in 10 lines that leads to a structure of more than 90 miles.
A little bit of history
If you are not interested in history you can jump directly to information on how to ride Berlin Metro here. It all began at the end of the 19th century, when city planners realized that it was necessary to generate a solution to lower the dense traffic of this growing city. The famous businessman and engineer Ernst Werner Von Siemens came up with a solution: to build elevate railways. However, there were others opinions that an underground railway would be better as matters of esthetics, but if an underground railway was build, there was the possibility of damaging the city sewers.
This debate continued for several years until it was decided to build the transportation structure. In 1896 the building work began, because of the fear of generating damages, it was decided, at first, to build an elevated railway from Stralauer Tor to Zoologischer Garten and Potsdamer Platz, it was known as the “Stammstreche” and it was opened in 1902. Because of it tremendous success, it was extended in August the same year to Warshchauer Brucke and in December to the west in Knie.
Due to economic reasons, the elevated railway was believed to be non profitable, so the German Railway Company build it first underground train and it was opened in 1910. Before the grand opening, the company was also working in a fourth line link the southwest sector of the city; project that later on was called Berlin U-Bahn.
This transportation network mostly worked from the east to the west, which means that it connected the richer areas around the city. So, in order to also connect the north and the south of the city, in 1920 began the constructions of new lines and Greater Berlin was added to the list, which gained a great bargaining power over the Elevated Railway Company. Also, around the same year, the city company started to build new lines with wider carriages in order to provide more passenger capacity; these works were later on known as the “large profile” network.
Despite all the advances that were put into action to better the transportation in the growing city, it all stopped in 1930. Due the political situation that was facing the country in that moment, many changes were apply to way of living and to the construction of the new transportation system as well. Firstly, all expansions operations were modified; then, there was the normative of hanging the national flag in every station; and finally, some stations were renamed. There were many designing plans to expand the underground transportation system; however, none of them were put into action.
Other important factors changed the way the transportation system was build. During the Second World War, the U-Bahn suffered a great damaged, and in some areas, it was destroyed by bombs. However, the damaged was repaired in a relatively fast pace, and the reconstructions were back on track.
By the end of 1945 more than 80 stations were running and the full reconstruction of the transportation system was finished by 1950. However, there was a change on plans as a consequence of the division of the city into east and west. Although there were expansions implemented in the U-Bahn, the government of the west part of the city avoided increasingly the Soviet sector and with the passing of the time, there were more and more restrictions to citizens at the time to pass to the other sector of the city. It got to the point in which there were all kinds of warnings displaced through all the U-Bahn structure when approaching the border.
All the tense political situation was causing more and more changes into the transportation plans until in 1955 one of the most relevant extension plans were canceled. There was a major priority on extending the C and G line. The C line construction plans were displaced in order to circumvent East Berlin. The G line plans there put into operations to extend the ends of Leopoldplatz and Spichernstrabe; its opening was planned to be in September 1961, however, the opening ceremony was forced to be anticipated one month earlier due the announcement of the construction on the Berlin Wall.
As it is well known, the Berlin Wall split the city into East and West, families and friends were tearing apart and a major crisis began. The U-bahn was no exception, it was split into two sections; for the north-south lines, all trains were not allowed to stop for passengers to enter the system, later on, those were know as “ghost stations” and they were also watched by armed soldiers. Only at a designated crossing point passengers were allow to land.
In 1989, there a public statement was released and, Jannowitzbrucke, a former ghost station, was put into operation activities. It was the first station that was opened to service after the opening of the Berlin Wall. By 1990 allborder controls were removed and more extensions were applied to the system in the decade to follow.
Berlin Metro Map
How to use the U-Bahn
Now that we know all the history that surrounds the U-Bahn, we need to know how to properly use it to avoid getting lost and overpaying, especially if we are on a budget. This transportation system network has 10 stations and 173 lines.
First of all, it is important to know that Berlin is divided into three tariff zones; the AB, the BC and the ABC. The AB zone includes the urban area of the city. The BC zone includes the surrounding areas. The ABC zones goes to areas regarding airports. There are different ways to buy tickets; it all depends of each one particular interest or necessity. There are several types of tickets:
There is the One Way Ticket (Einzelfahrschein), which is valid for just one person in a two hour journey through the city. It is not allowed to ravel towards the direction of the starting point, so, in case the passenger has that purpose in mind, it is necessary to purchase a new ticket to travel in the system. This is a single fare ticket, and it was said before, the prices vary: in AB zone vary from 2.80 to 1.70 Euros. In ABC zone vary from 3.40 to 2.50 Euros.
There is also the Short Distance Ticket (Kurzstrecke); the prices are sort of fixed into tariffs of 1.70 Euros and 1.30 Euros. It is valid for three stops with S and U-Bahn and it is allowed to change trains. In case you want to go by bus, this ticket is valid for six bus stops; however, travelers cannot change vehicles.
Not all is about adulting; there are also special tariffs for children. Until the age of five, children can ride the U-bahn for free, of course, they have to travel with an adult. Now, Children from 6 to 14 years old can use the reduced tariffs, for instance, 1.70 Euros in the AB zone and 2.50 Euros in the ABC zone.
For a person who is going to stay more than one day, there are several types of tickets that are suitable for any occasion. There are Weekly, Monthly, Annual and Group Tickets.
If a person wants to ride the U-Bahn and they want to buy just one ticket, there is the option to buy a Day Ticket (or as in German, Tageskarte); it allows passengers to use the facilities the whole day as many times the passenger desires. The ticket prices for children (up to three children) are included in its price. This ticket is valid until 3 a. m. of the same day of purchase. It costs from 7 to 4.70 Euros in the AB zones.
As it was mentioned before, there exists the Seven-Day Ticket for until five people. As its name mentions, this ticket is valid for seven days of the same week. It costs 30 Euros and its validity ends on the last day of the week at midnight. This ticket is valid to travel as many times the passenger desires during that week.
Also, travelers have the possibility to travel in groups until five people with the Group Day Ticket. This amazing and revolutionary ticket allows until 5 people to use the public transportation service until 3 a.m. of the next day! This has a cost of 19.90 Euros in AB zones.
Now that you know all the options when it comes to using the ticket that better adjusts your necessities, you need to know how to buy and validate them. At the moment of buying the tickets, you can purchase them at the multilingual machines and are displaced at the platforms of the S as well as the U-Bahn stations. If you use the bus, you can buy them there too. So do not worry about the language barrier at the moment of buying your ticket, this machines are for everybody.
Before you travel in the U-Bahn, it is mandatory to validate your ticket by stamping it at the yellow and red boxes that are displayed in the platforms. This is something very important to take into account, because your ticket can be invalid if it is not stamped and, therefore, you could not be able to ride the U-Bahn. Besides that, any person caught riding public transportation without a valid ticket must pay a higher a ticket for 60 Euros, whether you explain you forgot to valid your ticket, you must pay this penalty. These ticket inspectors are dressed in distinct clothes; they are so severe in this subject that they do not accept any apology, even for tourists. People who are caught must show any type of ID, or they will call the police to handle the situation.
Dog and Bicycle lovers
If you consider yourself a green person who choose the bicycle as a way of transportation, the U-Bahn also meets your needs. Bicycles riders can bring them into the system when there is sufficient space. In several circumstances, wheelchairs users are treated with priority. If you want to travel with a bicycle, you are going to be charge with 1.90 extra Euros in the AB zones.
When it comes to dogs, you can take them into the U-Bahn with you as well, however, dogs be muzzled and leashed. Both small and medium size dogs may travel without any extra charge when traveling in a pet carrier; however, owners who carry small and large dogs that are taken on a leash must pay 1.70 extra Euros.
Talking about schedules and how to move around
As it was mentioned before, the U-Bahn system is one of the best and most organized transportation systems in Europe, since Berlin is one of the largest and most populated cities in the continent. It opens, approximately, at 4:00 a.m. until 00:30. Frequently, each train has a time of arriving between 3 and 5 minutes and on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and also during festivities, the system works practically all night.
In 2003 it was implemented a night service in the U-Bahn in which trains circulate each 10 minutes from Friday to Saturday.
U-Bahn lines and Touristic Spots to Visit
Line U1 (also known as green line). Uhlandstrabe- Warschauer Strabe. This line is the oldest of all the system, first opened in 1902. It travels through the city from east to west and it has 13 stations. It is important to mention that part of its route goes above the surface of the city.
If you want to get to know the city, there are also touristic spots near the stations. For instance, in line one you can get to Kurfurstendamm, the historical church that is build in memorial of Kaiser Wilhelm, the last emperor of Germany. You can also visit Charlottenburg town getting in Uhlandstrabe and the KaDeWe commercial galleries in Wittenbergplatz.
Line U2 (also known as red line). Pankow-Ruhleben. It connects the west and the north of the city, all this going through the center. It has a total of 29 stations. Some fun activities to jump to are to visit the Berlin Zoo, Zoologischer Garten, also to visit Potsdamer Platz in the center of the city, where is celebrated the Berlin’s International Movie Festival and also to visit the Alexander Platz.
Line U3 (also known as the turquoise line). Nollendorf platz-Krumme Lanke. Line 3 connects southwest and the center of Berlin, and it has 15 stations. Even though there is not much touristic interest in those stations, it mainly goes through the universities zones of the city and, of course, it is widely use by students. If you have any interest in studying in the universities of Berlin, you can easily get there through those stations.
Line U4 (also known as the yellow line). Nollendorf platz-Innsbrucker Platz. Line 4 is the shortest one in the U-Bahn with only 5 stations. It does not have much touristic appeal since it does not go through any big museum or big monuments.
Line U5 (also known as the brown line). Alexander platz- Honow. Line 5 of U-Bahn has 20 stations and it goes until Alexander Platz, going through Frankfurter Tor, which is the station to the colorful town of Friedrichshain, which is known as a great place to grab a bite to its delicious food.
Line U55 (an extension of the brown line). Berlin Hauptbahnhof-Brandenburger Tor. This line is an extension of line 5 has just 3 stations only. However, it goes through places that could be seen as important touristic spots, such as Hauptbahnhof, which is the main train and metro station of the city, and Brandenburg Tor, Brandenburg door.
Line U6 (also known as purple line). Alt-Tegel – Alt-Mariendorf. This line has 29 stations and travels from the north to the south of the city, between Tegel and Mariendorf. Tourist can reach the center of the city and enjoy the most metropolitan part and also they can get to Kochstrasse.
Line U7 (also known as light blue line). Rathaus Spandau- Rudow. This is one of the most useful lines for tourist in the whole system, since it does e longest route of the U-Bahn. It has 40 stations and reaches interest places like Chalottenburg, Kreuzberg and Neukolln town. It also offers touristic places such as the Place oF Charlottenburg and Hermann Platz, which is the first station in which there installed escalators, and it has direct access to Karstadt Mall.
Line U8 (also known as dark blue line). Wittenau-Hermannstrasse. Line 8 rides the city from north to south until Neukoll town. It has 24 stations in total. It is also a way to reach Alexander Platz for tourist to visit.
Line U9 (also known as orange line). Rathaus Steglitz- Osloer Strasse. This line also cross Berlin from north to south and it works with 18 stations. As well as in line one, you can get to Kurfurstendamm, the historical church that is build in memorial of Kaiser Wilhelm, the last emperor of Germany.
Now you are ready to ride the U-Bahn like you know the system like the back of your hand, and have fun in the marvelous city of Berlin without wasting any precious time on getting to know to how to move around in the public transportation, and also saving more money.