The capital of Germany has a population of over 3.5 million people. Berlin has become popular as a place of residence for people from all over the world as it is the most inexpensive capital city in Western Europe.
Berlin is well-known for its architecture, festivals, contemporary arts, nightlife and a great quality of living.
Berlin’s gay scene is spread out across two main districts: Schöneberg and Prenzlauer Berg.
Most of the gay hotels, bars, cafés and shops are located in the Schöneberg district. There are two smaller gay areas in the less commercial Kreuzberg and the younger Friedrichshain in the east which has developed as another area with gay-friendly venues.
Gay highlights include Folsom Europe, the Berlinale film festival, Easter Meeting for bears and friends, the Gay & Lesbian Street Festival in Schöneberg, Gay Pride, Hustler Ball and many large sex parties.
The scene in Berlin is strong and diverse, and everyone will find something for their taste. Many gay bars and clubs don’t indicate closing hours. In Berlin, if you are up for it, you can party around the clock.
The age of consent in Germany is 14. However anyone over the age of 21 who exploits or abuses a 14 or 15 year old is committing an offence.
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Berlin is served by two airports: Tegel (TXL) and Schönefeld (SXF). Both airports are scheduled when the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport becomes operational. Most scheduled flights use the Tegel airport, just 8 km northwest of the city center. It is one of Europe’s easiest airports.
Schönefeld is the former airport of East Berlin, 18km southeast of the city center. It’s small and currently working with only one runway. Much of the traffic is to Eastern Europe and the Middle and Far East. But budget airlines from the UK and Ireland also use it.
From the airport, you can take the bus or the train. One ticket can be used for the combined journey. A taxi to anywhere central will cost around €35 and takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic and destination.
The Berlin transport authority, the BVG, operates bus, U-Bahn (underground) and tram networks. The S-Bahn (overground railway) is run by its own authority, but services are integrated within the same three-zone system.
This service consists of nine lines and covers the major part of the city (over 170 stations). The first trains run shortly after 4am; the last between midnight and 1am, except on Fridays and Saturdays when some lines run all night. The direction of travel is indicated by the name of the last stop on the line.
It’s the rapid transit system and includes 15 lines that feed into one of three core lines. Especially useful in Eastern Berlin, the S-Bahn covers long distances faster than the U-Bahn and is a more efficient means of getting to outlying areas
Berlin has a dense network of 150 bus routes. The day lines run from 4:30am to about 1am the next morning. Enter at the front of the bus and exit in the middle or at the back. The driver sells only individual tickets, but all tickets from machines on the U- or S-Bahn are valid. Most bus stops have clear timetables and route maps.
There are about twenty tram lines, mainly in the East, though some have been extended into the Western half of the city. Tickets are available from machines on the trams, at the terminals and in U-Bahn stations.
Berlin is also served by the Regionalbahn (regional railway), which once connected East Berlin with Potsdam. It still runs around the city. The ticket prices vary according to the journey.
Traveling at night
Berlin has a comprehensive night-line network that covers all parts of town via buses and trams running every 30 minutes between 12:30am and 4:30am. Before and after these times, the regular timetable for bus and tram routes applies.
Berlin taxis are numerous, safe and efficient. For short journeys, ask for a Kurzstrecke – up to two km for €3.50, but only available when you’ve hailed a cab and not from a taxi stand. The meter starts €3, and €1.50 per km for the first 7 km thereafter. The rate remains the same at night.
There are plenty of taxi stands, especially in central areas. You can call for a taxi 24 hours daily at 261 026. Most firms can transport people with disabilities but require advance notice. Taxis accept all major credit cards.
Exploring Berlin by car is another easy way to get around. There is a wide range of vehicles for rent. Drivers should bear in mind that, in the absence of signals, they must yield to traffic from the right. Trams always have right of way. An Einbahnstraße is a one-way street.
Parking is free in Berlin side streets, but spaces are hard to find. On busier streets, you may have to buy a ticket (€1 per hour) from a nearby machine.
Berlin is wonderful for cycling. The west side is flat, with lots of cycle paths, parks and canals to cruise beside, whereas the east has fewer cycle paths and more cobblestones and tram lines. Cycles can be taken on the U-Bahn (except during rush hour).
Berlin is a large city, with many things to see and do. Most gay travellers stay near the Schöneberg, Prenzlauer Berg or Berlin Mitte.
Pergamon Museum – contains several fantastic artifacts, including the huge Altar of Zeus.
Berlin Philharmonic – features some of the best classical music to be had in Germany.
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Neues Museum – features the Egyptian collection.
Parliament Building (Reichstag) – one of the best circular views of the great capital city with its amazingly sleek glass and steel dome, designed by famous British architect, Sir Norman Foster.
The Holocaust Memorial
Memorial Of The Berlin Wall
Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) – famous monument which has long been a defining symbol of Berlin (pictured above)
Potsdam – historic sites and gardens; the most popular day trip from Berlin.
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