Where and What to Hire
There is a good range of car hire available in Berlin. At Schoenefeld airport, Europecar is the main provider while Avis and Hertz are located within Tegel Airport. Sixt and Enterprise have premises close to the centre in Lichtenburg while Europecar can be found right in the centre of the city at Alexanderplatz. Sixt and Hertz also have branches at Hauptbahnhoff main train station. Avis have a branch in trendy Kreuzberg while Enterprise can be found in both Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf. All types of cars are available for hire form handy two-door city cars to family four-door vehicles, limousines, motorbikes, segways and more.
While there is no need for a car in central Berlin due to the excellent public transport system, there are a few things drivers in the city should be aware of. Most important is being aware of the ‘Environmental Zone’. Only cars that meet the emissions standard and have the valid badge to say so are entitled to drive in this zone. Give way to traffic on the right and note that trams always have the right of way. There are many one-way streets in Berlin – these are called Einbahnstrasse so keep an eye out for this sign. Berlin is a massive cycling city with thousands of cyclists on the road at any one time. Many bike lanes are on the pavement but there are also large numbers of cyclists merging with traffic on the roads so take care to look out for them. Be aware of children playing in the street, as they often do in Berlin – it is the law that cars should pass by them at the slowest speed possible. On the whole with organised streets, good roads and excellent signposting, Berlin is a pleasure to drive around.
Parking is mainly free in Berlin’s side streets however, spaces can be hard to find. Some streets charge for parking which starts at €1 per hour. There are also multi-storey car parks dotted around the city which charge €2 per hour, and Pay & Display car parks which charge approximately €2.50 for one hour from 9am to 6pm or 8pm. Many S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations have ‘Park and Ride’ options which are much cheaper than parking in town.
Where to Go and What to See
Having a car in Berlin is great for seeing the sights of the city but there is plenty in the nearby area too. Potsdam, just 45 minutes south of the city, is the capital of the federal state of Brandenburg. It boasts the stunning Summer Palace, Sanssouci, with its exquisite 200 hectare gardens (a must see) and also the wonderful Pfaueninsel or ‘Peacock Island’, just a short boat ride away. Kids will love taking the very brief boat ride across the river to see the fairy-tale castle and enigmatic peacocks that live on this little island. This is a great day trip from Potsdam. The quiet suburb of Sachsenhausen near Oranienburg remains the site of a former Nazi concentration camp for those that are interested in this period of our history. For outdoors and nature galore, head for Spreewald, a UNESCO protected biosphere reserve with meandering waterways, lush meadows and dense forests just over an hour south of Berlin. Just over 2 hours north of Berlin lies the beautiful Baltic shore with its dramatic windswept beaches, crystal clean air and breath-taking landscapes. Meanwhile, exciting Leipzig is just 2 hours south of Berlin. With museums, zoos, concerts, festivals, fantastic restaurants and bars, lakes and parks, this is a great trip for the whole family.