The S-Bahn is a fast overground train system, and is a great way to travel in Berlin. It is fully integrated with the underground U-Bahn trains, and you can combine the two of them to get anywhere in Berlin quickly.
Guide to Using the S-Bahn
S-Bahn trains in Berlin. Image mattingham, via Flickr
The S-Bahn is a large and comprehensive network of trains, and extends beyond the city boundaries into nearby Brandenburg State and Potsdam. The network was ruined in the war, and had to adapt itself to the Berlin Wall and later to reunification. Nowadays, the S-Bahn (which means ‘rapid city train’) carries 1.3 million people a day to 166 stations, and is the top choice for getting around. Although run by different companies, the U-Bahn and S-Bahn, as well as the buses, trams, and ferries, share tickets and you can change between them freely.
Possibly the most useful S-Bahn route for tourists is the circular ‘Ringbahn’ that goes around the center of the city. The fast trains are perfect for getting around quickly, without hassle. If you want to get from Schonhauser Allee to the old Tempelhof Airport, for example, swinging around on the S-Bahn circular route is quicker than going underground on the U-Bahn trains. The S5 and S7 lines that cut through the center of Berlin are also useful for visitors, as they run quickly through the zoo, the Tiergarten, the main train station and Alexanderplatz.
Like the U-Bahn, the S-Bahn trains are divided into three zones, and have a number of different ticket types, depending on how often you want to travel, and for how long. The tickets can be purchased at one of several machines at the entrance to the stations, or even in the airport when you arrive in Berlin. You have to validate your ticket when you get on a S-Bahn train for the first time, by stamping it in one of the machines dotted around the platforms and onboard the trains. If you have any questions about how to get anywhere, since most stations don’t have real ticket offices, you should ask friendly-looking people at the station, or check on the useful official travel website, bvg.de .