Berlin is best seen from the back of a bike. When warmer weather strikes, the city’s residents can usually be found on their two-wheeled vehicles, cycling around the city to run errands, commute to work or just while away time at one of Berlin’s many parties or parks.
If you’re just visiting the city, you might be a little overwhelmed at the thought of biking around a place you don’t really know. But biking has its perks. You’ll be able to cover more area than on foot, will spend less money than with taxis or busses, will be able to see more of the city than via subway and best of all – will be living like a local.
Where to rent a bike
When it comes to renting a bike, you can either rent one from a tourist shop, hostel or hotel (these usually charge 10€/day) or ask at a bike repair shop, which usually has a fleet of bikes they’ll rent out for cheaper (around 7€-8€/day). Since these shops also don’t typically have a set roster of prices, you might be able to work a deal if you’re renting your bike for a longer period of time. If you’re staying with friends, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to find a bike for you for free, as a lot of Berliners have a spare bike or two lying around.
If you’re staying in the city for a while, but don’t know anyone with a spare bike, you can always head to a flea market (such as Mauerpark or the Schöneberg Rathaus) and buy a bike for under 100€. Be aware that these are mostly stolen bikes, however. (To be fair, they’re not doing their real owners much good by the time they make it to the market…)
Rules of the road
As in the states, cars and bikes drive on the right side of the road. Unlike in the states, however, where biking isn’t as popular in many places, drivers in Berlin are keenly aware that they must share the road. Of course, it’s always a good idea to ride defensively.
Luckily, you often don’t have to drive on the road, but can bike in the specially marked bike lane on the sidewalk. These are usually made of red brick so they’re easy to see. Try not to sneak over onto the sidewalk, as this is reserved for pedestrians. In return, they will (for the most part), respect the red bike bath.
Charting your course
Berlin is roughly divided into city quarters which can easily be explored by bike. Chart your course depending on the part of the city you’d like to explore. If you’re looking for a more historical tour of Berlin, you might want to choose a route that centers around Mitte. Start your tour at Potsdamer Platz, ride past the Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, then turn into the scenic Tiergarten, one of the world’s largest urban parks. Stop for lunch at the Café am Neuen See for a cold beer and bratwurst in this typical German beer garden. Continue your tour around the Tiergarten, making sure to stop at KDW, an exclusive and legendary department store, and the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church on the Kürfurstendamm. Head back through the park on the Straße des 17. Juni, named in honor of the victims killed in the bloody workers’ uprising in East Berlin in 1953. Don’t forget to hit the Reichstag (Berlin’s capitol building) on your way out of the park and ride up into the glass dome for a view over the city. Continue down Unter den Linden and stop at the Berliner Dom and the famous TV Tower at Alexanderplatz. Finish off your evening with a little shopping the Hackeschescher Markt – or just a well-earned rest at a café.
If you’d rather go café hopping or vintage shopping, grab your bike and get lost in the neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln (arguably the best neighborhoods for biking anyway). Start your tour at Kotbusser Tor in the heart of Kreuzberg and ride down Skalitzer Straße. Stop for a root beer float (maybe with a shot of something extra to get the day going…) at John Muir, then take a gander down Schlesische Straße and its side streets to do some boutique shopping (at Killerbeast or Chaos in Form, for instance). Don’t forget to look at the walls! Berlin is home to tons of great street art – Blu is just one famous street artist who’s made the walls of Berlin his canvas. Back on your bike to ride across the Oberbaum Bridge which once spanned between East and West Germany. Walk along the East Side Gallery, an art memorial painted on sections of the Berlin Wall, and stop for a coffee at Michelberger Hotel before riding back across the bridge. Head south through Görlitzer Park, where Berliners spend all day sitting in the sun with guitars and grills when summer strikes (don’t go through the park at night, however, as it’s not the safest place to be). Stop off at Reichenberger Straße for the best cheesecake of your life at 5 Elephants, then cross the canal into Neukölln. Countless cafés, bars, restaurants, vintage shops and boutiques are tucked away in these streets. Try Sing Blackbird, Sameheads or Berlin Burger International for a start. And don’t forget to try a döner while you’re here!
Alternatively, you could just spend all day riding along the canals in Berlin, stopping at a café for lunch or packing a picnic in your bike basket.
The guided tour
If you’re still not feeling ready to tackle the city on your own, you can always join a guided tour of the city. Fat Tire Bike Tours hosts a great trip. Choose from various routes within Berlin and Potsdam – and learn fun trivia about the city while you’re at it.