Travelling can be a nightmare if you are wheelchair bound. A lot of extra planning unfortunately is still needed especially when travelling abroad. Luckily, accessibility has come to the forefront of most European Cities, and Berlin is no exception. Below are some accessibility tips and tricks to help make your visit to Berlin as stress free and as possible as well as more economical, and easier to get around while there.
1. Stay in East Berlin, close to the tourist attractions.
If you have limited mobility, the best thing to do is to stay near the tourist attractions. The Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin TV Tower, the Topography of Terror, Unter den Linden, and all the museums on Museum Island are located here. This will cut down on traveling on public transportation as well as usually be far more accessible overall.
2. Know which tourist attractions are accessible and which are not.
Most of the tourist attraction spots are fully accessible for a wide range of disabilities. However, a few are not. The Berlin TV Tower, for example, is not wheelchair accessible. If you want to visit this impressive sight, you need to be able to walk or look at it from the street.
3. Don’t pay more than you need to for transportation.
A lot of tourists pay for disabled taxis, as it’s a pretty straightforward process with minimal hassle. However, most of the buses and train stations in Berlin are wheelchair accessible, making it a much cheaper option for travel. You don’t have to find a taxi, which can be difficult at times. You can even download a map of the accessible transportation system before you leave on your trip to Berlin!
4. Navigating the Airport.
Most cities have one major airport, with one or two for smaller flights. In Berlin, it is the “Willy Brandt” Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in Schönefeld, and has accessible public transportation options. However, Schönefeld requires a long walk, so it might be difficult for those who are not as mobile. It offers free Mobility Service, but note that if you are planning to use it, you need to inform your tour agency, travel agent or your airline about it at least 48 hours before departure or arrival. There are various options for contacting this Service: call boxes in front of the terminals, service points in the check-in hall and in the departure areas of Terminal 1. The Mobility Service will provide you with support throughout your stay at Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
5. Know which train station you are arriving and departing from.
Due to the previous division of Berlin, there are not only multiple airports, but multiple large train stations as well. If you are using the train, it will likely pull into one of three stations: Zoologischer Gardens station in West Berlin, Ostbahnhof station in East Berlin, or Hauptbahnhof in the centre of Berlin. All of the Berlin stations have wheelchair lifts. To save yourself some energy and time, make sure you travel to and from the station that is closest to where you are staying and where you are going to visit for the day.
6. Visit Museum Island attractions together.
The reason why Museum Island is called thus is because there are several museums on the island. So, it makes sense to plan on visiting all the museums on the island in one day rather than splitting it up over a few days. They are in close proximity to each other on the island as well, and they are all wheelchair accessible. The Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum, and the German History Museum (located just across the Spree River) are all top-notch museums and each deserves a minimum of 2 hours.
7. Visit accessible souvenir shops.
Between the German History Museum and the Spree River are some lovely souvenir carts which are all very wheelchair accessible. This is a great place to buy your loved ones souvenirs and avoid going up steps into shops.
8. Best way to get from East Berlin and West Berlin.
If you do decide to travel between East and West Berlin, then taking either the #100 bus or #200 bus is your best and cheapest bet. The #100 goes from Alexanderplatz in the east, past the Reichstag, to the Zoologischer station. The #200 goes from Zoologischer station, past the Gemäldegalerie art museum, near Checkpoint Charlie and through Museum Island. These two routes have wheelchair accessible buses.