For members


Seven diverse maps that help explain Berlin

Berlin is a vibrant, multicultural city with a long history. Here's a breakdown of some of the most important aspects of the German capital.

Seven diverse maps that help explain Berlin
Photo: Depositphotos/gcpics

Berlin, an artistic and cultural powerhouse, is Germany's capital as well as its most populous city with almost 3.75 million inhabitants. The seat of the nation's government is located here, making the city politically vital for the rest of Europe.

The capital is also known for its growing tech industry, especially in the fields of clean energy and pharmaceuticals. 

Let's start with the basics. 

Location in Germany

Berlin is in East Germany and is a city as well as a state. It is completely surrounded by another German Bundesland called Brandenburg. Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital, borders Berlin and makes up the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region with a population of six million. 

Source: Wikimedia 

Because of its location in East Germany, Berlin was surrounded by the Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, or DDR, following World War II. West Berlin, occupied by Western Allies, was seen as a capitalist island in the Soviet sector. 

READ ALSO: East Germany – 10 things you never knew about the GDR

12 Districts

Berlin has 12 districts, or Bezirke. These are Spandau, Reinickendorf, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Neukölln, Lichtenberg, Mitte, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Pankow, Treptow-Köpenick and Marzahn-Hellersdorf.

Source: Wikimedia 

Each Bezirk has its own small governing body and mayor, which advise the greater Berlin Senate. Additionally, each district is its own microcosm of culture and business.

Many Germans will ask which Bezirk you live in and then let you know exactly what they think of the area. In Berlin, the word Kiez is also commonly used to refer to the different neighbourhoods and boroughs.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Kiez

A focus on public transport

Berlin is a mobile city. From the U-bahn to the Straßenbahn, the districts are often easier to navigate with public transport than with a car.

Arguably the most famous public train in Berlin is the S-bahn or “Ringbahn,” which encompasses the inner city with its tracks. Because of its shape, it is also sometimes referred to as the Hundekopf, or dog's head. 

The inside of the ring makes up the “A” section of the BVG's services. Living outside the “ring” used to have a certain negative stigma, but this is fading over time as the city expands and the costs of living push people further from the centre.

READ ALSO: People think life in Berlin ends outside the Ringbahn. They're wrong.

Source: Wikimedia

According to a 2017 report from Berlin's Environment, Transport and Climate Protection committee, there are only about 326 cars per 1000 inhabitants. For context, the same number of residents own 850 bicycles.

The city is also undeniably green. Large parks like Tiergarten and tree-lined streets and rivers run through the inner city.  

READ ALSO: A guide to Berlin's hidden swimming spots – from the woman who wrote a book on it


While Berlin is known for its relatively reasonable cost of living, skyrocketing rents have captured international attention in the last years. The recently passed rent cap, or Mietendeckel, freezes and caps rents for certain buildings throughout the city for five years.

READ ALSO: In graphs: How gentrification has changed Berlin

This image shows the increasing price pressure ousting renters. Source: (Screenshot)

Unfortunately, the pressure and competitiveness of Berlin's housing market remains high. This map showcases the areas where current renters are facing the most price inflation, and therefore the most pressure to move out and live elsewhere. 

READ ALSO: Berlin to freeze rent for five years: What you need to know


The earliest building artifacts found in the Berlin area date back to the second half of the 1100s. Around this time, the small settlement of Cölln existed on an island on the Spree river while Berlin's Nikolaiviertel lay on the other side. A medieval wall protected both. However, the official founding of the city of Berlin is 1237. 

Source: J. M. F. Schmidt/Landesbibliothek Berlin via Wikimedia

The map above is from the year 1688, when kings of the Hohenzollern dynasty ruled over Brandenburg-Prussia. 

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust: Discovering the original Wall in Medieval Berlin

Divided city

After World War II, Berlin faced incredible bombing destruction and consequent population decline. The city was divided into four sectors by Allied forces. The British, French and American sectors made up West Berlin, while the Soviets controlled the East.

West Berlin was completely surrounded by East Berlin and the DDR. West Berlin was only connected to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or West Germany, through narrow transit lines.

The divisions between East and West became more restricted and dangerous as an increasing number of Eastern Germans fled the DDR, usually through West Berlin. Cold War tensions from the US only increased the strain. 

Source: Paasikivi via Wikimedia

Eventually this culminated in the creation of the inner German separating all of Germany. And in 1961, the Berlin Wall was built.

This devastating separation cut the city in half for almost thirty years. Berlin still bares the architectural marks of the different regimes, with starkly contrasting buildings in East and West.

November 9th this year marked the 30th anniversary of the Mauerfall, or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Read more here.

Wi-Fi…sort of

You may have read about Germany's spotty wifi and rural dead zones recently. However, Berlin generally has good connections… and a good sense of humour. Here is a map of Berlin's best Wi-Fi names, put together by Italian expat Federico Prandi. 

Map by Federico Prandi (Screenshot)

Top honours go to “It hurts when IP,” “I'm missing a pair of socks” and “Nutella Man.” 

See the full interactive map here.

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For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.