Schönefeld (or Schoenefeld) is one of the two international airports for Berlin and the one you're most likely to arrive at if you fly in with any of the low cost airlines like Easyjet, Condor and Ryanair. Schönefeld airport (or SFX) is located in the southeastern end of Berlin, 18km from the centre. It will be merged with the new Brandenburg airport (located very close by) when it opens in 2020.
There are many ways to reach the city centre from Schönefeld airport. Following our many trips to Berlin, we show you the best ways to get from Schoenefeld airport to Berlin city centre.
We also wrote about how to get from Tegel airport to central Berlin.
The quickest way to reach Berlin city centre…
…is with the airport express train which runs every 30 minutes from 4am to 11pm. Make sure you pre-order your Berlin Transport Card before you arrive to avoid queues at the airport. It includes unlimited travel in Berlin and a return journey from / to Schoenefeld airport. Remember to purchase it for zones AB and C which also includes Berlin-Schoenefeld airport station.
Berlin Transport Card
First of all, if you're planning to spend a few days in Berlin and use the public transport system (Metro, bus and train), you should know that Berlin's ticketing system can be confusing especially if you've never visited Berlin before and you do not speak German. Also the ticketing machines during peak hours can get very crowded and you end up getting stuck in long queues.
To overcome these problems and help tourists in Berlin, the tourism office has very cleverly created the Berlin Welcome card, which is a GODSEND when you're a newbie to Berlin.
We strongly advise to purchase your Berlin Welcome card in advance. It will not only save you money, but you will also avoid any queues at ticket machines (a blessing at rush hour when queues are huge). The Berlin Welcome card gives you unlimited travel for a 48 hours, 72 hours, 4 day, 5 day or 6 day period. Make sure you buy the card for ZONE ABC which includes Schoenefeld airport. On top of that, the Berlin Welcome card gives you up to 50% off from many attractions in Berlin. Find out more about the Berlin WelcomeCard here.
Advice for LGBTQ travellers
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Airport Express train
The airport express train is the fastest way to reach Berlin city centre from the Flughaten Berlin-Schoenefeld station, which is around 10 minutes walking distance from the airport terminal.
The train runs every 30 minutes between around 4am to 11pm and costs €3.30 each way. The metro tickets in Berlin are valid for a 2 hours period. On weekends there's a night train at 1:44am. The airport express stops at Karlshort, Ostbahnhof, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstrasse, Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Central station), Zoologischer Garten and finally at Charlottenburg.
If you're going to be using the metro in Berlin a lot, which is usually the case, we recommend buying a Berlin WelcomeCard.
TIP: remember to purchase it for zones AB and C. Normally you need only the AB ticket for most of the main tourist attractions in Berlin, but for the Flughaten Berlin-Schoenefeld station, you need zone C add as well.
The metro in Berlin is referred to as the Bahn. The main ones are the U-Bahn which goes underground, and the S-Bahn which is suburban.
The S-Bahn runs all the way to the airport. It's not as convenient as the airport express and costs the same. However, the advantage is that the S-Bahn runs non-stop during weekends, so if your plane lands late or during the night, this is a good option to reach the city centre.
S9 and S45 are ideal if you're looking to reach West or East Berlin. However to go to the city centre, you will need to change.
Go on a romantic dinner cruise
Take your loved one out for a very romantic experience on a river dinner cruise during your stay in Berlin! You'll see all the best sights of the city while dining on a yummy three-course meal.
Buses X7, 171, and night bus N7 depart from Schoenefeld airport go to Rudow U-Bahn station (first stop on the blue line U7). Then you can jump on the U7 line to go to Kreuzberg or Neukoelln.
This is the best option for late evening arrivals on weekdays when you've missed the last airport transfer, there are no S-Bahn trains running, and you don't want to pay for a taxi/private transfer.
Uber or taxi?
If the night bus or public train does not appeal to you, you can use the public taxi. A metered taxi from Schönefeld airport to Alexanderplatz or Nollenderplatz (around 23km) will cost you around €45 – 50€ and you will find plenty of public taxis just outside SFX airport.
If you're more confortable using an app, we recommend Uber. In Berlin, Uber is used as a taxi hailing app so when you get a taxi on Uber you end up riding one of the public metered taxis. The difference is that payment is automatically managed in the app and you get the convenience to hail your taxi directly from the app which is godsend when you do not speak German.
Uber will also get you a fare estimate and allows you to choose your exact pickup and drop off location. Once the app has found your driver you never wait more than 3-5 minutes.
If you have not signed up to Uber yet, download the app now, and type our invitation code sebastienc221ue which will get you your first ride for free.
Explore the alternative side of Berlin by bike
Skip the regular tourist attractions in favour of discovering Berlin's more alternative neighbourhoods on this fun bike tour. You'll get to explore the areas of Kreuzberg, Görlitzer Park and the East Side Gallery with a local guide.
If none of the options above suit you, you can always book a private transfer service from the airport to the city center (or vice versa). You will have the peace of mind of knowing that someone will wait for you at the airport and look after you until you reach your hotel. In the past mainly for night flights, we booked our airport transfer with Welcome Pickups, and had not been disappointed.
They are reliable, on time and you get a big car all to yourself with an English speaking local driver who points out the most important points of the city, and will also help you ordering skip the line tickets, sim cards, etc… for the same price as a taxi from the line.
Getting around Berlin
While it's delightful to walk around and explore the many different neighbourhoods of Berlin, the city is huge so you will most likely need to use public transport to get between the different areas. Berlin's public transport system includes the U-Bahn (subway/underground), S-Bahn (light rail), buses and trams.
The city is divided into three different fare zones: A, B and C. The A zone covers the area within the circle line of the Ringbahn (the inner city), while the B zone covers the area between the inner city and city limits. The C zone is the area outside of Berlin proper, which includes Potsdam and the Schoenefeld Airport.
Tickets can be bought at metro stations, on trams, from bus drivers and at BVG sales offices, but often only with cash or the correct change. We recommend you pre-purchase the Berlin Welcome Card as it gives you unlimited travel in the zones you choose for the whole duration of your stay. This will save you a lot of time and avoid unnecessary stress trying to figure out the German ticketing system!
Save time and money on transport in Berlin
Public transport in Berlin can be confusing, especially if you don't speak the language. With the Berlin Welcome Card, you'll have access to all modes of transport within the city. Make sure you purchase your card for zones AB and C so that your return trip to Schoenefeld Airport is included!
Where to stay in Berlin
As we've mentioned, Berlin is large, which means you have a lot of different choices for accommodation based on the area you'd like to stay in and your budget. These are our favourite areas to stay in Berlin:
- Mitte: if it's your first time in Berlin, Mitte is the perfect location to stay as this is where the majority of the ‘must-see' tourist locations can be found. Because of its central location and popularity, hotels in Mitte can be quite expensive, so make sure you book your accommodation well ahead of time. Check out the top 10 hotels to stay in Mitte.
- Schöneberg: This is the place to stay if you want to be close to Berlin's gay scene! Schöneberg is the heart of the gay community and has been since the 1920s when it became the first ever gay village in the world. Here is where the majority of Berlin's gay bars, clubs and other venues are located; although you will find pockets of alternative gay scenes in other neighbourhoods as well. Make sure you check out our detailed gay travel guide to Schöneberg to find out more about gay Berlin.
- Kreuzberg: Next to the main gay neighbourhood of Schöneberg is Kreuzberg, which is known as the best part of Berlin for nightlife and is also home to a more alternative gay nightlife. Also known as Xberg, Kreuzberg is full of clubs, hipster restaurants and lots of cool street art. It's close to the centre of Berlin, so it is a good option if you want to be near the tourist sights as well as the best parties. Check out the top 10 hotels to stay in Kreuzberg.
- Neukölln: If you'd prefer a quieter location to sleep while in Berlin, then Neukölln is a good choice. You'll still be able to get into the city centre by public transport, but will be staying in a more budget-friendly area with lots of funky art galleries, bars and restaurants. Find the best hotels in Neukölln now.
- Friedrichshain: Located in what used to be East Berlin, Friedrichshain is now an alternative neighbourhood with a fantastic arts scene. There's a lot of events at night and while it's still a relatively up-and-coming area it's also a good choice if you are travelling on a budget. Check out the top 10 hotels to stay in Friedrichshain.
- Prenzlauer Berg: Often called the ‘coolest' neighbourhood in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg has a young and hip vibe, with lots of old breweries or factories that have been transformed into very unique hotels. There's also a lot of art galleries, designer shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Have a look at the top 10 hotels to stay in Prenzlauer Berg.
Happy travels are safe travels
We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.
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