Which Berlin Bus Tours Are Best?

This post compares the various Berlin bus tours available and will help you decide which bus tour, if any, is best for you or your family.  You will see lots of tourist buses circling Berlin, not all were created equal. We’ve laid out the different bus tours, pricing and what you get for your money to help you choose the best tour for you.  We’ll point out the pros and cons of bus tours. We’ve also included information about one of Berlin’s best-kept secrets, an “almost-free” self-guided bus tour of Berlin.  (en español)

Who offers the best Hop-On/Hop-off bus tour?

‘Almost’ free self-guided bus tour of Berlin

Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tours of Berlin

Pros and cons of taking a hop-on, hop-off tour

 

 

Hop-on, Hop Off Tours of Berlin

What exactly is a “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour? Let’s call them Ho/Hos for short. Ho/Hos are bus tours offered by different companies that have its own buses circling the city along a particular route all day long. There are designated stops and riders can use their ticket to jump off the bus at any stop and get back on a different bus at a later time at any designated stop included in your ticket’s route. Some people opt to stay on the bus from the first stop to the last. In that case, the duration of most tours will be about 2-3 hours.

If you do choose to hop off at whichever locations interest you the most, your day will certainly be longer than 2 hours. You can make your day as long as you want by hopping on and off buses throughout the city. However, your ticket is only valid for the number of days included in your ticket price (generally 1 or 2 days) and only during the operating hours of the bus tour you’ve chosen. Most companies over a few different routes and you can buy a ticket for one route, two routes or however many they sell as a combined ticket.

Now that you know what a Ho/Ho is, is it worth taking one? Continue reading below the video to find out.

 

Who offers the best Hop-On/Hop-off bus tour?

Before buying a Ho/Ho tour ticket, you should note that many of these companies’ yours are included in the various tourist passes. Our post  Which is the Best Berlin Tourist Pass? can help you decide if getting a pass is the right thing for you.

 


BERLIN CITY SIGHTSEEING TOUR City Sightseeing Bus

This very popular double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus tour company offers several tour routes you can build into a package. Several extra features make these tours an excellent choice.

They have 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read some of the reviews) with over 700 reviews. Many of the reviews mention that these tours are a good value for your money, given the amount of territory you cover, especially if you buy a 2 day ticket with several routes. The biggest complaints are the inconsistency of the live guides. Some live guides are described in reviews as “excellent” and “informative.”  One guide was described as “personal, knowledgeable, kind, considerate and super smart!” Other reviewers describe some live guides as “rude” “moody” “grouchy” “unengaging” and even “reading a script from an iPad.”  It’s clearly luck of the draw when you take a tour with a live guide. As for the pre-recorded commentary, most people found it informative but average. On the plus side, this company offers the pre-recorded commentary in 9 languages.

Tour features: CitySightseeing Green Bus

Live guides speaking English and German on most tours   This company provides a live guide who delivers commentary in English and German. For a live guide, look for the green/beige buses.

CitySightseeing Red busPre-recorded commentary in several languages on most tours   You’ll get a set of  headphones at the start of the tour so you can listen in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, and Chinese. For these tours, be sure to get on the red buses.

Two free walking tours offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (from April to October)  If you take tours on the above days, you have the choice to get off the bus and take free one-hour walking tours. One tour is about the Third Reich  and the other is about the Berlin Wall.  (Check out our self-guided tour of Nazi Berlin and also our posts about where to visit the Berlin Wall.)

Tours offered:

Classic Tour – Route A

As its name suggests, this tour covers Berlin’s iconic attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate,
Checkpoint Charlie, the Berliner Dom and passes through several neighborhoods including Mitte, the center of Berlin. The route makes 13 stops. Here’s a google map of the bus route with the stops and the many attractions located around the bus stops.  Duration: If you do not hop off, the tour is 2 hours long. Hours of operation: The first tour departs at 9:10 am and runs every 10 minutes until – 4:30 pm.

Wall and Lifestyle Tour – Route B

This route makes 11 stops including the Berlin Wall Memorial, the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall and a stop in the trendy and pretty Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood with lots of charming cafes and galleries. (And one of the most famous currywurst stands in Berlin!).   Here’s a google map of the bus route with the stops and the many attractions located around the bus stops.

Duration: If you do not hop off the tour is 2 hours long. Hours of operation: The first tour departs at 10:00 am and runs every 30 minutes until 4:000 pm.

Ticket prices: 

For either of the above tours, you can buy tickets on the bus but if you purchase your tickets online you will save money. Click here to purchase tickets.  Your ticket is valid for one day. (Prices as of June  2016):

  • 1 Day Ticket – €19 – Adults | €17 – Seniors/Students/Military | €10 – Child
  • 2 Day Ticket – €30 – Adults | €30 – Seniors/Students/Military | €15 – Child
  • Children under 6 years of age are free of charge
  • WelcomeCard and CityTourCard holders and guests of special partners (proof required)  14 €  (13 € online)

Westend Tour – Route C

This tour is offered only from April to October and does not have recorded commentary, but there is a live guide who speaks both English & German. This tour has 5 stops so you won’t be hopping off too much, but instead you’ll be riding through attractive residential areas and down the famous Ku’damm. The tour features highlights such as Charlottenburg Palace, the Radio Tower and the Olympic Stadium. You can also climb the Bell Tower in the Olympic Park for a breath-taking view of Berlin.  Duration: If you do not hop off the tour is 2 hours long.  Hours of Operation: The first tour departs at 10:00 am and runs every 60 minutes until 2:000 pm. If you do not hop off the tour is 2 hours long.

Ticket Price: 
You can buy tickets on the bus but if you purchase your tickets online you will save money. Click here to purchase tickets.  Your ticket is valid for one day. (Prices as of June  2016):

  • Adults 19 € (18 € online)
  • Children (aged 6 to 14) 10 € (9 € online)
  • Children under 6 years of age are free of charge
  • Reduced (proof required) Senior citizens, students, military, etc. 17 € (16 € online)
  • WelcomeCard and CityTourCard holders and guests of special partners (proof required)  14 €  (13 € online)

Combine tours and save money:

A great way to save money by mixing and matching from any of these 3 tours. You get two days rather than one to use your ticket. So you have plenty of time to op-on, hop-off and take both of the free walking tours included in the cost of your ticket. Check out their website to see the offered combinations and prices.

Overall, taking a Berlin City Sightseeing Tour can be a great value if you opt for a combo tour tickets which gives you two days, multiple routes, two free walking tours and discounts to other attractions. If you take advantage of all they have to offer, it’s a great deal.

 


TEMPLEHOFER BUS TOURS Templehofer Bus Tours

You’ll see this company’s all-white double-decker buses circling Berlin all day long, with live guides providing entertaining commentary to the riders. They cover one route that can be taken as a hop-on, hop-off tour with a ticket that lasts for one day or as a stay-on tour, in which case the whole route takes around 2 hours.

NOTE: A 24 hour ticket with this bus is included for free with a purchase of the Berlin Pass.  (Get 10% all Berlin Pass options in December with code DEC10)

What makes this tour stand out among so many is that they have a live tour guide on board that gives commentary in German and English throughout the ride. Often, live guides can make a tour much better than one with a recorded commentary, though it depends on your guide. On the company’s website they have received 4 stars form 236 English speaking guests and 4 ½ stars from over 1,200 German reviewers. On TripAdvisor this tour is rated at 3 stars but with only 56 reviews. One TripAdvisor recent reviewer wrote: “The tour guide… was not only informative, but added so much to the tours that we were glad we got the “live” tour than one with just headphones.”  Whereas another guest wrote “No head phones, you have to listen to a guide trying to rush information out in two languages…Pick a hop on hop off bus with a computer guide.”

A great added bonus is that Templehofer partners with some of Berlin’s most popular attractions including Madame Tussauds Berlin or the AquaDom & SEA LIFE Berlin, Berlin Dungeon and LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre.

Hours of operation:  Tours start every day at 09:30 from all stops. End time is based on season-  From 01 November to 31 March, buses run until 17:00, every 20-30 minutes (every 15-20 minutes on Saturdays). Start your tour no later than 14:30 to make sure you have time to enjoy the full length of the tour. On 24 December, buses stop traveling at 15:00 so you must begin the tour by 12:30 in order to be able to see everything.

Ticket Prices: (Payment can be made in Euros, Dollars and Pounds).  Bookings are handled through Get Your Guide. These are the prices when you book online, as of June 2016:

  • Adults 17 €
  • Children 1-6 years old 15 €
  • Children under 6 free
  • Seniors, students, military with ID 15 €

 


CITY CIRCLE SIGHTSEEING

BBS City Circle Sightseeing Bus

These yellow double-decker buses are operated by several different companies including BBS Berlin, BVB (Bus Verkehr Berlin), Grayline, BEX Sightseeing, Berolina).  Given the poor ratings on TripAdvisor (over 320 reviews and only 2 ½ stars) it seems wise to steer clear of these yellow buses. Over 33% of guests who left reviews on TripAdvisor said the tour was “Average” “Poor” or “Terrible”. With reviews like “Not That Bad” and “Worst bus tour we’ve experienced” check out your other options first.

Tour Features: 

Their Berlin Basics route covers the standard tourist sites with 18 stops. They advertise that buses leave every 10-15 minutes, which is a fairly short interval between buses. None of their tours have live guides, however their pre-recorded audio comes in 19 languages.  This is a a big plus if one of those 19 languages is your native tongue. Be warned that some of the biggest complaints in reviews are over the poor quality of the audio system.

This company’s tours might be worth it if you are a family with young children since you can purchase a 2-day family ticket for € 56 total and covers two adults and three children (14 years and under). In this case, you would be paying about €11 per person for two days of hopping on and off. The little ones might also appreciate that the buses offer a children’s audio channel in German and English. However, 50% of families who reviewed the tour on TripAdvisor rated this company as “terrible”.

Ticket Prices (as of June 2016):

  • Adult (15 years and up) 1 Day ticket € 20 / 2 day ticket € 24
  • Children 7–14 years 1 day ticket € 10 / 2 day ticket € 14
  • Children 0–6 years free
  • Family ticket 1 day ticket € 48 / 2 day ticket € 56

Special seasonal tours

Every October, you can take their Berlin Lights Night Bus Tour to see  the city’s monuments and sights lit up spectacularly during the annual Festival of Lights. Tickets cost 14 € Adults, 7 € Children 7-14 years.

From late November until late December they offer a Christmas Holiday Lights Night Bus tour that takes you to see the Christmas lights on the famous Kurfürstendamm boulevard. There are stops at Christmas markets to shop for handmade crafts, including the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Christmas Market where you will enjoy a complimentary glass of mulled wine. Tickets cost 14 € Adults,  7 € Children 7-14 years.

STADTRUNDFAHRTBUERO BERLIN SIGHTSEEING  Staftrundfahrburo Berlin Bus
Apparently the color yellow is a jinx in Berlin. These yellow buses have even worse reviews than City Circle Sightseeing, rated at 1 ½ stars. The comments say it all:  “Worst in four countries ”, “Absolutely appalling ” and finally “BIG MISTAKE!!!”   If for some reason you feel compelled to take this tour, they offer a 2½-hour tour (€15) and 1¾-hour tour (€12) at 10:15, 10:45, 11, 11:30, 1 pm, and 1:30 pm, 3 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm. A guide narrates in both German and English.

 

Pros and cons of taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour

Pros: 

  • Save travel time in between sights    Berlin is a huge city and its many attractions are spread out in different neighborhoods. While it is easy to use public transportation in Berlin (see our post Tips on public transportation in Berlin) traveling to multiple locations in one day to see the most popular sights will cut into your time. This is probably the biggest pro of taking a bus tour. Rather than getting on and off public transportation all day long and having to pay attention to make sure you are in the right train or bus and getting off at the correct station, a Ho/Ho simplifies this process. You buy one ticket, let the driver do his or her job and take you directly to the main attractions where you can hop off and explore more, or sit back and continue the ride.
  • Create your own itinerary  The various Berlin bus tour companies offer basically the same Ho/Ho routes covering the historic city center, the Brandenburg gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, the Reichstag and its dome, and more. Taking a Ho/Ho tour is like giving yourself an unlimited bus pass to the attractions in Berlin. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary in advance or be spontaneous. Hop off the bus and stay as long as you like at one sight and breeze past the sights that don’t interest you by staying on the bus.
  • Orient yourself to Berlin  Another pro of taking a Ho/Ho is that you get a great overview of the city and can orient yourself.  If you are visiting for several days, taking a Ho/Ho on your first day of travel gives you a feel for what’s out there. Then you can decide where you would like to go back to and explore in depth.
  • Discounts to other attractions  Some bus companies have partner affiliations that will get you discounts at major attractions, like Madame Tussauds Berlin or LegoLand. All you need to do is show your bus ticket at the attraction to receive the discount.
  • Connecting with free walking tours  A few Ho/Ho companies offer walking tours that work in tandem with their bus route. At certain stops at specific times, you can meet up with one of their walking tours. You just need to show your valid bus ticket to join.  You can also coordinate your bus tour hop-off choices to correspond with one of our free walking tour starting points. Our walking tours are twice as long as those included in your Ho/Ho ticket and are also free so why not check out all our offerings?  Click here for our full list of pay-what-you-wish Berlin Walking Tours.

Cons:

  • Mediocre live guides or no live guide at all  Not all Ho/Hos have a live guide on the bus with you to narrate your trip. Unless you speak English or German, you will be likely receiving commentary about the sights via headphones listening to pre-recorded commentary in your language. The commentary is fine, but it’s not the same as a live, spontaneous and, hopefully, enthusiastic guide on your bus. And live guides can be a hit or miss – some may be amazing and others can spoil an otherwise nice bus ride!
  • Traffic Street conditions are not controllable, and it’s possible that rather than saving time, your day might be slowed down depending on traffic.
  • Sights are tourist-y This is perfect for a traveler who wants an overview of the most well-known Berlin attractions. But if you prefer seeing sights that are off the beaten track and don’t plan on taking advantage of the discounts to other tourist attractions, a hop-on, hop-off tour may not be for you.

 

‘Almost’ free, self-guided Hop-on/Hop-off Tour of Berlin

Berlin Bus 100

For those travelers on a tight budget, Berlin’s public bus Routes 100 and 200 are a dream come true.  Both bus routes stop in front of (or within easy walking distance to) many popular sights in central Berlin.  If you don’t mind forgoing live or recorded tourist commentary, you can save big and see lots with this resourceful self-made hop-on, hop-off bus tour.  All you need is a regularly priced bus ticket.

A single ticket for zones A&B costs €2.70 and is good for 2 hours from the time you purchased it. However, these single tickets allow you to travel only one-way. This means that, even if your trip lasts less than 2 hours, you will need to buy another single ticket to go back in the other direction, if you need to. Since you are probably spending all day sightseeing, it might be worth getting a day-ticket for €7.00 (AB). See our post Tips on Public Transportation in Berlin  to find out about fare options available.

Both the 100 and 200 bus depart from the Zoologischer Garten station approximately every 10 minutes. Both buses follow the same route at first, passing by Breitscheidsplatz where what’s left of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) sits as reminder of the destruction caused by World War II. Shortly thereafter, the buses part ways and continue along different routes. Bus 100 goes through Tiergarten park, while Bus 200 travels along the southern edge of the park and then past the Kulturforum and Potsdamer Platz.

Berlin Bus 200

At the intersection of Unter den Linden and Glinkastraße, Bus 200 converges with Bus 100 and travels along the same route. They both travel past many of the places you are sure to want to see such as Museum Island and the Berliner Dom (Cathedral).  The 100 bus terminates at Alexanderplatz. The entire journey takes approximately 30 minutes.

Bus 200 has a stop at Alexanderplatz but does not terminate there. The 200 continues another 15 minutes into the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood and what used to be communist East Berlin and then terminates at Michael Angelostraße. There’s plenty to do see in East Berlin and exploring by foot is the best way to do it. Join one of our pay-what-you-wish walking tours   or use our Self-guided tour of East Berlin.

 

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Written by Courtney Shapiro

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