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. We point out the pros and cons of bus tours and have included an “almost-free” self-guided bus tour of Berlin. (en español)
- Hop-on-Hop-off Tours
- Potsdam Bus Tours
- Pros and Cons
- ‘Almost’ Free Self-Guided Option
- Free Tours by Foot
Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tours of Berlin
These are the double-decker, open-top bus tours offered by different companies that have its own buses circling the city along a particular route all day long. There have designated stops and riders can use their ticket to jump off the bus at any stop and get back on at the same or a different bus stop.
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 offer a few different routes and you can buy a ticket for one route, two routes or however many they sell as a combined ticket.
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.
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.
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.
Pre-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.)
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.
Click on the map to enlarge.
The route takes 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.
For either of the above tours, you can buy tickets on the bus but if you purchase your tickets online you will save money.
- 1 Day Ticket – €22 – Adults | €20 – Seniors/Students/Military | €11 – Child
- 2 Day Ticket – €26 – for all age groups from 6 and up.
- Children under 6 years of age are free of charge
- Click here to purchase tickets.
WelcomeCard and CityTourCard holders and guests of special partners (proof required) 14 € (13 € online)
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.
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 TripAdvisor, this tour is rated at 3 out of 5 stars but with only 91 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 headphones, 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.
(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 19 €
- Children 1-6 years old 15 €
- Children under 6 free
- Seniors, students, military with ID 17 €
- More information or to purchase.
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.
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 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.
DISCOUNTS AND COMBO DEALS
There are a few different ways to save money on bus tours in Berlin. This section will provide all the details you need to get a discount either with a tourist pass or a combo package. For more details, check out our post about Berlin discount cards.
Purchasing a discount pass is a great way to save money on bus tours. In addition, some passes include a metro card which you can use to get around town. Whether you want to take a guided bus tour or guide yourself through the city, you may want to consider one of the following options.
The Berlin Pass – This card includes a free one-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour through Templehofer Bus Tours.
The Berlin Pass is what we call an all-inclusive tourist pass. In addition to the free bus tour, you also get free public transport, free access to dozens of museums, popular attractions, and other sightseeing tours. Click the link above for more detail.
The Berlin Welcome Card – You can use this card to get a free one-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour from City Circle Sightseeing.
The Berlin Welcome Card is available as either an all-inclusive pass or an a-la-carte option. This means that you can pay one flat price for many different services or pay for only the activities you want. Attractions include free admission to popular museums, boat tours, and public transport.
Easy City Pass – Rather than offering a bus tour, this pass will give you a travel card that you can use on the subway, bus, tram and regional train.
This is what we call a discount card. In addition to the travel card, you will also receive discounts at several popular attractions throughout Berlin. Receive up to 50% off at dozens of notable attractions, tours, restaurants, and bars.
Berlin City Pass – This discount pass includes both a one-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour and a travel card.
The Berlin City Pass is essentially a discount card, but it provides access to a few additional services for free. In addition to discounts on several tours and attractions, pass holders will also get free admission to Reichstag Palace, skip-the-line access to the TV Tower and an airport transfer.
These services can be a great deal if you’re planning on seeing a lot of different things while visiting Berlin. If all you want is a bus tour or you’re working with a limited amount of time, you may want to consider a combo package instead.
The most common combo package available in Berlin is a bus + boat tour. This deal includes both a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a cruise down the Spree river.
- €28.45/Adults | €19.15/Children
- €25.85/Seniors & Students
- 1-day hop-on, hop-off bus tour
- 1 boat tour on river Spree
- €28.99/Adults | €14.49/Children
- 1 or 2-day hop-on, hop-off bus tour
- 1 boat tour on river Spree
In addition to these options, Templehofer tours also provide combos which include attractions such as Madame Tussauds, the Berlin Dungeon and the German Spy Museum.
POTSDAM BUS TOURS
If you’re considering a day trip to Potsdam, you may want to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the area. City Sightseeing offers a service which has 12 different stops. This is a great option for people who are short on time and want to see all of the popular attractions in Potsdam. Here are some of the historic sites you can see on this tour:
- Cecilienhof Place
- Filmmuseum Potsdam
- The Dutch Quarter
- And More!
Tickets for this hop-on, hop-off bus tour are very affordable. The tour is offered in a total of 7 different languages. Your ticket will be valid for use at any time within 3 months of the purchase date. For more details, make sure to read our Potsdam bus tours post.
ALTERNATIVE BERLIN BUS TOURS
If a hop-on, hop-off bus tour isn’t your style, you may still want to consider another service. It’s important to note that most of these alternative bus tours will not allow you to jump off at specific sites and take a look around. Instead, you can expect to stay on the bus for most of your trip as a professional guide provides information about Berlin.
Ticket prices are usually pretty affordable, and some options even give the hop-on, hop-off companies a run for their money. You can expect a variety of services including a comedy bus tour, VW bus tour, video bus tour and even a karaoke bus tour. If you’re interested in a private outing, you can also get a private bus or limousine tour around the city.
Click here for a full list of alternative Berlin bus tours.
PROS AND CONS OF TAKING A HOP-ON-HOP-OFF BUS TOUR
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 advantage 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 advantage 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.
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!
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 touristy
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 BUS TOUR OF BERLIN
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 (unless you have a daily/weekly travel pass).
Since you are probably spending all day sightseeing, it might be worth getting a day-ticket for €9.00 (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 (though you could also start this tour from Alexander Platz and do the tour in reverse order).
Both buses follow the same route at first, passing by Breitscheidsplatz where what’s left of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), which serves as a 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.
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 if you don’t get off.
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.
Written by Courtney Shapiro