This page contains detailed descriptions on how to get to the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ). Potsdam lies some 20 kilometres to the south-west of the centre of Berlin, just outside the border of the former West Berlin. It's well connected to Berlin and its railway stations and airports, and straightforward to get to via public transportation.
The Potsdam main railway station (Hauptbahnhof / Hbf.) is used as the reference destination for directions given here, since it's near the hotels and the meeting site itself. Directions are then given for getting from the Hauptbahnhof to the hotels, and from the Hauptbahnhof to the GFZ meeting site on the Telegrafenberg.
The information given here includes the following items:
Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to print out this whole document and just carry it around with you in case you get lost.
If you have any questions concerning getting to Potsdam that are not addressed here, such as renting a car and driving from one of the airports to Potsdam (not a recommended option really, since there's no need), then please send an email to Katrin Weisse to get some help.
Berlin has three airports, but unfortunately as yet, not a major international one. Thus, most people arriving from overseas will probably arrive elsewhere in Germany, perhaps Frankfurt, Munich, or Düsseldorf, and then connect on a short commuter flight to Berlin. If this is the case, and if you have a choice, then your best bet is to take a flight to Tegel (TXL), since that is the easiest to get to Potsdam from. However, if your flights arrive at either Tempelhof (THF) or Schönefeld (SXF), then don't despair: getting to Potsdam is straightforward in any case.
A taxi from any of the airports to Potsdam will cost you anywhere from DM70 to DM120 depending on which airport you arrive at and which taxi driver you get. Since the taxi will be leaving the Berlin city limits, the price is in principle negotiable, but unless your German is good, I wouldn't count on it. A taxi should take anywhere from 35 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of day and thus commuting traffic.
Fortunately, the public transportation system is much cheaper, and you can be at the main station in Potsdam within an hour or so from any of the airports.
Look for a waiting bus no. 109: it should be to your left as you exit the terminal. If it's not there now, it soon will be: busses go every 10 minutes during the day. Stamp your ticket in the little machine when you get on to validate it.
Take the 109 to the Charlottenburg S-Bahn station. It's about 12-15 minutes ride from Tegel. The busses have illuminated signs on board showing the next stop and/or the driver announces them. Don't be fooled by "Schloss Charlottenburg" however, which will come up a few minutes before the Charlottenburg S-Bahn station.
You'll get off the bus about 80m before the S-Bahn station. Walk to the station, which is on the same side of the road, making sure you still have your ticket, which is valid for the whole journey.
Walk through the doors of the station and up the stairs in front of you. The first set of stairs on your right will then lead up to the appropriate platform, i.e., you're looking for the S7 line, which is signposted to and from Ahrensfelde and Potsdam Hauptbahnhof. You need to stand on the righthand side of the platform, looking as you come up the stairs, to catch the train the right direction.
Take the S7 train to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof. They come every 10 minutes during the day. Other trains such as the S5, S3, and S75 also come to the same platform; don't take any of them.
Take the S7 all the way to the end station, i.e., to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, which takes about 25 minutes. Keep your ticket on you in case one of the plainclothes controllers gets on (they never seem to on this line, since it goes through the rich suburbs, where DM4.50 is too small a sum to bother cheating over).
When you reach Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, leave the station following the directions given above, and make your way to your hotel. Total travel time from Tegel to Potsdam is about 45-60 minutes, depending on your luck with regards waiting for busses and trains.
(From Tegel, you can also take the X9 express bus to the Zoologischer Garten station, and from there a RegionalExpress to Potsdam. This might be a little quicker if you hit the connections right, but in general, the rather complicated and seedy Bahnhof Zoo is to be avoided unless you're a local and you've had a recent tetanus jab).
Go down into the U-Bahn station and buy your chosen ABC zone ticket (see above) from a ticket machine (I don't know if there is a ticket office at that station). Validate the ticket in one of the little red machines on the platform before you get on the train, and keep the ticket for the duration of your journey to Potsdam.
Get on a train in the direction "Alt-Tegel": don't get on one going in the wrong direction, to "Alt-Mariendorf". The trains go every 5 minutes during the day. Travel six stops to Friedrichstrasse (about 8 minutes), and then get off. Friedrichstrasse is a big complicated station, and it'd be too much to ask to direct you around it: things are pretty well signposted though.
Basically however, you want to go up to the top of the station, since you're now going to take an overground train, either the S7 S-Bahn or a RegionalExpress. At Friedrichstrasse, these trains run on elevated tracks above the streets.
The S7 S-Bahn trains to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof go every 10 minutes during the day and take 42 minutes to get to Potsdam, the final station on the line, stopping at quite a few stations along the way. The big red double-decker RegionalExpress trains go roughly three times an hour during the day, at irregular spacings: they stop much less frequently, and will get you to Potsdam in roughly 25 minutes.
In general therefore, it's probably worth waiting for the next RegionalExpress. Keep in mind however that Potsdam is not the last station on its journey and different trains go to different destinations, and that not every RegionalExpress that leaves from Friedrichstrasse goes to Potsdam. So you'll need to be sure you're getting on the right train: ask someone.
In any case, your original ticket is valid on both the S-Bahn and RegionalExpress: you will definitely get asked to show it on the RegionalExpress.
On arrival at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, follow the directions given above to leave the station. Total travel time from Tempelhof to Potsdam is somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes, depending on your choice of train and luck with connections.
First option: The AirportExpress leaves every 30 minutes, at 10 and 40 minutes past the hour: the former is the RE5 train, and the latter the RE4. Both stop just five times, and reach the Zoologischer Garten station in 33 minutes. From there you can either connect to a RegionalExpress or the S7 S-Bahn to Potsdam (you're on your own here: it's a complicated station), and arrive in Potsdam roughly 15 or 30 minutes later respectively.
Second option: Take the direct RegionalBahn train RB22 from Schönefeld to Potsdam, routing south of Berlin. These leave every hour at 55 minutes past the hour, and take 55 minutes to Potsdam, stopping about ten times.
Third option: Every twenty minutes during the day (at 04, 24, and 44 minutes past the hour), the S45 S-Bahn train leaves this end station and goes in the direction of Westend. However, you will want to get off at Westkreuz, two stops before Westend. This takes 44 minutes and 18 stops. Once at Westkreuz, you need to change to the S7 line going to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof: these leave every ten minutes during the day, and take 24 minutes. At Westkreuz, I think you need to change platforms from the upstairs S45 line to the downstairs S7 line.
Your total travel time will have been about 70-90 minutes depending on the connections.
The Potsdam Hauptbahnhof is a main line station, and many normal RegionalExpress and Intercity trains going between Berlin and Magdeburg and beyond stop there. Unfortunately, these days rather few of the faster ICE (Inter City Express) trains from Hannover do, since the construction of a new high-speed line into Berlin that goes via Spandau. In many cases, therefore, if you're travelling from elsewhere in Germany by train, you should consider taking an ICE straight to the Zoologischer Garten station in Berlin, before reversing your route with a RegionalExpress or S7 S-Bahn back to Potsdam. This could be quicker than getting off the ICE in (say) Wolfsburg and then taking a slow train direct to Potsdam. You can check the Deutsche Bahn on-line timetable (in English) for a full listing of all trains arriving in Berlin and Potsdam that fit your schedule. (Indeed, this site has an excellent interface to the train timetables for many European countries).
Once you arrive at the Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, follow the instructions given above in order to leave the station and get to your hotel most conveniently.
This is easy. When you exit the Hauptbahnhof as described above, it's 2 stops with any tram to the city (in the same direction as the train you just came with), or 10 min walk: Proceed along the station building to the right and after 100 m you'll find yourself on the Lange Brücke, a broad road bridge over the railway lines at the Havel river. From the bridge, you should be able to see the Hotel Mercure easily, an isolated highrise tower just at the end of the bridge on the lefthand side. If you have a lot of luggage and want to take a taxi, then you'll find them parked outside the Hauptbahnhof at the left side.
When you exit the Hauptbahnhof as described above, you'll find yourself in front of a tram stop. Take a no. 98 tram in the direction of the centre of Potsdam, i.e., in the same direction as the train you just came with. The tram will take roughly 10 minutes to reach the Schillerplatz/Schafgraben stop where the art'otel is. If you have a lot of luggage and want to take a taxi, then you'll find them parked outside the Hauptbahnhof at the left side.
When you exit the Hauptbahnhof as described above, you'll find yourself in front of a tram stop. Take a no. 96 or 98 tram in the direction of the centre of Potsdam, i.e., in the same direction as the train you just came with. The tram will take roughly 5 minutes to reach the Luisenplatz stop where the Steigenberger is.
If you have a lot of luggage and want to take a taxi, then you'll find them parked outside the Hauptbahnhof at the left side.
From the station to GFZ it's a 15 min walk or a short taxi ride. The meeting will be held in the new lecture hall and seminar centre (building H) of the science park "Albert Einstein" at Telegrafenberg (Telegraph Hill), just outside the centre of Potsdam. The Telegrafenberg was the home, e.g., to the former Royal Geodetic Institute and is the location of the famous Einstein Turm (Einstein Tower; a solar observatory built in a distinctive expressionist architectural style). The main institutes belonging to the science park "Albert Einstein" are GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ), the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP), the Research Unit Potsdam of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Meteorological Observatory Potsdam (DWD/MOP).
The Telegrafenberg is just on the other side of the Lange Brücke from the Hotel Mercure, i.e., you'd cross the bus station and Friedrich-Engels-Strasse if you were coming out of the Hauptbahnhof. To the right you'll see a complex mess of roads coming together. Basically you need to go straight ahead, cross Heinrich-Mann-Allee and proceed onto Brauhausberg, which starts up the hill. Then, a further 50 metres later, you'll hook left then immediately right onto Albert Einstein Strasse. This all sounds a bit difficult, but actually it's straightforward.
Continue uphill along the more or less straight Albert-Einstein-Strasse. After a few hundred metres, the houses run out and you'll be in the woods of the Telegrafenberg. There are several modern buildings and institutes on the right, but keep going until the road flattens out at the top, and there'll be an old brick gateway on the right: this is the entrance to the main site. From there, either follow the map or ask one of the guards at the front gate: it's another two or three minutes on foot at most.
I timed the whole walk at about 15 minutes at a gentle saunter in 35C weather. A taxi could be hailed as an alternative in inclement weather.