Hamburg’s subway, like many other German systems, is primarily split up into two parts: the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. U-Bahn essentially means “underground,” although it still goes above at points away from the city center. S-Bahn has a few different meanings, but the most common is “fast train between cities.” Again, that is not always the case. In Hamburg, the U1 goes farther up north than the S1, for example. Also, like many other German systems, the Hamburg subway revolves around the Hauptbahnhof (central station). All lines stop here, as well as regional trains. There is also a large mall of restaurants within the complex.

(Note, by the way, that this post as well as the subsequent Service Changes will have a lot of pictures, so there’s a jump break)

This is simply a cropped version of a terrible picture I took of the Hamburg subway map. It doesn’t look good, but I couldn’t find any maps on the internet with the U4.

I’m personally not a big fan of the Hamburg system map. It’s a little too angular for my taste, and it looks sort of ugly. However, I am a big fan of the system itself, because it’s so efficient. In Hamburg, door open buttons (used at Bowdoin on the MBTA) are used at every station. Tickets are not collected at all, although there are apparently random checks on occasion. It didn’t matter to us, since the hotel gave us free “Hamburg Cards,” which give you free access to public transit, as well as discounts at tourist attractions. But the best part of the system is the escalators: THEY DON’T MOVE UNLESS SOMEONE IS STANDING ON THEM! I absolutely love that! It’s so efficient!

Anyway, the ride from the airport is almost all above ground. The S1 has a short subway leaving the airport, and then it goes up at Olsdorf. It’s above ground for the rest of the ride, except for a small tunnel at Hauptbahnhof. The S1 trains are very nice both inside and out. They have the door open buttons, as I mentioned before, and on the inside of the trains the seats face forward rather than sideways. The seats face each other in groups, so there are backwards seats as well (uh-oh). The automatic announcements are mostly in German, although they are occasionally translated into English. It seems this only occurs at the important stations, however, such as the Hauptbahnhof or a terminus.

The S1 has maps on the ceiling.

A bit blurry, I guess.
There are also small trash areas between seats. I didn’t put that there.
The  S1 at Hauptbahnhof.
The S1 at the airport.

Admittedly, this sort of layout is probably less efficient than just lining up the seats along the train like we do on, say, the Red Line. However, I much prefer forward seats nonetheless, because they allow me to see out the window without craning my neck.

The S-Bahn’s above ground portion is mostly in an enclosed right-of-way…with LOTS of graffiti. It pretty much covers the entirety of the fences along the tracks. Other than the graffiti, in fact, there isn’t too much to see. You can interpret that however you want.

Get used to seeing this a lot.

It’s a bit blurry, but you can easily see the graffiti plastered right on the front of that train.

On the way to our hotel, we decided to make the transfer to the U4 at the Hauptbahnhof; big mistake. It was about a 10 minute walk to the U4 station, with microscopic signage. I don’t know if we did something wrong, but the trip took forever. When we were going back to the airport, we made the transfer at Jungfernstieg, which was much easier.

The huge Hauptbahnhof station.
A regional rail train.

The U4 is Hamburg’s newest line. It was opened in 2012 to Überseequartier in Hafen City, a massive docklands development. The U4 trains also utilize the door open buttons, and the interiors are pretty much the same as the S1 except for some strange color decisions. However, there are some interesting screens inside the trains that tell you the next station, as well as news. There are also maps on the ceiling, for some reason. The announcements are in both German and English on the U4. Also of note is the fact that if you stand up front, you can see the driver’s position as well as the tunnel beyond quite clearly. Unfortunately, the U4 only uses 4 car trains (the ridership probably isn’t that great yet), so your part of the platform might not get served.

Hauptbahnhof Nord, where the U4 goes.
The U4 at Hauptbahnhof Nord

This map must be very useful for people lying down.

The oddly-colored interior of the U4.

Überseequartier was the terminus of the U4 when we were there, but it turns out the line got extended one stop to HafenCity Universität just three days ago, on July 6th. It looks like a very beautiful station, with amazing lights that change colors over time. However, Überseequartier is also a very nice station. It’s a massive station at platform level, with huge lights in different shades of blue across the wall. Of course, there are no ticket machines, and the escalators are super efficient.
Overall, I liked Hamburg’s system very much. It was very efficient and convenient, although I still think that map is ugly. I’d love to go to some other German system, since Germany knows how to do public transit. But for now, I absolutely loved the Hamburg system, and I would come back here. Here are a few more pictures to wrap up.
Überseequartier is so beautiful!
Looking up into nowhere from Uberseequartier.
A Hamburg bus.
Why couldn’t OUR buses have countdown clocks?