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Die Stadt: German Vocabulary for Getting Around Town

By Gillian Hendrie

Learn vocabulary to help you get around in a German-speaking area. Ask for and understand directions to specific places around town.

Getting Started

Obviously you're planning to buy a map, right? But first you have to find your way to the taxi rank / bus stop / bathroom / map shop! Knowing a few phrases to ask for directions and, crucially, to understand the directions given to you, will save you a lot of time, trouble and embarrassment.

In the pronunciation guide for the German words and phrases below, the following characters have been used:

  • X - the guttural "ch" sound (pronounced as in "loch" in Scotland)
  • ö - like "eau" in French

Apart from these, the pronunciation given should be read as for English.

Note that β is a special symbol used in some words (according to grammatical rules) for "double s".

Excuse Me ...

First of all, you need to get someone's attention.

  • "Entschuldigen Sie bitte" [ent-SHOOL-di-gin zee bi-ttu] (formal and polite, to one or more adults) and
  • "Entschuldigung" [ent-SHOOL-di-goong] (to anyone)

Both mean "Excuse me."

Asking the Questions

The nicest way of asking for directions is:

  • Wie komme ich am besten nach / in (+ town or area name) ? or
  • Wie komme ich am besten zu / in (+ building or street name)?

[VEE kom-ma iX am bes-ten naX / tsoo ... ]

which translates as "What's the best way to...?" (literally: "How do I best get to ...?")

  • Wie komme ich am besten nach Berlin?
  • Wie komme ich am besten in die Stadtmitte*? ("die" words)
  • Wie komme ich am besten zur Kirche*? (Use "zur" with "die" words.)
  • Wie komme ich am besten zum Rathaus*? (Use "zum" with "der" and "das" words.)

Less used is:

  • Kennen Sie den Wag nach (+ town or area name) ? / zu (+ building or street name)?

[Ken-nun zee dayn vayg naX / tsoo ... ]

meaning "Do you know the way to ... ?"

  • Kennen Sie den Wag nach Wien ?
  • Kennen Sie den Wag zum Rathaus*?

* These words are listed in the "Destinations" section below.

Destinations

Here is a list of places you may want to visit (also available as a download).

  • die Bank = bank
  • das Café= café
  • der Campingplatz=campground
  • die Disko=disco, nightclub
  • der Dom=cathedral
  • das Freibad=open-air swimming pool
  • der Hauptbahnhof=main railway station
  • die Jugendherberge=youth hostel
  • das Hotel=hotel
  • das Kino= cinema
  • die Kirche=the church
  • das Krankenhaus=hospital
  • das Museum= museum
  • die Oper=opera house
  • der Park =park
  • der Platz=plaza, square
  • die Post = post office
  • das Rathaus=town hall
  • das Restaurant=restaurant
  • der Sportplatz=sports field
  • die Stadion=sports stadium
  • der Supermarkt= supermarket
  • das Theater=theatre
  • das Verkehrsamt=tourist information office

Streets and Other Characteristics

  • der Allee = avenue
  • die Autobahn = motorway
  • die Brücke= bridge
  • der Fluβ= river
  • die Fuβgängerzone=pedestrian zone
  • die Kreuzung=crossing, crossroads, intersection
  • der Parkplatz=car park, parking space
  • die Stadtmitte= the town centre
  • die Straβe= street
  • der Tunnel= tunnel
  • der Verkehrskreis= traffic circle, roundabout
  • das Zentrum*=the town centre

*sometimes spelled “Centrum”

(Get the list as a download.)

Understanding the Answers

  • I don't know = Ich weiβ nicht. [iX vice niXt]

Bad luck!

Hopefully you will hear something resembling the following:

  • geradeaus [ge-ra-du-ows] = straight ahead
  • links = on the left
  • rechts [reXts] = on the right

More Complex Answers

Turn ...

  • umkehren [oom-kay-rin] = turn around
  • links abbiegen [links ap-bee-gin] = turn left
  • rechts abbiegen [reXts ap-bee-gin] = turn right

Take this street

  • die erste Straβe links abbiegen/nehmen [dee er-stu stra-ssu links ap-bee-gin / nay-min] = take the first street on the left
  • die ........straβe entlang gehen, bis zu ....... [dee ... stra-ssu ent-lang gay-hin bis tsoo ...] = go along .... street until ......

Thanks!

  • danke [dan-ku] = thanks / thank you
  • danke schön [dan-ku shön] = thank you very much
  • danke sehr [dan-ku zayr] = thank you very much
  • vielen Dank [fee-lin dank] = many thanks
  • (in Austria) danke vielmals [dan-ku feel-mals] = thanks a lot

And Goodbye

  • auf Wiedersehen [owf vee-dir-zay-in] = goodbye
  • (in Austria) auf Wiederschauen [owf vee-dir-show-in] = goodbye
  • ciao / tschau [chow] = 'bye
  • tschüβ [choos] = 'bye