Open Data Knowledge

HOW TO: Downloading data from Berlin's geospatial data portal

Alexandra Kapp (@lxndrkp) | 31/01/2019

The FIS-Broker is a real treasure trove for open geodata from Berlin. It is not easy to use though, especially not for beginners. At ODIS, we get regular requests from people who wonder how to access all these beautiful datasets. In the following post, our geodata expert Alexandra Kapp offers a quick guide on how to download Berlin's geospatial data for your own purposes. Have fun exploring!

The FIS-Broker is Berlin's geospatial data portal. All publicly available, spatially-oriented datasets are published here, e.g. bicycle lanes, school locations or living and green spaces. The data is visualized with maps and corresponding information is provided as a table. However, often there is the need to further process the data (for example, to filter it to only specific regions or data of interest), or maybe you want to combine the spatial data with other types of data. Unfortunately, it isn't possible simply click a button and obtain a GeoJson or CSV file via the FIS-Broker (something many would-be users of the data look for and are confused when they can't find it). Instead, the FIS-Broker provides a URL for a WFS server. The following article provides instructions on how to download the data via the WFS server URL, allowing users to convert the data into more familiar data formats for further use.

Data download with QGIS

There are various possibilities to download data from a WMS/WFS server. Programmers can use this Python Package from the OK Labs Berlin or this R Code. For non-coders we recommend using the open source software QGIS, which can be downloaded here free of charge. Subsequently, the data can be used for creating custom maps in QGIS, or it can be exported as GeoJson, shapefile, GML or CSV.

Step by step instructions:

In QGIS, select "Layer > Add Layer" and click on "Add WFS-Layer" or select the icon in the left menu bar.

add new WFS-Layer

Add new WFS-Layer

A new window with the existing sever connections will open. Create a new server connection.

add new server connection

Add new server connection

A new window will open that asks for the server URL. Search within the FIS-Broker for the desired data set. In this example, we're using a dataset of school locations. In the right-hand menu bar of the FIS-Broker, below the heading "Datenbereitstellung", click on "zum Downloaddienst (WFS)". It is important to select the WFS Link because the WMS Link only leads to a raster graphic without vector data or additional attributes.

data set in the FIS-Broker

Dataset in the FIS-Broker

Clicking this link opens a new window with the information about the WFS server. We need the URL located at "Rechneradresse".

download details in the FIS-Broker

Download details in the FIS-Broker

Copy the "Rechneradresse" into the URL field of the previously opened window "Connection Details" in QGIS. The name can be chosen arbitrarily, and the other fields can remain empty. Then, confirm with "OK".

insert connection details

insert connection details

Click on "Connect" to connect to the server. The name of the data set should appear in the table below. Add the data with a button click on "Add".

connect to server

Connect to server

In case the dataset is not shown, "refresh" the browser panel by clicking on the arrow symbol.

refresh Browser Panel

Refresh browser panel

The layer of the dataset should now be visible in the browser panel within the "WFS" tab.

refreshed Browser Panel

Refreshed browser panel

With a double click or drag and drop of the data set into the Layer Panel the data should appear in the map view. In this example we can now see all schools in Berlin. QGIS offers various options to edit or enhance the appearance of your map. For example, a map can be laid underneath the existing map, the visualization of the data points can be edited, or another layer can be added (e.g., the district borders). For a more detailed guide on what you can do with QGIS, Sebastian Meier (member of the Ideation & Prototyping Lab team) created an elaborate QGIS introductory guide (available only in German) that can be downloaded for free.

The attributes of the data can be viewed directly in QGIS by right clicking on the Layer and selecting "Open Attribute Table".

Open Attribute Table

Open attribute table

AAttribute Table

Viewing an attribute table

With a right click on the layer and selecting "Save as ...", the data can be saved in various other formats (shapefile, GeoJson, GML, CSV, etc.).

save Layer as ...

Save layer as ...


Save in desired format

Alexandra Kapp

About the author

Alexandra Kapp

Alexandra Kapp is an Open Data researcher at the Technologiestiftung Berlin. She studied Computing in the Humanities at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg. She focuses on how geo spatial data can effectively be provided as Open Data.