Festive frolics in Berlin – the perfect Christmas city break
You can find almost 80, yes 80, Christmas Markets across this exciting city but alongside the gluhwein, traditional food and wooden decorations you will also find a challenging history, warming winter fayre and a distinct character that can only be found in Berlin. Viel Vergnügen!
We love to do a Christmas weekend city break at the start of December to get us in the Christmas mood and Berlin is a brilliant choice for anyone wanting to have lots of markets to choose from and other things to see when you reach your gluhwein limit! Historic sites like the Berlin Wall (the city recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of it coming down although sections still remain for you to see in many parts of the city), the Holocaust Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie tell of a past that is in stark contrast to the Christmas Cheer but somehow the contrast works as not only do you get to look back and acknowledge what has gone before, but you can also celebrate the now alongside the busy Berliners.
Top Tip – If you possibly can, visit during the week. We arrived on a Wednesday and left on a Saturday and the difference in crowds as the week progressed was huge – you have been warned!
Which Markets to visit?
There are so many to choose from with everything from ice rinks and fun fairs to Nordic themes and even a vegetarian one, I would definitely suggest visiting the city’s main tourism website for a full listing, but to give you a flavour, here are some of my favourite Christmas Markets in Berlin:
WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt – 11/24/2014 – 12/31/2014
This mini tent city illuminated with thousands of lights sits between the Französischer Dom, the Konzerthaus and the Deutscher Dom. Stylish and centrally located, the market is one of the most popular in the city and attracts over 60,000 visitors from around the world each year. This is one of the few markets that charges an entry fee (1 euro each) but it is well worth it.
There are the traditional stalls with gluhwein and German sausage but here you will also find craftspeople with high quality handmade goods ranging from orb shaped pepper mills and fine millenary through to exquisite silver jewellery and unusual leather pug faced handbags. Food here also extends beyond the typical and chefs offer an array of amazing treats. Then if you need a break from the crowds just step inside the large warm tent and take a seat in the market’s very own champagne bar – Prost!
Berlin’s longest open-air film marathon: Rühmann’s “Feuerzangenbowle” at Nikolaiviertel – 14/11/2014 til April 2015
Head to the Nikolaiviertel (one of the oldest quarters in Berlin) and join in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the movie “Die Feuerzangenbowle” directed by Heinz Rühmann.
Daily from 12pm onwards the whole Nikolaiviertel focusses on “Berliner Feuerzangenbowle and the famous movie. In front of the Nikolaikirche visitors can experience the magical atmosphere of a Feuerzangenbowle. (copper, nostalgia, fire, tradition, romance). The movie “Die Feuerzangenbowle” is screened multiple times during the day and you can watch it from the atmospheric and outdoor comfort of sofas with blankets and hot gluhwein. This is Berlins longest open air movie marathon which started on the 14th November and the movie classic will run for 52 days in total. Whilst we were there a small performance area was erected and the space erupted with Berlin Singers singing from the stage and dancing in the crowds – a very memorable evening!
Potsdamer Platz in the heart of the city is home to a gigantic winter wonderland throughout the festive season and there are lots of ways to enjoy it. Take a toboggan run with views of the Brandenburg Gate, don your skates at the outdoor skating rink, try a spot of curling or simply just shelter from the cold in one of the many gluhwein huts and soak up the atmosphere along with maybe a festive foody treat too. Come along at night and you can enjoy the apes-ski party with DJ’s from 7pm.
The Christmas market is all part of this from 24 November–26 December and is filled with festively decorated stalls selling crafts, leather and textile products and other gift ideas. The craft market hosts potters, woodcarvers, basket makers and bakers who invite you to look over their shoulders as they work. There are no excuses for buying relatives socks for Christmas if you’ve been here.
Special opening times: On Christmas Eve, the Christmas market and Winterwelt at Potsdamer Platz close at 2p.m
Fabelhafte Weihnachten – Fabulous Christmas
Whilst a relatively small market compared to many others in Berlin, this one is still well worth a visit as it is in and around the Sony Centre and the lights within the centre are fantastic. There are traditional stalls outside around the centre and inside you can shelter a little from the cold, enjoy the illuminations and something warming at one of the many cafes. When we visited we stumbled upon a small performance too with a fairy queen dancing for the crowd in a cloud of dry ice and enchanting the children as she sprinkled magical glitter in their hands.
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market
We stayed the Radisson Park Inn on Alexanderplatz and right on its doorstep is the huge Alexanderplatz Christmas Market. There are over a hundred small wooden huts during the festive season with a huge range of items from the traditional to the bizarre. Under the shadow of the huge TV Tower – potters, blacksmiths and glassblowers display their work and you can browse them all as you fill up on Christmas treats and the odd festive tipple or three!
The centrepiece of the market is Europe’s largest Christmas pyramid with more than 5,000 lights that radiates a very atmospheric glow to the crowds that pack in and around it. At ground level you can stand and enjoy mulled wine amid the festive hustle and bustle or head up to the first floor which offers a spacious panoramic view of the market and here the brass band located on the second floor. The top of the pyramid is decorated with carved figures. This is a very popular spot so if you want to eat inside, arrive early and book if you can.
Alexanderplatz market is open until 12/28/2014
The Christmas markets in beautiful Berlin are a great way to get in the festive season but my advice is to go for the atmosphere rather than the gifts as you will mostly find stocking fillers here and remember you have to bring everything back on the plane. So buy small things and just focus on enjoying the atmosphere and the festive cheer as there is so much to enjoy
Five foods to try at Berlin’s Christmas Markets
- Hot Sausage – The German Bratwurst is a German Christmas market essential – for a twist try the currywurst which is sliced Bratwurst with curry sauce. The Rote Wurst is a favourite of the Black Forest region and is made from finely ground pork and bacon it has a slightly spicy taste and it is similar to the Bockwurst – our advice is to try them all buy them one at a time and share them, then you can try them all!
- Have your cake and eat it – The Stollen or German Christmas Cake is probably one of the oldest and longest culinary traditions in German history and is well worth a try and easy to carry home too. There are many different varieties of Christmas Stollen, some of the classics, available at most German Christmas Markets, are the; Poppy Seed Stollen, Nut Stollen, Creamy Quark Stollen, Champagne Stollen, Marzipan Stollen, Almond Stollen and amazingly, in some parts of Germany, even a Red Wine Stollen.
- Difficult to eat but very tasty! – Langos is leavened potato dough, allowed to rise, before it is rolled out and then deep friend. Like lokse, langos can be topped with anything. I recommend – garlic butter, sour cream, cheese and a little ketchup. Definitely not a diet food.
- Try them with Nutella – hot waffles – simply delicious!
- I loved them, my husband didn’t – these opinion splitting snacks are called Krappelchen which are heavy dough balls dusted with icing sugar.
- oh and don’t forget the chips with mayonnaise and spiced carrot cake – but maybe not together!
It’s hard to find another city with so many Christmas Markets so if you need a fun festive fix then head to Berlin – Merry Christmas everyone – Frohe Weihnachten!