Photo by: onnola
Yesterday was the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Here in Germany the start of Advent is a big deal. It means the festive season can really start – and the doors of more than 60 Berlin Christmas markets open in earnest. Whether you’re shopping for unique holiday gifts or just want to enjoy a glass of mulled wine, you can find it at one of the dozens of Berlin Christmas markets. As the days get shorter, tourists and locals alike flock to Berlin Christmas markets to enjoy a warming glass of mulled wine and special winter treats: candied nuts, gingerbread, and lots of Wurst! No two Berlin Christmas markets are alike. Read on for some ideas on how to make the most of the Berlin Christmas markets, whether you’re here for a weekend or the whole season.
Berlin Christmas markets are something special.
From arcades and thrill rides to Scandinavian charm to outdoor skating rinks, Berlin Christmas markets are incredibly diverse. And if one of them doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s bound to be another one within just a few subway stops. The nights are long and many Berlin Christmas markets are open from early afternoon until 10 PM. When the sun sets early, the best cure for darkness-induced blues is the sparkle of Berlin Christmas markets, the sugar rush of sweet treats, and the buzz of the festive atmosphere.
Surviving Berlin Christmas markets – Tips for your wallet and your waistline
The biggest shock for many visitors to Berlin Christmas markets (or Christmas markets anywhere in Germany) is the concept of Pfand. It’s a deposit for the charming mugs they serve mulled wine in – anything from 50 cents to a few euros. It’s not included in the price of the wine, but it’s always written somewhere. If you give your mug back, you get your money back – but for the price of the Pfand, you can also bring the mug home as a keepsake. It makes a lovely gift, too, if you don’t have room for German beer steins in your suitcase! You can scout out the Berlin Christmas markets to find your favorites. Some Berlin Christmas markets have mugs with pictures of nearby landmarks (like the TV tower at Alexanderplatz), or write out the location and sometimes the year (which you can find on the mugs at Gendarmenmarkt).
Like in any market situation, I suggest making your way around the market square first and having a look at all the options. There’s a huge selection of food and drinks at all of the Berlin Christmas markets, and with so many standard Christmas market offerings there are always a few repeats. It’s all too easy to be caught up by the first stalls, then see a tastier-looking option just a few meters away.
Berlin Christmas markets are a hotspot for pickpockets. Keep your valuables close and safe! Stay alert and follow the precautions you’d take in any bustling urban space. Zip your bags and pockets, keep camera straps around your wrist or neck, and so on.
This is wintertime, and the food is rich. You won’t find many healthy options at Berlin Christmas markets. Carnivores can feast on dozens of sausages, while dairy lovers will have their fill of cheese from vendor stalls or raclette to go, smeared on slices of dark bread. The classic meat-free option is a crispy potato pancake slathered with applesauce, but a big bowl of sauteed mushrooms with garlic sauce is also delicious and easy to find at any of the Berlin Christmas markets. Keep your hands warm with a hot drink: apart from mulled wine, the more adventurous can try mulled beer or mulled apple wine with cinnamon. Cookies, waffles, candied almonds and roasted chestnuts are par for the course, and there are always plenty of samples to taste. Load up on your healthy foods during the day, then eat your heart out at the Christmas market!
The best Berlin Christmas markets
So, now you’re ready to experience Berlin Christmas markets for yourself. But with so many to choose from, where do you start? Here are a few special Berlin Christmas markets to get you inspired.
The Lucia market in Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei specializes in Scandinavian and Nordic specialties. Stroll around the candlelit square for a charming atmosphere with Scandinavian music playing and vendors offering Finnish honey, Swedish elk bratwurst, and a dozen variations on mulled wine, glogg, apple cider, mulled beer, or hot chocolate. Of all the Berlin Christmas markets around, it’s particularly intimate and special.
The WeihnachtsZauber market at Gendarmenmarkt is a perfect example of how Berlin Christmas markets should be – offering dozens of vendor stalls, a stage hosting neverending performances, classic Christmas music on the speakers… and with such a perfect atmosphere, it’s packed elbow-to-elbow with other eager visitors. Sandwiched between the French and German Cathedrals and charging a 1-euro entrance fee, the Gendarmenmarkt market also stands out for its upscale offerings: sit-down restaurants, a heated tent of artisan vendors, and costumed performers interacting with the crowd. Be sure to visit the Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop-cum-cafe nearby to see some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks erected in solid chocolate.
Photo by: Gertrud K.
Finally, the be-all and end-all of Berlin Christmas markets – well, it’s a tie between Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz. Alexanderplatz’s market is larger. Along with every sort of vendor you could imagine, it’s home to a carousel, thrill rides and arcade games, an outdoor skating rink, a snow-producing Christmas pyramid, and the huge Alexa shopping mall nearby. Get in a bit of sightseeing by checking out the TV tower while you’re there. Meanwhile the Potsdamer Platz market opens its gates in late November and boasts a massive onsite snow-tubing hill. After a mug of mulled wine, you could catch a movie in English or German at the Cinestar theater nearby.
Photo by: Charlott_L
That’s all you need to know to get started in the Berlin Christmas markets. Which are your favorites?