Berlin at Christmas is the perfect way to get yourself in the Christmas spirit. From the huge buildings wrapped as presents, to the epic number of Christmas stalls dotted around the city, Christmas takes over the city. And it’s enough to get even the biggest grinch in the festive spirit.
There are a few big Christmas markets in the city, and if you’re heading to Berlin for a tour of them, these should definitely make your list:
In the centre of the city, this market has a great selection of food and crafts. The main stalls are in the square, with the rest snaking alongside the shopping centre and down to the entertainment area. This was the market that first introduced me to the marzipan potato, which I thought was a bad translation on my part until I realised it really was a lump of marzipan decorated as a potato.
Entertainment-wise, there’s a big snow slope here with doughnut rings to slide down on. Fun to watch, fun to do, and a big hit next to the drinks stall. While this isn’t a market you’d spend hours at, the crafts are cool to look at, and it’s a great place to grab dinner if you’re in the area.
There are actually a couple of large Christmas markets in Alexanderplatz, and it’s a great area to base yourself in if you’d like to spend a fair amount of time in the markets. When I originally visited Berlin in 2012, there was an impressive Christmas market in this area. I came back in 2014 and it had grown so much I was surprised. The market by the church is still my favourite in Berlin, with the brass band playing, ice rink around the sculpture and general festive atmosphere. There are donkeys for the little ones to ride, a Santa on a sleigh which goes out over the crowd and more food than you could shake a doggy bag at.
I also checked out the market the other side of the train station, by the world clock and shopping areas, and was very impressed with the range of stalls. Craft stalls are usually the same at Christmas markets, but there were a lot of new ones here that I’d not seen at any of the others, along with a nice variety of food stalls too.
This is the biggie in Berlin, and you actually have to pay to enter. It’s a tiny €1 entry, but still very busy despite this. I don’t like huge crowds, so am not a great fan of this Christmas market, but have to return each time I’m in Berlin as it’s the only place that makes and sells these strange little pizzas my boyfriend loves. The thing that sets this market apart from the others is that there is entertainment – a stage and actual acts – a huge craft tent and places to sit down and enjoy a meal and drink. You could easily spend a couple of hours here perusing the craft stalls and checking out all the sweets and treats on offer.
Gendarmenmarkt is a very pretty market, and in stunning surroundings. If you’re looking to visit just one Christmas market in Berlin, this would probably be one of the best as it literally has a bit of everything for everyone. Only thing missing is the ice rink (idea for 2015 market maybe…)
Little ‘n’ local
Aside from Alexanderplatz, the little and local markets are my favourite. There’s often not many tourists, and not a huge number of stalls either. The smaller markets vary from a few stalls on a street corner, to a collection in a tourist area, or – my favourite – a handful in a residential area.
Trying to walk back to my hotel the first time I visited Alexanderplatz market, I got slightly lost and wound up in a quiet backstreet with a church. The tree outside was decorated with wishes from the local children. Fast forward two years, and I thought it’d be nice to revisit and see if they’d done the same thing again. It’s much harder to find a place you stumbled upon previously when lost, and what I actually came across instead was what looked like a locals’ Christmas market. There were just a few stalls, but also a ‘cinema stall’ with seating around it to watch the screen. It looked so lovely and cosy, wasn’t rammed, and had the feel of the local pub.
There are plenty of small markets in Berlin, and a healthy number of large markets. Although they all have food, drinks and some kind of crafts on offer, each is different in its own way. I have been known to visit more than one market in a row, because there are certain things I’d like (bockwurst…candied nuts…) that just aren’t available at all markets. What can I say, I love the Christmas markets!