Stuart Forster recommends things to do at the Christmas Markets in Berlin, Germany.
Germany is renowned for its popular Advent markets. Berlin, the national capital since 3 October 1990, hosts around 60 of them, making it a good option if you’re keen to experience a handful of markets without travelling beyond the city boundaries.
Each market has its own character. Yet all Christmas markets look their most magical in the evening. Wooden huts selling gifts, food and drink look especially cosy at night with colourful lights twinkling around them.
WeihnachtsZauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
The Gendarmenmarkt, a 10-minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate, is the location of the popular WeihnachtsZauber market. The name means ‘Christmas Magic’ in English. The stalls are housed within white tents topped by yellow stars.
Meandering around the market is as much about savouring the convivial atmosphere as shopping for presents. Fur hats and knitwear count among the goods on sale at stalls between the French and German cathedrals.
After a cup of mulled wine, you can take a look at the memorial to Friedrich Schiller outside the Konzerthaus Berlin. Alternatively, you could simply return to the counter and order another, this time mit Schuss – that’s with a shot of rum or Amaretto.
Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church stands are a reminder of the destruction wrought during World War Two. It is located at Breitscheidplatz on Kürfurstendamm, the street locals refer to as Ku’damm. Photos of the roofless ruins of post-war Berlin are displayed in the church, whose mosaic-clad walls bear the broad scars of repairs to damage inflicted during aerial bombardment.
The Christmas market surrounding the church comes alive at dusk, when locals descend for post-work drinks at stalls. You can rock in a swing and sip mulled wine or mooch between stalls while grazing on roast almonds and chocolate-covered fruit.
If you’re an ardent shopper then cross Hardenberg Strasse to enter Bikini Berlin, a concept shopping centre with designer stores and windows looking into the city’s zoo.
Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz
Head for the Fernsehturm – Berlin’s iconic television tower, once a symbol of the German Democratic Republic’s modernity – and you’re just a couple of minutes’ walk from Alexanderplatz and two Christmas markets.
During the run-up to Christmas wooden huts on and around the square sell gifts ranging from Russian-style fur hats, replete with hammer and sickle cap badges, to traditional wood figures carved in the Erzgebirge region.
The Wintertraum am Alexa is a cross between a funfair and a Christmas market. Located behind the Alexa shopping mall, this is the place to come if you fancy popping into a haunted house, boosting your adrenalin via a vertical drop ride or taking a spin on the big wheel. The Ferris wheel stands almost 60 metres tall and provides fine views over the city.
What to eat and drink
A German Christmas market just wouldn’t be the same without munching on a mustard-smothered Bratwurst (grilled sausage) served in a fresh bread bun.
Berlin prides itself on the quality of its Currywurst mit Pommes (sausage served with curry sauce and French fries), a dish that locals claim was invented in their city in the wake of World War Two. You won’t have to look too hard to find a stall where you can try this popular combination.
If you enjoy doughnuts, why not try one of the Quarkbälle (quark balls) sold at stalls around Christmas markets. As the name suggests, quark features in spheres of heavy, deep-fried dough. Yum?
Freshly baked Handbrot, bread filled with melted cheese and a variety of accompaniments, including ham and mushrooms, is a tasty and filling option.
Inevitably, you’ll be just a few paces from a stall selling Glühwein, mulled wine. If you’re feeling adventurous and are in the mood for something a bit stronger then try a Jagertee or Feuerzangenbowle, warm drinks featuring rum.
The opportunity to go ice skating at the temporary outdoor rink by the Stage Theater am Potsdamer Platz. You can also slide in giant inner tubes on Europe’s longest mobile toboggan run. Like the ice rink, the 70-metre-long ramp is part of the Winter World at Potsdamer Platz.
How to get here
Stuart booked return flights from Newcastle International Airport (NCL) to Berlin Tegel (TXL) with KLM via Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The flights cost £173.83, exclusive of baggage charges for a suitcase.
The centre of Berlin is approximately 30 minutes’ bus journey from Tegel Airport. Regular TXL buses run between the airport and Alexanderplatz in the heart of the city. Purchase a Berlin transport system ticket for zones A and B before travelling. Singles and day tickets are available. Berlin WelcomeCards are valid for stays of between two and six days and bring the advantage of discounts at a number of attractions and restaurants.
Dining out in Berlin
If you’re in the mood for German cuisine in a long-established Berlin bar then try dining at Radke’s Gasthaus (Marburger Strasse 16, 10789 Berlin; tel: +49 (0)30 2134652). Dishes including Königsberger Klopse and schnitzels feature on the menu and you can order draught beers such as Berliner Kindl. Newspaper cuttings about key events in Berlin’s modern history are displayed in the corridor leading to the toilets.
Where to stay
The H10 Berlin Ku’damm hotel (Joachimsthaler Strasse 31-32, 10709 Berlin; tel: +49 (0)30 322922300) is a modern, 4-star property with 199 rooms. The facilities include a spacious lobby bar, an on-site restaurant plus a spa and beauty centre. Staying here places you a five-minute walk from the Christmas market around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and ten from the iconic KaDeWe department store.
The nHow Berlin hotel (Stralauer Allee 3, 10245 Berlin; +49 (0)30 2902990) has 304 designer bedrooms and gives you opportunities to borrow DJ mixing decks, keyboards and electric guitars to play with in your room. The staff here are welcoming and helpful. A number of the pink guestrooms overlook the River Spree. The East Side Gallery is a couple of minutes’ stroll from the hotel.
See the German National Tourist Board’s website for ideas about attractions in Berlin and elsewhere in the country.
Thanks for reading this post about visiting the Christmas Markets in Berlin, Germany. Like the idea of doing something off-the-beaten-track? Take a look at the article about Berlin’s Cemetery of the March Revolution.
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