Christmas markets in Berlin


Star shaped lanterns on sale in Berlin

The ever-popular Christmas markets article updated for 2013! I try to take the opening dates from sources which are as reliable as possible, but obviously it's worth checking for yourself to make 100% sure, if there's a particular thing you want to see.



When to go

The major Christmas markets in Berlin open in the last week of November and are open right up until Christmas itself, with some open into the beginning of January (Berlin's also a popular destination for New Year's Eve celebrations, though bear in mind that some accommodation prices go up quite a bit at that time).

December 6th in Germany is Nikolaus - St Nicholas's Day - when children traditionally put out their boots to be filled with goodies by St Nick...though if they've been bad, they may get a stick (called a Rute) for their parents to beat them with instead! If you're staying in a Berlin hotel on the night of the 5th, you may find you get a small gift, like a chocolate Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) left for you by your door. I've not noticed them giving out sticks, though...


A traditional German nutcracker

What to expect

The Christmas markets have stalls selling a variety of traditional (and less traditional) gifts and decorations. Particularly common to see are wooden ornaments from the Erzgebirge in the east of Germany, like Nußknacker (nutcrackers, like the rather fearsome fellow in the picture up above - not things that are really designed for actually cracking nuts with) and Räuchermänner (smoking men - wooden men which you put an incense cone inside, making smoke come out the mouth). Also common to find is Glühwein (mulled wine), and its rum-laced cousin Feuerzangenbowle - perfect for the cold days!

There'll usually be food stalls too - you'll most likely find at least one selling Bratwurst, often alongside the Berlin speciality the Bulette (which you could either see as a big flat pork meatball, or a bunless pork burger). Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup) is worth looking out for, as is Berliner Kartoffelsuppe (Berlin potato soup), both of which are usually not particularly expensive, but very filling.
If you're after something more on the sweet side, you'll usually find a stall selling Schmalzkuchen, which could be literally translated as 'lard cake' which sounds disgusting. It's actually small squares of deep fried dough, almost like little doughnuts. It's served in a cone of paper, covered with icing sugar, which means it can be hell to eat if you're wearing dark clothes (but very entertaining for the stallholder who's just emptied half his pot of icing sugar onto your Schmalzkuchen). Another thing you'll probably see are the round balls of deep fried dough known as Quarkkeulchen which, when they've been freshly fried and are still warm, are great on a cold night.


What to wear

The weather in Berlin does get quite cold during winter. It's common for temperatures to drop to well below 0°C in December, so it's worth packing plenty of warm clothes...or buy some in Berlin - the Germans know a thing or two about winter clothes! Either one thick jacket or several layers is a good idea, and I always like to have a nice pair of gloves and a warm hat too.

Snow isn't unheard of either, especially later in the month, so you might get at least a small taste of a white Christmas on your visit...no guarantees, though! Beautiful though snow is, it does mean it can get a bit slippery underfoot, though pavements on larger roads tend to get swept and gritted quite regularly. Packing a nice warm pair of shoes or boots with good grips is a good idea!

On the flipside, in a milder winter, it can rain - I like to keep a small umbrella in my bag just in case.

The Christmas Markets (see Christmas markets map)

There are markets right across the city centre - amongst others, there's one on Alexanderplatz, one in front of the Rathaus, one by the Opernpalais on Unter den Linden, one on Potsdamer Platz and one on Breitscheidplatz (around the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche). Those ones are all free to visit; there's also one in Gendarmenmarkt which charges a small entry fee. They generally stay open until well after the shops have closed (often around 9 - 10 at night), so it can be a nice way to end the day, plus the atmosphere is just that bit more special (and the Glühwein seems that extra bit more warming) after dark.

Of course there are many more all over the city (between 50 and 70, depending on who you believe), but hopefully this small selection will serve as a taster (plus they're good if you're only going for a short time and want to see all the sights as well). If you're viewing this via the front page, you might want to click the article's title to take you to the single page view, where you'll be able to see a whole set of handy Google Maps links at the bottom to help you find these markets, of you can follow this link to see them all on one handy map.

The Alexanderplatz market has the advantage of being very close to the station, as well as being close to the shops around Alexanderplatz, which you might find useful for Christmas shopping (and I personally prefer the Galeria Kaufhof on Alexanderplatz to KaDeWe, if I'm wanting a big department store).

It's open from November 25th 2013 - January 6th 2014.

Almost blending into the Alexanderplatz market is the 'Wintertraum am Alexa' (winter dream at Alexa), which stretches along Alexanderstraße to Jannowitzbrücke, along the side of the Alexa shopping centre (the bizarre pink building on the southern side of Alexanderplatz). There's also a big funfair at the back of it.

It's open from November 25th - December 23rd 2013.

Alexanderplatz is a major transport hub, so there's a huge choice of ways to get there - S-Bahn (S3, S5, S7/75), U-Bahn (U2, U5, U8), tram (M2, M4, M5, M6, M8), bus (TXL, 100, 200, 248) and regional trains (RE1, RE2, RE7, RB14).


The Christmas market at the Berliner Rathaus

The market by the Rathaus, known as Berliner Weihnachtszeit, is of course also close to Alexanderplatz, so you can always visit the two, plus take a wander through the nearby Nikolaiviertel, which you might also find good for gifts. Look out for the stall of my friends at Kleinbrennerei Fitzke (Fitzke small distillery; website in German only) if you're into spirits and liqueurs. They're a husband and wife team from the Black Forest who make a huge array of different fruit brandies, liqueurs and grain spirits, including Herr Fitzke's unique whiskies, which you really owe it to yourself to try if you're into whisky at all.

The Rathaus market also boasts a 50m high ferris wheel, which promises impressive views, though stood next to the 368m high Fernsehturm, it's hard not to think of it as rather small!

It's open from November 25th - December 29th 2013.


The Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt at the Opernpalais

The Opernpalais market (branded the Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt - nostalgic Christmas market) is, in turn, not all that far from the Rathaus. It's open from November 25th - December 26th 2013.

I've mentioned the Weihnachtszauber market in Gendarmenmarkt before. Unlike most markets, they charge an entry fee (though still only 1 euro) and a lot of the things on offer are more expensive, but I think it's worth a look. It's particularly good for arts and crafts, and a lot of the food stalls are run by nearby restaurants and hotels. Of course, it's within walking distance of the Opernpalais, so if you fancy doing a market crawl, you can go all the way from Alexanderplatz to Gendarmenmarkt and not be away from a Christmas market for more than about 5 minutes! If you don't fancy the walk, the U-Bahn stations Stadtmitte (U2, U6), Französische Straße (U6) and Hausvogteiplatz (U2) are all close by (the exit from the U2 platform at Stadtmitte is the closest of the lot).
It's open from November 25th - December 31st 2013 - they also hold a New Year's Eve event there.

I've never taken to the Potsdamer Platz Christmas market as a market particularly, but it does have a toboggan run and a skating rink!

The toboggan run and skating rink are open from November 3rd 2013 until January 4th 2014, the Christmas market from November 24th until Decebmer 26th.

I've never taken to the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market either, but that's no reason not to take a look at it if you're in the area anyway (perhaps shopping at KaDeWe, or stopping off for a Currywurst at Witty's). It's very close to Zoologischer Garten station, so like with Alexanderplatz, there are plenty of options for getting there.

It's open from November 25th 2013 - January 1st 2014.



If you want to venture ever so slightly further from the city centre, the Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market is nice. Like I mentioned last year, the setting is particularly atmospheric. Along with a nice selection of things to buy (there's even a second stall from Kleinbrennerei Fitzke...), it has three restaurant tents, one selling local dishes from Brandenburg, one selling Austrian specialities and one selling mainly duck and goose-based dishes.

It's open from November 25th - December 26th 2013.


The Berliner Dom in winter

Other Christmas activities

If you want to enjoy the more religious side of Christmas in Berlin, the Berliner Dom has services and other events (including performances of Bach's Christmas Oratorio) throughout the period. For Catholic services, you may want to try St Hedwig's Cathedral.

You might also like to look out for the traditional Christmas meal of roast goose, something you'll find in a lot of the restaurants that serve more traditional German food.

December is really a lovely time to visit Berlin (if you like wintry weather, at least!), so if you like the sound of what you've read here, then now's a good time to start planning your trip - you can get some great deals by booking early, and some travel agents, hotels and airlines put on special Christmas offers.

Don't forget to take a look at the Christmas markets map if you want to see where they all are!

Locations

Wintertraum am Alexa
Alexanderstraße
Berlin 10178
Winterwelt market at Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz
Berlin 10785
Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt by the Opernpalais
Unter den Linden
Berlin 10117
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market
Alexanderplatz
Berlin 10178
Berliner Weihnachtszeir at the Rotes Rathaus
Rathausstraße
Berlin 10178
Weihnachtszauber at Gendarmenmarkt
Gendarmenmarkt
Berlin 10117
Christmas Market on Breitscheidplatz
Breitscheidplatz
Berlin 10718
Schloß Charlottenburg Christmas Market
Spandauer Damm 10
Berlin 14059

Christmas market

Richard,

This is truly an extensive and informative article about Christmas Markets in the Hauptstadt.

I spent a week in Berlin around Christmas last year, and it was tremendously beautiful and quiet with snowfall occurring every day throughout my time not only in Berlin, but throughout Germany. It was hell on traffic (lots of media coverage there), but for slow travel, it was fantastic.

Thanks again for your post! I hope to be back in Berlin at the end of 2012!

christmas markets

Hi Just read your article as off to Berlin for 2 days.
really helpful as NO idea where to start (SO much to see so little time !) with enough to keep occupied Thank you !

Great to know it's been

Great to know it's been helpful! You could do all of these as a little tour in a day - start at Alexanderplatz, maybe go up the TV tower to get a feel for how they city's laid out (maybe even enjoy some coffee and cake in the revolving restaurant!) then wander down towards Gendarmenmarkt, perhaps making a detour north up to the Brandenburg Gate, then back down through the Holocaust memorial to Potsdamer Platz.

If you're looking for somewhere to have dinner at the end of that, there's one called Der Thüringer, which is up by Mohrenstraße U-Bahn - if you like (or at least want to try) traditional German food, I think it's a great place to go. It's just one stop away from Potsdamer Platz on the U2, or you can walk it if you're feeling up to it by then!

That route takes you by at least a large number of the top sights of that side of Berlin...but you're right, there's loads to see, you could spend literally years exploring it all!

Anyway, I hope you have a great time in Berlin, it can be really lovely at this time of year.

I totally agree about last

I totally agree about last winter, Henry, the snow brought an incredible atmosphere to the city, a certain kind of very peaceful stillness.

I hope you manage to make it back in 2012. Who knows, maybe we'll catch up then!

What a great, comprehensive

What a great, comprehensive article. Just found another site with a few tips on Berlin Christmas markets - most quite similar to yours, but a few are unique! Maybe your readers would also enjoy checking it out: http://www.germany-travel.org/berlin-christmas-markets/

Is the whiskey stand still open this year at the Rathaus market? And what do you think about the Lucia market in the Kulturbrauerei?

Thanks for that, Sofia! There

Thanks for that, Sofia! There are so many different ones, it's hard to keep up with them all - there are also quite a few which are just on for one or two weekends.

My reply's probably a bit late, but yes, Walter Fitzke has been selling his whisky and other spirits in the Rathaus market this year, but he told me it's his final year of doing it. He's been receiving a lot of attention since his whiskies were featured, with impressively high scores, in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, so he's wanting to concentrate on things like whisky trade events instead.

The Lucia market is one I should probably put in for next year - originally, I was going to keep this just to ones in the very centre, but then I added Schloß Charlottenburg. The Altstadt Spandau one is another which probably ought to go in as well. They're definitely both worth a look! It's interesting, though, how the atmosphere of many of them subtly changes with time, and indeed depends a lot on when you visit - I popped into the Gendarmenmarkt one fairly late on a November evening and it was roughly as I'd remembered it...then I came back slightly earlier in the evening just a week or so back and it was absolutely rammed, and not all that pleasant as a result.

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