Berlin: Christmas markets and winter treats

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Christmas magic at Gendarmenmarkt. Photo by slaqua.
Christmas magic at Gendarmenmarkt. Photo by slaqua.

Berlin is downright chilly (and even a little bleak) in winter. But, as the Germans love to say, there’s no such thing as bad weather; it’s inappropriate clothing that makes you cold. As long as you bundle up in the thickest of coats, socks, soles, gloves, hats, and boots, the chill won’t slow you down.

Keeping warm the glühwein way

For guaranteed warmth, employ our favorite weapon against the cold: Glühwein.

Sold in festive mugs at the city’s dozens of Christmas markets, this spiced, hot wine warms you from the inside out. It costs about €5, including a deposit for the mug. Trust us, however: This giddiness-inducing beverage is worth the splurge. It’s like holiday spirit in a glass.

Our favorite Christmas markets in Berlin

Germany’s capital isn’t as famous as Dresden, Munich, and the Ore Mountains for its annual Christmas markets (roughly late November–Dec. 31; opening times vary), but it doesn’t hurt to check out one or two of the more than 20 markets that spring up in the city every year.

Because most markets are free (or inexpensive) to enter, they’re a Cheapo-friendly way to spend the evening. Snacks, which include sausage roasted over a wood grill, fresh gingerbread, potato pancakes, roasted chestnuts, and much more, won’t break the bank, either. If you’re in the market for gifts, you can often score handcrafted items—from knit scarves and mittens to handmade jewelry—for reasonable prices.

In addition to our three favorite markets, detailed below, check out the Berlin tourist office’s complete list of the city’s 22 markets.

Très Elegant Market: Gendarmenmarkt

The classiest of Berlin’s Christmas markets occupies Gendarmenmarkt (S- and U-bahn: Friedrich Strasse, Brandenburger Tor, €1), an elegant square in Mitte, between Friedrich Strasse and Unter den Linden. Lined with neat rows of pitched white tents adorned with golden lights, the market features craftsmen who produce delicate wooden combs, birdcages, precious stone jewelry, and more on the spot.

Sweets on offer at a Christmas market stall. Photo by tunnelarmr.

Sweets on offer at a Christmas market stall. Photo by tunnelarmr.

Kitschy Fun Market: Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz

The expansive Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (S- and U-bahn: Potsdamer Platz) is stocked with red and white striped stands hawking the usual food and handicrafts. You can also take a twirl on a small iceskating rink (entry is free; ice skate rental is €2.50) or, if you reserve ahead, play a round of “Eisstockbahn,” a wintry version of bowling.

Illuminated with environmentally-friendly LED lights, this market is touristy but atmospheric. Don’t forget to pop into the Sony Center, which is decorated with some 41,000 icy blue lights.

Cozy Market: Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei

Nestled in the expansive courtyard of a red brick beer brewery-turned-cultural complex in Prenzlauer Berg, the Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei (U-bahn: Eberswalder Str.) is a quaint affair with a Finnish vibe. Look for Finnish Glühwein, honey, and textiles. If you happen to visit on a Sunday, wander over to Kollwitzplatz (Dec. 13 and 20) to check out its small, weekly market, which specializes in organic food and gifts.

About the author

Susan Buzzelli

About the author: A Pittsburgh native, Susan Buzzelli has been a sworn Germanophile since she spent a high school summer as an exchange student in Buxtehude. After stints in Dresden, Munich, and Hamburg she settled (possibly for good) in Europe’s most dynamic city: Berlin. When she isn't exploring Berlin, she's traveling throughout Germany (with an occasional hop over the border). Her comprehensive guidebook to Germany, Zeitguide Germany, will be published soon. Look for updates on her website, www.susanbuzzelli.com.

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