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As the end of November rolls around, busy little elves begin constructing mini-villages of wooden huts across the entirety of Berlin, and city natives begin to get restless for a taste of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. By December, new residents have moved in, brightly displaying their wares and opening their cottages for business—the Christmas market season is now in full swing!
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the center city’s most-accessible markets and few ideas to help you find affordable gifts:
Gendarmenmarkt: fun entertainment worth the cheap price
This is the only market I have ever been to that charges an entrance fee—to the tune of only €1. That finances an entertainment stage with constant performances, as well as fancifully costumed figures roaming the market and spreading cheer and laughter. There are many larger shops at this market offering “indoor” shopping rather than just market stands, and several restaurants also offer indoor seating.
Alexanderplatz: double your pleasure, double your fun
The square at Alexanderplatz itself is home to a very typical market, with a mix of cheap market items you might find any- and everywhere (colorful knitwear sets, leather wallets, keychains and trinkets) and more unique and handcrafted items such as jewelry, soaps, or handwoven baskets. Given its location at a major transportation crossroads for natives, this market has an abundance of food stands. This is also the most central location to shop for a souvenir for your tree at a Kathe Wohlfahrt glass ornaments shop.
In the shadow of the TV tower, just in front of City Hall, there is a second Christmas market even larger than the first. In the area surrounding the Neptune fountain is a giant ice skating rink with on-site skate rentals, a flying Santa sleigh and a large Ferris wheel. Because it is more atmospheric than its neighbor, it is often quite crowded, with comparable food and drink offerings to the other Alex market.
Potsdamer Platz: Austrian flair for earlybirds
This market is the first to open in the center of Berlin, usually by the middle of November, so if you’re visiting the city before the Christmas season is in full swing, you can usually get your mulled wine and candied almond fix here. It also offers a gigantic tubing hill with snow machines, if you would like to go sledding. This is a good place to pick up handcrafted wooden Christmas crafts, like arch-shaped candleholders for windows or traditional Christmas “pyramids.”
Opernpalais: nostalgic market
Back for the first time in a few years, this market just past the Cathedral and Museum Island was once among my absolute favorites. Unfortunately, the current subway line work in the area has it seemingly sandwiched between construction zones, meaning it’s best visited at night. You’ll find a unique selection of quality wares for sale here.
Charlottenburg: klein aber fein (small but mighty)
This market in Charlottenburg takes place immediately in front of the palace, which makes for perhaps the best Christmas market photo opportunity in Berlin. While not the largest of the markets, it is also typically uncrowded, which can be a real blessing. Most of the food stands are gathered together, making this an excellent place for groups to meet and eat. The goods on offer are usually very high quality—and if you are in the market for a fancy hat, this is the place!