There’s simply no such thing as a German Christmas without Christmas markets – the two are just bound together. Right from the start of December, the cheery seasonal markets (known as Weihnachtsmärkte) begin to open in cities and towns across the country, their twinkling lights, gay music and tempting aromas of delicious treats signaling that the most festive season of the year has officially begun.
Berlin is host to myriad Christmas markets catering to every possible wish, with a fairytale children’s market, an icy winter wonderland complete with tobogganing hill, and even a vegan market popping up this month. Find your favorite with our comprehensive guide and soak up the Christmas spirit to your heart’s content.
A Touch of Culture
Set on one of the most beautiful squares in the city, the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market has a great location going for it and so much more. Flanked by the Konzerthaus and two grand Neo-Baroque churches, the market is on the smaller side but features a decidedly more upscale feel than the larger market at nearby Alexanderplatz. Besides pretty scenery, the market also draws crowds with its program of concerts and other stage performances, with song and dance to usher in the Christmas spirit. (Daily 11 am–10 pm, Christmas Eve until 6 pm. www.gendarmenmarktberlin.de)
On the other end of the city, the market at Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) offers an equally as elegant backdrop, with the Prussian-era palace splendidly illuminated every night with colorful lights. In addition to scores of market stands selling handcrafts and gift options and a carousel and mini roller coaster for the kids, this market’s calling card is its appeal to gourmets. In addition to the many snack stands, the market also hosts a “winter open-air restaurant,” serving Austrian cuisine in a series of heated tents. (Mon–Thu 2 pm–10 pm, Fri–Sun noon–10 pm. Closed Christmas Eve. www.wvdsc.de)
The Lucia Christmas Market adds a Scandinavian twist to the standard market formula. The brick buildings of the KulturBrauerei, a former brewery complex turned cultural center, are draped in glowing lights, and fragrant burning logs in the courtyard crackle and pop. Try some elk goulash with a steaming mug of glogg, and pick up gifts like Finnish honey, fur mittens, and Danish design objects. (Mon–Fri 3 pm–10 pm, Sat–Sun 1 pm–10 pm. www.lucia-weihnachtsmarkt.de)
Christmas for the Kids – and Pets
Give the little ones a fairytale Christmas at the Jagdschloss Grunewald market. Deep in the heart of a dark, bewitching forest lies a 16th-century royal chalet covered in snow, where the kings and dukes of yesteryear would rest their weary bones after hunting expeditions. On one weekend each December, this magical spot hosts a fairytale-inspired Christmas market. In the glow of twinkling lights, Cinderella, Hänsel and Gretel, and company regale the audience with their stories. (5–6 Dec., 11 am–7 pm)
Potsdamer Platz is home to a Christmas market of the run-of-the-mill variety, but what’s really worth the trip is the Winterwelt, an icy playground where kids can let off some steam. Take some spins around the big ice skating rink, or take a thrilling slide down the 12m-/40ft-high, 70-m/230ft long toboggan run. Plastic inner tubes are provided to help daredevils whiz at top speed down the snowy slope. (Daily 10 am–10 pm, Christmas Eve until 2 pm.)
Berlin residents are famously dog friendly, and it shows at the Dog Christmas Market (Hüttenweg 90, www.hundeweihnachtsmarkt.berlin), an annual yuletide showcase devoted to pooches and their faithful companions. In a garden in the Grunewald forest, in the far reaches of West Berlin, vendors catering to canines display their handcrafted goods, from seasonal sweaters to bone-shaped biscuits. Pet parents can defrost in the adjacent heated house and enjoy their own classic holidayfare and drink treats such as Glühwein (mulled wine), while their furry companions snack on biscuits and other treats.
Christmas a Little Differently
Eager to try something a little different? The Markt der Kontinente (Market of the Continents) at the Dahlem Ethnology Museum takes Christmas around the world. On the first two weekends of this month, the market focuses first on the Americas and then on Africa, bringing together a wide array of traditional handcrafts that make perfect gifts for the person who has everything. A full schedule of music and dance performances plus workshops for all ages makes this a fun indoor outing. (5–6 and 12–13 Dec., 11 am–7 pm. www.marktderkontinente.de)
For a curated range of design and high-end products, pop up top to the terrace at Bikini Berlin, a selective concept mall that’s hosting a Christmas market for the first time this year. Upstairs on the spacious terrace overlooking the neighboring zoo’s monkey enclosure, market stands present a range of one-of-a-kind goods and great gift ideas from the shopping center’s boutiques. (3–6, 10–12, 17–20 Dec, 10am–8pm, www.bikiniberlin.de)
While the smell of sizzling sausages is a standard backdrop to Berlin’s Yuletide bazaars, the Green Christmas Market caters to those who prefer their sausages made of soy and their Christmas baking free from dairy and eggs. At this Kreuzberg market, vegans and vegetarians (and those who love them) will find all their favorite Christmas treats to snack on, plus gift ideas like vegan fashions and cruelty-free cosmetics. (12–13 Dec., noon–8 pm. www.greenmarketberlin.com)