The best part of Berlin in December is definitely the festiveness all around. This is quite literally manifested in the ubiquitous Weihnachtsmarkts. What better way to reign in the Christmas spirit than by standing around a fire with a glass of hot Glühwein and a Bratwurst.
There are officially sixty Christmas markets in Berlin this year. The option of visiting all 6o is entirely plausible but I can’t say it won’t be disappointing. Many of the markets resemble quickly thrown together carnival attractions with a couple of Glühwein stalls. Since travelling across Berlin can be a bit tedious you want to concentrate on the best there is on offer.
The Christmas markets are an international sensation with travel agencies cashing in on the craze each year, offering various packages to Germany especially for the Christmas season. If you do make it over you will want to narrow down your list based on your Weihnachtsmarkt priorities.
What you can expect:
A fair atmosphere with little huts and stalls arranged in a walk through plan. The shops will sell things like African ornaments and small statuettes, various lights and lamps, jewellery, CD’s and DVD’s, calendars and lots of other kitsch products. The quality of the wares does vary from market to market. For instance the stalls at the Schloss Charlottenburg markets stock a noticeably higher quality range than Alexanderplatz.
The food and drink on offer is one of the defining features of the Weihnachtsmarkt experience. At every market you will find a hut selling a selection of Wurst. Your ever-present Bratwurst is on offer all year long, whereas now you’ll find the more unusual varieties such as the Weißwurst, Teufelskerl, Krakauer, and Käsekrainer.
Also on offer are stewed mushrooms, fried potatoes, hot soups, goulash, and other hot dishes. On the sweet side you have Lebkuchen – a traditional German baked good similar to gingerbread, roasted candied almonds and other nuts, and a huge variety of candies.
The drinks: You cannot go to the Christmas markets and not order a cup of hot Glühwein. It took me a little getting used to. It has a faint spiciness to it and also tastes a little bit like cough medicine, but hot cough medicine which is perfect for when you are standing outside in the snow. Make sure you drink it while it is still nice and hot though, it tastes awful if it is cold. There is also white Glühwein which I still haven’t tried and other drinks like hot caipirinhas, punch and other hot cocktails. It is standard to pay about 6 euros for a drink - 3 euros being the deposit for the glass.
So far I have been to 7 of the Christmas markets in Berlin. I have rated in them in order from best to not so fantastic:
Spandauer old town
Christmas Market at the Roten Rathaus
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Schloss Charlottenburg is in a location that is pretty unbeatable right outside the palace gates. They have lights in various colours shining on the palace itself and a search light which projects a reflection of the little adornments from the buildings walls into the night sky. There are girls walking around dressed like winter angels and the set up is aesthetically pleasing. There also seems to be a nicer, more controlled crowd attending this market. Perhaps an older generation than you find at the city centre markets like Alexanderplatz and Potsdamerplatz.
Spandauer old town is reputed to be among the best in Berlin. It is quite big and spans quite far into the old town. They have a Ferris wheel and a couple of other carnival rides. When I was there there was a choir singing from a balcony and in another part there was a small band playing trumpets and other instruments. I had roast pork in a brötchen which was delicious and something I haven’t seen at any other market.
I hear there is a Scandinavian themed Weihnachtsmarkt which I would like to check out and I’m also keen to go to Domäne Dahlem and Wilmersdorfer Straße. I’ll also be able to check out Hamburgs offerings when we are there soon.