The temperature has gone sub-zero and anything you plan on consuming had better taste of cinnamon or come mit Schuss. With Berlin playing host to over sixty Christmas markets annually, there’s no shortage of places for you to get your fix of Lebkuchen and gifts in the frosty open air…
Best Of The Big Hitters
Visitors get a serious visual return on their €1 investment, as well as access to the culinary delights from covered outdoor versions of upmarket restaurants plus luxurious gifts and handicrafts. Be warned, though – the gifts cost a lot more than the entrance fee.
The entertainment is also top-notch, showcasing everything from fire artists to classical and Gospel groups. There’s even real donkeys. If that’s not Christmassy enough for you, you’d best start calling yourself Ebenezer.
Gendarmenmarkt Berlin, 26 November to 31 December, 2102. Open daily 11am to 10pm, Admission: free (Mon-Fri 11am-2pm) / €1 (stage programme and all other times).
Officially named the Nostalgic Christmas Market, Opernpalais hosts a packed programme of live music, family activities and an art exhibition. The stretch between the Staatsoper and Opernpalais on Unter den Linden goes full-tilt jingle bells and twinkly lights with over 200 stands of crafts and treats. This means that you can stuff your face with roast chestnuts, buy all your gifts at the same time, then lose either your lunch, your gifts or both as you take a turn on the carousel.
Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt am Opernpalais, 26 November to 23 December, 2102. Mon-Thurs 12-9:30pm, Fri & Sat 11am-11:30pm, Sun 11am-21:30, Christmas Eve closed. Admission: free
If it’s romance and grandeur you fancy, then head to the already picturesque setting of Charlottenburg’s Schloss (castle) for one of the 35 days that it decks the halls for each year. As well as permanent and temporary exhibitions inside the castle itself, entertainment is served in the form of a ferris wheel and live music from accordionists, carolling choirs and even the traditional Berlin barrel organ.
The journey westwards won’t disappoint in terms of gifts either, with over 150 stalls nestled inside heated tents and elegant glass pagodas. There is also a separate children’s market with its own ferris wheel, swing carousel and even a petting zoo. What’s more, the entire park surrounding the castle gets its own special illuminations, allowing for an idyllic stroll through the scenery to burn off all those festive treats.
Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg, 26 November to 26 December, 2102. Mon-Thurs 2-10pm, Fri-Sun 12-10pm. Christmas Eve closed. Admission: free.
Spandau Christmas Market
The journey to the end of the U7 line is worth it to experience the biggest Weihnachtsmarkt in Berlin, held in Spandau Old Town. Continuous Christmas cheer is provided by 250 stalls during the week and 400 at weekends, and for guests who like their entertainment seriously live and kicking, there’s a weekly Friday Christmas rock concert plus a manger with real animals on Reformationsplatz. There’s even a medieval plague procession every Wednesday if you’re feeling educational, or to keep things cheery, a St. Nikolai Christmas garden and a traditional craft market.
Spandauer Weihnachtsmarkt, 26 November to 23 December, 2102. Mon-Thurs 11am-8pm, Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-8pm. Admission: free.
Weihnachtsrodeo at Stadtbad Oderberger
Christmas shopping with a little extra yee-ha of luxury this year happens under the neoclassical arches of Prenzlauer Berg’s Stadtbad Oderberger. The building, once an ornate public baths, is transformed with booths from Berlin’s hottest designers, artists and boutiques.
There’s a gift-wrap service and a relaxation area to ensure your shopping experience is as chilled as the outside temperatures, a mix of classical and electronic music to soundtrack your browsing and a selection of the obligatory sugary and alcoholic goodness to keep you fed, boozed-up and happy. A treat for anyone who doesn’t fancy wearing gloves as they shop.
Weihnachtsrodeo im Stadtbad Oderberger, 8 & 9 December, 2012. 12-8pm. Admission: free.
Lucia Christmas Market at the Kulturbrauerei
For those who find the traditional Weihnachtsmarkts just a little too Teutonic, a visit to the Scandinavian-themed market in Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei should hit the spot. Named after the Nordic goddess of light, the market includes a Finnish sauna for anyone who wants a chance to strip off, plus more child-friendly fun in the form of a kid-size ferris wheel, all held in the scenic central courtyard.
Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei, 26 November to 23 December, 2102. Mon-Fri 3-10pm, Sat & Sun 1-10pm. Admission: free.
Eco Advent Market at Kollwitzplatz
Trust the Berliners to come up with a slightly healthier alternative to the traditional gut-busting Christmas market. And it’s no surprise that this is held in that most bio-loving quarter of leafy Kollwitzplatz. While no one will pretend that a Bratwurst is going to help you detox, all the offerings are made from organic ingredients, including Fair Trade toys and even sustainable forestry Christmas trees on the third Sunday in Advent.
Adventsökomarkt am Kollwitzplatz, 27 November to 18 December, 2102. Sundays only, 12-7pm. Admission: free.
Rixdorf Christmas Market
The ancient bohemian village of Rixdorf is perhaps the city’s most perfect setting for any Christmas Market looking to strike the nostalgia chord (and let’s face it – most are). A quaint, cobbled hamlet within the urban heart of Neukölln, Rixdorf, with its bucolic buildings, doesn’t need to put up much pretense. Taking place over just three days at the beginning of December, the event peddles the usual selection of handcrafted goods and tasty food and drinks, along with some local Rixdorfer specialities like liquor and schnapps, pony rides in the local stables and a blacksmiths exhibition.
Alt-Rixdorfer Weihnachtsmarkt, 7, 8 & 9 December, 2012. Fri 5-9pm, Sat 2-9pm, Sun 2-8pm. Admission: free.
About The Author
Natalie Holmes lives and works in Berlin as a freelance writer and journalist. She is the founder of Lo/Rez Magazine, which deals with the intersection of art and science, and writes about sustainability and responsible travel on her blog, The Horseshoe Nail. This article was updated from last year’s Christmas Markets overview by Ruth Michaelson.