11 Christmas and winter hotspots in Berlin
Nighttime falls earlier during the Berlin winter, but that only means the nights are longer. Luckily at this time of the year, Berlin is a city filled with interesting festive events and activities. Enjoy delicious traditional German food and drinks at the traditional Christmas markets, feel the true Christmas spirit in the illuminated streets, or give yourself a timeout at a sauna or bathhouse.
1. Brighten things up at Christmas markets in Berlin
It just isn’t the festive season in Berlin without an abundance of traditional and alternative Christmas markets popping up in the city. Dotted around in various neighbourhoods, these markets have been a tradition in Germany since the middle ages. Whichever you choose to visit, enjoy shopping from a variety of stalls selling handcrafted gifts, traditional German food and festive drinks.
A highlight is the festively illuminated residence of the Hohenzollern family which forms the historical backdrop for the stylish, nostalgic Christmas market at Charlottenburg Palace.
For something different try Berlin’s highest Christmas market at one of the best rooftop bars “Klunkerkranich”. From up here, you have stunning views of the city, while DJs and bands serenade visitors in a diverse music program.
Or how about combining a traditional market with something for the kids? Heissa Holzmarkt at Holzmarkt25 on the Spree river is an urban village made of recycled wood for all ages. They have a wonderful children's program, a huge indoor playground as well as bonfires, home-brewed beer, mulled wine, and DJ music under the huge Christmas disco ball.
Here you can find more info and a list of all Christmas markets happening in Berlin.
2. Fill up on festive treats
During Christmas, there’s no way around traditional German treats like savouring Rostbratwurst (sausage), usually served in a wheat roll, traditional German gingerbread Lebkuchen, and of course Glühwein (mulled wine). Nothing is more delightful than sipping a hot wine on a winter evening, especially if you’re one of the wine-lovers, you can’t afford to miss out on this amazing drink.
3. See a fairy tale unfurl onstage at the glass palace
In the fall and winter time, the glass palace turns into a treasure chest for fairytale fans of all ages. Traditional performances are interpreted in new, creative ways to entertain audiences of small and middle-aged kids or turned into adults-only shows. The campfires blaze outdoors exuding a wintery aroma and the interior fireplaces make this stage a cosy place to be when the cold weather hits.
4. Bring up the heat with some outdoor ice skating
Without a doubt, one of the joys of the season is outdoor ice skating under Christmas lights.
For the largest rink in Berlin, head to Horst-Dohm Ice Stadium to enjoy 6.17 kilometres of space to twirl or skate. There are two areas: a 400-meter outdoor rink and a smaller indoor one. With over a thousand pairs of skates available to rent, the stadium ensures anyone who wants to skate, can.
Slide downhill at Winterworld at Potsdamer Platz - the largest winter sports centre in Berlin with Europe's largest mobile toboggan/snow tubing run. Enjoy ice skating outdoors on their smaller rink or Bavarian Curling. The après ski ambience provided is lovely as well.
Watch the ferris wheel go round at Alexanderplatz while circling the Neptunbrunnen (fountain) on this small, but fun circular rink.
For more family fun try Erika Heß in Wedding - a small ice rink ideal for family outings. Skate to the good vibes of the dance music or take a break to sip mulled wine and eat some snacks.
Here you can find a complete list of ice skating rinks.
5. Shop for unique handmade gifts at the Christmas Rodeo or Holy Shit Shopping
Perhaps Berlin's weirdest Christmas market takes place in Berlin's former first ice factory, the Kühlhaus Berlin. For the second time, the Design-Christmas Market will be on display in this new venue. On five floors and over 3000 square metres, an urban winter wonderland is being created in the impressive brick building. The Rodeo will have over 200 exhibitors from the fields of art, fashion, design and street food.
A little less festive but very stylish is the Holy Shit Shopping, which is happening on the second weekend of the advent time with over 600 young designers who personally present their fashion, jewelry, furniture and product design, art, photography, literature and specialty foods.
6. Indulge in a sauna or a bathhouse
How about pampering yourself with an escape from the frigid outdoors? There’s the traditional Turkish Bathhouse Hamam (for women only), which was once an old chocolate factory, or Saunabad - the Finnish sauna with sweeping nature views. Try an alternative otherworldly floating experience at Liquidrom in the thermal salt water bath while classical or electronic underwater music serenades you.
7. Light up the dark in the Botanical Gardens
Berlin’s wonderful botanical garden now lights up every November and December, turning the area into a beautiful winter wonderland called “Christmas garden”. The route is about 1.5km, where visitors will walk through and past several light displays, illuminations, and 3D figures. There’s also regional food on offer, an open fire, and even an ice rink at the garden for ice skating enthusiasts.
8. Attend a snowball fight
Every year different districts will host snowball fights against each other in major parks all over the city. In addition to the innocuous battles in gardens and parks, there’s usually warm wine, food and musical support. Since snow is the key component, the date can be fickle, so stay alert and keep an eye on Facebook events for a fixed date. They usually happen late December and through January, on weekend afternoons, so that much can be counted on. That, and endless fun.
9. Tour the Spree River on a Christmas cruise
Cruise the Spree river on a radiant boat tour with atmospheric lights of historic landmarks while enjoying a delicious Christmas menu. The cruise takes 3 hours gliding on the Spree from the Nikolai Quarter to Berlin Cathedral, the Museum Island, the Reichstag, the House of the Cultures of the World and Bellevue Palace all the way to the Spreekreuz, and back again.
10. Take a peaceful winter stroll
The days are short and sunlight is rare, so even more important to spend some time in nature and enjoy and quiet walk through nature. The variety of parks Berlin has to offer is almost countless. A walk around Schlachtensee, Grunewaldsee or Pfaueninsel are great to relieve some stress. If winter time will bless us with some snow, you definitely must take the chance to go to the palace garden in Charlottenburg or Potsdam and slender through Sans Souci. Christmas feelings guaranteed!
11. Welcome the new year with a spectacular view over Berlin
Dress up warm and celebrate the new year at one of the numerous spots with a terrific view at the fireworks extravaganza over Berlin. The city might be famous for a lot of things but certainly not for a hilly landscape. Nevertheless, there are a few dizzying spots, from the Bunkerberg in Friedrichshain, the Müggelturm or Arkenberge to the Teufelsberg in Grunewald, to watch the sky burning.
For everybody who fancies some fireworks upon the Spree, can chose between plenty of beautiful bridges with a panoramic sight. Besides the famous Oberbaumbrücke or Waschauerbrücke, where it might be pretty busy, there is more space on Weidendammbrücke at the Museum island or the Molkebrücke close to Hauptbahnhof. You also might catch a good spot at Modersohnbrücke or Admiralbrücke, which are trendy meeting places all around the year.
Best thing about all places is that you will have a glance on most of Berlins attractions, don’t need to buy any rockets or firecrackers but just enjoy the view for free.
Text: Melissa Embury for Uhura Creative Media