The Christmas markets in Europe have been on my travel bucket list for some time, but I’ve never had the time or money to visit them before, until a couple of weekends ago. At the end of November and start of December I was lucky enough to explore Berlin’s Christmas Markets and discover the similarities and differences between them and the ones here in the UK.
And let me tell you, the ones in the UK have nothing on the ones in Berlin. Sorry Winter Wonderland.
Originally when I was planning this trip, I wanted to visit at least five and be able to give you a strong low down on them all with top tips, best food and so forth, but sadly (or perhaps ironically) I came down with the mother of all colds… which in short knocked me out for at least 12 hours every day.
However I did manage to visit three fairly different markets, which was a relief, and I’m hoping to go back next year and explore many many more – maybe in Berlin or elsewhere, I haven’t decided yet. If you have any suggestions of ones you think I should see please leave a comment below 🙂
If you’re planning on visiting Berlin for the Christmas markets it would be good to note that most of the markets usually start at the end of November or the start of December, but there are a small number that do open earlier.
Along with this Berlin Christmas market feature I’m also writing a 72 hours in Berlin travel guide to coincide with this. It will will be up in January, so stay tuned!
Alexanderplatz is kind of like a central point in Berlin. Whenever I was travelling around Berlin I usually changed trains here or stopped here before going elsewhere. So there’s no surprise in finding a Christmas market here (actually there’s two, but we’ll get to the other one later on).
Located a stones throw away from the train station exit – and directly outside a department store (which has a great food section and has a mini Sephora in here btw), it’s not something you would easily miss.
Among the vast number of stalls sells woollen hats and gloves, trinkets, gingerbread and much more where endless food stands – offering both savoury and sweet to satisfy whatever you are craving.
One of the most popular attractions in German Christmas markets is Glühwein. If you’ve never heard of Glühwein let me enlighten you… Glühwein is very similar to mulled wine that we have in the UK, but sweeter and in some ways better – although I’m not entirely sure how to describe why. Partly because I don’t drink alcohol (shock horror I know), but I’m getting tasting info from people who have drunk it, and partly because most of the things that are added to it are the same – or at least very very similar to the traditional mulled wine. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re drinking it at a Christmas market in the cold that adds a dash of something extra to it – maybe it’s more magical.
Yes I went there… don’t judge me too harshly.
WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt feels smaller than the other markets I visited, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as good.
Actually, it’s quite opposite. It was a lot calmer than the other two I visited, and had loads more handmade gifts on offer. In some ways it felt like a ‘up-market’ style Christmas market.
Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt was the only market I noticed that you had to pay to get in. The entry fee was only 1€, so this didn’t bother me. On the flip side I think this may have deterred other tourists from visiting as there weren’t as many people there compared to the other markets.
Another difference between this market and the others was that they had live music and carols being sung, which gave it a much more festive atmosphere.
And of course there was an abundance of tasty stands offering a variety of delights – and Glühwein. This market has larger pop-up restaurant style seating, so you can have a bite to eat, or a drink and sit down for an hour or five catching up with your party, or make friends with the locals.
Or in my case I just ‘oooh-ed’ at all the food passing me by haha! Food watching is the new people watching, right?
Berliner Weihnachtszeit am Roten Rathaus
Berliner Weihnachtszeit am Roten Rathaus is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Berlin and one of the prettiest, especially in the evening.
The rather large ferris wheel acts as a location beacon when your train pulls into Alexanderplatz – you can’t miss it, and it is also next to the TV tower (Fernsehturm).
As you enter the market you are automatically hit by the mouthwatering smell of the food. There are multiple entrances, but the one I went through smelt like warm sugar on some kind of pastry, which inevitably made me hungry.
This market is very traditional with the cabins offering Glühwein, a variety of food, boutique gifts and has a great atmosphere – definitely somewhere you can take the whole family and can spend many hours here.
Sadly when I visited this market it was pouring with rain, but that didn’t stop the crowds, or thin them out later in the evening – that just shows you how popular it is.
Of course no Christmas market is complete without an ice rink, and the one here is probably the best I’ve seen. The rink itself actually goes around the fountain, making it more interesting than just going round in a circle in a rectangular / square rink. And of course you are accompanied by Christmas tunes. What more could you ask for?