What are the best Christmas markets in Berlin? I’ve answered this query countless times on email and social media. So I offer here my handy guide and pay homage to my favorite Berlin Christmas markets. I also use this as an excuse to wish all our friends and readers a kick-off to a happy holiday season.
Mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, flickered lights in a chilly winter vapor. A retreat from the shortening days of the year to the company of gathered friends.
Yes, there’s something that just about everyone looks forward to in December in Berlin: Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt or Adventsmarkt). You’ll find these “markets” less about shopping and more about community, as friends and families make plans to meet at the market after work or on weekends. Over steaming mugs of glühwein (spiced wine) and hearty German street food like bratwurst, they catch up on life and give air to what awaits at the turn of the new year. Christmas markets serve as the perfect antidote — or accompaniment if you like — to the approaching Winter Solstice.
I confess that I am a bit of a Christmas market geek. I started one when I lived in Estonia many years ago. We've even taken Christmas market-themed road trips. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am American and didn't grow up with the Christmas market culture so I get giddy each time I get close to one. Whatever the cause, this is one of the reasons we stick around Berlin in December.
At this point you might be thinking, “German Christmas markets are famous, but I’ve never heard anything about Christmas markets in Berlin.”
OK, then. Berlin’s Christmas markets haven’t traditionally carried the same reputation or history as those in other German cities like Munich, Nuremberg or Stuttgart. But that’s changing as Berlin makes its own way, blending the traditional into its forward-lurching, unusual self. Just as Berlin doesn’t have one town center, it also doesn’t have one main Christmas market. Instead, its more than 60 markets spread throughout the city, each with its own distinct personality, atmosphere and specialties. Some run the length of the Advent season, while others feature the spirit of their local neighborhood for only a weekend or two.
Of course, a certain commercialization and schlock lurks inconspicuously at some markets. So we share our personal recommendations, a few of favorites to help you get started in your Berlin Christmas market exploration.
The markets listed below are open for the entire Advent Christmas market season, usually every day from the end of November through Christmas (and sometimes to the New Year). We find them especially atmospheric when it's dark and everything is tastefully lit, which is easy since the sun sets in Berlin before 4PM throughout December. Glühwein seems to taste better in the evening, too.
Why: For a bit of the traditional in a beautiful setting, especially at night as the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) and nearby churches and buildings are lit. Gift stands tend to be handicraft or more luxury focused. Food quality is generally pretty high as well. Be sure to check out the big feuerzangenbowle (fire-tongs punch) tent and seek out the wooden barrel of rum to the right of the bar should you need to “enhance” your steaming mug full of punch. In general, if you encounter a choice of gluhwein “mit schuss” that simply means with a shot, usually of rum or possibly amaretto. Note: Gendarmenmarkt charges a nominal entrance fee of €1.
Where to find it: Gendarmenmarkt is close to Stadtmitte U-Bahn station (U2/U6). Neighborhood: Mitte.
Why: To drink mugs of steaming glühwein in the shadow of a 300+ year old Baroque palace. Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas market is one with big time European fairytale charm. Some of its stands feature traditional — and huge — Christmas pyramids that entertain as figures go round and round all night long. Also fun, but kind of cheesy, is the light show at night.
Where to find it: Just in front of the palace’s main entrance on Spandauer Damm. Closest U-Bahn stations include Sophie-Charlotte-Platz or Richard-Wagner Platz, as well as Westend station on the S-Bahn. Neighborhood: Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
Lucia Christmas Market at KulturBrauerei (Nordic-Scandanavian)
Why: Because you always wanted to taste the difference between Swedish, Norwegian and Danish glögg (Scandinavian mulled wine)? Top it off with reindeer sausages and a host of other Nordic games and treats and you might forget where you are. Compared to other open-space Christmas markets, the Lucia Christmas Market is set up in the winding courtyards of KulturBrauerei, a 19th century brick industrial complex.
Where to find it: The market has multiple entrances at Knaackstr. 97, Sredzkistr. 1 and Schönhauser Allee 36-39. Closest U-Bahn station is Eberswalder Str. (U2) or Trams 12, M10, M1. Neighborhood: Prenzlauer Berg
Why: To feel as though you’ve been transported to a small German village even though you remain in the Berlin city limits. The streets of old town Spandau are taken over by its Christmas market. While the atmosphere along the main thoroughfare can feel a bit commercial, the little courtyards in and around the churches convey something a bit more traditional.
Where to find it: Take the U7 to Rathaus Spandau (the end of the line) and then just follow the crowds to the Christmas market. Neighborhood: Spandau
Why: To take a break from the big city. Visit the Potsdam UNESCO sites of Sanssouci Palace and gardens during the day and enjoy eierpunsch (spiced egg punch) at the Christmas market at night. The market takes over the streets of the old town for blocks and blocks with some of the most elaborate and biggest stand displays that we’ve seen. There’s also an ice skating and other fun stuff for kids…or adults.
Where to find it: Take the S-Bahn to Potsdam, which is about a 45-60 minute ride from central Berlin.
In addition to all the markets that run the entire length of advent, Berlin has its share of short-run special weekend markets. These are often smaller events in neighborhood-oriented venues. If you're visiting Berlin for a couple of days during the Christmas season, it’s worth doing some research to see which markets happen to be timed with your visit.
Alt-Rixdorfer Christmas Market, 2-4 December 2015
Why: The Rixdorf Christmas Market serves as a nice kickoff to the Christmas season. It also illustrates how a neighborhood Christmas market can be done well and at scale with local organizations selling homemade crafts to raise money for schools, charities, firemen’s groups, and more. Stands tend to be locally run and offer a perfect excuse to get to know the Neukölln district a little better. The square where the Alt-Rixdorf Christmas market is held — featuring pony rides, petting zoos and all — also helps take you back in time.
Where to find it: On Richardplatz near the Karl-Marx Strasse station (U7). Neighborhood: Neukölln.
Schloss Britz Christmas Market, 11-13 and 18-20 December 2015
Why: To experience an intimate Medieval Christmas market in the courtyard of an 18th century manor house. Though medieval costumes are involved here, the market somehow seems to pull this off without being a caricature of itself. As Schloss Britz Christmas market doesn't typically see the hordes at other markets, you'll have time to speak to the various artisans and learn more about their handicrafts, preserves and other wares. The food served is usually inventive and a bit different than standard fare. There is a €3 entrance fee, but we feel that the atmosphere and quality of the stands warrants the price.
Where to find it: Schloss Britz, near Parchimer Allee station (U7) or bus 181 Britzer Damm/Mohriner Ave in Neukölln.
Why:For a bit of an Berlin urban feel at a Christmas market with views of the city. Located on the rooftop of a shopping center in Neukölln, Klunkerkranich is popular all year around with its eclectic mix of urban garden, music, cocktails, and events. The Christmas market highlights local artists and designers with a good mix of music and jazz thrown in for the evenings.
When: Wednesday – Friday, 16:00-1:30, Saturday and Sunday 12:00-1:30 throughout advent. Check the website for musical and other events.
Where to find it: Karl-Marx-Str. 66, Neukölln. It's located on the rooftop of the shopping center, Neukölln Arcaden. To get there you need to go to the top floor of the parking garage and then walk your way around to the top. Just follow the groups of people.
- Full list of Berlin's Christmas markets.
- Berlin's Christmas Markets 2015
- A handy Berlin Christmas market map overlaid on a public transportation map.