To get into the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or simply to enjoy the winter season, Berliners head to their favorite Weihnachtsmarkt. With their handmade products, hearty comfort foods, mulled wine and brightly lit carousels, the holiday markets of all styles and sizes have popped-up around the town.
Photo by: Vitor Fontes, Unsplash
Although today you can find these Weihnachtsmärkte across all of Europe, they are in fact an old German tradition. The predecessor of the first Christmas market was first recorded in 1298 in Vienna, but the open holiday markets, as we know them, appeared in Germany in the 14th century. These early markets started by only selling meat but evolved to provide other everyday purchases, and eventually seasonal treats, decorations, and crafts – accompanied by singing and dancing.
Berlin is a home to over 80 holiday markets. While, due to the alarming Covid infection numbers, some of the markets did not open this year (like Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace market and Adventsmarkt in Dahlem), there are still many major markets you can visit. Going to every Weihnachtsmarkt would kill even Santa, so we guide you through our favorite.
Out of all the holiday markets, this one, in addition to handmade crafts and traditional fast food and drink options, offers many things extra. There’s an extensive program, with acrobats, stilt angels, choirs, music and dance groups performing on a daily basis. Here, top chefs present culinary delights from the exquisite snacks to sophisticated gourmet menus. In a very cozy atmosphere of well-built temporary restaurant spaces, you can order original Swiss cheese fondue, Christmas classics, such as duck or venison, homemade Sauerbraten, oven fresh Kaiserschmarrn, and even specialties fresh from a Tyrolean farm. You can watch the craftsmen making their goods – there’s even a leather queen, the wood cutter, and the ivory carver – and, of course, do your holiday gifts shopping to the fullest here – there’s gold and silver jewelry, alpaca teddy bears, organic soaps and candles, beautiful tree ornaments, and much more to satisfy even the pickiest in your circles.
Named after the Nordic goddess of light, the Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in Kulturbrauerei is big with families and represents our Nordic neighbors. While kids visit Santa, shoot bows, climb a star ladder, marvel walking angels and take carousel rides, their parents can sip Glögg (Scandinavian Glühwein) and Icelandic vodka, eat wild boar burgers, elk salami, and Smörrebröd. You can also buy crafts from Lapland, a huge variety of licorice candies and other licorice-infused things, Norwegian wools, Finish honey, and Latvian linens.
Not every holiday market offers a giant Ferris wheel and an ice-skating rink under Berlin’s most famous TV tower. These neighboring markets are the best attraction when it comes to indulging into a whole day of fun.
If you are up for getting your head spinning, the market on Alexanderplatz is like a huge theme park, with many rides and activities, including a Santa Claus party house. There are over 100 huts selling food, drink and various gifts from potters, blacksmiths and glassblowers. Yet, the heart of the market is a large Christmas pyramid. In fact, this is the largest Ore Mountain pyramid in Europe (with more than 5000 lights).
At the Rotes Rathaus market, you can take a ride on a 50m high Ferris wheel and enjoy the views of Berlin. You’ll also find a 600 square meter ice rink and a petting zoo with ponies, donkeys and sheep. Yet the best surprise is a flying Santa Claus, appearing daily in the skies on his sleigh.
Not a Christmas market per se but is definitely worth a visit if you are strolling through the streets of Mitte and prefer a “quieter” holiday market experience. The historic ballroom has set up a Christmas market in its front courtyard. There’s Glühwein, soul-warming gingerbread waffles, raclette, and many twinkly lights and candy-cane decorations, which give this Mitte icon the best of the holiday cheer.
Care for archery or axe throwing? Then this is a market for you. Located on the grounds of RAW, the Medieval Christmas Market is packed with fun activities. There’s a hand operated marry-go-round and a smaller Ferris wheel, flame performers, jugglers, musicians, acrobats, what’s not. You can even get a taste of Middle Ages cuisine here (like an open fire fish or meat), but if it’s not for you, there’s Glühwein and sausages, as well as options for vegetarians and vegans.
For a full list of Berlin Christmas Markets taking place this year, please check here.