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The holiday season is always magical. And in Europe, the romance goes to a whole new level, thanks to the arrival of twinkling, romantic Christmas Markets.  In Berlin, a city known for its history, nightlife, and art museums, come for the festive atmosphere and stay for the Glühwein (mulled wine) at its charming Weihnachtsmärkte.

A Fairylit Festive-Scape

For Northern ­­Europeans, the Christmas period is a twinkling light in the middle of the dark winter.  And Germany is no exception with its festivaly decorated houses, lit up streets, and romantic Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets). The Christmas Market tradition in Berlin is heartfelt and extensive: There are often around 60 markets, major ones near the city’s main attractions, and smaller ones in every district. All are charming, romantic and many are quirky and creative, like the Japanese-themed market (yep in Germany) and one dedicated just to dogs.  A trip to a Weihnachtsmarkt will expose you to all manner of festive treats: Candles, chocolates, wooden toys, jewelry, leather accessories, scarves, hats and well we could go on. Beyond the gift guying, you can also enjoy ice skating, ice slides, live music (expect German Christmas songs and excerpts from Bach choirs) and steaming hot cups of Glühwein, a spicy, fruity red mulled wine, that’s all part of the charm of a Weihnachtsmärkte experience.

The Best Christmas Markets in Berlin

Gendarmenmarkt

Set against the backdrop of two Neoclassical twin churches (the Französischer Dom and the Deutscher Dom) with the Konzerthaus in the middle, the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market is probably the prettiest in Berlin. White tents and festive lighting enhance the holiday atmosphere, but the market’s real focus is on the food.  In addition to the usual Weihnachtsmarkt treats, various gourmet restaurants set up heated tents for visitors to enjoy their specialties away from the cold.


Insider Tip: Not too far away, you’ll find the huge Weihnachtsmarkt am Alexanderplatz which has a less picturesque backdrop but makes up for it with its romantic ice-skating rink that attracts Berliners from every district of the city each season.

Lucia

For lovers of Nordic culture, the Lucia Christmas market is a love letter from Sweden.  Named after the Nordic mythical goddess of light – or if you prefer the Christian version of the story,  Saint Lucy, the Roman martyr who brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, wearing a crown of candles – this Scandinavian-themed market has now become a Berlin staple.  Taking place every year in the Kulturbrauerei, a former, early-1900s brewery, it features Scandinavian crafts and foods such as reindeer sausages, Glogg, Norwegian cheese, and moose goulash.  There is also Swedish Christmas music and traditional decorations like fire logs and even a “coat heater,” for visitors to stay warm. 

Insider Tip:  On December 13, aka Saint Lucy’s Day, there are special events and processions with music.

RAW Gelände

Image Courtesy of RAW Gelände

For an interesting, immersive experience where past meets present, head to the historic Christmas market on RAW Gelände. Set in an abandoned industrial-style goods yard that dates back to the early 1900s, complete with defunct train tracks and red-brick houses, this Christmas market will transport you back even further.  Themed around the Middle Ages, you’ll see people in medieval costumes, artisans making pottery and traditional wood carvings, minstrels, jugglers and acrobats, and can even participate in knife throwing and archery classes or ride a hand-operated Ferris wheel.

Insider Tip:  A medieval foodie experience also awaits here, so get set to journey back in time through dishes like roasted pork and cakes made with honey instead of sugar.

Adventsmarkt auf der Domäne-Dahlem

Image Courtesy of Visit Berlin

If you are looking for a more rural experience, get on the U3 to Dahlem-Dorf to visit Berlin’s 450-year-old historic farmhouse, Domäne Dahlem. This old manor is still used as a farm to this day, with animals, potato fields, and vegetable gardens, all run by the nearby university. On each of the four Advent weekends, the farm’s courtyard hosts an organic market, the Adventsmarkt auf der Domäne-Dahlem, with stands selling regional produce as well as arts and crafts, and hot chestnuts. For families, there are tractor rides around the fields, while those interested in the history of agriculture, can visit the small farm museum featuring some old machinery and a lovely example of a farm kitchen from the 1800s, while on the other side of the courtyard is the Culinarium, an exhibition for children about food and where it comes from.

Festive Food and Drinks

A trip to a Christmas market in Berlin is all about experiencing traditional culinary delights.  We’ve already said indulging in Glühwein is a must and while you’re at it, pay a little extra to have your drink served in a festive ceramic mug that you can take home as a souvenir. If you have kids in tow, there’s also an alcohol-free version, Kinderpunsch, a mix of fruit juices mulled with spices – or just go for the classic heiße Schokolade (hot chocolate.) On the fun fair foods list are delicious crepes and waffles, but for something special there’s Lángos, a Hungarian treat consisting of fried dough pies topped with sour cream and vegetables. And in keeping with the Budapest immersion, some Weihnachtsmärkte even have Kertesz stands, made of cake dough wrapped around a wooden pin which is spun until baked and then dipped in sugar and cinnamon. To embrace traditional German fare, grab a sausage with a Kartoffelpuffer, which is a fried patty made of grated potatoes mixed with flour and chopped onions. Before you leave, don’t forget to buy a Stollen. This sweet bread with dried fruit and a marzipan center is Germany’s number one Christmas sweet, with a tradition dating back to the 1400s, when the pope exceptionally allowed the use of butter for the Advent period.

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