Germany is known for many things: beer, pretzels, Oktoberfest, Heidi Klum, free college tuition(!), and more. But the country’s largest draw this time of year is its Christmas Markets, which have been a popular Christmas tradition in the country for centuries, since – if you can believe it – 1384, when the first one was held in Bautzen. And some of the best markets you’ll come across in Germany are smack dab in the country’s capital city: Berlin.
German Christmas Markets are a magical, fairy tale-like Christmas delight with robust Christmas trees, mulled wine, and endless market stalls selling a variety of handmade crafts and artisanal goods, like candles, soaps, festive decorations, wood carvings, warm-weather clothes, and so much more.
Perhaps even more tempting than the shopping, though, is all of the delightful German food to be devoured, like fragrant roasted chestnuts, savory sausages, delectable chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, warm pastries, cookies, and hot drinks. Glühwein (or, mulled wine) is a German winter staple. And teetotalers fear not – you will find hot chocolate for days at German Christmas markets. After all, Germans know a thing or five about good chocolate.
And if you’re feeling like a bit of a Grinch or a Scrooge this season, then these Christmas Markets will surely get you more into the holiday spirit with their open-air delights. So grab some mulled wine and bundle up, because Christmas Markets – particularly German ones – wait for no one. Here are 5 of the best and biggest Christmas markets that Berlin has to offer.
1. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (Winter World at Potsdamer Platz)
This gorgeous winter world is nestled under lush Linden trees adorned with lights, which are a famous pairing in Berlin. What excites me most about this market is that it houses Europe’s largest toboggan slide! So slide down, as the Potsdamer Platz in the background gives a glorious backdrop to your nippy-aired nighttime adventures.
Ice skating is always an effective way to warm up on a cold winter night. So, if you’re feeling too chilly, hit the market’s ice rink for some skating. Or, if reenacting scenes from The Mighty Ducks doesn’t appeal to you, give Eisstockschießen, or, German curling, your finest go. This Christmas market is also known for its lively DJs and festive après-ski party at night. You’ll be singing “99 Luftballoons” with a red mulled wine stain on your nose till dawn, looking like a human Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Location: Potsdamer Platz, 10785
2. Weihnachtsmarkt auf dem Alexanderplatz: (Christmas Market on Alexander Platz)
This remarkable Christmas market dates back to the 16th century and houses over 100 stands selling goods and delicious treats. Located at Alexanderplatz 1, not far from the TV tower, the Christmas market also has an enormous pyramid with over 5,000 twinkling lights. Step into this glittering pyramid to purchase some tasty mulled wine and bratwurst on the bottom floor, and then head up to the second floor to get a bird’s-eye view of the historical market. This market is also equipped with a carousel and an ice skating rink.
Location: Alexanderplatz, 10178 Berlin, Germany
3. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt (Christmas Magic at the Gendarmenmarkt)
With over 600,000 visitors per year, the Christmas Magic at the Gendarmenmarkt is certainly one of the biggest Christmas markets around. Its location is impressive, too: situated between three stunning buildings, The Deutscher Dom, the Konzerthaus, and the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche, it will feel like a secret, magical Christmas town, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ Whoville.
One attendee said: “From now until the start of the new year, this must be top of any itinerary in Berlin.” Christmas trees festooned with lights, and award-winning restaurants like Lutter & Wegner, Brecht’s Restaurant, Riehmers Restaurant, and Enoiteca Il Calice, all housed in heated tents, make this one of the finest Christmas markets for food-lovers. Here, you’ll find Viennese Schnitzel, boiled fillet, apple strudel, and cut-up and sugared pancakes with raisins and applesauce.
Christmas Magic is one of the most international markets, too. Manufacturers and artists from many different countries sell their products and creations here. This is better than Target for one-stop-shopping for your holiday gifts; the custom-made gifts are special and easily cherish-able for years to come. Live shows daily showcase acrobats, dancers, choirs, jugglers, and fire-throwers so adept that you won’t need to worry about your well-sheened new decorative woodwork purchase catching ablaze.
Note that there is a small entrance fee for this market. Most markets, however, do not charge for entry.
It has been called the most “atomospheric” Christmas market of all the Christmas markets in Berlin. (And perhaps, then, it is no wonder why this market got the lengthiest write-up in the list.)
4. Berliner Weihnachtszeit vor dem Roten Rathaus (Berlin Christmas Time in Front of the Red City Hall)
The giant ferris wheel at the Red City Hall Christmas market offers breathtaking views of Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, perfect for snapping the ultimate Berlin picture for your trip memories.
Decorated in an early 18th century look, this market boasts the largest ice skating rink in Berlin during the Christmas season, and a small farm with animals delights youngsters (and the young at heart). Adding to its childlike appeal, the one and only red-suited man, Mr. Santa Clause himself, visits the market three times daily. Brush up on your German so you can tell him what you’ve written on your Christmas list. (At the bottom of this post, you will find some helpful shopping-related German phrases.)
Location: Rathausstraße 15, 10178 Berlin, Germany
5. Weihnachtsmarkt Schloss Charlottenburg (Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace) –
If you’re going to a Christmas Market on a date…first off, bonus points for the creative date idea; second, this – more than any of the above – is the Christmas Market you want to get dolled up for. It’s located in front of Berlin’s largest palace, the gorgeous and supremely regal Charlottenburg Palace. With its beauty serving as a backdrop, you’ll feel like Cinderella and Prince Charming, or, plural: Cinderellas, or Prince Charmings. This romantic setting is ideal for cold-weather, mitten-covered hand-holding, as you stroll through and look at the offerings from the over 250 international vendors who set up shop at this market. The magnificent, woodland-encased palace gardens will also have you feeling as if you’ve, yet again, stepped into a storybook fairy tale, or, perhaps a modern-day Jennifer Lopez rom-com set in 2018 Berlin.
If you’re headed elsewhere in Europe, be sure to check out other countries’ Christmas markets for a taste of the local culture. Forbes reported that this year’s best European Christmas markets are found in Zagreb, Helsinki, Strasbourg, Tallinn, Ghent, and more. And if you’re doing some Christmas shopping, Fat Tire Tours Berlin offers gift certificates, which make the perfect stocking stuffer for travel-loving, adventurous loved ones.
Adventurous, one-time Berlin resident, English singer David Robert Jones once said of the city: “Berlin: The greatest cultural extravaganza one could imagine.” And it truly is. The transformative and life-affirming power of Berlin can be experienced in a single visit. The originator of that quote transformed, too; you probably know him better by the name David Bowie. Bowie loved Berlin. He lived in West Berlin in the 1970s and released three albums known as the Berlin Trilogy.
So, may your holiday transform into a brighter and merrier one as you roam the stalls of Berlin Christmas Markets (or plan your future trip to visit them), with your hand wrapped around a warm cup of mulled wine, as the cold, night air nips your face and the bright, twinkling lights of the market bring you joy and peace.
German Phrases from Fluent U to Use While Shopping at Christmas Markets:
Haben Sie Andenken?
Do you have souvenirs?
Do you sell…?
Wie viel kostet das?
How much is that?
Ich kann nur X Euro bezahlen.
I can only pay X euros.
Ich habe nur X Euro dabei.
I only have X euros with me.
Kann ich es für X Euro kaufen?
Can I buy it for X euros?
Haben Sie etwas Billigeres?
Do you have something cheaper?
Haben Sie das in einer [kleineren/größeren] Größe?
Do you have that in a [smaller/bigger] size?
Um wieviel Uhr [öffnet/schließt] das Geschäft?
What time does the shop [open/close]?
Darf ich mit Bargeld bezahlen?
May I pay with cash?
Darf ich mit Kreditkarte bezahlen?
May I pay with credit card?