Christmas may now have been and gone, but pining for the festive spirit, today’s blog topic is Berlin’s Christmas Markets.
European Christmas Markets are known worldwide, and Germany leads the way. All round the world you will find ‘German style Christmas Markets’, but from my experience, nothing can beat the real thing, especially when you chuck a bit of snow into the equation to top it off.
The original (and potentially the best), Christmas Markets were said to have begun in Germany in the late middle ages. These early markets were designed to allow people to stock up for the long winters, and to add a bit of light to dark months. Today, millions of people from around the world visit the modern versions scattered throughout the country.
From bratwurst to gluhwein, woodcarvings to marionettes, a German Christmas Market holds that ‘festive sparkle’ that is luring more and more people year after year. Usually running for the month of December to conincide with Advent, although dates can vary, they offer numerous chances to pass a pleasant evening, or get some early Christmas shopping done. Most are open from around 10am, to 8 or 9pm, and host stall after stall in the traditional wooden huts.
The problem I encountered on a December trip to Berlin, was which to visit. Whether looking for a traditional offering, or the more urban and contemporary market scene, Berlin has something for everyone with more than 60 different markets in Germany’s capital city!
On a whistle stop weekend to Berlin in the snow, I visited as many markets as I could reasonably cram in, but two stood out as clear favourites that I would not hestiate to recommend.
My first experience (and my personal favourite) was the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market. Situated on the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt Square, home to the Konzerthaus (concert hall) and the French and German Cathedrals, this intimate sized market with its sea of fairy lights and delcious smells is warm and welcoming regardless of the weather. Dinner and a show can be found here easily enough in the evening with a good currywurst and a wide programme of performers. These can range from jugglers, acrobats, fire artists or dance groups, to choirs, classical, jazz and gospel ensembles.
Second on my Christmas Market hit list would be the famous Market at the Schloss Charlottenberg, or Charlottenberg Castle. The largest palace in Berlin and its only surviving royal residence, its Christmas Market is hosted in its beautiful grounds, With more than 150 vendors from Germany and abroad, the castle is bathed in a series of coloured lights that set off the markets glorious regal backdrop beautifully.
For a true taste of Germany, I would recommend taking a sip of warming gluhwein. Just be aware – the mugs are something special, but be ready to have a 20 euro deposit ready for the use of one! You can also purchase them if you want a souvenir to take home.Of course, there are many more and I could sing their praises all night, but I would recommend Berlin for a festive break that is suitable to visit with a loved one, family or friends. Each market has its own unique offerings and selling points, and I would love to hear which rank in top place for you!