Christmas Markets In Berlin

Being on my year abroad in Berlin has given me the opportunity to visit numerous Christmas markets over the festive season - and there’s no doubt that they are leagues ahead of what you can find in the UK.

As proud northerners, my friends and I are annual attendees of the Manchester Christmas markets, where people flock from all over to do some gift shopping, enjoy hearty food and - of course - drink copious amounts of mulled wine.  Thanks to the authentic stalls and dazzling lights, the gentrified city centre looks arguably prettier than at any other time of year.

What gives Berlin the edge, however, is the sheer variety on offer.  The Alexanderplatz markets with fairground rides and slot machines are particularly popular with tourists, while the Kulturbrauerei provides a cosier experience away from the busy centre.  The prettiest I’ve seen so far have to be at the Charlottenburg palace and at Gendarmenmarkt, where the stalls are surrounded by the stunning concert hall and churches.

For those looking for something different (dare I say edgy) it’s worth checking out Holy Heimat at Haubentaucher.  Particularly popular with Berlin’s hipsters (of which there are many), this outdoor pool and bar turns into a winter haven with vintage caravan style stalls and a mini ice rink.  The red cabbage, cranberry and peanut waffle I had was delicious.

As for food, the cold weather and affordable prices provide the perfect excuse to try something new every time.  Some of the traditional favourites include Bratwurst, Flammkuchen (Germany’s take on pizza) and snacks such as gebrannte Mandeln (nuts coated in crispy sugar).  Here in Germany they taste so much better than what you can find in the UK.

Alcohol-wise there is also a plethora of beverages to choose from - not just your standard mulled wine.  Recently I’ve particularly enjoyed a Lumumba (hot chocolate with rum) and a mug of Eierpunsch (basically eggnog) which was enough to make my head spin.  Free samples are also a bonus - as some Durham friends and I realised when we were offered shot after shot of different spirits by a keen young German stall keeper. 

Having been in Berlin for five months means that I now get excited when I see anything British.  We were in awe at the stall selling pasties and fudge in Cologne this weekend, and when I saw a place selling mulled cider I just couldn’t resist temptation.  Cider is hard to come by in Germany - maybe it’s too weak for experienced beer drinkers…

All the eating and drinking is usually accompanied by some sort of performance.  So far I’ve seen a guitarist in Cologne promoting world peace, a DJ in Haubentaucher playing typical Berlin techno and a choir of oldies at Gendarmenmarkt singing Christmas classics.

Berlin has so many markets on offer that you can never get bored over the festive season.  I must admit, however, that the canopy of lights near the Cologne cathedral probably made it the most beautiful market I’ve ever seen.  And the cheeses available in all colours of the rainbow at the Champs Elysées market in Paris were second to none.

This weekend some Durham friends and I are travelling to Dresden to explore the market there, which is one of the oldest and apparently prettiest in Germany.  I’m intrigued to see how it will compare to Newcastle’s market when I go to visit Durham next week…