Christmas hasn’t really been enjoyable for me for a long time now. I mean, I enjoy it. I just don’t get excited about it anymore.
I blame working at Hallmark and dealing with the worst of humanity just before Christmas Day.
Although not really because I actually really enjoyed my shifts there.
But anyway, I was dreading this Christmas for a long time. It’s my first away from home, and the pangs of homesickness are sharp. Skyping with my parents the other night, I got emotional when they showed me the Christmas tree lit-up in all its glory.
People kept assuring me it’d be ok, that the German Christmas markets were lovely. But I doubted them. I’m not a fan of markets–the crowded hubbub isn’t my idea of a good time.
Of course, all my past market visits didn’t include gluhwein, that glorious, glorious mulled wine elixir of life.
Welp, just like Oktoberfest, I was proven wrong. German Christmas markets are the best thing that’s ever happened to Christmas. I’ve made at least 15 visits this month.
Ok, admittedly this is the worst place to ever go for a Christmas market in Berlin. Any Berliner reading this list is like, “What the fuck is wrong with this person?” I concur.
Alexanderplatz is the touristy hellhole of Berlin. It’s crawling with shoppers and deadbeats, and reeks of piss. But it’s basically a carnival during the holidays–there’s a massive ferris wheel, and games, and endless food stalls.
I ended up being here with some British friends, randomly. None of us knew better. But it’s where I had my first ever glorious taste of gluhwein, mit schuss (with a shot). So it’ll always hold a special spot in my heart.
The rest of the night is blurry. Apparently we had spicy shots at another bar and I drank a container of cream to stop the burning. Keep it classy, Candie.
What does a Japanese Christmas market have to do with Christmas? Well, nothing much, actually.
This market is a temporary one, held over the course of one weekend. I was meeting my buddy Bevan here. Once inside, I texted him: “I’m here, near the sparkling dragon and the sumo wrestlers.”
Only in Berlin.
This market is held at the Berlin Arena. It’s MASSIVE. The sumo wrestlers (people in inflatable suits) are the most entertaining. I wasn’t much interested in the wares being sold, but beyond the arena doors there’s a whole outdoor area with a fire pit, a few bars (pumping out techno Christmas music…only in Berlin), and a handful of food stalls.
We were hanging out with Bevan’s German friends, and they did not slow the flow of gluhwein. We bought Japanese hot dogs and drank more gluhwein and then I may have gotten a little too flirty with one of the Germans. Oops.
Lucia perhaps became my favourite Christmas market, and it helped that it was located so close to my place. It’s the Scandinavian market, located in the Kulturbrauerei. I came here three times.
I wandered here between the market stalls, the swinging trays of sausages being grilled over an open flame, the folks dishing out fried potato pancakes and steaming glasses of glögg. It isn’t the prettiest of Christmas markets, but it’s the most interesting.
At the end of one courtyard, there’s a teepee-like structure where visitors can huddle inside around a fire. Oh, and a moose head mounted on a stall.
I felt quite at home.
I had the most difficulty pronouncing the name of this one.
Gendarmenmarkt is notably beautiful. Oozing beauty. Dripping with opulence. (See feature photo.)
It’s located in Mitte, near the cathedrals, in the fancy part of town. It also has an admission fee of three euros. A massive Christmas tree towers over the entire square. I couldn’t stop taking photos.
Like Alexanderplatz, you’ll have a lot more English being spoken at this market. Tourists galore! I’ve never seen so many fur coats in my life.
But still, it’s beautiful.
Another favourite of mine, the market here is hosted in front of the palace. There’s a crazy light show that looks more Soviet than Christmassy, but it’s still beautiful.
The stalls are high-end here. There are plenty of handmade ornaments, and warm winter clothing, and food stalls. There are Hungarian funnel cakes and Finnish smoked salmon. (No literally. They smoke it right there in front of you over a giant flame.)
Me and my friend Eline perused this place for hours. Over one gluhwein stall, there was a giant wooden rotating nativity scene. Jesus cast a judgmental eye from high on his perch as I slurped back another drink. “Another one Candice, really?” I imagined him saying.
The most Berlin of all Berlin markets, Klunkerkranich is not even REALLY a Christmas market I suppose. It’s more like a market that’s just held at Christmas. Yes.
Again, Eline led me here. A lot of locals don’t even realize it’s here, because it’s located atop a parking garage at the Neukolln Arcaden. There’s a beautiful garden area (with the flowers were still blooming during our visit), and a great sunset viewpoint. There’s a sandbox for kids, and an indoor food and drink area, and plenty of stores with local artisans selling their crafts.
During the holiday season, Klunkerkranich’s market is open on the weekends. It’s free if you arrive before 4PM. If there’s bratwurst and purple sauerkraut available in the kitchen, take it. Grab some apfelpunsch (hot apple punch) with a shot of rum and take it in this totally weird space.
I actually have no idea what’s up with creepy Christmas bird.
What do I love about these markets so much?
Other than everything? There’s such an excellent, good-spirited, joyous atmosphere. Everyone mingles. Everyone’s happy.
But it’s the spirit that gets me every time.
There’s a lot of markets I missed. Some are hosted only on certain dates. There are medieval markets, and markets with skating rinks and DJs, and markets with tubing. Today I went back to Lucia to find the whole area stripped down–bare walls, folded up stalls, no more lights. It made me unnaturally sad.
If you want to find some markets during your visit, Berlin’s tourism page usually has a good schedule outline. The earlier you arrive, the better. Things get busy!
Now pass the gluhwein.