Berlin has everything you could wish for during the colder months, from evening Christmas markets to afternoon food halls, from a night at the opera to a day at the spa. This is our introduction to the best that Berlin has to offer you this winter.
WeihnachtsZauber market, source; Flickr/Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar
Christmas markets are one of Germany’s most idyllic traditions, and every year Berlin alone holds more than 60 Christmas markets in Berlin alone. Here’s our tips for the best of the pack, and remember - the German for mulled wine is Glühwein, and Lebkuchen is that delicious gingerbread-like Christmas treat.
The WeihnachtsZauber market is perfectly located in perhaps Berlin’s most magnificent square, the Gendarmenmarkt, which is bordered by no less than three stunning buildings: the Concert House, and the German and French Cathedrals. The Christmas market here features classic Disneyland-style tents, a gigantic Christmas tree, and an array of food and hand-carved goods. Open every day to 31 December, 11am-10pm. www.gendarmenmarktberlin.de
Weihnachtszeit market, source: Flickr/wolfgangfoto
The Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest palace in Berlin, and the market that takes place in its grounds is correspondingly grand. There’s a ferris wheel, live music and of course the traditional treats - homemade eggnog, roasted almonds, candied fruits… Open every day to 10pm until 26 December. www.wvdsc.de
Acclaimed as one of the most picturesque Markets in Berlin, the Lucia Market in the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg has a wonderful atmosphere. The market is Scandinavian-themed, and offers Nordic treats like Swedish saffron buns and ginger biscuits, alongside activities like bungee trampolining. Open every day to 10pm, until 22 December. lucia-weihnachtsmarkt.de
Markt Halle Neun street food, Source: Facebook
Food halls are one of the best ways to sample the rich variety of cuisine in Berlin. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) on Kurfürstendamm is Europe’s largest department store, and the food hall - which takes up the entire sixth floor - has a truly astonishing range of luxury food and ingredients. Here you can peruse the selections of German and international delicacies, tasting oysters, champagne or whatever takes your fancy. The perfect place to nourish yourself after a busy afternoon shopping on Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s answer to Oxford Street. www.kadewe.de
If you’re looking for something more alternative, Markt Halle Neun in Kreuzberg is a great way to experience the multicultural gastronomic delights of the city. The stalls themselves are constantly changing, but it bills itself as having something for everyone, including “British pies, Thai tapioca dumplings, Mexican tacos, Allgäuer Kässpatzen, Peruvian ceviche, Nigerian fufu, American barbeque, Korean buns”. Every Thursday from 5-10pm markthalleneun.de
Berlinale film festival
One of the world’s largest and most prestigious film festivals this festival always attracts a glamorous Hollywood crowd. This year Meryl Streep is Chair of the International Jury. Films will run at many theatres throughout the city, centred on the Stage Theatre at Potsdamer Platz, which will transform into the Berlinale Palast for the duration of the Festival. In addition to the films themselves, movie buffs will enjoy the special presentations - talks and debates with some of the most interesting people in the film industry. Tickets will be available on the website from early February. 11-21 February 2016. www.berlinale.de
Botanical gardens, source: www.berlin-welcomecard.de
If the stark urban beauty of Berlin in the winter is starting to get you down, we recommend a visit to the Botanical Gardens, which boasts one of the largest tropical greenhouses in the world, to recharge your senses. Here you’ll find exotic vegetation, green trees, climbers and a whole host of tropical flora. There are 16 greenhouses in total, offering a sweeping panorama of the world’s plant population. And if you feel brave enough to venture outside, you can take a stroll through the meadows and vast grounds. www.bgbm.org
Spas and wellness
Liquidrom spa, source: www.facebook.com/Liquidrom
Winter gets cold in Berlin, and when there’s snow on the ground and your joints are aching after there’s nothing better than to relax in the heat and comfort of one the city’s many spas. The Adlon Spa and Fitness Centre at Hotel Adlon, which describes itself as “Berlin’s greatest wellness haven”, has a truly luxurious spa encompassing 9,000 square feet of pools, steam rooms, baths, jacuzzis and so on. You’ll also find every imaginable type of massage, as well as skin and beauty treatments. www.kempinski.com
Another option is Liquidrom in Kreuzberg, a Berlin staple which plays languid classical music underwater in the main pool as you drift around. There are also outdoor jacuzzis perfect for the cold weather. There are also a huge variety of massages on offer here as well. (Do note that some of the pools at Liquidrom do take a German approach to clothing - ie, it’s not allowed). www.liquidrom-berlin.de
A night at the opera (or ballet, or theatre...)
Komische Oper, source: www.facebook.com/komischeoperberlin
If you’re looking for a more refined evening experience, there are three opera houses in Berlin, each of which have a varied programme of ballet, opera, music and musical theatre. The Komische Oper on Unter den Linden is famous for its exciting, edgy performances, and has screens in the backs of seats for you to choose your own subtitle language. The Staatsoper and the Deutsche Oper Berlin are both more traditional, and their programmes for this Winter feature classics - Swan Lake and the Nutcracker - alongside more experimental works.
Deutshe Oper, source: www.facebook.com/DeutscheOperBerlin
Most performances feature English subtitles, but be sure to check with the venue first. A word on the dress code: there isn’t one. Black tie or jeans and a t-shirt are both fine. www.deutscheoperberlin.de, www.staatsoper-berlin.de and www.komische-oper-berlin.de
Craft Beer Experience, source: www.facebook.com/berlincraftbeerexperience
Berlin’s a great place to sample Germany’s most famous beverage, and there are many microbreweries and pubs to experiment with, including Brauhaus Lemke at Hackesche Markt, and Hops & Barley in Neukolln - which serves craft beer alongside homemade bread and sausages.
But if you really want to be educated, why not take a tour with a passionate expert around some of the best microbreweries and bars in Berlin? If you want to taste the best of Berlin beer while also learning something about the city’s alternative beer culture, we recommend two agencies in particular, and both offer private tours alongside their regular tours. Berlin Craft Beer Experience, whose expert Cliff will personally escort you round carefully selected breweries or bars in Berlin; and Brewers Berlin Tours, who offer a comprehensive history of Berlin microbrewing en route to your tasting sessions. www.berlincraftbeerexperience.com and www.brewersberlintours.com