The Best Things to Do in Berlin During Christmas

Ho Ho Ho - "Meowy Christmas" | © Dennis Skley / Flickr
Ho Ho Ho - "Meowy Christmas" | © Dennis Skley / Flickr
Photo of Natasha Holt
4 August 2021

Christmas is one of the most magical times to be in Berlin. It is more than just the season to celebrate Santa Claus. Drink glühwein as you stroll through the illuminated streets, ice skate in Potsdamer Platz and venture out to the frost-covered Schlachtensee lake for a proper taste of winter in Germany’s capital city.

With its famous German Christmas markets and ice rinks lit up by twinkling fairy lights, Berlin is a magical place to visit during the festive season. Try delicious wurst, have a go at curling and visit Berlin’s famous department store to stock up on yuletide treats. Here’s our pick of must-do activities in the German capital city during the holiday season.

Explore the Christmas markets

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Christmas Market, Gluhwein, Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany
© Cum Okolo / Alamy Stock Photo
If it’s quirky festive gifts you’re after, or the chance to try some legendary currywurst, then Berlin’s Christmas markets are definitely the place to visit. For something more unique, however, try the market at the Bröhan Museum, just opposite Charlottenburg Palace, where artists and artisans sell their work. There’s no shortage of wine, cake and sausages, but you can also find one-off pieces of art, handmade crafts and unusual knickknacks.

Discover the Haus am Waldsee

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A country house worthy of an English period drama isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find one of Berlin’s leading contemporary art galleries, but this is definitely the place if you’re after some super stylish gifts. Take an audio tour around the house and discover paintings and sculptures from Berlin’s most exciting young artists. Afterwards, you can stroll through the 10,000sqm (107,000sqft) garden, wandering amongst the constantly changing sculptures.

Try curling in Bertolt-Brecht-Platz

Architectural Landmark
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When you can’t possibly eat any more festive goodies, a little light exercise might be what you need. Try your hand at curling in one of the two covered lanes in Bertolt-Brecht-Platz. This version is actually a combination of curling and boules, but don’t worry if you’re baffled, as experts are always on hand to explain the rules. Up to 12 people can play on a lane, but you’ll need a minimum of six players.

Treat yourself at the KaDeWe candy counter

Shop, Store
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Berlin’s iconic department store KaDeWe is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Be prepared to be blown away by its incredible food hall, which covers the entire sixth floor. There are more than 35,000 products on offer, but save room in your suitcase for treats from its “candy counter”, complete with 1930s-style chutes and colourful gondolas floating confectionery through the room. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out!

Ice skate in Potsdamer Platz

Architectural Landmark
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For the romantics amongst you, there’s nothing better than skating hand-in-hand on one of Berlin’s most famous rinks. The best part about it? Skating is free, so you can save your cash for a well-earned glühwein at the bar afterwards. Not only can you ice skate here, but there’s also a chance to whiz down a 12m (39ft) toboggan run – it’s not just for kids.

Marvel at the frosty Schlachtensee

Forest, Natural Feature
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Germany, Berlin, 04.03.2018. Free time on the frozen Schlachtensee in Berlin on 04.03.2018. [automated translation]
© Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Beautiful Berlin is made to be explored on foot and never more so than in winter, when the crisp air and moody winter light make for breathtaking photos. To experience a true winter wonderland, wrap up and head to Schlachtensee lake in the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district. The lake’s year-round clear waters are surrounded by the dense Grunewald Forest; you’ll feel as though you’re a million miles away from city life.

Admire the lights at Christmas Garden Berlin

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Berlin’s Botanical Garden opens its gates for you to enjoy a magical nighttime stroll through the illuminated gardens. From mid-November until early January, the grounds are covered with gold luminous archways, lit-up penguins and twinkling lights cascading off trees. Get your camera at the ready – this is a perfect festive photo opportunity. Book in advance as tickets sell out fast.

Ride the Ferris wheel at the Alexanderplatz Funfair

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If you’re looking for a Ferris wheel, a haunted house and a carousel, head to Alexanderplatz. It’s hard to miss and hard to resist. Highlights include the biggest walk-in Christmas pyramid in Europe, decorated with more than 5,000 lights. Climb to the top for unobstructed view across the city. Afterwards, stroll through the market with a mulled wine and gingerbread in hand, and perhaps pick up a tchotchke (decorative souvenir) or two.

Visit Spandau's Old Town

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Many think that Spandau’s Christmas market is the best market in town; now, that’s up for debate, but it certainly calls up feelings of curiosity. The market is set up in the Old Town of Spandau, which really gives it that old European feeling. The Christmas market has over 200 vendors from all around the world – how’s that for a cultural experience? Go for the Ukrainian food and stay for a Konditorei Fester dessert.

Go clubbing

Music Venue, $$$
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Hundreds, if not thousands, of the “Berlin locals” are actually from out of town, if not country. That means many Berlin inhabitants fly home to mum and pops for Christmas time, with many other Berliners simply escaping to warmer climes. With almost half of the city gone, it’s your best chance to dress up like a local Berliner (in all black, of course) and head to the clubs. The lines will be shorter than usual, and you may score your chance into a club that might have rejected you months ago, during the peak summer season, when only a third of the people actually make it inside.

Celebrate New Year's Eve, Berlin-style

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Firework over Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.  New years Eve in Germany
© Daniel Keuck / Alamy Stock Photo
With every Christmas comes New Year’s Eve, filled with parties and plenty of drinks. The biggest celebration in Berlin is held at the Brandenburg Gate with live bands, DJs and, of course, the obligatory midnight fireworks display. It’s free of charge to come along, although be warned – the crowds begin to gather as early as 10am. One of the best alternative places to steal a kiss as the clocks strike 12 is the Oberbaumbrücke – a great spot over the Spree River from which to enjoy the view.

Dayna Gross contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on August 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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