Christmas traditions are a key feature of the German culture. Big or small, countless Christmas markets sprout in every neighborhood. The most famous ones are open every weekend during Advent, while others, often smaller venues, welcome visitors only a few days a year. In fact, on the list below, I left out most of the “big” markets that are advertised on every brochure and website.
Above all, I focused on less-known locations, most of them outside of the center of Berlin. All of them are easily reachable by public transportation, except the Pfingstberg Belvedere (about 10 minutes walk uphill from the bus stop at Puschkinallee). I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of all these markets. Their locations, either in a farm, in a castle or at the heart of an old “village”, generate a different flair to events that would otherwise feel very similar.
This is a very typical German Christmas market, laid out around the beautiful semi-circular green of Frohnau, at the extreme North of Berlin city limits. It is a delightful neighborhood market, a perfect way to enjoy the Christmas market tradition like Berliners.
Most of the stalls are set outside, although some are inside the St-John Church. There is a nice balance of gastronomic items, handmade clothes, toys and Christmas ornaments. The atmosphere is quietly festive. Most of the visitors are locals, enjoying an easy outing and the seasonal treats that alleviate either the brisk wind or the snow.
While it is best known for its funky shops and clubs, its rock-climbing and skating areas, RAW Gelände reinvents itself in December. Street performers take the stage, some juggle with flaming clubs while others dance and play music. This is the perfect opportunity for children to ride the old-fashioned, hand-operated carousel.
Instead of the traditional mulled wine, why not try Met, a honey wine said to be the drink of the Germanic gods? At this time of year, it is served warm, which is a fabulous way to savor it. Get ready to enjoy a fun ambiance in a bohemian, alternative location.
The ancient church and houses of the old Bohemian village of Rixdorf are really charming. Secluded from the surrounding Neukölln neighborhood, it takes you back to the 18th century and is worth a visit at any time of the year.
Most stalls are run by non-profit associations, benefiting several causes, from a Korean Evangelist Church, to the League of Hedgehog Protection. In fact, participants mostly present handmade objects, from the quaint crochet animals and colorful paper stars to purses and Christmas cookies. This is the perfect place to purchase an intricate Moravian star to adorn your home. If visiting with children, go see the donkeys at the smithy’s.
Domäne Dahlem is still a functioning farm, with its own underground stop, which sells organic produce all year around. It organizes events several times a year (including the sausage festival in the spring), and its Christmas market attracts many Berlin families.
Indeed, children can ride ponies or run and play in the trail around the fields and animal pastures. They can also listen to “Story Time with Santa” while adults enjoy mulled wine. Food stalls sell goat cheese products, exotic spices and local honey, in addition to the roasted chestnuts and candied apples. Not to forget the Santa brass band playing cheerful music in several locations.
The gorgeous baroque castle of Charlottenburg is one of the major attractions in Berlin. Some of the rooms are exceedingly ornate, a perfect example of German Rococo. During Advent, this Berlin Christmas market is a fun addition to the visit of the castle. In addition to the traditional stalls of food, drinks and presents, there is a light show projected on the facade of the castle in the evening. To fully enjoy, go after nightfall.
Tip: The Finnish booth has very tasty mulled wine, with a distinct orange flavor. Delicious! According to Berliners, this is also the best location for purchasing Früchtekuchen, a hearty cake filled with dried fruits.
Looking for a Christmas market with a view? In Potsdam, walk across the Lenné Park and climb the Pfingstberg Hill: mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and other treats are waiting for you. From the top of the Belvedere towers, one gets a gorgeous view on the city of Potsdam, the many castles and surrounding woods and lakes. Inside the building, children can create their own Christmas decorations. This is naturally a perfect spot to enjoy a sunny afternoon, and visit a “different” market.
Come back in the evening for Christmas carols. If you have time, the Christmas market at the Alexandrowka Museum is quite charming. Set up in an orchard of the Russian quarter of Potsdam, bonfires, mulled wine and delicate productions attract both locals and their guests.
Marienfelde is an old village, founded by the Knights Templar in the 13th century. Large farmhouses with impressive façades overlook the main street. Vendors and artisans install their stalls around the village church and in several farm courtyards.
Bring your appetite for delicious cheesecakes, or a sausage and leafy greens dish, called Grünkohl. Raisins and bits of almonds flavor the mulled wine at Lehmann’s. The farm store is also the perfect place to order the traditional Christmas goose and all the ingredients you need to cook a tasty meal for the holidays. Choirs and musicians enliven the atmosphere on Sundays.
Another castle, another Christmas market! Jagdschloss Grunewald has been hosting this very special Christmas market, centered around fairy tales characters, for many years. During any season, the walk through the forest is the perfect introduction to this small Renaissance castle, overlooking the Grunewald Lake.
Beautifully renovated, the white walls brightly stand out of the trees. In winter, the effect is even more noticeable. Just like Hansel and Gretel, travelers have successfully traveled through the dark woods. And now, they have arrived to a safe and warm place, where a joyous festival awaits. Inside the cobbled courtyard, vendors almost fill the entire space, leaving just enough room for the stage where actors perform fairy tales at sunset. For sure, we’ll meet a witch or two before we leave!
Tip: The entrance fee to the market includes the visit of the castle. Don’t miss the Cranach paintings collected by the Hohenzollern family during the 16th century.
Just like Rixdorf and Marienfelde, Britz is an old village, now incorporated in the Greater Berlin. It gracefully preserves its antiquated features. Large pebbles pave the main street, a small church reflects in the pound. Come Christmas time, the Cocolorus Budenzauber Theater Company enliven Britz Castle buildings, with their holiday shows.
Along with the traditional shops and delicious foods, this location offers activities to children, such as archery, pony rides, and more. Card readers will tell you what awaits in the new year. Merchants set up their booths around the farm buildings and in the nearby fields. The manor creates quite a romantic backdrop to the excitement and liveliness all around, especially after nightfall.
The Königliche Gartenakademie hosts one of the prettiest Christmas markets in Berlin. Every object and plant presented there is beautiful and tasteful. There are many different types of Christmas ornaments, ranging from sparkly and graceful balls to paper trees.
And, of course, this is one of the best places to purchase a spectacular flower and plant ornament, a Christmas wreath, Christmas roses or amaryllises. As a bonus, this small market takes place inside the greenhouses, out of the cold, and the rain/snow. Strollers enjoy a drink and a bite at the café on the premises, under the warm glow of the dangling chandeliers.
Tip: The Royal Greenhouses offer garden-related courses and conferences all year around. During Advent, they also teach wreath-making techniques (book your spot early).
All year around, Berliners enjoy spending time outside. In spite of the cold, rain or snow, they flock to the Christmas markets in the city to enjoy the lights and the delicacies that warm both body and soul. They also use this opportunity to shop for presents, usually handcrafted by the sellers. Night falls early in December here and the bright lights attract and welcome all passersby. This is indeed a perfect opportunity to start the holiday season!