Berlin, in December, is fantastic.
Walking through the city will have you singing your favorite Bing Crosby’s holiday tune –
City Sidewalks, busy sidewalks, in the Holiday Style. In the air there’s the feeling – of Christmas.
There are many things to keep you and your family in the spirit.
Weihnachts Zauber Gendarmenmarkt
For starters – Christmas markets. Everywhere. My favorite, one of the best I’ve been to, is at Gendarmenmarkt. For a small fee you can enter the small market and enjoy the crafts, food, and drink. All the stalls are white with greenery and twinkle lights. One of the many things that makes this market stand out is the frequent music, theater, and dance performances.
There are two foods you have to try if you go, both are desserts. Poffertjes are small pancake-like tasty treats covered in powdered sugar original. They’re Dutch, but We’ve had them at many markets in Germany and the Netherlands and nothing has compared to the ones we had at the Gendarmentmarkt. The other (pictured below) is the Baumkuchen. Unfortunately they don’t allow photos of the process at this Christmas market because it’s pretty cool. There’s a rod spinning over an open fire, and cake batter is poured on it. Slowly, the thin layer starts to cook, then another layer of batter is poured over it. This is repeated until you end up with multiple layers. Once it’s sliced it looks like the cross-section of a tree, this the name Baum (tree) kuchen (cake). In Berlin you can pick several toppings for it or go plain. It’s a must try.
Tips for Berlin Christmas Markets
- The Gendarmenmarkt chargess a small fee for the evenings (I think we paid less than 2EUR per adult), but is free in the afternoon. The crowds are also much smaller then. It is completely worth the small fee to enter, but visiting in the daytime is nice.
- There are Christmas markets all over Berlin. I made it to several, and missed so many that I have to save for a future trip. For more information on all the markets, see Visit Berlin.
- I find Berlin hotels really affordable during the holiday season. Maybe people fear the chill. If you can afford it, stay as close to one of the Christmas markets as possible. I stayed at the Hilton on Gendarmenmarkt which made it hard to resist heading down to that market every evening. There are many options in the area, and it is a convenient base for site seeing with easy access to public transportation.
O, Christmas Tree – O, History
A short walk from the Gendarmenmarkt in one direction and you are at Checkpoint Charlie – the former gateway between East and West Berlin. Take a moment to enjoy the history of this spot. Yes, there are plenty of touristy things that weren’t here 25 years ago, but see past that. This was where foreigners and Allied troops could enter East Berlin. Soviet and US troops in tanks faced off here in 1961. Any spy movie set in Berlin between the 60s and 80s most likely include this area. There are several museums in this area, but the Open Air Exhibit along Friedrichstr., Zimmermanstr., and Schützenstrasse, is an easy way to learn more. With images and information depicting the escape attempts, the symbolism, and the history of this area.
Walk for a little while in the other direction and you end up walking along Unter den Linden. Along the way you will find tons of shopping options, the Rittersport chocolate shop (where kids might enjoy a chance to make their own candy bar), and the hotel made famous by Michael Jackson. At the end of the street, the Brandenburg Gate.
I think the tree here is the largest in Berlin, it’s quite the sight. I bet it’s even better at night.
The Reichstag building is just around the corner. It’s free to tour, but you have to make a reservation in advance. It’s suggested to do it early so there’s space available. The audio tour is one of the best. As you walk up the building, the tour stops and starts automatically based on your location. I hear there’s also a good tour for children, but ours were asleep in the stroller for most of the visit.
Fun for kids
Berlin has a lot of activities for kids, and most of those places go the extra mile during the holidays. The Legoland Discovery Center at Potzdamer Platz is one of those places. We didn’t make it during the day, but at night the surroundings had many seasonal Lego sculptures. Some interactive. The kids, mine and everyone I saw, loved it.
More Berlin Tips
- U-bahn (subway) maps indicate which stops have elevators. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be operational, but it’s good to know.
- If you wear the proper attire, Berlin’s Zoo and the Tiergarten are a good escape from the crowds in the winter. And kids will love it.
- KaDeWe, the second largest department store in Europe, offers child care service during their operating hours. A perfect way to shop or visit their famous international food hall.
- Be on the look out for Eltern, Spiel, Eltern-Kind, Familien or Kinder cafes . These cafes are specifically for families, with a small play area for the kids and a dining menu for the adults. (Use google translate on this page to see if there’s one in the area you’re visiting: Family Cafes in Berlin.)
- Visit Berlin offers special packages, at reasonable prices, for families. These package include hotel stay, admission and discounts to several sites, and a map for the kids.(Also, check out their site for more tips on things for families in Berlin.)
This post is part of the Sunday Traveler link up hosted by Chasing the Donkey, Latitude 34, Ice Cream and Permafrost, Pack Me To, A Southern Gypsey, A Brit & A Southerner, and Frank About Croatia. Click here for more information about the link-up and read other travel related posts.
Ah! You really make me want to go to this one. I think it’s a bit of a hike for us though, sadly. 🙁 And I’d like to know how they enforce the no photographs thing?!?!
Sounds like a fun thing to do with a family!
Ooo we love Berlin! We’ve been twice and done many of the things you listed, but we haven’t been during Christmas time. We’ll have to try that Baumkuchen!
Ohh my gosh! what a brilliant time of the year. And WOWEEEE that Lego Santa is unreal. People are so cleaver.
Love the Lego Santa, so would Finn! I would love to go to Berlin, it is definitely on our list!
Love Berlin! But next time I’m doing during the holidays. I adore Christmas markets and Legoland?! Yes please! Thanks for linking up to the Sunday Traveler! See you next week 🙂
I love to see toddler friendly tips! I know we’ll be back to Europe in the next few years, maybe we’ll have to think about Christmas as a time to go.
Thanks for Berlin tips. I will go there in March. Although it will be well passed the Christmas time, I hope to enjoy many places you recommended here. Love the Lego Santa!
Legoland isn’t just for the kids-that looks awesome! I have not been to Berlin yet, and I have to say it looks wonderful at Christmas time. Thanks for linking up to the Sunday Traveler this week and hope to see you back next week 🙂
Germany sounds like a fantastic place to have a traditional Christmas! I’d love to try some of those poffertjes. Even saying it sounds fun. Poffertjes!
I keep meaning to visit the Ritter store in Berlin Mitte, but I get caught out doing other fun things in the Hauptstadt … and there are more than a *few* fun things to do in the capital city. I also really enjoyed the WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt; I think the modest fee might actually keep some of the crowds away, even on principle! The Weihnachtsbaum at Brandenburger Tor is huge, but there’s something very special about seeing it “embraced” by that famous gate, as I also photographed in my post below one Christmas Eve a few years ago … 🙂 Thanks for your post; Berlin’s a pretty place for Christmas, too.