Written by Joseph M Gaffney
Part two of three
Because there so are many Christmas Markets in Germany, it’s impossible to visit them all unless you want your memory of them to be nothing more than a blur. If you have 10 days to two weeks to devote to the pre-Christmas season, then select three or four Christmas Markets that are not too far from one another, and set out by car or train. You’ll never regret your tour.
Berlin has more than five dozen Christmas Markets of various sizes, so you can pick and choose at will and get a flavor for what’s important to the residents of Berlin’s many unique neighborhoods.
One of the most popular in Berlin is the market at the three-centuries-old Schloß Charlottenburg on Spandauer Damm, the largest palace in Berlin (http://www.wvdsc.de/). The market runs from 23 November through 26 December. Its hours are from 1400-2200 (Monday-Thursday) and 1200-2200 (Friday-Sunday) and is reachable via bus lines 145, 109, & 309, S-Bahnhof “Westend,” and U-Bahn (7) at Richard-Wagner Platz. Paid parking is available, but why drive? Who needs the hassle? Also, Schloß Charlottenburg officials install a special lighting arrangement for the Christmas Market, bathing the palace and grounds in spectacular holiday colors that will take your breath away. Multiple stalls and marquees offer local beverages and traditional seasonal snacks to delight one and all, and crafts of all sorts will tickle your fancy. Near the palace’s greenhouse, the so-called winter-forest section offers a carousel. There are also special tours of the palace scheduled during this Advent season.
Another quite popular Christmas Market is “Christmas Magic” at the Gendarmenmarkt (www.gendarmenmarktberlin.de), a square in Berlin and the location of Berlin’s renowned Konzerthaus, Leipziger Straße 65, is flanked by the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche on the north and the Deutsche Dom on the south. In effect, you can spend a few full days exploring not only the Christmas Market itself, but two superb churches and Berlin’s center of orchestral concerts and chamber music. It’s reachable via U-Bahn (2) at Hausvogteiplatz. It’s open daily between 23 November through 31 December, inclusive, from 1100-2200 (until 1800 on 24 December). More than 600,000 people visit this Christmas Market every year, so be prepared for some stiff competition for the many handmade products, art of all sorts, delicacies, and cheeses,that are the specialty of this market, with ample opportunity to sample before you buy. “Christmas Magic” also boasts a huge, magnificently decorated Christmas tree and live plays every day to bring the meaning of Christmas home for children and adults alike. There is a modest (€1.00) entrance fee after 1400 daily. If you take the S-Bahn to the Friedrichstrasse station, you can enjoy the lighted shops along Friedrichstrasse as you walk to the Gendarmenmarkt.
Berlin’s 150-year-old Red City Hall (“Rotes Rathaus”) on Alexanderplatz hosts a superb Christmas Market, Berliner Weihnachtszeit, (www.berlinerweihnachtszeit.de) in Central Berlin, adjacent to the 368-meter Television Tower (“Fernsehturm”), completed in 1969, and the 50- meter Ferris Wheel, 23 November through 29 December, from 1200-2100 weekdays and 1100-2200 weekends. This market caters particularly well to children and includes an area with several domesticated farm animals with which children can interact, schedules several daily visits by Father Christmas (“der Weihnachtsmann”), and offers ice skating in a large, 600-square-meter outdoor rink. The entire market, insofar as possible, is reminiscent of the early 1900s and presents a nostalgic, even romantic, picture of Berlin life. There’s no shortage of music, food, beverages, and a breathtakingly broad selection of gifts for both children and adults. On average, more than 800,000 pedestrians and S-Bahn and U-Bahn travelers pass through Alexanderplatz every day.
On the other side of Alexanderplatz is the much more modern, even glitzy, Wintertraum am Alexa (www.blume-service.de), which includes several rides traditionally associated with fairs. There’s a Ferris Wheel, a roller coaster (“die Achterbahn”) nicknamed “the wild mouse,” and other spinning and bumping rides favored by children and the young-at-heart. Especially popular is the so-called voodoo jumper which is not nearly as daunting as its name implies, but which teens love. In fact, most teens favor the Wintertraum am Alexa more than any other Christmas Market in Berlin. This market offers opportunities for parents and children to share experiences or for them to take part in separate activities if they prefer. All the traditional Christmas market stalls, foods, drinks, etc., are available in addition to the special activities laid on for the younger generation. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Jannowitzbrucke/Alexanderplatz.
Two more Berlin Christmas markets should be mentioned. The first is the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche, Kantstraße, running 23 November through 03 January, from 1100-2100 (Sunday through Thursday) and 1100-2200 (Friday & Saturday). This market is located quite close to the Kurfurstendamm, the most elegant shopping boulevard in Berlin, and offers the opportunity for extensive shopping and a chance to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Seeing the memorial church is a very moving experience and, if you’re lucky enough to visit when the bells are rung, your experience might well approach the ethereal. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to the Zoologischer Garten. The second additional Berlin Christmas market is theWinterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (used to be www.winterwelt-berlin.de but the link is dead). Because it opens on or about 01 November and runs through 03 January, this market sets the pace for all the Berlin Christmas markets. The hours are 1000-2200 daily (1000-1400 on 24 December). Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. This market is much more than a Christmas Market. It offers visitors the chance to slide down a snow-packed hill on a tire (think toboggan/luge), go ice skating, and—get ready!—Eisstockschießen, a cross between curling and bowling. Of course, there are also plenty of stalls, beverages, foods, and gifts to delight both casual and jaded shoppers. More than 2,500,000 visitors pass through this market every year.