It’s that time of year again…whether you call it Christmas, Xmas or (please not) “the holidays”, that time in December is rapidly approaching. This is also the time for Christmas markets, a phenomenon most often associated with Germany but which has now spread to many other countries. It’s also time for our annual series of articles to be updated – and just like last year we’re expanding to include some new destinations.
Image (c) Wolfgang Scholvien, VisitBerlin.com
I can almost smell the Gluhwein, roasted almonds, pretzels...
Yup, there’s more than just the chance to buy presents too – plenty for foodies to enjoy and the atmosphere can be magical. It’s even better when there’s snow on the ground, but we can’t guarantee that of course.
Fair enough. So let’s assume we’re interested in the traditional, dare I say romantic kind of Christmas market, maybe in conjunction with a city break. Who will guide me through the juletide jungle?
Who do you think? The Grown-up Travel Guide round-up of the best Christmas markets starts today with the German capital, Berlin.
Berlin, Germany – 60 Christmas markets to choose from, but these are the best
Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte (pictured above)
Already one of the most attractive places in the city, the Christmas market only adds to the appeal of Gendarmenmarkt. Featuring the work of stonemasons and wood carvers, traditional flax embroidery and great food and drink, the experience is further enhanced by a variety of performers. Acrobats, jugglers and fire artists compete for attention with choirs, dance groups and Berlin classical, jazz and Gospel ensembles. International artisist also regularly appear. In other words plenty to merit a visit.
Open from 25 November 2013 to 31 December 2013
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), City West
Now ready for its 40th year, our favourite Christmas market in Berlin attracts over 2 million visitors every year who come to browse more than 170 stalls and see the 20 metre high Christmas tree. It all takes place at Breitscheidplatz around the historical church known locally as the ‘broken tooth’ due to its damaged tower. There’s something for everyone here but we particularly recommend the traditional Christmas decorations and ornaments, often made of wood which are especially appealing to those visitors more used to the tacky plastic kind sold elsewhere. You’ll be able to fill up sausages and pretzels washed down with cocoa, gluhwein or punch and all in all will restore some of the magic of Christmas that you thought was gone forever (or didn’t exist at all)
Open from 25 November 2013 to 1 January 2014
The splendid Charlottenburg castle provides a fantastic backdrop for one of the most famous and extensive Christmas markets in the German capital. The castle and its park are beautifully lit and become home to around 150 vendors from all over Germany as well as abroad offering carefully selected arts and crafts and traditional handicrafts. The more usual market stalls are replaced by cabins and glass pagodas. There is an environmentally-friendly angle too with only natural materials used for decoration and waste-reducing refuse systems for all food stands. Professional musicians entertain with everything from classical baroque music to accordion-players and a traditional Berlin barrel-organ. Christmas carols are sung every day by both amateur and professional choirs and there is a Children’s Christmas Market with a Ferris wheel, swing carousel, petting zoo and pony rides.
Open from 25 November 2013 to 26 December 2013, Closed on Dec 24
Continuing the eco theme, why not go the whole hog and visit the Environmental and Christmas Market at Kollwitzplatz “sensible and beautiful” gifts and takes place on all four Advent weekends. The market promises a wide range of attractive, unusual and environmentally-friendly products to put under (or on) the Christmas tree. It is also an opportunity for major environmental organisations to present their projects. Best of all, if they maintain the tradition of previous years (the location has changed a few times) you’ll find that at the Environmental and Christmas Market Santa Claus is green too, rather than red…
From 1 December 2013 to 22 December 2013
Berlin’s biggest Christmas market is also celebrating its 40th birthday in 2013. It takes place in Altstadt Spandau (Spandau Old Town) every day during Advent. Here you will find 250 stands during the week and 400 at weekends as well as a variety of stage shows (including a Christmas rock concert on Fridays from 6 pm – in my experience this is not for the faint-hearted so be warned…) Highlights include the St. Nikolai Christmas Garden, a Christmas crib with living animals on Reformationsplatz and crafts and design at the historic crafts market on Reformationsplatz. Somewhat creepily this is also the location for a medieval plague procession every Wednesday. There is a special area for children and families around the St. Nikolai church.
From 25 November 2013 to 23 December 2013
Full details of opening times and locations can be downloaded here.