Berlin’s Christmas markets got a bit of bad press this year due to a recent incident. However, let’s not let this unfortunate situation take away any of their charm. Even though I’m not really a people person and I cringe at the mere thought of going to a place where hundreds of other people are supposed to have fun, I have to say I actually enjoy visiting them.
Berlin’s Weihnatchmarkten aren’t half bad (as, let’s say, free open-air music festivals). Sure, they’re overcrowded, full of people selling you overpriced Christmas gifts that you don’t need, and any wrong step might result in you bumping into somebody’s mustard dripping bratwurst or knocking over a steaming cup of glühwein on top of your jacket.
But on the other hand, there are the benefits. People are cheerful, but not drunk. Food is good, normal-priced (I was particularly impressed with the quality of Hungarian lángos that you can get pretty much at any of those markets!). Sometimes live music. And it all looks really nice, with the lights and Christmas decorations everywhere. If you’re into that sort of thing.
But of course each market is a bit different. Above you could see photos from the crème de la crème of Berlin’s markets: the Gendarmenmarkt one. Its central position among historic buildings adds to its charm, the curated stalls all offer different types of higher-quality products, be it the classic bratwurst, or glühwein, or a photo of your iris, they all feel a bit more classy here. The plebes are kept out by a 1€ entrance fee. Surprisingly, it somehow succeeds in keeping the number of people down to an acceptable figure.
The experience you get at the Neukölln market is completely different. None of the posh stalls, entry fees, and disco ball concerts sophistication. It’s a down-to-earth place where you can get a 1€ cup of glühwein (or a 0.50€ cup of tea) - a feat impossible nearly anywhere else. The food is more varied, served from DIY stalls by a wonderful mix of nationalities that you can find in Neukölln. There are even small flea markets hidden in the surrounding backyards.
Finally, if you’d like something in between you could go to Neptunbrunnen, situated between the Rotes Rathaus and Marienkirche. Although its central location nearby Alexanderplatz makes it easy to access, it’s less of a tourist trap and amusement park (like the things around Alexandeplatz tend to become), but actually it’s worth a visit.
Apart from the typical mix of drinks and food we get some tables to sit down, a skate ring to burn those bratwurst calories and a Santa Claus’s carriage speeding above everybody’s heads once in a while (later awkwardly backing up to it’s little shed on the same rope mounted across the venue). There’s also a Ferris wheel and plenty of Christmas charm.