What we discovered in Germany’s capital at Christmas
The Christmas tree in front of the Brandenburg Gate
We knew Berlin was a large city, so would it be embracing all things Christmassy throughout, we were about to find out.
To get an understanding of the city, we decided to head into the centre, and we took a stroll around the Gendarmenmarkt area. This attractive square is surrounded by some incredible buildings, the Concert Hall, Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom.
The Französischer Dom
These made a lovely backdrop to the Weinachts Zauber Christmas market. Although, what we were initially surprised about, was that people were queuing to get into the market. We’d visited quite a few German markets before and never had to queue, and this comes from a Brit, a nation of people who are renowned for queuing.
Concert Hall & Deutscher Dom
We soon realised that this was for security checks, and with the developments over recent years around these events, it wasn’t too surprising.
Also, for this market, there was a €1 entry fee if you arrived after 2pm. Live music was on the central stage here, so you were entertainment as you strolled around.
The Concert Hall from the market
We visited during the day and evening, and like most Christmas markets, it has a more subdued feel during the day. Which actually is ideal, as this is when you can seek out those unusual gifts while browsing the stalls and indulge in the local delights.
It’s all white here
Some toffee covered grapes
Also within the Weinachts Zauber Christmas market, there was an indoor section all along one side. So, if the weather took a turn for the worse, you can jump inside and carry on browsing, or like us, it was a chance to grab a glühwein & rest our feet.
There’s lots going on within this market, a little brass band wandering through the lanes, plenty of food stalls, to grab a snack. What we also noticed here that there were quite a few pop-up eateries where you could sit and enjoy a meal.
Sampling the delights of the market
The wandering band
The Christmas market at the Rotes Rathaus is known as “Berliner Weinachtszeit”, this market is full of fun, for all ages of your family. At times, some of the markets may be more orientated to adults or children; however, this had it all.
The Rotes Rathaus
Swings with a view
There were no security checks here, it was straight into the festivities. I really enjoyed this market and probably my favourite of the ones we visited in Berlin.
The miniature railway
There was an ice rink, huge Ferris-wheel, miniature railway and so many stalls. I couldn’t resist the aroma of the warm chocolate covered nuts so had to grab a bag while enjoying a glühwein.
Enjoying a glühwein
St. Mary's Church and the TV Tower
The sun was setting while we were here, so the market was waking up around us, with lights twinkling, festive cabins coming alive and the ice rink was aglow this one was fun & as usual never short of a food stall or two.
A bratwurst or two!!
The ice rink in front of the Ferris Wheel
Trying to dodge the heavy rain we arrived at the Christmas Market in Alexanderplatz. This market for me, I felt was aimed a little bit more towards adults, although there was an ice rink, carousel and other things for children to enjoy.
Carousel and the World Clock
I always love to see the Käthe Wohlfahrt cabin, it wouldn’t quite be the same without it and also the traditional Christmas Pyramids. Nearby here is also the World Clock and a must to see, and has been in the square since 1969.
Käthe Wohlfahrt on Alexanderplatz
Colourful Christmas Pyramid
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Not to be defeated for the evening, we headed over to Eco-Friendly market along Sophienstrasse near Hackesche Höfe.
This market is only open the four weekends in advent. It is a lot smaller than the other major markets; however, it felt more unusual and unique, and the gifts were made with the environment in mind.
The eco friendly market
Strolling along Sophienstrasse
We headed to Potsdamer Platz, which was once No-man’s Land for a few reasons, the main reason being the history of the area and that there are still parts of the Berlin Wall on display. Also, it was a chance to visit the last of our Christmas markets whilst in Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz Christmas market
Potsdamer Platz is in a modern part of the city, and we were there during the day, so couldn’t fully appreciate the market coming alive in the evening. It had a nice selection of stalls and rides, and even had an ice stock curling rink and a mini ski slope.
The tyre ski slope at the Potsdamer Platz market
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Too much history not to miss
As this was our first trip to Berlin, we didn’t want to spend all of our time visiting the Christmas markets. Gary and I are intrigued with history and Berlin is just overflowing with so much.
The Brandenburg Gate at dusk
The falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989, was a moment in time that we both remember watching together with amazement. So, we weren’t going to let this opportunity slip by.
We headed to the Berlin Wall Memorial, via Checkpoint Charlie, which was a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.
Piece of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie
It has now become a bit of a tourist attraction, although, it still holds a significant point in history that I wanted to visit.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We jumped on the U-Bahn to Naturkundemuseum station and strolled the few minutes up the road to the Berlin Wall Memorial.
The Berlin Wall at the memorial
It took my breath away, I couldn’t believe I was standing there next to it. Whether it was because it only fell in 1989, so recent in terms of history and the division and atrocities associated with it.
Sections from the Berlin Wall
I couldn’t help myself but go and lay the palm of my had on it, somehow trying to alleviate some sort of pain.
A few who lost their lives
It was an astonishing sight to see, some of the buildings that the wall was built alongside in 1961 still remain. You are also able to see where numerous tunnels were dug for escape.
One of the tunnels dug under the wall
Part of the Berlin Wall in Potsdamer Platz
Berlin Wall in Potsdamer Platz
Story behind the Berlin Wall
Trying to hold back the tears while reading and listening to innocent people’s stories was too difficult.
Probably one of the most photographed landmarks in Berlin if not Germany. We visited the Brandenburg Gate a couple of times, as we wanted to see it during the day and the evening.
When we were there during the day, there was a demonstration taking place, which is often witnessed by this 18th-century neo-classical building.
The Brandenburg Gate
Heading back later in the evening it was a lot quieter and looked very impressive at dusk.
Another place Gary and I wanted to visit, was the Reichstag Building (Parliament Building). Although you have to book a time slot in advance (which is very easy), this tour is amazingly free of charge to visit along, with an audio guided tour.
The dome on the Reichstag Building
From within the glass dome at the top, the views across the city are incredible, as you stroll around in circles winding your way up to the top of the roof, all the significant landmarks are pointed out for you.
Inside the Reichstag dome
We walked down the road to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. This Holocaust Memorial is quite moving, 2,711 grey concrete slabs of differing heights, lay across a sloping field. They portray a cold starkness, that really does make you stop and think.
Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
You can wander amongst the slabs; however, I felt at times some people could have been more respectful here.
Holocaust Memorial flowers
Step inside the Holocaust Memorial
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Where we stayed
For the three nights, we were in Berlin, our accommodation was at Adina Hotel Checkpoint Charlie. It is only about a 10 minutes’ walk to the Gendarmenmarkt and close to public transport connections.
It also had onsite parking, which was one of the reasons we chose it. I would highly recommend this hotel, and the staff were extremely helpful.
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