The Best of Berlin in December

This month Exberliner, Berlin's leading English-language magazine, rustles up great design gift ideas, finds a new English-language bookshop and explores Christmas market fun.

The Best of Berlin in December
Photo: Exberliner

Design, yeehaw!

From ethnic German to revisited retro, you can bet these “country girls” (as the ladies behind Pomeranza Design Ranch like to describe themselves) know their urban trends. Janet Tempel and Sabine Bulkeley, respectively, an industrial designer and a landscape architect sell a tasteful, hand-picked and entirely exclusive mêlée of odd and international objects: traditional German Grubentücher (dish towels); Ossie piggy banks and candles; jewelry from Australia or Russia; field notebooks from America – even travel and courier bags made from the soft tops of old convertibles. All of this is displayed on stylish furniture and shelves, in accordance with quarterly themes: after “Luck”, “Here Everything Is Beautiful” or “On The Way”, Pomeranza began its “Friendship” season in November; it runs until the end of December. With Christmas around the corner, you might want to delve into this treasure trove for one-of-a-kind gifts. There’s bound to be something for everyone, and every purse. Prices start as low as €1.20 for a German kiddie classic, the Pustefix bubble-maker, and end at €209 (the cost of a large dothebag-label bag). One exception is a leather bench priced at €1000 – but it’s not just any kind of bench: it’s a redesigned pommel horse. The cozy café corner serves Berlin’s Andraschko coffee, shortbread and delicious miniature cakes. Glühwein will be served Advent Sundays all December long, when the store will be open.

Pomeranza Design Ranch | Raumerstr. 19, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str., Tel 4849 5760, Mon-Fri 10-19, Sat 11-18, Sun 13-18 (for December only),

The book room

On December 8, London transplant Sharmaine Reid is launching Dialogue Berlin, an English bookstore tucked away at the back of a tea shop. Although there are already a number of established English-language bookshops in Berlin, Reid hopes to fill a special niche by pairing her literary tastes and insider knowledge (she’s a former publicist and has been a bookseller for over a decade) with an open ear to the city’s literary community. She aspires to the kind of personalized engagement that could inspire a ‘dialogue’ between buyers and books – and heck, why not authors too? The shop is to be an ongoing experiment: it will evolve with the shifting tastes of Berlin’s literary community and, hopefully, keep readers on their toes at the same time. As well as children’s books, graphic novels and the usual bookstore standards, Dialogue Berlin offers more exceptional genres – Food (mainly British cooking), Cultural Studies and a Theory section concentrated on Art, Film and Literature. The T Room café and gallery, where it is housed, provides a cozy ambience (and, of course, tea and scones). There will be a 10 percent discount off all books from 16-18 on December 10 and 17, and perhaps even more alluringly, the promise of mulled wine and mince pies.

Dialogue Berlin | Christinenstr. 27, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Tue-Sun 11-9,

Christmas market fun

There are more Christmas markets in Berlin than toys in Santa’s sack, but with a little discretion you can find more than tacky trinkets and rowdy, Glühwein-chugging hordes. Pretend you’re in a village in days of yore at Domäne Dahlem, a working farm within the city limits that’s accessible by U-Bahn (it’s near the Freie Universität). This quaint market offers plenty of traditional handmade crafts and beeswax candles, with activities for kids and Yuletide tunes in the afternoons. The children’s Christmas market in the medieval fort Zitadelle Spandau is another satistfyingly old-fashioned affair, with plenty of rides, a petting zoo, kiddie entertainment, and a historical craftsman’s market. For three days each Advent, the small Alt-Rixdorf market springs up in the loveliest corner of Neukölln, complementing Richardplatz’s quaint, old-world feel with an excellent selection of vendors and pony rides under the kerosene lanterns. Weihnachtzauber, at the foot of the Konzerthaus in the regal Gendarmenmarkt, is Berlin’s fanciest Christmas market: skilled artisans craft their wares while you watch; a stellar stage programme features jugglers, acrobats, fire-swallowers, dances troupes, choirs, and various classical, jazz and gospel ensembles; and the food never fails to delight, with top chefs providing much more than just Bratwurst and Grünkohl. Order your organic Christmas goose and find pretty, unique ornaments (and the tree to put them on) at the all-organic, fairtrade Grüne Liga Adventsmarkt on Kollwitzplatz – the succulent waffles alone are worth a visit. The Lucia Christmas market in the Kulturbrauerei has a Swedish flair (Glögg, with a nice kick, instead of Glühwein) and is beloved by the throngs of Prenzlauer Berg children and their parents that make a beeline for the bungee trampoline and cute carousel rides. Santa visits punctually at 17:00 every day. Normally, Christmas markets are more about eating than shopping (sausages and steak, Lebkuchen, Pfannkuchen – donuts! – Kartoffelpuffer, candied almonds and roasted chestnuts, yes please!), but at Holy Shit Shopping (photo) you can actually come away with quality gifts (including a few for yourself). More than 150 young designers and artists sell their wares for two days in Postbahnhof: funky clothes and jewelry, photography, art, books and comics, candles shaped like the Fernsehturm… The “shopping lounge” is presided over by DJs and, although this one feels more like a club than a Christmas market, there is still Glühwein to be drunk under twinkling lights – keeping the dark at bay and Christmas in your heart.

Adventsmarkt der Stimmungsvolle | Domäne Dahlem, Königin-Luise-Str. 49, Dahlem, U-Bhf Dahlem Dorf, Dec 5, 6, 12, 13, 11-19. Entry costs €2 (kids are free)

Berliner Kinderweihnachtsmarkt | Zitadelle Spandau, Am Juliusturm, Spandau, U-Bhf Rathaus Spandau, Sun-Thu 11-20:00, Fri 11-21, Sat 11-22. Through Dec 23

Weihnachtsmarkt Neukölln Alt-Rixdorf | Richardplatz 28, Neukölln, U+S-Bhf Neukölln, Dec 4-6, Fri 17- 21, Sat 14-21, Sun 14-20

WeihnachtsZauber | Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte, U-Bhf Franzosiche Str., Mon-Sun 11-22 (Christmas Eve 11-18, New Year’s Eve 11-1). Through Dec 31. Entry costs €1 (kids under 12 are free)

Grüne Liga Adventsmarkt | Kollwitzplatz, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Dec 6, 13, 20, 12-19

Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt | Kulturbrauerei, Schönhauser Allee 36, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str., Mon-Fri 15-22, Sat, Sun 13-22. Through Dec 22

Holy Shit Shopping | Postbahnhof, Straße der Pariser Kommune 8, Friedrichshain, S-Bhf Ostbahnhof, Dec 12, 12-22, Dec 13, 12-20

For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.