Holy fun markets
Advent in Berlin is all about hot Glühwein, merry-go-rounds and handmade knicknacks. Visiting every Weihnachtsmarkt would kill even Santa. EXBERLINER guides you through the best.
Upgrade your Christmas nostalgia at the Weihnachtszauber in the handsome shadows of the Konzerthaus: endless arts-and-crafts booths, fire-swallowers, Santas, acrobats and stands selling tooth-rotting delights like caramelized almonds and candied apples. Here you can also enjoy a fancy meal in tent versions of Galerie Lafayette and Lutter und Wegner without being bothered by the riffraff (the fake Prussian soldier collecting €1-euro entry fees will see to that).
Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte, U-Bhf Französische Str., daily 11-22, (Christmas Eve 11-18, New Year’s Eve 11-01), through Dec 31. Entry is €1, kids under 12 are free
The Adventsökomarkt at Kollwitzplatz is a tribute to the neigbourhood’s near-obsession with organic living: here you can indulge in fair trade sausages, wholegrain waffles and freshly baked Christmas cookies from Ökobäcker. Stock up on presents like toys made from recycled cans in Africa and wool slippers from Bavaria. Just try not to step on the children.
Kollwitzplatz, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Dec 5, 12, 19, 12-19, free
Fairy tale market
Visit the Domäne Dahlem Adventsmarkt to feel like you’ve stepped into a 19th-century children’s book. It's on a farm, so the kids can take tractor and pony rides or make their own beeswax Christmas ornaments.
Königin-Luise-Str. 49, Dahlem, U-Bhf Dahlem Dorf, Dec 5, 12, 19, 11-19, free
Old world market
The old-world loveliness of Weihnachstmarkt Alt-Rixdorf complements Richardplatz’s village feel with an excellent selection of vendors and several ponies that will let you ride them if they aren’t too pissed off about being in Neukölln instead of Dahlem.
Richardplatz 28, Neukölln, U+S-Bhf Neukölln, Dec 4-6, Fri 17- 21, Sat 14-21, Sun 14-20
Holy Land market
At the Hanukkah Market in the Jewish Museum’s glass-covered courtyard, you’ll find crafts and cuisine from Israel, as well as puppet shows and live music celebrating the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. Cause nothing says “we won the holy war” like a puppet show.
Jewish Museum, Lindenstr. 9-14, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Kochstr., daily 12-18 (closed Dec 24), through Dec 26, free
Out west, the Spandauer Weihnachtsmarkt offers a special kids’ market and a medieval market that gives a glimpse of life in the Dark Ages, in addition to 200 stalls that show a less Inquisition-y side of the holiday.
Altstadt Berlin-Spandau, S-Bhf Spandau, U-Bhf Rathaus Spandau, Sun-Thu 11-20, Fri 11-21, Sam 11-22, through Dec 23, free
Named after the Nordic goddess of light, the Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in Kulturbrauerei is big with families: kids hit the mega-trampoline or carousel while their parents sip Glögg (Scandinavian Glühwein).
Kulturbrauerei, Schönhausesr Allee 36, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str., Mo-Fri 15-22, Sa-Su 13-22, through Dec 22, free
If you prefer dissolute twenty-somethings to sugar-drunk children, head for the Holy Shit Shopping lounge for a singles’ weekend. No rides, no candyfloss. Instead, for €3, you’ll get DJs and over 150 young designers and artists hawking their goods in a ‘club context’. We’ll have the candyfloss, thank you.
Galerie Spandauer Str. 2 + HBC, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 9, U-Bhf Alexanderplatz, Dec 11-12, Sa 12-22, Su 12-20, entry €3
Berlin on ice
Here are five places to show off those brand-new skates this winter… Don’t have any? Don’t worry: you can hire them on the spot.
Skating under the cosmos
Wrapped around romantic Neptunbrunnen, this rink must be the prettiest in the city. The Greek god Poseidon will watch over your skating adventure as you circle him, hand clasped to that of your beloved, with the Rotes Rathaus in the background.
EISBAHN AM NEPTUNBRUNNEN | Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 8, Mitte, U+S-Bhf Alexanderplatz, 1.5 hours: €4 (no entrance free, only for skates), Nov 22-Dec 26
Beat and Speed
Already got all the moves down perfectly: why not try it with music?
SPORTFORUM HOHENSCHÖNHAUSEN | Konrad-Wolf-Str. 39, Hohenschönhausen, Adults €3.30, Kids €1.60, Skates: prices vary according to shoe size, Music on Ice every second Friday (+ €1), Through March
Skate and the city
Come winter, Potsdamer Platz (photo) morphs into a flashy downtown winter amusement park. Catch a flick, browse the
Weihnachtsmarkt, tube down that fake snowy hill and then cap it off by skating among the skyscrapers.
EISBAHN AM POTSDAMER PLATZ | Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 1, Mitte, U+S-Bhf Potsdamer Platz, 1.5 hours: €2.50, Skate rental prices vary according to shoe size
For the real pros
Embrace your inner Olympian at this massive rink – sorry, ‘ice stadium’ – in Neukölln.
EISSTADION NEUKÖLLN | Oderstr. 182, Neukölln, U+S-Bhf Hermannstr., Adults €3.30, Kids €1.60, Skate rental prices vary according to shoe size, Through March 13
For rookies (and Bavarians)
This fun suburban rink offers not only skating classes for beginners but also a range of special events, like ice hockey, Kinderdisco, and the strange medieval sport that is Bavarian curling.
EISBAHN LANKWITZ | Leonorenstr. 37, Steglitz, S-Bhf Lakwitz, Adults €4, Kids €3.50, Prices vary according to equipment and shoe size, Through March 24
Goody goody Christmas: trials of an eager volunteer
So you’re all alone in Berlin this Christmas while your friends are home getting high on stuffed goose and liquor with their families. How can you stave off holiday despair? Help the less fortunate! That’s the true meaning of Christmas after all, right?
But forget the Red Cross (DRK) - they don't want your help, just your money. And even if you’re well-versed in Hundedeutsch, Berlin’s biggest animal shelter is closed for the holidays.
That left Caritas, the huge Catholic charity. In Berlin, they help the homeless, asylum-seekers, downtrodden youth, the old, etc. We called and called. They picked up and put us through to a non-existent extension. So, we emailed. A true Christmas miracle: they called back! “You don’t have to worry about your language skills to tend to the old-aged,” the nice English-speaking lady explained. “For them it’s all the same.” (!)
So what about the poor? Obviously we weren’t the first to try to help out at Suppenküchen. They’re overcrowded with volunteers. But if you’re hell-bent on ladeling out grub for the huddled masses, food-for-the-poor charity Berliner Tafel does need help handing out groceries on Christmas Eve. It’s a popular gig though, so be sure to sign up before December 17 – they even have an English website.
Don’t give up! Here are a few DIY tips for selfless action:
1. Go door to door in your Kiez singing Falco songs. “Rock me Amadeus” will be a relief after hearing “Jingle Bells” a thousand times at the mall.
2. Bake some gingerbread and put a smile of the faces of the poor BVG drivers who don’t get a Christmas break.
3. Offer a free shoulder rub to a burned-out Santa at the Weihnachtsmarkt. Just don’t give him the wrong idea – we don’t want the kid in his lap getting an extra Christmas ‘surprise’.
Of course, you should be volunteering all year round, not just to cure your Christmas blues. You can help children on a regular basis at Caritas, for instance. Even if it’s only once a month – whatever you give, you will get it back thousand-fold. So think of it as a selfish endeavour. There, doesn’t that feel better?
CARITAS | Tel 030 8578 4120. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
BERLINER TAFEL | Beusselstraße 44, Moabit, Tel 030 7827 414, www.berlinertafel.de.
For other ways to help out in Berlin, visit: www.freiwillig.info