When it’s a cold winter’s night, who can resist sparkly lights, the sound of O Tannenbaum and the enticing aromas of hot spiced wine, cheese raclette, gingerbread and grilled sausages? Not me, that’s for sure…
Whether you’re shopping for traditional wooden toys, nutcrackers, tree decorations or unusual gifts, nowhere does Christmas markets quite like Germany. And Berlin, the capital, has over 50 Weihnachtsmärkte to investigate in the four week Advent run-up to Christmas.
So far, I’ve visited four: the markets on Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz (where there’s also an artificial tobaggon run), the Gendarmenmarkt, and the Scandinavian-themed Lucia market.
On one of the city’s most architecturally beautiful squares, the Gendarmenmarkt is my favorite. The food stalls here are really good–for both snacking and buying foodie presents. As you’d expect, the markethas a giant Christmas tree–there’s also a crib, and the churches on the square are illuminated like candle-glow. On the night I visited, there was entertainment too–carol singers, and pantomime skits taking place on a small stage.
I didn’t mean to buy anything–but of course, I did. A jar of walnuts in rose petal honey ad alvender and cinnamon marinade…a bag of apple chips….a magic mushroom and two birds with dazzling silver and crimson plumage for my tree…a pair of stripy woollen tights and a woollen beret.
Oh, and some hand-made greeting cards for next year.
But if you’ve never visited Scandinavia at Christmas, it’s also worth taking a look at the Lucia market. Adorned with white lights shaped like snowflakes, and with a carousel for kiddies, this market is held in the courtyard of an old brewery in Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. I didn’t sample any elk bratwurst or buy a Finnish ax, but I can definitely recommend Swedish Glögg. Filled with almonds and raisins, it’s like Gluhwein—mulled wine. For an extra kick, try it with a shot of vanilla vodka.