What to do in Berlin over Christmas
So you’ve decided to spend Christmas in Berlin. Good choice, because the German capital does the festive season in a very specific way, whether you want a photo with Father Christmas, or if you’d prefer to spend the evening in a fetish club. However unthinkable it might be, if you really can’t decide how to spend your time, we’ve got a few last-minute ideas about how to best experience a Berlin Christmas.
When December rolls around, it seems like every public square or even suitably-sized pavement in Germany hosts a Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt). They’re a little odd, to be perfectly honest, with multiple wooden chalet-style stalls selling a range of kitschy nonsense with a vague Christmas theme. Bypass these stalls and head straight for the food vendors, where you can munch on a gargantuan bratwurst, nibble on lebkuchen (ginger cookies), or sip a mug of glühwein (warm mulled wine). There are large Christmas markets all over Berlin, with the largest at Alexanderplatz (U-Bahn and S-Bahn Alexanderplatz), Breitscheidplatz (U-Bahn and S-Bahn Zoologischer Garten), and Gendarmenmarkt (U-Bahn Hausvogteiplatz).
With its former status as a divided city, Berlin has two main shopping streets, Friedrichstraße (East Berlin) and Kurfürstendamm (West Berlin). Both offer hours of shopping, general wandering and people-watching. On Friedrichstraße, be sure to visit Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus (Friedrichstraße 90, U-Bahn and S-Bahn Friedrichstraße), a mammoth celebration of books and culture, with a huge English selection on the ground floor. Around Kurfürstendamm, you have to visit KaDeWe (Tauentzienstraße 21-24, U-Bahn Wittenbergplatz), a luxury department store that makes Harrods look like a charity shop.
If your idea of being festive involves staying out until 7am, dancing to techno, with a likely succession of friendly, not at all pushy dealers periodically offering you “chemical refreshments,” then don’t fret, because it’s a holiday, so Berlin’s famous clubs will all be open. Waiting in line for two hours to get into Berghain might not be the best way to spend Christmas day, so try Griessmühle in rapidly gentrifying Neukölln (Sonnennallee 221, S-Bahn Sonnenallee). The club is in a former grain mill, and their Antichristmas Party on the 25th (from 10pm) offers free entry.
A Festive Beer
Maybe you want to spend Christmas day simply enjoying a beer or two – or seven. Try one of Berlin’s many ecke bars (corner bars, because they’re on the corner of a street). Your best bet is Bäreneck in Neukölln (Hermannstraße 37, U-Bahn Boddinstraße), which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including the festive season.
You might just want to escape the hurly-burly holidays by taking in a Christmas movie (as long as it’s not Cats). Cinema listings for English language movies will be listed as OV (original version, without dubbing), OmU (English with German subtitles), or occasionally OmenglU (original version with English subtitles for foreign-language films). Bypass the multiplex and try the Arsenal Kino (Potsdamer Straße 2, U-Bahn and S-Bahn Potsdamer Platz). Housed in the basement of the German Film Museum, the cinema will be showing their Bodies in Film season until the end of 2019. Focussing on depictions of the human body in cinema, the selection includes 1984’s The Terminator, and 1931’s Frankenstein. Because what could be more festive than watching Arnold Schwarzenegger violently murder a whole bunch of people?
Photo: Mateusz Dach