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Winter in Berlin – what to do, where to go, & where to stay

Winter in Berlin – what to do, where to go, & where to stay

Accommodation, Feature, Traditions on October 27, 2013 12:23 pm

Summer and ‘open air’ events may be over but the winter months always bring exciting times in Berlin. With scarves, gloves and hats donned, it’s time to combat the cold with hearty winter comfort food and warm beverages. The winter period also ushers in fabulous winter events scheduled from the decades-old local Berlin tradition of Berliner Silvesterlauf  ‘pancake racing’ to the glamour and glitz of the Film Festival Berlinale. Read on for info on winter and traditional events, food & drink, where to stay and accommodation.

Winter 2013/14 events
  • Berliner Silvesterlauf: (31 December 2013) The New Year’s Eve ‘pancake run’ starts off in Grunewald at the intersection of Waldschulallee and Harbigstrasse.
  • Tanztage: (4-14 January 2014) 10 days of dancing events.
  • Internationale Grüne Woche: (17-26 January 2014) Food & drink festival.
  • Transmediale: (29 January – 2 February 2014) One of the world’s largest international festivals for media art and digital culture.
  • Berlin International Film Festival:  (6-16 February 2014) Over 60 years after its inception and still going strong, this February showcase features over 300 films from all corners of the planet.
Tip: Temperatures often dip below the -10 mark in January and February, so bear this in mind when you’re planning your holiday wardrobe.
Food and drink

Berlin and Germany as a whole have a number of traditional winter drinks and food that we recommend you try out.
German mulled wine: The perfect accompaniment to chilly winter days, Glühwein (which literally means ‘glowing wine’) is a German institution – a delicious amalgam of red wine, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, orange and aniseed. To taste, add a little brandy or nutmeg.
German Christmas dinner: If you decide to spend your Christmas in Berlin and want an authentic experience with all the trimmings, be sure to indulge in Germany’s traditional Christmas dinner menu, with Weihnachtsgans goose, dumplings and red cabbage.
German Stollen:
A German Christmas favourite since the 14th century, this mouth-watering fruit loaf, filled with raisins, nuts, sugared citrus and aromatic spices is the perfect winter treat.

glühwein by ume-y_flickr
Christmas markets and traditional events in Berlin

Getting into the festive spirit is very easy in Berlin. Warming up with some delicious hot Glühwein and strolling around the many fairs and markets is certain to give you a warm glow from the wine and the surroundings. Christmas markets will be all over Berlin starting around late November and carry on through to Christmas. Check out the where and when for Christmas markets in Berlin.

Did you know? Christmas trees and advent reath are both German-invented traditions.
Calendar of traditional events 2013

6 December – Nikolaustag. St Nicholas is coming! Making a visit on the night of the 5th to fill shoes with sweets, cookies, walnuts, oranges and other treats.
24 December – Heiligabend.
The most important part of a German Christmas, presents are unwrapped under the tree on this evening, followed by the all-important Christmas dinner and quality time with loved ones.
25 & 26 December. 
Traditionally German people get two Christmas days. The 26th is an occasion devoted to visiting friends and family.
31 December – New Year’s Eve (Silvester)
in Berlin is ushered in with fireworks, music and the usual festivities at Brandenburg Gate. Read more about New Years in Berlin on our blog.
1 January – New Year’s Day is a time of generosity and appreciation for the people who provide a service throughout the year – be it butchers, bakers, post men or shop owners. Join in the spirit of giving and buy a small gift for someone!

Remember: 25 and  26 December are federal holidays, which means shops and offices are closed for business. If you decide to cook your own Christmas meal make sure you’ve bought all the ingredients before the big day. If you’d prefer to eat out there will be eateries and markets to indulge in, but make sure you make a reservation if you’ve chosen to eat at a restaurant.
Where to stay

Since reunification, Mitte (which literally means ‘middle’) is typically the most popular district for visitors to spend their time in. It offers superb opportunities for seeing and learning about historical and cultural aspects of the city. Additionally, Mitte has great shopping, restaurants, bars and a host of other entertainment options. The fabulous Tiergarten, a sprawling 255-hectare park, is just west of Mitte and always a huge favourite. Business visitors are spoilt for choice with lots of top-end dining and stylish drinking establishments, particularly in Potsdamer Platz.

You  might be surprised to know that Berlin is a very green city. After Tiergarten the most popular getaways are the Grünewald forest and Lake Wannsee, found in the southwest district of Zehlendorf and the perfect base for visitors with a thirst for the great outdoors.

With its large Turkish community Kreuzberg is the perfect location for those in search of delicious yet affordable food and alternative culture.

Another area popular with visitors is Friedrichshain where students and artists living in the area ensure competitive pricing and lots of choices. Also, with Berlin icons Berghain and East Side Gallery lying on its border with Kreuzberg – as well as countless quirky bars, cafes and studios – the vibrant atmosphere of this district all year round is nothing short of infectious.

Unfortunately, biking around Berlin in the winter can be difficult. No matter how enthralling you found accelerating through Friedrichshain during the summer months, bear in mind that a new season can mean a new approach to getting from A to B, especially when the streets are icy. For more information see our article about Berlin’s public transport system.


kreuzberg in winter by SPNR_flickr east side gallery in winter by georgenell_flickr
Take heed: Alt-bau (‘old-house’) living is extremely popular in Berlin for its aesthetic charm and kitsch features and though there is no real issue in the warmer months, the less sophisticated accommodation in terms of double glazing and heating facilities(as in partial/no double glazing and coal heating) can become a problem in winter. For an extra enjoyable winter stay in Berlin, either an efficient heating system or extraordinary resilience to the cold is required!
Looking for accommodation in Berlin?

If you’re planning on coming over to Berlin this winter on your own or with a group of friends you might want to consider renting an apartment. Apartments in Berlin are very affordable and allow you great value and freedom.

Oh-Berlin specialises in providing accommodation in Berlin and have been successfully doing so since 2005. With over 400 apartments, we’re one of the biggest holiday accommodation companies in the city. We also pride ourselves on our exceptional customer service department, which can be accessed 365 days a year, in five European languages.

Check out our apartments at www.oh-berlin.com

Wherever you decide to spend your winter visit, Oh-Berlin wishes you a brilliant stay filled with good food, good friends, and good times. Happy travels…

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  1. I’ve only had Glühwein in Edinburgh at Christmas time, and associate it with Baltic temperatures and feeling very grateful. It must be a real treat in Berlin at Christmas time though. Maybe one day I’ll finally make it to the city!

    • admin says:

      We love Edinburgh Julie but like Berlin it can get a wee chilly sometimes so the warm glow from the Glühwein definitely raises the spirits.:) You really should visit Berlin, we are sure you would love it, everyone does.

  2. TIP: Berlin city Lights Tour – End of November till end of December. Berlin city lights tour during the Christmas season – discover Berlin´s sights in bright lights shine. Including a stop at a Berlin Christmas Market for a Glühwein (Mulled wine) or two.