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10 Things to Do in Berlin in the Winter

Winter in Berlin is characterized by low temperatures, snow and few daylight hours. However, do not think that this will prevent your trip from being great, because the German capital offers the best of itself during these dates.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Berlin in the Winter

Berlin, Winter | ©abbilder

The capital of Germany, accustomed to the harsh conditions of its winters, is not impressed by the low temperatures. On the contrary, and in addition to everything there is to see and do in Berlin during the rest of the year, there are a series of plans that ensure an unforgettable stay.

During these dates you will be able to join the Berliners skating in one of its most emblematic squaresor in the lakes surrounding the city, go to the impressive Christmas markets, witness the arrival of the most important movie stars in the world or escape the cold by visiting some of the best museums in Europe.

1. Use bus line 100 to get around the city

Sightseeing bus through the streets of Berlin| ©Janusz Jakubowski
Sightseeing bus through the streets of Berlin| ©Janusz Jakubowski

Faced with the low temperatures of the Berlin winter, it is more than likely that you do not feel like spending too much time outdoors. Luckily, the German capital offers you plenty of options to move around its streets in a more comfortable way. One of them, possibly the easiest, is to use the emblematic bus line 100.

This line, in addition to its usefulness, is a symbol for the city, as it was the first to make a route between the west and east after reunification. It runs from Zoologischer Garten station to Alexanderplatz square.

If you do not know the city, these names may not tell you anything, but suffice it to say that the route passes through the main monuments of Berlin. If you buy the Berlin WelcomeCard you can create your own sightseeing itinerary at the price of the city buses.

Another great option: the tourist buses

Of course, if you prefer the itinerary to be accompanied by explanations of what you are seeing, you can always buy a ticket for one of the sightseeing buses that run through Berlin.

With this means of transport you can get on and off as many times as you want and, thus, visit places like the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie or the Holocaust Memorial, among many others.

Hire a sightseeing bus through Berlin

2. Dare to skate on frozen lakes

Lake Wannsee| ©rb.fzz
Lake Wannsee| ©rb.fzz

The lakes surrounding the city of Berlin welcome many Berliners on their days off all year round. In summer they come to bathe in its waters and, when they freeze in winter, to skate on them. If you like this activity, you should not miss to join the locals and go to one of them.

Among the most popular among Berliners is Lake Wannsee, located southwest of the capital. Its large frozen surface of almost 200 hectares makes it one of the best destinations for winter sports enthusiasts.

Another very interesting one is the Grunewald, which is set up during the winter season for skaters or for those who want to go sledging.

The best thing about these lakes is that they are easily accessible from the center of Berlin. You only need to take the city subway to reach them in a short time.

How to get there

  • Lake Wannsee: if we take Alexanderplatz as a reference point within Berlin, to reach the lake you will have to take the RE1 train line or the S7 subway line.
  • Grunewald Lake: from the same point you have to take the S31 line.

3. Spend a few hours sheltered on the Museum Island

Pergamon Museum,| ©Rob S
Pergamon Museum,| ©Rob S

Although they are a must visit at any time, there is no better time to visit the Museum Island than in winter. Not only will you enjoy the art on display in its facilities, but you will spend a few hours indoors and warm.

The Museum Island is located right next to the cathedral. In this article about its entrances you will find all the information you need to visit all the museums there:

  • Pergamon: this is one of the most popular museums in the city and its main work is the impressive Pergamon altar.
  • Neues Museum: without a doubt, what gets most of the attention is the bust of Nefertiti.
  • Alte Nationalgalerie: houses paintings by German painters such as Max Lieberman and Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
  • Bode Museum: its collection of sculptures is really impressive, with works by artists such as Donatello, Bernini and Canova.
  • Altes Museum: it was the first museum opened on the island. Today it houses an important collection of classical art.

If you are still looking forward to more visits of this kind, in this article you will find a list of the best museums in Berlin for you to make your planning.

4. Be sure to visit Winterwelt (Winter World)

Winterwelt| ©tel33
Winterwelt| ©tel33

If there is one event that Berliners never miss in winter, it is the Winterwelt, the Winter World. For a whole month, until the beginning of January, a real winter landscape is set up among the skyscrapers surrounding Potsdamer Platz, one of Berlin's most famous squares.

Those who come to this square, and you should be among them, have the chance to enjoy several different attractions. It is, without a doubt, a great place to go if you have gone to Berlin with children, although adults will also have a great time making use of its facilities.

Among the activities you will be able to do you can skate on an ice rink, jump down a 70-meter long slide, play eisstock or even slide on a sled down a 12-meter high track.

To recharge your batteries, the best thing to do is to go to one of the food stalls set up in the square. I recommend, among all of them, the hut that offers Austrian specialties, which will make you feel as if you were in the Alps.

In addition, there are usually Christmas music concerts and some DJs that liven up the stay.

Practical information

  • Opening hours: between 10:00 and 22:00 hours, every day of the week. On Christmas Eve they close at 14:00 hours.
  • Price: admission is free, although the toboggan run has a cost of 1.5 €.
    Sled track 1.50 euros.

Book a guided tour of Berlin

5. Enjoy the view from Panoramapunkt

View from Panoramapunkt| ©Felipe Tofani
View from Panoramapunkt| ©Felipe Tofani

You may be looking for a viewpoint from which to contemplate the city, especially if it has snowed and you want to see how the white blanket transforms the landscape. Unfortunately, many of the best places in Berlin to enjoy this panoramic view are uncovered and in winter you don't really want to go up there. However, you still have a great option: the Panoramapunkt.

This viewpoint is located at the top of the Kollhoff Tower, in the middle of Potsdamer Platz. To go up, the fastest elevator on the continent is used, capable of covering the 100-meter height of the tower in just 20 seconds.

In addition to the space itself to contemplate the views, you will also find a cafeteria and a room where you can see the very interesting multimedia exhibition Berliner Blicke, which reviews the history of the area.

The best thing about the Panoramapunkt is the 360-degree panoramic view it offers over the entire city, but the aesthetics of the space itself is also very striking. Thus, it has tried to recreate the atmosphere of the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century, with clear references to the work of Fritz Lang.

The entrance to the building costs about 7.5 €, but I assure you that it will be money well spent for the fabulous views you will enjoy.

6. Take a walk through the Hanukkah market in Berlin

Hanuka Market| ©Sylvi
Hanuka Market| ©Sylvi

Although the Jewish religion does not celebrate Christmas, in December there is a religious holiday: Hanukkah. In Berlin, during a whole month, the Jewish museum of the city installs a market on the occasion of this celebration. I recommend you to go there if you want to know another way of living these dates and take the opportunity to take a tour of the Jewish quarter.

In this market you will find several culinary specialties that Jews take to celebrate Hanukkah, as well as some traditional Israeli dishes such as date paste and candied fruits.

If you are looking to buy a souvenir, in this market you have the opportunity to get out of the more typical gifts. Its stalls offer typical Hebrew items, such as Hanukkah lamps, mezuzah (a container with a rolled-up scroll with verses from the Torah inside), dreidels (four-sided dice used in a traditional game on these dates) or various types of cosmetics made with Dead Sea salts.

On the other hand, if you are more interested in cultural aspects, during the celebration of the market (specifically on Sunday afternoons) there are usually concerts of traditional Jewish music, with songs sung in Yiddish.

Admission to the market, located in the courtyard of the Jewish Museum, is free and the opening hours are from 12:00 to 18:00.

Book a guided tour of the Jewish Quarter

7. Experience Berlin's winter nights in its most atmospheric entertainment venues

At Berghain| ©Darkroomduck
At Berghain| ©Darkroomduck

The fame of Berlin's nightlife is well deserved, with venues for all kinds of public. In addition, it can be said that there is a different kind of leisure if you go to the city in summer or if you visit it in winter. In the first case, terraces and outdoor parties are the most popular, while in winter nothing can compete with its pubs and nightclubs indoors. If you want to live the night in the German capital, here are some places you can go:

  • Kreuzberg district: considered one of the most alternative areas of the city, this neighborhood in the east of Berlin is home to a large number of locals of all kinds. A great street to start enjoying the night is Oranienstrasse, where you will find many bars and cafes. If you want to go to the trendiest place your choice should be the Tresor, a huge concrete cube where techno music plays. Another interesting place is the Watergate, although the Farbfernseher is also worth a visit for its cozy atmosphere.
  • Friedrichshain: this neighborhood, separated from the previous one by the river, also has interesting places if you like dancing. The most popular is the Berghain, although the number of people who attend makes it difficult to access. A good alternative is the Kater Blau, with a very successful punk aesthetic.
  • Prenzlauer Berg: if you prefer to go to quieter places, your place is the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The liveliest street is Kastanienallee, where you will find interesting bars such as the cocktail bar Zaza. Also, I recommend you to go to the Kulturbrauerei, an old brewery converted into an entertainment venue.

8. Try to catch a glimpse of a star at the Berlin International Film Festival

Berlin Film Festival| ©Robyn Lee
Berlin Film Festival| ©Robyn Lee

The Berlin International Film Festival, known as the Berlinale, is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, along with Venice, Cannes and San Sebastian. Those who are in the city during its celebration, in the month of February, will have the opportunity to meet some of the stars attending the event or to see one of the films in competition.

The festival is headquartered at the Berlinale Palast, although several cinemas in the city take the opportunity to hold their own activities. If you feel like it, you can go to the catwalk where the famous red carpet is laid out and watch the parade of actors and actresses attending the premieres.

Those who want to go further and go as an audience to a screening do not have it easy, as tickets are sold out quickly. The only way is to go very early to the box office and have some luck.

If you are a film lover I advise you to take advantage of the cinematic atmosphere in the city to visit the set where Metropolis was filmed, in the oldest studio in the world. Also, in some theaters of the city silent movies are projected accompanied live by piano music, as it was done at the beginning of the history of the seventh art.

9. The best way to beat the cold: saunas and spas

In a Turkish sauna| ©MarwinYusman
In a Turkish sauna| ©MarwinYusman

Although somewhat less than the inhabitants of the Nordic countries, there is a great fondness for saunas and spas in Germany. It is one of the best ways to combat the cold outside and can be a great activity to spend a few hours if you have traveled to Berlin in winter.

In the German capital you will find several types of establishments. Thus, the traditional saunas and spas are joined by many Turkish baths, possibly due to the large immigration from the Ottoman country that occurred in Germany several decades ago.

In general, saunas are coeducational and most of them are swimsuit-free. If you are shy, check the conditions before booking.

  • Grand Hyatt Potsdamer Platz: Many describe this establishmentas an oasis of luxury in the heart of the city.
    as an oasis of luxury in the center of the city. Its heated pool is surrounded by large windows offering wonderful views of the city. It also has a Finnish-style sauna, a Turkish bath and a fitness center.
  • Türkisches Hamam Berlin: as its name suggests, this establishment offers the experience of an authentic Turkish bath in the heart of Berlin. It is located at Bülowstraße 57
  • Stadtbad Neukölln: in Ganghoferstraße 3, in the district of Neukölln, is this luxurious spa opened in 1914, no less. At the end of your treatment, you have the option of using the ice pool.

10. Have fun at the Christmas Markets

Gendarmenmarkt, at the Christmas market| ©Jorge Franganillo
Gendarmenmarkt, at the Christmas market| ©Jorge Franganillo

Undoubtedly, the star plan in winter, especially if you have gone to Berlin at Christmas, is to visit the markets located in the squares of the city. Be sure to visit several, enjoy the attractions and eat and drink what they offer in their stalls.

One of the largest and most popular in the capital is the one located in Alexanderplatz. In the area are installed attractions that will delight young and old, starting with the huge Ferris wheel from which you can see much of the city.

In the same market you can also skate on an ice rink, in addition to contemplate the beautiful decorations and its large Christmas tree. Of course, you can not miss the stalls to buy handicrafts and those offering food and drink.

Other interesting Christmas markets are those of the beautiful square of Gendarmenmarkt and Charlottenburg, although it is also highly recommended to make an excursion to Potsdam (only 30 kilometers away) to enjoy the beautiful market that is installed there.

Don't leave without tasting glühwein

Glühwein, mulled wine with spices, is the king of the Christmas markets, although in reality you will find it in numerous places throughout the winter. No one should leave Berlin without trying it, both for its delicious taste and for the pleasant feeling of warmth that runs through your body as soon as you start drinking it.

What the weather is like in Berlin in winter

Winter in Berlin| ©SPNR
Winter in Berlin| ©SPNR

Actually, one word is enough to describe the weather you will find in the city during the winter: cold.

The average high is a meager 3°C, while the average low is about 2°C below zero, although very often the thermometer drops much lower.

The only good news, although I recommend checking the forecast before traveling, is that it is not too rainy months. However, when there is precipitation it is not uncommon for it to be in the form of snow.

On the other hand, you should keep in mind when planning your visits that the night arrives very early. In January, for example, the sun sets around 16:30.

What to wear in Berlin in winter

Packing| ©Ketut Subiyanto
Packing| ©Ketut Subiyanto

A popular saying in Berlin is "no bad weather, bad clothes". That may be true, but those not used to those cold temperatures will need a little extra help.

Thermal underwear is a must in your suitcase, including something for your legs and feet. Boots are the best footwear, especially those that are lined on the inside. It is also important that they have non-slip soles in case it snows.

A good warm hat is also essential, as well as a good scarf and gloves. Of course, you can't miss the best jacket you have and it's a good idea to bring a raincoat just in case.