Germany gets a bad reputation for its northern European location. Summers are short and winters are long. With the Alps in the south and the North Sea the country’s only access to open water, the country isn’t exactly situated in a warm & sunny climate. But just because the country is cold, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit!
Januar kalt, das gefallt. — January cold, that’s how we like it.
Berlin, as Germany’s capital city, is way up north in the country. And while Bavaria and the rest of the south may get the most scenic photos, Berlin is still one of Germany’s top visitor draws. Why does everyone want to visit Berlin—in winter as much in summer? Easy. It’s because the city is so amazingly awesome that there is something interesting happening every day. EVERY DAY. No matter the time of year!
10 reasons why to visit Berlin in the winter
Here’s my list of ten reasons why you should visit Berlin in the winter. Because even if the summers are awesome…so are the winters! (If you can manage long, grey days….) And like I said above, the winters are looooong. So if you want to visit Berlin, it’s possible to get all the wintery goodness anytime between November and April.
1. Christmas markets
There’s no better way to kick of a cold and dark winter than with a mug of glühwein and some hearty sausage in an outdoor market. Berlin’s Christmas markets are pretty varied—from the picturesque Charlottenburg market to the kitschy ones near Alexanderplatz. And even one that supports local charities and nonprofits!
Read: My favorite Christmas markets in Berlin
When to visit Berlin: December
2. Silvester / New Year’s Eve
Every city likes to put their mark on New Year’s Eve, but Berlin seems to have taken that mark and then blow it up ten million times. New Year’s Eve in Berlin is loud, loud, LOUD. Fireworks in front of Brandenburger Tor plus hundreds of thousands of people around the city lighting up their own—you get the idea.
Read: Silvester in Berlin
When to visit Berlin: New Year’s Eve
The annual Transmediale festival is one of those very special, Berlin-specific events. Each year, the organizers create an event that draws out new connections between art, culture and technology. Geared toward media art professionals, artists, activists and students from around the world, activities at Transmediale look at contemporary culture through a critical lens.
Read: Transmediale website
When to visit Berlin: early February
4. Snow makes everything more pretty
Berlin isn’t the most attractive of cities when it comes to its architecture. The style ranges from glass-box Bauhaus buildings to the historically significant Reichstag (with its modern dome on top) with a fair share of former squats and concrete monstrosities. But throw a healthy dusting of snow over everything and suddenly the city looks fresh again.
Read: Winter weekend in Berlin
When to visit Berlin: December—March
Berlin has a few fashion week events each year, but in January, the city comes alive with a bit of style. The world-famous trade event, Bread & Butter, is a big fashion draw with its t-shirt enthusiasts from the world over. Even if there’s a Fashion Week and Bread & Butter twice a year, the winter events bring life back into the city when things start to get dark.
Read: Fashion Week in Berlin 2012
When to visit Berlin: January
6. Neverending nightlife
Nightlife in Berlin is legendary and though the party might slow down in the winter, it’s still stronger than in just about every other city I’ve ever visited. Added bonus: the queues are generally shorter because who’s going to wait out in the cold at 4am?
Read: Berghain—the greatest club in the world
When to visit Berlin: year-round!
The annual Berlinale Film Festival is one of the highlights of any winter IMHO. There’s little better than curling up in a cinema during a particularly depressing winter day. The Film Festival attracts celebrities and stars from around the world and the features previewed here are often some of the best.
Read: Tips & Tricks for Attending the Berlinale
When to visit Berlin: February
8. Berlin museums
Berlin’s museums cover the full gamut—everything from films & art to currywurst & sex. With new exhibits every month and independent galleries that number in the hundreds, Berlin’s art scene is constantly changing (and growing)! Even if the C/O Gallery closed the doors to its historical (and picturesque) Postfruhamt building, there are still plenty of places to find quality art in Berlin—both new and old. In March, the Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of the Museums) sees over 70 museums open their doors all night long for visitors and tourists.
Read: The Guardian‘s best museums in Berlin
When to visit Berlin: In March for the Long Night of the Museums
9 . Festtage Season
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most operas, theaters and symphonies take holidays over the summer—that seems to be universal among most productions. During Easter each year, however, Berlin’s city opera puts on a weekend of operas and symphonies. Throughout the rest of the winter season, the city’s other two main operas perform regularly—and with good ticket prices!
Read: Festtage program
When to visit Berlin: Easter for Festtage Season, otherwise all winter long
10. Club Mate — winter edition
The drink that fuels Berlin’s young and pretty (and everyone else, too!), Club Mate releases a winter edition each year. The caffeinated drink isn’t the favorite among everyone (it tastes like leftover cigarettes and pee), but give it a few chances and you’ll find yourself running circles around Berghain. But the winter version, oh that is something! Hints of cinnamon and cardamom, the winter edition is one of the best reasons why to visit Berlin each year!
Read: Hipster’s Guide to Berlin
When to visit Berlin: …in winter!
Cool post. I arrived here September of last year and never went out not needing my sweater since, and yet I still ran out of things to do! Regarding Christmas markets, I visited both places you mentioned here, but I think I prefer the one in Kulturbräuerei better. At least this year, they had a warming igloo, a heated jacket booth, and even an absinthe stall!
Thanks Jeruen – and yes, winter certainly starts early here! The Kulturbrauerei market is one of my favorites – that heated jacket booth was weird and awesome at the same time!!
Now I’m expecting 10 things to do in Berlin in Spring as I’ll be coming to this German capital soon. Are you still there?
I’ll still be here Ed!!!! You better say hello when you drop in.
As for the best things to do in Spring… it mostly involves bike-riding and beer-drinking.
Neverending nightlife and neverending night. The days are shorter here in the winter than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. That said, I actually like the large difference in daylight hours between summer and winter and I love the cold winter, too. It makes you appreciate the summer more and to tell the truth, I’m not quite ready for it to be over yet. Luckily, the snow’s back!
Neverending night is right! Downright depressing that is…. but you eventually get used to it and you start noticing the many subtleties when the light does start to (slowly) come back…
Berlin did look pretty under the snow when we woke up to it Sunday morning. :)
Yes it did! The snow this weekend was especially pretty…if not a little bit frustrating since it’s late in the season. But it’s been so white & fluffy so I can’t complain too much at the moment
Berlin really seems to be where everything is at lately. Plan to check it out this summer. Maybe longer!
Glad to hear it Jonathan! Summer is really an incredible time to visit Berlin, but if you decide to stay longer through the winter, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
The first time I went to Berlin was in February some years ago. Although I absolutely loved it, it was SO cold.
Went back for the second time a couple of years later in summer: 36°C. Aaaaah, that’s how I roll:)
Well at least you didn’t let your first trip to Berlin scare you off – it really is an incredible place in the summer, but winter ain’t so bad either…so long as you can manage the cold weather ;)
Beautiful words and equally lovely pictures! Awesome plans! I just recently did a similar trip, but restricted myself through europe, and it only lasted for a month!
But than you’ll miss Oktoberfest.. Oh damn that is celebrated in Bavaria..
Cinnamon and cardamom flavoured left over cigarettes and pee. Mmm. You’re really selling it! But yes, Berlin is super cool, no reason it should be less so in winter. I’d definitely live there (my partner and I are strongly considering it as a base once we finish travelling in South America), but I’m still not sure I’d like to be there all winter.
Hahah, yeah probably not the most apt description…but Club Mate does take some serious “getting used to.” I was here most of this winter in its entirety and it was pretty brutal. But I survived and probably all the stronger for it :)
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I’ve been wanting to enjoy Germany during winter and will definitely add Berlin to the itinerary when I do! I can tell you like you adopted for now city.
Glad to hear it! If you visit Germany in the early winter, there are lots of great Christmas markets all over the country (sometimes pretty touristic but almost always just plain pretty!).
Berlin is exciting year-round!