Winter is coming! In Berlin this means short days, cold weather, and grumpy people. But also cozy vibes, twinkling lights, and fewer tourists. While summer is definitely the best time to visit Berlin, there’s plenty to do in the winter as well.
If you’re not put off by cold, gray skies, and rain, you should come visit Berlin this winter. If you’re lucky, it might even snow! A lot of locals flee the city during the winter, so it’s much less crowded, and accommodation is more affordable.
Don’t miss out on some great Berlin winter events, Christmas being the most important one. Stroll through the streets in the warm glow of window displays or visit a Christmas market. But there are also a lot of indoor activities in Berlin, perfect for cold days. Rain or shine, you’ll never be bored in Berlin.
So if you’re planning a city trip, these are some of the best things to do in Berlin in the winter:
Shop for gifts at the Christmas markets
December is one of my favorite months to spend in Berlin. Germans just know how to do Christmas right! Imagine decoration and music everywhere you go. And of course: Christmas markets. While some of the best Christmas markets in Germany are found in small towns, Berlin has a lot of great ones as well.
From mid-November to late December, the city puts on 40 different markets! From traditional to contemporary, big to small, there is a perfect Christmas market in Berlin for everyone.
These markets are the best place to immerse yourself in a festive atmosphere, try German delicacies, and shop for souvenirs and presents. Who wouldn’t love an artisanal glass ornament, hand-knit wool gloves, or a traditional German beer mug?
Go on a glühwein walk through the city
The Christmas market aren’t the only place where you can get your Holiday cheer on. As soon as the temperatures go down, cafés and shops throughout the city start selling glühwein. There’s no better way to warm yourself from the inside than with a steaming cup of this German mulled wine. It’s sweet, spiced, and delicious. If you’re feeling extra festive, you can even get it with a shot of amaretto or rum in it.
And since Germany doesn’t have any open container laws, you can take your glühwein to go! Take a walk through the city while sipping your mulled wine, and you won’t get cold. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Berlin in the winter, especially when it’s snowing.
If you’re more into beer than wine, hit up BRLO Brewhouse for some delicious mulled beer. As a non-alcoholic alternative, many places also offer mulled apple cider or hot chocolate.
Visit some of the many museums
In my opinion, there’s nothing better to do in the winter in Berlin, than to hide on a rainy day in a museum. And since Berlin has over 170 of them, you won’t quickly run out. There are museums on art, history, science, and everything in between. Whether you’re into contemporary photography, ancient artifacts, WWII stories or dinosaurs, there’s a museum for you in Berlin.
Don’t know where to start? These are some of my personal favorite museums in Berlin
If you’re planning to visit several of the most famous ones, it might be worth getting a Berlin Museum Pass. Or get the Berlin Welcome Card which includes free public transport and discounts on popular attractions. And if you happen to be here on the first Sunday of the month, most museums are completely free! Just be sure to book your time slot in advance, as they fill up quickly. Don’t worry if you missed it, though, some museums offer free admission year round.
Explore Berlin nightlife
So that’s your daytime activities sorted, but what about the evenings and nights? Berlin is famous for its wild nightlife, after all. New Year’s Eve is no exception, of course. Just be aware that in Berlin, everyone is allowed to set off fire works, so it doesn’t feel like the safest place to be. Besides, every night can feel like NYE in Berlin!
Clubbing is a huge part of Berlin culture, and techno fans from all over the world flock here to dance their hearts out. Don’t expect glitz and glamour, clubbing in Berlin is a grungy affair. Some clubs, like Berghain, have a strict dress code of black and alternative. Others, like Sisyphos (my personal favorite), are a bit more relaxed. Generally speaking, black, casual, and rave wear are always a good option. Definitely leave your heels at home.
In the Berlin nightclubs, you won’t notice the dreadful weather outside. Especially, since the big ones are open 72 hours straight on the weekends. The added upside of this, is that it’s much easier and quicker to get in during the daytime than at night. If you go somewhere popular on a Saturday night, it’s not uncommon to wait in line for 3-4 hours. Which is especially not fun in the winter.
If techno music isn’t your vibe, there are plenty of venues that play other genres as well. Cassiopeia, for instance, regularly hosts 80s and 90s parties. RA is a good source for finding the best parties and clubs to go in the city.
Are you more a bar or pub person? No problem, Berlin has plenty of those as well. Take a look at my favorite craft beer bars for instance.
Club culture isn’t the only culture in Berlin. It is just as much a city of shows. In the 1920s, Berlin became famous for its cabarets and variety shows, and that never went away. Drag, burlesque, and the like, are more popular than ever. For a taste of that old time glamour, visit the Varieté Wintergarten
But there is also a huge stand-up comedy scene, with different shows every night. Facebook Events is the best place to look for them during your stay. There’s no better way to shed your seasonal depression than a good dose of laughter, making it one of the best things to do in Berlin in winter.
And film buffs will love Berlin as well. There are plenty of art house theaters, like Babylon Berlin, that put on classic movies and foreign films. If you’re in Berlin in the second half of February, you’re just in time for the Berlinale film festival.
Warm up in a sauna
Wellness and spa culture is big in Germany, and goes back centuries. Germans love to spend a day at a spa, relaxing in sauna’s, pools, and lounges. For ages, people have flocked to natural hot springs and thermal baths to “take the waters”. Germans are also big fans of the health benefits of spending time in nature, exercise (especially hiking), and homeopathy.
Saunas aren’t just healthy and relaxing, they are also a very pleasant place to spend a cold winter day. It might not be exactly the same as a tropical vacation, but if you close your eyes, it almost feels like it.
There are several spas in Berlin where you can do as the Germans and bask in the heat of the sauna. My personal favorite is Vabali. This luxury spa has an Indonesian theme and is beautifully decorated. It’s not cheap (a 2-hour ticket starts at €23.50), but the complex is huge, with an indoor and outdoor area containing 12 saunas and several pools.
A cozier and more cost-effective option is the Gewölbe Sauna in Prenzlauer Berg. A ticket here costs only €12.50, and you can stay for free. If you have Urban Sports Club, it’s completely free! Gewölbe Sauna is charming in a kitsch old German way and has 2 saunas and a steam room.
German spas are generally a nude and mixed gender affair. It might be a bit uncomfortable at first, if this isn’t something you’re used to. But I find it incredibly freeing and empowering. There is something so nice about being naked among other people without anyone staring or feeling sexualized. You’re expected to wear a robe when walking around or lounging, though, and will need a towel to sit on in the saunas and dry off with. These can be rented if you don’t have your own.
However, if being naked among strange men is a step too far for you, you could always visit the Hamam in Kreuzberg. This is a Turkish spa exclusively for women. It’s a beautifully decorated place, in traditional Turkish style. Prices start at €20 for 2 hours, and I recommend booking the Kese peeling as well. It’s a bit rough, but you’ll feel like a new woman after.
As you can see, winter is a great time to visit Berlin. If you’re a fan of cold weather, cozy vibes, and a festive atmosphere, you should definitely plan a December trip to Berlin. But even in January and February, there are plenty of fun activities to do. Whether you’re hiding from the rain in a museum, dancing the night away in a club, or shopping at a Christmas market.
Have you ever been to Berlin in the winter? What was your favorite way to explore the city during this cold and dark time of the year? Let’s chat about it in the comment section.
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6 thoughts on “The Best Things to Do in Berlin in Winter”
Winter in Europe is underrated. I think I could handle the weather coming from Canada so one day I should plan a trip to Germany at least for the Christmas markets!
O yes, compared to Canada the winters in Europe are mild! The Christmas markets are absolutely magical and definitely worth a trip 🙂