Dashing through the snow, one horse open sleighs, bells on bob tails, spirits bright — such things can only mean one thing: Christmas!

While the most wonderful time of the year may be stereotypified in such US locations as rural Vermont or cozy New England townships covered in new fallen snow, across the Atlantic it’s been established that Germany has been Christmas HQ for centuries. Medieval cities like Nuremberg, Rothenberg and Munich are part of the Christmas lore, festooned with all manner of red and green decorations while carolers sing amidst the ubiquitous presence of jolly old Saint Nicholas. Part of that lore is the Christmas market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, where shoppers can visit any number of neat wooden huts in a city square or other public area and purvey goods from handcrafted wood or porcelain to freshly-baked sweets (including the traditional Lebkuchen, or gingerbread, cookies) and sizzling meats (no visit is complete without a Christmas sausage) while sipping piping-hot Glühwein (mulled wine).

While the Christmas market may be seen as more of a small town affair (and certainly where one is more likely to find a less touristy vibe), the German capital of Berlin boasts a dizzying array of markets for all tastes — more than 60 in all — to say nothing of empty stomachs. Here’s some of the best.

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz

The Christmas market in glitzy Potsdamer Platz isn’t the largest, or the most authentic, but it is one of the most centrally located, and as such serves as a perfect introduction to a holiday Germans celebrate like no other. Several dozen booths crowd the area both near the U-Bahn and S-Bahn rail stations and the upscale Arkaden shopping mall and Sony Center. Various meats and Glühwein (3 euros, or about $4.10, for a glass, with another 3 euro deposit you get back when you return your mug) are the main attractions. A special highlight is the largest mobile toboggan run in Europe, or rodelbahn, which is 12 meters (39 feet) high and 70 meters (230 feet) long with snow trucked in from the Alps. For 1.50 euros (about $2.05), young and old alike can plummet toward earth on a rubber tube filled with air. Don’t forget to scream!

Address: Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany

Entrance: Free

Dates: November 19 to December 26, 2013 (closed Christmas Day)

Opening hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Christmas Eve 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Svensk julmarknad

The Swedish Christmas Market (Svensk julmarknad or Schwedische Weihnachtsmarkt) is a small Christmas market on the grounds of the local Church of Sweden and staffed by church volunteers and other members of the Swedish community. A walk through this compact market is like a portal to old Stockholm or Gothenburg: traditional Swedish handicrafts including red and blue-painted dala horses (dalahäst), food including cinnamon buns, coffee (as important to many Swedes as water), and the pungent Surströmming (fermented herring, which gives off an odor so foul, it is only ever recommended to be opened and consumed outdoors), as well as volunteers in traditional Swedish national costume chatting up passers-by in the language that descended from Old Norse. The älgkorv (elk sausage; 3 euros, about $4.10) is not to be missed. There’s also an area for Norwegian foods and handicrafts, but it consists of only a few booths.

Address: Landhausstrasse 26-28 in Berlin, Germany

Entrance: Free

Dates: November 25 to December 22, 2013

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Svensk julmarknad. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Svensk julmarknad. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Weihnachtsmarkt an der Gedächtniskirche

Every year during Advent, it smells of roasted almonds, hot cocoa and mulled wine around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the center of West Berlin. That’s when around 170 stands are set up around the historical church, delighting more than two million visitors, who also marvel at the 20 meter (66-foot) high Christmas tree. Everything from decorations and ornaments to toys and accessories can be found. Refreshments and food include warm cocoa, Glühwein, punch, glazed fruit and grilled sausages. To boot, this market is open all the way until January, with a New Year’s Eve fireworks show.

Address: Kantstrasse in Berlin, Germany

Entrance: Free

Dates: November 25 , 2013 until January 1, 2014

Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg 

The visuals at this Christmas market at the 17th century baroque and rococo palace of Schloss Charlottenburg — the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family — are drop-dead gorgeous. Food and drinks and handicrafts abound, which make a great start or end to a tour of the castle itself (tours for adults 12 euros per person; $16.40). Somewhere, Cinderella is turning green with envy.

Address: Schloss Charlottenburg (Spandauer Damm 20-24, 14059 Berlin, Germany)

Entrance: Free

Dates: November 25 to December 26, 2013 (closed Christmas Eve)

Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 2 p.m. to 10pm, Friday-Sunday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Berliner Weihnachtszeit

The biggest Christmas market in the city, or at least the one that undoubtedly receives the most visitors, is the Berliner Weihnachtszeit. And why shouldn’t it? Located virtually in one of Berlin’s central meeting places at Alexanderplatz, more than 300,000 people visit the area and another 500,000 travel through its various public transportation stations each day. Hundreds of booths selling anything and everything make the area a veritable outdoor shopping mall, with wide pedestrian lanes for the near-constant heavy flow of foot traffic. Stalls are decorated in early 19th century style, while a 50 meter (165-foot) tall Ferris wheel offers breathtaking views of the German capital, especially at night. Next to the Ferris wheel is a carousel and petting zoo with friendly animals including sheep that children can pet, and Santa Claus visits the market at least three times a day, usually around 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. There is also a large ice skating ring, with a total surface area of 600 square meters (6,460 square feet). You can enter the ice for free, with ice skate rentals amounting to only 4 euros ($5.50) per person. Keeping your balance, however, is up to you.

Address: Spandauer Strasse/Jüdenstrasse (Alexanderplatz) in Berlin, Germany

Entrance: Free

Dates: November 26 to December 30, 2013

Opening hours: Daily from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt

This Christmas market located in front of the Konzerthaus on the Gendarmenmarkt in the Mitte district may be the city’s most famous, with more than 600,000 visitors each year. Especially popular for its unique handmade products, craftspeople come from all over the world to showcase their wares. Ivory, origami and unique pieces of art can all be found here. Furthermore, the market has several culinary delicacies, such as white chocolate milk, fried apples, and cheese from across the globe. Most stalls even have free samples. Entrance to this market usually costs 1 euro ($1.37), but is free before 2 p.m.

Address: Leipziger Strasse 65 in Berlin, Germany

Entrance: 1 euro (Free weekdays before 2 p.m.)

Dates: November 25 to December 31, 2013

Opening hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Brandenburg Gate Christmas tree. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Brandenburg Gate Christmas tree. Photo Credit: Benjamin Mack/GALO Magazine.

Bonus: Brandenburg Gate Christmas tree

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Norway has given the German capital a Christmas tree every year as a sign of peace and solidarity with the reunified country. The tree, located in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate, almost looks too perfect to be real, with mirror-perfect proportions, a girth wide enough for thousands of presents, and enough lights to power a small country. The decorations on this year’s tree, however, are a bit ironic: they were donated by Wintershall, Germany’s largest crude oil and natural gas producer.

Address: Pariser Platz (Brandenburger Tor) in Berlin, Germany

Opening hours: 24 hours per day

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