Berlin is one of those spectacular cities that belongs on every bucket list. But let’s not sugarcoat it; winters in Berlin can be freezing, with temperatures diving to 14 Fahrenheit (-10 Degrees Celsius) and winds that make it feel twice as cold. Fortunately, its thriving arts and culture atmosphere, pulsating nightlife and vibrant food scene make the German capital worthwhile all year round. So pack warm, because there’s plenty to do in Berlin in winter!
Spend a day strolling museums
Museums are a go-to in any city with cold or bad weather and Berlin is no different. If this is your first trip to Berlin, then museums like the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR Museum, Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery are worth visiting. However, to experience Berlin like a local, visit the Museum of Photography and C/O Berlin for photography and design, Käthe Kollwitz Museum for a unique German artist, and the KW Institute and Hamburger Bahnhof for contemporary art.
Take in the wintery charm of Berlin Botanical Gardens
The Berlin Botanical Gardens are worth a visit at any time of year. But if you are lucky enough to experience snow in Berlin, the gardens turn into a winter wonderland of greenhouses and fairy lights. From December through mid-January, the botanical gardens transform into the Christmas Gardens, complete with mulled wine, local delicacies and magical walks through a maze of light shows.
Dine (and drink!) like a local
Any trip to Berlin must include at least one meal at a food market. Since most are indoors, they are perfect for heating you up after a cold day outside. The most popular one is the Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg.
Another market which is less famous and a bit off the grid, is the Arminius Market Hall. If you find yourself in Berlin on a Sunday, make sure to visit Mauerpark, a vibrant park and marketplace located on what was once the militarized zone dividing East and West Germany. While the karaoke only runs during spring and summer, you can find delicious food and good vibes all year.
Indulge in the local cafe culture
It’s no secret that Berliners love coffee, but not just any coffee, good coffee. And while the city is overflowing with specialty roasters, some are exceptionally nice and worth the visit to heat up after a winter walk through the city. The Barn has shops all over Berlin and is enjoyed by coffee lovers worldwide. Other cafes to add to your coffee crawl are Bonanza, Silo, The Greens: Coffee and Plants and Father Carpenter.
Become a cinema buff at Berlin International Film Festival
If you’re a film-lover, Berlin is the place to be, especially in February during the annual Berlin International Film Festival. The film festival in Berlin is one of the “big three” alongside the Venice Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, making it one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. Expect ten days of several hundreds of films across all cinematic genres and be sure to reserve your tickets in advance.
Catch a flick at one of the city’s many theaters
On the topic of films, why not carve out some time to kick back with some popcorn at the Sony Center? Most movies in German cinemas are dubbed, but the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz always has a great selection of the latest movies in English or with English subtitles. Looking to discover your favorite indie film? The Yorck Kinogruppe has a selection of small, beautifully decorated cinemas around Berlin where you can find a curated selection of independent films. Make sure to check out Cinema Paris or Babylon Kreuzberg.
Bookshop and Bagels
Winter is the perfect time to curl up somewhere with a good book. While Berlin might be lacking English language cinemas, they make up for it tenfold with incredible international bookshops. Check out Shakespeare and Sons, where you can browse their astonishing collection of books and enjoy the best bagels in Berlin for lunch. Other great bookshops are Ocelot, Hund Hammer Stein, and Dussmann was KulturKaufhaus for literature and Pro qm and Motto Berlin for art books.
(Pro tip: If you make it to Shakespeare and Sons, spoil yourself with a donut from Brammibal’s next door. They are the best donuts you’ll ever try – and they’re vegan.)
Go vintage fashion shopping at HUMANA
It is still possible to find unique and affordable treasures in Berlin while vintage shopping. HUMANA is a chain of massive second-hand shops where you can find any piece of clothing imaginable. The shops are located all around the city, but our personal favorites are on Warschauer Strasse and Frankfurter Tor.
Stop for a bite at House of Small Wonder
While there is certainly no lack of good food in Berlin, the House of Small Wonder is a place you should not miss for brunch in the inner-city. Not only does this charming Japanese cafe serve excellent food and drinks, but it is probably the most ‘Instagrammable’ restaurant in the city. Be sure to load up on their miso honey mustard ribs and don’t leave without a slice of the matcha roulade.
Explore the city’s hidden backyards
Berlin is full of hidden courtyards and alleys that double as the perfect hangout-slash-hideaway from the relentless cold winds that travel through the city’s main streets. Three cool ones to visit are Gerichstrasse, Mietskaserne, and Heckmann Höfe. And if you want to experience the fancier side of Berlin, take a stroll through Prenzlauer Berg, and eat a traditional flammkuchen at a German pizzeria.
Explore the shores of Lake Tegel
If you’re looking to spend a day away from the city center, a walk along Lake Tegel’s shores is a beautiful little getaway from the crowds. It is the second largest lake in Berlin and while it’s mostly known as a summer swimming hole, in winter it’s just as beautiful. Spend the afternoon braving the cold winds coming off the usually half-frozen lake and take in Berlin’s natural side.
Learn why Berlin’s nightlife is world-famous
The clubs in Berlin are famous around the globe, and it’s not without reason. Carve out a night to go clubbing at Berghain or Anomalie Art Club and see why the German capital is one of the world’s top party spots. Looking for something more low-key? While the clubs always get the spotlight, Berlin’s bar-scene is just as noteworthy. Visit Mein Haus am See for the best cocktails and DJs in town; Barbie Deinhoff’s, where art gallery meets indie rock club; Rum Trader, a place of style, chaos, and no menus; and Madame Claude, a former-brothel-turned-bar.
Looking to hone your photography skills while visiting? Check out this Instagrammer’s Guide to Berlin.