This post contains links which earn me a small commission at no cost to you.
This post contains links which earn me a small commission at no cost to you.
I’ll be honest: winter in Berlin is rough. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gloomy, and the days are really short. But it’s not all bad. There are still plenty of things to do in Berlin in winter, especially if you’re prepared.
It might mean wearing layers, a fluffy coat, and a winter hat. Or maybe it means you do more indoor activities. Either way, you can still have a great time here.
Berlin winter can also mean fewer tourists, aside from Christmas market season. So if you’re willing to brave the cold weather in the off season, visiting Berlin in winter could be a good choice.
Let’s take a look at ways to enjoy the city and what to do in winter in Berlin.
Where to stay in Berlin
Berlin has lots of great neighborhoods for you to stay in and explore. If you’re visiting Berlin for the first time, it might be best for you stay somewhere central.
Many of the attractions are in Mitte or easily connected to Mitte by Berlin’s public transport, so you should stay somewhere in that region. Here are a few hotels we recommend.
For a more detailed look at the different neighborhoods and our hotel recommendations, check out our guide to where to stay in Berlin.
Or read my full review of the 25Hours Hotel in Charlottenburg with fantastic views of the Zoo and Tiergarten.
Berlin weather in winter
I love the long days we have in the summertime in Berlin, but we sure do pay for it when winter comes. Winter in Berlin means 8 hours or less of daylight, low temperatures, cloudy skies, and rain more often than snow.
On the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, Berlin gets 7 hours 39 minutes of daylight. The sun comes up after 8am and sets before 4pm.
Remember Berlin is a lot farther north than you might realize. If you’re coming from North America, Berlin’s latitude is roughly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton, Canada.
Even though winter is seen as December, January, and February, I usually like to include November and March too. Yes, it really can be just as cold and wintry in November or March.
And just a reminder that the temperatures listed below are averages. Berlin definitely gets days or even weeks where the high dips down to the mid teens (-10C).
Make sure you check out my Berlin winter packing list so you’ll know what to wear and how to survive a winter trip to Berlin.
Average high and low temperatures in Berlin:
Berlin things to do in winter
As the chill sets in, bundle up and explore Berlin’s wintry side. From the festive holiday season to cozy indoor activities, you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy Berlin winter.
With so many fun things to do in Berlin, don’t let the cold stop you.
Drink mulled wine at the Christmas markets
Christmas markets in Berlin start in mid to late November. Most have their last day somewhere between December 22nd and December 26th, although there are a few that last until New Year’s or even a bit longer than that.
And Christmas markets are a fantastic way to enjoy Berlin in winter. Give me some hot, tasty Glühwein and some candied almonds, and I’m almost ok with the fact that I’m wearing two pairs of pants.
Berlin has over 50 different Christmas markets, so there’s something for everyone. There are several traditional feeling ones, several quirky ones, ones focused on design shopping, and so much more.
If you’re interested in having a local guide show you around, consider taking a Christmas market tour:
- Christmas In Berlin: Private Experience With A City Host: This private tour will show you some of Berlin’s best Christmas markets, and it’s customizeable. A free mug of Glühwein is included.
- Berlin Christmas Markets Culinary Tour: On this tour, you’ll get 6 food tastings at local Berlin Christmas markets, plus try a mug of Glühwein and hot chocolate with whiskey.
If you’re visiting Berlin in December, don’t miss the Christmas markets.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve
If you enjoy big New Year’s celebrations, Berlin is the perfect destination for you. The city holds a huge party at Brandenburg Gate complete with musical performances and fireworks.
You have to be comfortable with crowds because this is certainly a big one. Think Times Square in New York City on NYE.
Even if that type of celebration isn’t your style, plenty of Berlin clubs have special New Year’s parties. After all, this is one of the best cities in the world for clubbing.
No matter what you do, if you’re in Berlin for December 31st, you will see fireworks. They’re everywhere because it’s legal for anyone to buy them and set them off.
Just be careful about getting too close. I was hit in the leg with fireworks one year, and believe me, it was some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
See the sights with fewer people around
Berlin’s best landmarks are still amazing even when the weather is less than ideal. But luckily visiting Berlin in winter means you’ll get to see those sights without so many people crowding around.
One of the best ways to see a lot of sights in Berlin is to take a walking tour. Here are some recommended sightseeing tours in Berlin that will provide you with interesting information while showing you around:
- Discover Berlin Half-Day Walking Tour: Informative walking tour that includes Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror, and more
- Berlin Highlights Small-Group Bike Tour: Explore Berlin on two wheels, including Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building, Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall Memorial, East Side Gallery, and more
- Berlin City Highlights Walking Tour: This walking tour also includes lots of Berlin attractions such as Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Government district, Museum Island, and more
Get cozy in a cafe
Berlin has some wonderful cafes, and they are a great way to warm up and feel cozy when it’s cold outside. You’ll find several without even trying as you walk around the city.
Mid afternoon is Kaffee und Kuchen (that’s coffee and cake) time in Germany, so do as the locals do, and order a nice slice of cake and something warm to drink.
See a film at Berlinale
Are you visiting Berlin in February? Then you might be here in time for Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the biggest things to do in Berlin winter.
Maybe you haven’t heard of it, but it’s one of the biggest and most important film festivals in the world, right up there with the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. They claim to have the largest audience of any film festival in the world.
The festival runs for 10 days in February and shows several hundred films from many different genres. Tickets are less than 20 euros.
Go to a museum
Berlin is a city full of museums, and visiting one (or several) will give you an escape from the cold while you enjoy art, culture, and history, or even something wacky.
Other great museums to go to are the Jewish Museum, the Stasi Museum, the DDR Museum, the Hamburger Bahnhof art museum, or the German Museum of Technology.
For something a little more quirky, try the Computerspiele Museum or the Disgusting Food Museum.
Visit Charlottenburg Palace
Charlottenburg Palace is one of the prettiest castles in Berlin, and even though the grounds are gorgeous in the warmer months, visiting in the winter can be enjoyable too. Go inside to learn about the palace’s history, and you’ll have a chance to warm up, too.
The palace gardens and surrounding park are free to visit even if you choose not to go inside. If it happens to snow while you’re in Berlin, it’s a really pretty place to see the snow.
Eat some German food
German cuisine can be quite heavy, and what better time for a hearty meal than in the winter. Schnitzel, pork knuckle, potatoes…so many options for delicious food that’ll warm you up.
Even though Berlin is a city of many cultures, where it can seem difficult to find German food, there’s still plenty of it if you know where to look.
Check out a few of my favorite German restaurants in Berlin:
- Gaststätte Sophieneck: Traditional German pub atmosphere in Mitte.
- Lemke: Brewery with a full menu, 2 locations in Mitte and 1 in Charlottenburg.
- Schwarzwaldstuben: German cuisine from the Black Forest region in Mitte.
- Jäger & Lustig: Rustic German restaurant with a large beer garden in Friedrichshain.
- Mutzenbacher: Ok this one is Austrian, but it’s delicious, in Friedrichshain.
Enjoy a craft beer
Summer in Berlin is beer garden time, but they close up when the weather gets cold. Luckily Berlin is a wonderful city for craft beer.
Get warmed up at the Botanical Gardens
The Berlin Botanical Gardens are rather impressive any time of year. But if you’re visiting Berlin in winter, the warm air in the green houses will feel even better.
Plus every year the Botanical Gardens host holiday festivities called Christmas Garden, complete with detailed Christmas lights. It runs for two months (mid November to mid January), so even if you’re visiting Berlin in January, you can still see it the first half of the month.
Take the free Reichstag Building tour
The Reichstag Building is the seat of the German government. It’s an interesting building with a unique glass dome on the roof, and being up that high offers some good views of Berlin.
The tour of the Reichstag Building is one of the most popular free things to do in Berlin. It’s worthwhile any time of year, but with fewer tourists around, it’s a little more enjoyable in the winter.
Since you have to book in advance, you don’t have much control over whether you’re there on a sunny day or a cloudy day, but it’ll be an interesting experience either way. And maybe just assume with Berlin in winter that you’ll end up with a gloomy day.
Go for a swim at an indoor pool
Sometimes going for a swim is the perfect way to warm up, or at least to trick yourself into thinking it’s not below freezing outside. Berlin is prepared for the long winter with several indoor pools where you can go for a swim.
I recommend the pool at Hotel Oderberger, which is one of the most gorgeous pools in Berlin, and the water is 26C/79F. You can book a two hour time slot to go swimming for only 9 euros, or if you’d like to use the sauna as well, it’s 19 euros.
See a show
Going to see a show at a theater means spending time indoors while also soaking up some culture.
Friedrichstadt Palast theater holds Las Vegas style productions with extravagant costumes, breath-taking dance routines, impressive music, and glittering set design. Check out the Arise Grand Show at Friedrichstadt Palast.
Or enjoy an orchestral performance at the stunning Konzerthaus on Gendarmenmarkt square. Another wonderful option is the Deutsche Oper in Charlottenburg where you can see an entertaining opera.
Go shopping on Ku’damm
Berlin is many things, and if high end shopping is your thing, you can find plenty of it here. Kurfürstendamm, or Ku-damm for short, is the famous shopping street in Charlottenburg where you’ll find everything from Dior to Prada and much more.
As you get farther east towards the zoo, the shops do become a little more affordable, in case Louis Vuitton is out of your budget.
And nearby but technically not on Kurfürstendamm is the famous KaDeWe (the full name is Kaufhaus des Westens) department store with 8 levels of shopping and gourmet food.
Browse for deals
If you’d prefer your shopping comes with a little bargain hunting, Berlin has plenty of secondhand stores and flea markets.
Humana is the most well known secondhand store, and you’ll find locations throughout the city. The biggest and best location is at Frankfurter Tor.
And despite the weather, Berliners love flea markets. Head over to Mauerpark, Boxhagener Platz, RAW, or any number of other flea markets on a Sunday, and go for a stroll with a hot cup of coffee to keep you warm while you shop.
Warm up at a spa
Book some time at a spa to take the chill off and get some relaxation. You might even forget about the Berlin winter outside.
A couple of top choices for spas and saunas are Vibali and Liquidrom. Just remember German saunas and spas are often textile-free – meaning naked.
Go for a walk in a snowy park
If it happens to snow while you’re in Berlin in the winter, take the opportunity to go for a stroll and enjoy the scenery. Tiergarten, Charlottenburg Palace, and Tempelhof are excellent choices.
Winter in Berlin might not be the best time for outdoor activities, but you don’t have to spend the whole time inside.
Eat some spicy food
What better way to warm up then with some spicy food! It can be hard to find spicy food in Germany, but Berlin is definitely an exception since there’s such a good mix of cultures here.
Some of my favorites for spicy food include Wen Chang in Prenzlauer Berg, Kong in Friedrichshain, or Sarod’s in Kreuzberg.
Take a day trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Sometimes you have to lean into the gloom in the winter. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is just north of Berlin, and it’s an important place for learning about Germany’s ugly past.
A visit here won’t be a fun way to spend a few hours, but it’s a vital experience so humanity doesn’t keep repeating the same mistakes. You can visit on your own or take a tour of Sachsenhausen from Berlin like this one.
Escape to Tropical Islands
A little ways south of Berlin is a place called Tropical Islands, and it’s close enough to go as a day trip from Berlin. Built in a former zeppelin hangar, it’s a huge water park and spa kept at a warm 26C/79F.
You can go for a swim, get some spa treatments, or simply relax by the water with a book and a cocktail. It’s a fun option for any age, but especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Take a weekend trip to Quedlinburg
Quedlinburg is another popular day trip, but it’s just far enough away to justify making it a weekend trip from Berlin instead. If you want a more mountainous, potentially more snowy location for a few days, this is a wonderful choice.
The town of Quedlinburg is one of the best preserved medieval towns, and the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a really cute place to explore, and you can use it as a base to go farther into the Harz Mountains.
Berlin Travel Resources
I want you to have the best trip to Berlin, and hopefully this list of what to do in winter in Berlin is helpful. But there are lots more tips on the site!
- 101 Best Things to do in Berlin
- 23 Impressive Castles in Berlin (And Nearby)
- 27 Best World War II & Cold War Sights in Berlin
- 29 Fun Day Trips From Berlin
- 75 Things to Know Before Visiting Berlin: Essential Berlin Travel Tips
- What to Wear & What to Pack for Berlin, Germany: Your Ultimate Berlin Packing List
- How to Get Around in Berlin: An Easy Guide to Berlin Public Transportation