How to celebrate New Year's Eve in Berlin

Last new years, determined not to end up spending all of our time queuing at the bar in our local pubs or trapped at home because taxis are ridiculously expensive, we teamed up with our favourite couple and best friends to plan a trip that would be a mini holiday as well as a way to see in the new year.
Berlin was somewhere we had all wanted to visit and where else springs to mind when you think of Christmas and festive cheer? The promise of sweet crepes, stodgy bratwurst and two pint steins was just too much so we packed our weekend bags, hopped aboard a flight and two hours later touched down in the land of the German Xmas market.
With a few days to spend and a lot of catching up to do, off we headed to one of the smaller Xmas markets for an eggnog and a chinwag. Time flows effortlessly when you're in good company and before we knew it more than a few drinks had been consumed. We weren't here entirely for the good times and so we set off for Check Point Charlie to get our culture fix. It was packed full of tourists taking selfies but it was a fascinating place to see in real life and imagine what it must have been like at that time.

We then moved onto walking to the Reichstag Building, which is the home of parliament and a very impressive looking building. We'd have loved to look inside but instead we had to settle for walking its impressive walls, catching glimpses of the glass dome.
Our walk took us by the river where eventually the lure of German beer was too strong and we bobbed into an old wood panelled pub, complete with gas lit wall lamps, perfect for winter days. 

Soon the night was drawing in and the long day journeying caught up to us, so after a swift snowball night cap, we made our way to bed. 
Bright and breezy we woke, excited for the big event of NYE baby! After grabbing a lazy brunch and having a walk around the fair city, we headed for Branderburg Gate to see it being prepared for one of the most iconic NYE firework displays in the world. Crowds were already forming around the space and we jostled with folks to see some of the entertainment that was already lining up to take the stage. 

We enjoyed the atmosphere and a stein or two but soon we tired of the crowds and took a slow meander to our destination of choice for the big moment. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt is known as the Rolls Royce of German Xmas markets, mainly owing to its size, quality stalls and central location.

Situated between three amazing historic buildings, including the Deutsche Dom, the Konzerthaus and Franzoizische, which all provide the most fantastic backdrop to the white canopies adorning the market stalls. We arrived at the entrance and paid a 12 EURO fee to spend the evening here. 

It looked every inch the winter fairytale with twinkly lights strung up around the entire market and the smell of marzipan wafting through the crisp air. There was already a brass band playing traditional German xmas songs on the stage and children ran around, red nosed and eyes full of glee, excited for the spectacle ahead. 

Wanting to line our tummies for the main event, we headed straight to the back of the market where there were a number of enclosed restaurants and bars. I had arrived in Berlin with a list of foods and drinks to find and enjoy during my visit and cheese fondue was one such item. My friends thought I was mad and would never find it, so when I tracked down the steak and fondue alpine restaurant, they were forced to eat their words. 
Boy were they glad they did too, as the juicy steaks didn't disappoint and the creamy, melted fondue was the perfect partner to rustic torn hunks of crusty bread and a glass of crisp white wine. The portions were not huge, mind, and the bill was pretty extortionate, so we left the boys to pick up the bill and hot footed it back to the stalls outside.
Row after row of wooden huts filled to the brim with interesting trinkets, decorations and delicious foods beckoned us in. The stall owners beamed at us and implored us to buy some of their wares. Not wanting to be weighed down for our merrymaking later, we politely declined and continued on our way.

Steaming traditional German mugs of Gluwhein lured us over and we put in our order for four. We people watched, chatted, told funny stories and enjoyed the ambience before taking up residence in a seated area with blankets. We'd come dressed for the occasion with plenty of layers, hats, scarves and gloves but the cold night nipped at our faces.

Entertainers whirled and twirled by to rapturous rounds of applause but one funny character, dressed like a pantomime character with thick white make up and a white bouffant wig, approached us bearing gifts. He chatted for a while and handed over a pink bauble before disappearing like a wisp into the crowd.

We wandered the market, enjoyed the music and bought a bottle of champagne, just in time for the big event. At the stroke of midnight everyone jumped, hugged, cheered and whooped, before round after round of the most spectacular fireworks shot into the sky in colourful explosions. 

It was emotional seeing the look of awe, wonder and amazement reflected in the eyes of our fellow revellers, as they clung to their family and friends, appreciating being in that moment with them as they welcomed a new year in. It really reminded me that there is so much love in the world at a time when there is huge uncertainty and fear. 
Far from being the end of the night, we danced, sang and drank well into the early hours, grateful for this time among friends. We loaded up on marzipan and nutella crepes and walked arm in arm in arm towards big plump beds that called our names.

Our final full day in Berlin was upon us and we woke to a stark light and fuzzy heads. We lay wallowing in our beds well into the morning before the call for food forced us to get up and out. 

Breakfast and brunch had passed us by before we found somewhere to help bring us round. Luckily we knew just the place to go - the Hofbrauhaus! A glorious place with long wooden tables, chandeliers with candles casting an orange light and maids and boys in laederhosen. They busied themselves around with perilously full trays of beer held perched above their heads as they dexterously flitted between tables.

We ordered an enormous stein each before groaning and delving in, trying in vein to sort out our hangovers. Food was the main event though, so we ordered rounds of sausage and mash, stodgy potato dishes, pastries and other tasty morsels. Quiet descended among the group while we focused on filling our tummies. 

The Hofbrauhaus was such a warm cheery place to spend a few hours and we wished we had more time to spare but we wanted to see more of beautiful Berlin so it was soon time to bundle up against the cold again. 

The Berlin Wall has to be seen so this was where our travels took us next. It seemed such a stoic and sobering way to spend the afternoon after the previous day's merrymaking. It really is a sight to behold and absolutely mind boggling that this was in recent history. 

The faces of the people separated forever from loved ones look at out at you which is a stark reminder of the atrocities. The graffiti on the wall is a more heartening reminder of the jubilation people felt when that wall came down and the area is undergoing substantial regeneration now. 

We walked around looking at the art installations before ducking into a nearby cafe for a round of hot chocolate mit baileys to warm the cockles.
After a quick freshen up and nap back our hotel, we made our way back into the streets to find a cosy hole in the wall to while away a few hours. JaJa was the perfect place and we pulled up stools, a cheeseboard and a bottle of wine. The cheese and the wine were extremely good and the atmosphere buzzed, 

When it was eventually time to call it night, we headed onto the street to see the German market we had enjoyed only the night before, cast into darkness, with marquees being dismantled. It felt a little sad to not get to say goodbye, as we assumed it would be there until the day after new years day but alas, the circus was leaving town.

We loved our stay in Berlin. Have you been? What is your favourite Xmas market in the world?

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