The Best Christmas markets in Berlin

It's that time of year again.

The time of year that the heady scent of Glühwein and Bratwurst fills the air and you cannot help but wonder how it can be Christmas again already.

Every year seems to go faster than the last, the year's 'to do lists' left incomplete yet again, we'll do better next year.

So while you're here in Berlin, take a break from the trials and tribulations of the festive season to enjoy all the good things that come along with this time of year.

Roasted chestnuts. The ubiquitous Raclette with its melted ooziness over toasted bread or potatoes with pickled onions and gherkins. And the sometimes too sweet, but always warming Glühwein- mulled wine with oranges and cloves and of course the customary shot or schuss of rum. Just to make sure you don't freeze from the cold, naturally.

There is somewhere between 60 and 80 Christmas markets in Berlin and it could be said that once you've seen one, you've seen them all.

They do tend to have the same offerings of food and general bits and pieces, however some of the markets here in Berlin just cannot be missed and here I have put together a list of my favourite ones.

Merry Christmas!! Frohe Weihnachten!!

1. WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt- situated at one of, if not the, most beautiful squares in Berlin. This market is sure to put even Ebenezer in the Christmas Spirit. One of few that you have to pay to go in (just 1 euro), it is worth every penny. Carols fill the air, great food and drink, overlooked by stunning cathedrals and the concert house. Duration: 21.11.16-31.12.16

2. Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei- within an old brewery, this Scandinavian themed market is a must! Try the Swedish Glögg with a shot of rum and a sprinkle of sultanas and almonds. Duration: 21.11.16-22.12.16

3. Weihnachtsmarkt in der Sophienstrasse- something for the weekend, this market is only on Saturday and Sunday. I love its simplicity as it just runs the length of the street. Duration: Each Advent weekend

4. Weihnachtsmarkt Charlottenburg Schloss- another one in a beautiful location with the backdrop of Charlottenburg Palace. Currently covered in scaffolding, it still makes for a gorgeous Christmassy Setting. Duration: 21.11.16- 26.12.16

5. Spandauer Weihnachtsmarkt in der Altstadt- this one is a little further out but very much worth the trip. One of the oldest Christmas markets in Berlin in the old town of Spandau. Duration: Tue, 13.12.2016 till Tue, 27.12.2016                 

One to miss- Weihnachtmarkt am Alexanderplatz. I hate to be a snob but this one is just a bit much in my opinion. Heaving with people, it doesn't have the charm of the other markets.  

Ode to Autumn


And so it is this way every year.

One day you´re waking up basking in the late summer rays, and the next in comes the gusts of Autumns' cold breath- our annual reminder that Winter is just around the corner.

Berlin has grown cold yet again and thoze lazy, hazy days of Summer are long forgotten.

Alas! It´s not time to lament this period of eternal cloud (its started already, nooo), but rather to celebrate all that we have in store.

Pumpkins. Cinnamon Schnecke. Piping hot soups with crusty brötchen. Glühwein and iced star-shape cookies. The Christmas markets and their ubiquitous Raclettes.

The shorter days are not to be afraid of, but embraced. It's time to make the most of the hibernation to read our favourite books, finally learn how to crochet and of course to enjoy our most comforting foods.

If we can however, find it in us to crawl out of our cozy havens and venture into the dark, damp depths of the City, (and we do, I remind myself many times a day), then here is a list of some of my favourite spots to have a munch or a slurp.

They´ll be sure to warm your soul and give you that little spring in your step we need during these colder months.

Hirsch- the cosiest of cosy. Traditional South-German fare. A schnitzel and a schnapps will be sure to warm your cockles.

Michelberger hotel- exquisite yet unpretentious. Seasonal, local cuisine. A rustic countryhouse that lost its way and became a restaurant in Berlin. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Perlin- wine and tapas bar where you pay what you think it was worth. You can´t get more welcoming than that!

Viktoria bar- step back in time to the 60s and enjoy joyful service and equally as pleasing cocktails.


Fraulein Kimchi- spicy, fermented cabbage will always warm your bones and add that to an awesome ramen burger with the BEST fries ever and you´ll be golden. (Fantastic vegan options available).

Beusters- beautiful Beusters and their beautiful cocktails. The Sloe-gin fizz is nectar of the gods.



Berlin's best Currywurst

The ubiquitous Currywurst with its sweet ketchup, dusting of curry powder and classic German sausage, is synonymous with Berlin and food. Perhaps not a 'refined' delicacy, but this little wurst stands proud within the Berlin food scene and definitely fulfills its purpose as good street-food.

A product of a dark and desperate time and a devastated city, where the resources were low but perseverance high, when a lady named Herta Heuwer obtained ketchup and curry powder from some neighbourly British troops in West Berlin, (they received alcohol in return, I say no more!), and combined it with what she had to hand, the traditional German sausage.

The interesting concoction was immediately successful and remains very much a firm favourite of Berliners today.

There are thousands of Currywurst vendors to choose from today in Berlin, and of course the quality can vary considerably, so I am going to share with you some of my favourite places to enjoy this tasty little plate of food fusion.

Konnopke's Imbiß

This is widely regarded as one of the best Currywurst in Berlin and they definitely win on the historical front. A sausage-maker since 1930 and the first Currywurst vendor in East Berlin, and also the creator of the skinless Currywurst sausage. Great sauce, great fries, a great place to start.

Konnopke's in the 1960s

Konnopke's in the 1960s

Curry Mitte

By far one of my favourites in Berlin. The meat in the sausage is locally sourced and they have an extra spicy, garlicky sauce you can order if you want a little more kick to your curry. They even offer a beef currywurst but I'd go for the original pork if I was you.

Curry 61

I always enjoy this Currywurst, a fairly sweet sauce which I think works very nicely with the curry powder. Be sure to ask to have your wurst 'scharf', meaning spicy, for that zing you need in a Currywurst. These guys even have a vegetarian sausage for those plant-eaters among us that don't want to miss out on this authentic Berlin experience.

Curry Baude

On the advice of a friend of mine, a true Berliner, this is the best Currywurst in Berlin. All the key ingredients are perfectly balanced, great fries and they even have something called 'Zigeunersauce' which translates as 'gypsy sauce'. How can you go wrong.

Guten Appetit!

Berlin restaurant inspiration- Azzam

Azzam holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to the delights of Palestinian food. Creamy musabaha, zingy foul and divine gingerbread falafel. (They may not agree about the gingerbread but I taste it, I swear.)

The guys there are super friendly and it's a popular spot among locals with Arabic roots and Hipsters alike to come, sit back and enjoy some beautiful, homemade houmous.

Watching them in action, making the houmous and other Middle Eastern classics, simply with a pestle and mortar, is mesmerizing and invoked in me the inspiration to try and recreate some dishes at home.

Houmous is something I have been making myself for years, but musabaha and foul was unchartered territory, so I decided to give it  go. I bought all my Azzam reenactment ingredients from their supermarket next door to keep it as authentic as possible but any Turkish or Arabic store will have the essentials.

Musabaha, (there are variations of the spelling, this is how they spell it at Azzam), is basically a deconstructed hummus. Lashings of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic and of course chickpeas. The main difference I can see, is that it is served warm and the majority of the chickpeas are left whole.

Foul is fava beans cooked and then tossed with garlic, lemon juice, vinegar , cumin and lots of fresh parsley.

the Original at Azzam

the Original at Azzam

These dishes are a perfect match as the musabaha is a creamy and rich concoction due to the tahini and the fresh, tangy foul cuts through this perfectly. A ton of hot- pink pickled turnips, fresh tomato, raw onion (you'll regret it later but that's part of the experience) and fragrant mint with some good bread, are essential accompaniments. Flatbread is the popular choice, but I found some darling little wholemeal pittas studded with sesame seeds that I couldn't resist.

Typically a breakfast dish, for me it also makes a perfect dinner or next day lunch.

I have used canned beans as I decided to make this meal the same morning that I cooked it, but I am sure that both dish would be improved, both in taste and authenticity, if the beans were soaked overnight etc and then cooked. However the canned goods ticked the boxes for me. This was pleasingly quick and easy and though not identical, tasted as good as the real thing.

Shopping List- serves 4

1x large can of chickpeas
1x small can of fava beans
fresh parsley
fresh mint
white wine vinegar
pickles such as turnip and gherkins (from Turkish grocers)
wholemeal pitta bread or flatbread
white onion

As this was a dive into the unknown for me, I tried to be as organised as possible and began with some serious prep. This involved mincing 2 cloves of garlic, squeezing the juice of two lemons and slicing the tomatoes and pickles that will be served alongside the dishes.

I then cleaned the mint and left in bunches to be served later. Quarter the white onion, this will also be served like the tomatoes and pickles.

Set your bread aside ready to serve.

Now to assemble the ingredients for cooking.

Pour into a small bowl 2 tblsp of lemon juice and 1tblsp of white wine vinegar and a little parsley. Set aside for the foul later.

Pour about 30 grams of tahini into a bowl, add a little water and good glug of olive oil, 1/2 clove of the minced garlic, salt, tbsp of lemon and mix. Set aside for the musabaha.

To begin, pour the can of chickpeas into one saucepan and the fava beans into another with the liquid they come in the can with. Start to heat the chickpeas first until they are completely warmed through. You do not need to cook for too long if you are like myself, using the canned goods. If you have been organised and have soaked and boiled your legumes from scratch, then just heat in water accordingly.

Once warmed through, strain the chickpeas, reserving the hot liquid in a large bowl. Put just over half of the chickpeas back into this hot liquid and cover to keep warm.

With the other chickpeas mash into a regular hummus, I have to admit, I used a stick blender but to be truly authentic, use a pestle and mortar. To your chickpeas, add a little tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, the other minced garlic half and cumin. Check for seasoning.

For the next steps you need to make good of both your hands and work on the two dishes at the same time.

Place the hummus into a large bowl.

Drain the warm chickpeas and pour them on top of the hummus, holding a tablespoons worth back.

Pour over the tahini mixture you made earlier, a little of the hot chickpea water and mix. Finally add the remaining chickpeas, a generous sprinkle of parsley, a healthy glug of olive oil and dusting of paprika over the top.

Now get the fava beans on and warm the beans through as you did the chickpeas.

Once completely warmed through, drain and toss with the remaining clove of minced garlic, cumin and olive oil. Pour in the lemon juice and vinegar mixture and stir. Add extra parsley and this is ready to serve.

Serve both dishes with the bread, pickles, mint and fresh vegetables.

Try the original at Azzam, Sonnenallee 54, 12045 Berlin

Tales of pickles and 'Ostalgie'

On the day to commemorate 25 years of German reunification, it seems only right to recognise the beloved Spreewälder Gurken (Spreewald pickles) and the concept of Ostalgie. For this little gherkin, represents a wealth of German history and political, even emotional conflict. He is more than just a pickle and encapsulates the essence of Ostalgie, the longing or nostalgia for the East German regime, the GDR.

Ask today's Berliner how they feel about the German reunification and of course, the majority are relieved and positive about the end of the GDR (and their country becoming whole again). However, there are some who lament the loss of the communist era and with it, the social system and the feeling of being part of a community.

This longing, affectionately termed 'ostalgie', a play on the words 'ost' meaning east and 'nostalgie' meaning nostalgia, encompasses the sentiment felt by some East germans that it was better in the days of the GDR. 'Die Mauer im Kopf' (wall in the mind) represents the divide, east from west, that continues to be felt by some. The remains of the Berlin wall may have been swept away, but it could take another generation for its effects to be fully forgotten. 

Walking around Neukölln, where I live, the difficult past of this city can be so easily forgotten, but enter Mitte or walk by Ostbahnhof and the remnants can be seen. Walk along Bernauerstraße on your way to Mauer Park, pass the Eastside gallery on your way to Berghain, Berlin's struggle is tangible, though it may now be brightly coloured. 

The Spreewald pickle, hailing from the damp, swampy forests of the Spreewald region just outside of Berlin, are one of the last remaining 'Ostprodukte' (Eastern products) to survive the fall of the wall. Flavoured either with dill, mustard seed or spices, they help satiate this nostalgia and represent a little win over the dominant West.

A popular delicacy in Berlin for centuries, stemming back to the 1740s when Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, brought both potatoes and cucumbers to Germany. He was a good man- I have no idea what Berliners would do without potatoes and pickles!

Other OstProdukte that can still be found in today's German supermarkets are Rotkäppchen, Vita cola and Berliner Pilsner. Rotkäppchen sekt (sparkling wine) is still very much the favoured Berliner bubbles of choice. A few days ago, in my local Späti, (corner shop), a lady was forced to buy a bottle of Mumm as the Rotkäppchen was sold out and this clearly pained her no end. Rotkäppchen actually now owns Mumm, but she wasn't to know.

If your interest has been piqued, go to Ostpaket in Mitte here in Berlin, which is an Ostalgie paradise. 

The authentic way to enjoy this juicy, fruity little Spreewälder pickle is with a hunk of good German bread and a lick of schmalz (dripping). If, like me, dripping gives you the fear, then you can find veggie options as shown in the photo. 

Enjoy with a nice Berliner Pilsner or a glass of Rotkäppchen and raise your glass to the German Reunification.


A trip to the Basque Country by way of Berlin- Txokoa

A couple of weeks ago now, four of my oldest friends came to visit me here in Berlin. It was a whistle stop tour that involved food, food and more food. Attendance on my food tour was of course compulsory, and they were delighted with the introduction to the variety of things to eat in this city (though they had to say that). Naturally, our food tour did not end there.

We delved further to explore what Berlin has to offer and as always, the place that stood out, was Txokoa. Nestled on a corner of the popular Weserstraße in Neukölln, it is described as a Basque Gastro bar. The menu here is special and offers far more than the typical Spanish tapas available in Berlin.

Slow roasted pork belly over 24 hours, watermelon gazpacho with almond mousse and truffled potato croquettes are just some of the choices to entice you. There is something for both carnivores and plant eaters alike, though perhaps not for those vegans among us.

We chose a selection of dishes, which is my recommended way to order here, as portions are small and believe me, you want to enjoy the variety of this menu. The squid ink orzo with prawns was phenomenal and had a rich, salty silkiness that stained your lips obsidian. Tip- check your face in the bathroom mirror before leaving.

The pork belly with apples is exquisite and you'll also need the pork belly croquettes, trust me. As someone that eats mainly plants, this was by no means a pork overload. Divine.

The Mallorca tartlet is a must, with aubergine, Sobrasada and gratinated goat's cheese and always takes me to another plane whenever I have it.

As we were on holiday, (my friends at least), we decided to have dessert.

The right decision.

The hot chocolate fondant with mandarine sorbet and wasabi was genius and though I know we've all had a fondant somewhere before, this was special.

Prices are perhaps not as cheap as Berlin can be, but any penny spent here is a penny well spent. I promise. Enjoy.

Txokoa is something of an old faithful for me now, somewhere I always take anyone that visits. The quality never diminishes but seems to continue to improve and become more interesting every time I go.

Afterwards, as we did, you can roll out onto the busy Weserstaße and duck into one of the ever-growing bars that adorn this street. If all that pork will let you.


Berlin restaurant inspiration- Dr.To's

I love to cook. Cooking is always a very creative process for me, it feels akin to painting or singing. Often in my kitchen cooking and singing go hand in hand, its quite a spectacle, 'Don't cry for me Argentina' anyone?

Anyway, I take a great deal of inspiration from many of the dishes I have tried while eating out in restaurants in Berlin. Ranging from Palestinian food to Pan-Asian to traditional German and with the truly delicious ones, I attempt to recreate at home.

So I'm happy to introduce these restaurant inspired recipes and my take on some of my favourite dishes I've discovered from Berlin's eclectic food scene. Berlin, like other capitals, is a melting pot of vibrant cultures and this is reflected in the diverse choices when it comes to food and therefore eating out has truly enhanced my own kitchen.

Let me begin with this dish of udon noodles with tomatoes, aubergine and tofu. This was born out of sheer admiration for the exquisite tomato, aubergine and coriander salad at the insurmountable Dr. To's.

The Original. Dr.To's tomato, aubergine and coriander salad

The Original. Dr.To's tomato, aubergine and coriander salad

Dr. To's is an all time favourite of mine and somewhere I always take anyone that comes to visit. They offer Pan-Asian tapas and this little salad is a show stopper. So simple but so good.

Now let me just say, I do not profess to be cooking in accordance to how Dr.To's prepare their salad. I have taken the delicate flavours that I tasted and created this udon noodle treat. Adding these ingredients makes it a meal in itself and it is a warm dish rather than a cold salad. Udon noodles and tofu are usual contenders for my Dr. To's menu picking, so it seemed an appropriate ensemble. This recipe is my interpretation and attempt to honour the dish I enjoy so much there.

And if I do say so myself, it's great. One of my go to weeknight suppers. Deliciously fragrant, healthy and satisfying. Enjoy!

Shopping list:

Serves 4

5 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 aubergine, cut into large chunks
600g of Udon noodles
200g firm tofu
bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
soy sauce
2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp of good quality vinegar

Add olive oil to a large pan and cook the aubergine for 5 minutes on all sides. Liberally add soy sauce and cook for a further few minutes and then add the vinegar. Cook until evaporated off.

Now add the tomatoes, coriander stalks and ginger and cook until softened.

Add the sliced onions and stir until they are warmed through, you still want a nice crunchy freshness to them.

Now add the udon noodles, and with your hands, crumble up the tofu and stir into the vegetables and heat through.

Finish off with some more soy sauce and a large handful of roughly chopped coriander and serve.

And don't forget to try the original at Dr.To's!

Dr.To's, Weichselstraße 54, 12045 Berlin