Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 8: Germany, Christmas markets

It’s Day 8 of our Advent Calendar, only 16 more days to go until Christmas! Today we are headed to Germany, to check out a holiday tradition that may be quite familiar to many. After all, who has not heard about the German Weihnachtsmarkt? Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

 

GERMANY: CHRISTMAS MARKETS

Christmas markets are everywhere. From small villages to sprawling metropolises, if there are people who celebrate Christmas, there will be a Christmas market, though most cannot boast to be as lavish as the German ones.  In Germany Weihnachtsmärkte have been held since the Late Middle Ages. Traditionally the markets open in late November and are open until right after Christmas. Stalls feature Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, local products, and of course, traditional German Christmas foods. Candied and roasted almonds, Lebkuchen, Bratwurst, and one cannot skip the Glühwein.

Many German cities boast having the largest, oldest and most traditional Christmas markets of all. Cologne and Dortmund are typical destinations for tourists who wish to experience the tradition, but Berlin also has well over 70 Christmas markets to sample. Wherever you go, you are certain to get in the holiday mood!

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Berlin Marco Polo Guide

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Only in Berlin

Berlin attracts creative people from all over the world as if by magic. No other city in
Europe has as much art and culture to offer! It is also famous worldwide for its feverish nightlife with more than 200 clubs, innumerable bars, cafés and pubs. There are no set closing times and most places stay open until the early hours of the morning – if they close at all!

Whatever your personal tastes and preferences, Berlin has something for everyone! Let Marco Polo show you some unique experiences to be had in Germany’s capital…

Berlin Marco Polo Guide

Quadriga with twelve legs

The Brandenburg Gate (photo) is an absolute must. Not only the street artists let their hair down here, there are also many hobby photographers. Who can take the most beautiful picture of this city landmark?

‘TV-asparagus’

This is the name the people of Berlin have affectionately given the Fernsehturm on Alexanderplatz. You will really miss out on something if you don’t visit the viewing platform 203 m (666 ft) above street level – it’s the best view in Berlin.

Wall taxi

A taxi will take you to all remnants of the Berlin Wall in the city. The driver will point out the most important places and garnish his stories with his personal experiences in the former divided city.

Curry 36

Cheap but tasty – that’s all a Berlin currywurst needs to be, with some chips or a bread roll to go along with it. The Berliners queue up at Curry 36 in Kreuzberg for a grilled sausage with curry powder.

Sophisticated shopping

Time and time again, the Ku’damm has been pronounced dead, but the many customers in the fashionable boutiques on the elegant boulevard cannot all be wrong. This is where Berlin is at its most glamorous in a setting of magnificent old buildings: typical of Berlin – but sometimes beautiful can be expensive.

Don’t forget your swimsuit…

You will feel like you are at the seaside: deck chairs and sand as far as the eye can see. The wide expanse of water at Wannsee is an inviting place to sunbathe or take a swim, and a snack bar is never far away.

Jazz in a beer garden

Real Kreuzbergers don’t give a hoot about the yuppies in Mitte or Friedrichshain when they sit back with a pint in their hands in one of ‘their’ beer gardens – listening to live jazz in Yorckschlösschen, for example.

 

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Top 10 Things To Do In Berlin

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed in Berlin! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Berlin’s most important sights.

Berlin Marco Polo Guide

Photo Credit: The Migrant Expats

1. PARISER PLATZ
This square comes top of our list with its captivating mix of the Brandenburg Gate, a classy hotel, embassies and the Academy of Arts.

2. MUSEUMSINSEL
Five different museums boasting one of the most valuable collections of art and historical artefacts in the world! The Pergamon altar in the Pergamonmuseum and the Neues Museum’s bust of Nefertiti are particularly worth a visit.

3. ALEXANDERPLATZ
Visit the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) for great views of the square, the World Clock, the Neptune
Fountain, the Rotes Rathaus, the Alexa Shopping Centre and many department stores.

4. REICHSTAG
The view from the glass dome of the Reichstag lets you keep an eye on the city’s government district while admiring the plenary chamber, the Brandenburg Gate and the old centre of Berlin.

5. SONY CENTER
Fantastic light effects make Potsdamer Platz particularly entrancing at night. The Film and TV Museum is a must.

6. GENDARMENMARKT
Found near Friedrichstraße, Berlin’s most beautiful square is home to the historic glory of the Konzerthaus and the German and French cathedrals.

7. SCHLOSS CHARLOTTENBURG
Berlin’s largest palace with private royal apartments, a valuable art collection and a French baroque garden. Queen Luise is entombed in the Mausoleum.

8. JÜDISCHES MUSEUM
Two thousand years of Jewish history are documented within Daniel Libeskind’s breathtaking architectural design.

9. KAISER-WILHELM-GEDÄCHTNISKIRCHE
The ruined old tower rises up high into the sky like an admonitory finger while the New Church’s 30,000 blocks of glass gleam next door.

10. HACKESCHE HÖFE
An ensemble of courtyards off the Hackescher Markt with shops, theatres and a cinema.

 

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Low Budget Berlin

Berlin is a city best known for its dynamic galleries and architecture. You can visit these remarkable landmarks and much more on a budget by following our top tips:

Migrant expats Berlin

Photo credit: themigrantexpats.com

Food & drink

The pizza slices (1.90 euros each) with their wonderful toppings sold by the Focacceria will fill you up in next to no time. Daily from 11am | Mitte | Fehrbelliner Str. 24 | Tel. 030 44 03 27 71 | U 8 Rosenthaler Platz

Curry 36 is probably the most popular snack bar in Kreuzberg and not only serves currywurst (German sausage with curry powder) at around 1.50 euros with chips but also pea soup at 2.50 euros. You eat standing up and it is open until the early hours of the morning. Kreuzberg | Mehringdamm 36 | U 6, 7 Mehringdamm

Baba Angora serves first-rate Turkish cuisine with quality lamb dishes, grilled vegetables and delicious desserts. It has a homey atmosphere and has reasonably priced set meals at lunchtime. Open daily from noon | Charlottenburg | Schlüterstrasse 29 | Tel. 030 3 23 70 96 | S Savignyplatz

Gasthaus Lentz is a classic German eatery where Kölsch beer is served. There is no music to disturb your conversation and they offer a variety of lunchtime specials. Meatballs and Landjäger sausages are always available. Daily from 9am | Charlottenburg | Stuttgarter Platz 20 | Tel. 030 3 24 16 19 | www.gasthaus-lentz-berlin.de | S 3, 5, 7, 75 Charlottenburg

 

Accommodation

The WBM housing association has ten charming, low-priced guest flats in Mitte and Friedrichshain to rent. Scharnweber Strasse 23–27 | Tel. 030 24 71 53 29 | U 5 Samariterstrasse

Eastern Comfort: Guests in the two small hotel boats near the Oberbaumbrücke can spend their nights on the Spree with hardly any swell – a view of the water through the porthole is included in the price. 45 cabins | Friedrichshain | Mühlenstr. 73–77 | Tel. 030 66 76 38 06 | www.eastern-comfort.com | U/S Warschauer Strasse

In the Pension 11. Himmel, in a prefabricated-concrete building in Marzahn, you can either sleep in a hammock or a prince’s bed. A one night stay with breakfast is 22 euros. 5 rooms | Wittenberger Str. 85 | www.pension-11himmel.de | S7 Ahrensfelde

Gasteiner Hof is a small hotel in the west of the city offering good value for money. There are reasonably-priced double rooms available with a shower and WC. 22 rooms | Wilmersdorf | Gasteiner Str. 8 | Tel. 030 862 01 70 | www.gasteiner-hof.de/indexen.html | U 7 Blissestr

 

Shopping

Turkish Bazaar – Even though you will probably not need vegetables by the crate load, the ‘Turkish Market’ called the Markt Am Maybachufer is a real experience. The dealers haggle and bargain over their goods as if they were in a bazaar in Istanbul. Here you can also try delicious and reasonably-priced specialities. Tuesday, Friday noon until 6.30pm | Neukölln | Maybachufer | U 8 Schönleinstrasse

For retro fans – Arm & Sexy in Neukölln has everything from radios to eggcups from the 1930s to 1970s. Wednesday–Friday 2–7pm, Saturday noon–5 pm | Reuterstr. 62 | U7 Hermannplatz

The Marc O’Polo Outlet – This shop will make bargain hunters’ eyes light up with glee. Monday–Friday 10am–8pm, Saturday 10am–6pm | Kaiserdamm 7 | U2 Sophie-Charlotte-Platz

 

Sightseeing

Lunchtime concerts – From September to June, you will be able to enjoy a free lunchtime concert at 1pm every Tuesday in the Philharmonie. The performing ensembles are first-rate and include the Berlin Philharmonic and scholarship holders from the orchestra’s academy. Advance sales Monday–Friday 3 until 6pm, Saturday, Sunday 11am until 2pm | Tiergarten | Matthäikirch strasse 1 | Tel. 030 25 48 89 99 | www.en.gasteig.de | U/S Potsdamer Platz

The Eastside Gallery – The Eastide Gallery is the longest open-air gallery in the world – stretching from the Ostbahnhof to the Oberbaum bridge. Take a look at what artists have left for future generations on a 1416m (4646 ft) long piece of the former Berlin Wall. The gallery is located to the south of the Ostbahnhof railway station. Friedrichshain | Mühlenstrasse | www.eastsidegallery.com | U/S Ostbahnhof

Picnic at Tiergarten – In summer, the Berliners pack their picnic baskets and make a pilgrimage to the English Garden in Tiergarten to relax and listen to free concerts of jazz and Klezmer music. From the dome of the Reichstag you can get the best panoramic view of the city and the area is also a shopping paradise, which makes the district of Tiergarten very hard to compete with.

 

Entertainment

Ticket prices for the Cinestar Centres are reduced to around 6 euros on Tuesdays.

The Sageclub grants free admittance to ‘Rock at Sage’ on Thursdays (7–10pm). Köpenicker Str. 76 | Tel. 030 278 98 30 | U Heinrich-Heine-Strasse

Entrance to the frannz-club is only 4 euros on Thursdays – Indie pop-rock day. Schönhauser Allee 36 | Tel. 030 7 26 19 33 | U 2 Eberswalder Str.

 

» Read more about Berlin

Berlin Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 travel photos from around the world

Top 10 travel photos from around the world – as chosen by Marco Polo photographer Tim Kelly.

Tim and his faithful camera have been travelling around the world together for over three decades. Well, the camera may have changed over the years – but Tim’s eye for detail certainly hasn’t – capturing the spirit of a destination in one single shot.

Here is Tim’s personal selection of his favourite photos from all around the world:

1. Paddy field worker in Bali

Paddy field - Bali

2.  Octopus restaurant near Plaka, Crete

Octopus restaurant near Plaka, Crete

3. Narrow car-free streets of Mdina in Malta

Narrow car-free streets of Mdina in Malta

4. Aerial view of Dubrovnik from Mount Srdj

Aerial view of Dubrovnik from Mount Srdj

5. Inside the glass dome – Reichstag in Berlin

Inside the glass dome - Reichstag in Berlin

6. Camel trek through Wadi Rum in Jordan

Camel trek through Wadi Rum in Jordan

7. Night view of Our Lady before Tyn church in Prague

 Night view of Our Lady before Tyn church in Prague

8. A different view of Grand Palace, Bangkok

Grand Palace - Bangkok

9. Bird’s eye view of Rome from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican

Bird’s eye view of Rome from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican

10. Dubai – the Burj Khalifa at night

Dubai - the Burj Khalifa at night

Which is your favourite?

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Marco Polo Pocket Guides around the world!

Marco Polo Guides have been all around the world… from the sublime to the ridiculous (we’re not saying which are which!) Here’s a selection of our top “I AM MARCO POLO” photos:

BERLIN

Migrant Expats - Marco Polo Berlin Pocket Guide

Photo credit: The Migrant Expats

Marco Polo Berlin Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Alison Floutier

Berlin Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Chiara Colella

MONTENEGRO

Marco Polo Guide Montenegro

Photo credit: Steph McCall

DUBLIN

Dublin Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Carina Watson

ROME

Marco Polo Rome Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Jane W.

LAS VEGAS

Marco Polo Las Vegas Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Katie Bennett

Marco Polo Las Vegas Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Emma Whitlock

Las Vegas Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Emma Whitlock

LAKE GARDA

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Vicky Merriman

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Ian MacDonald

MALTA

Malta Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

VENICE

Marco Polo Pocket Guide Venice

Photo credit: Vicky Merriman

Marco Polo Pocket Guide Venice

Photo credit: Hannah Shaw

Venice Marco Polo Guide

“I’m gonna have to go into the map.” Photo credit: Hannah Shaw recreating the London map scene by Joey in Friends.

BARCELONA

Barcelona Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Dannii Perrin

MALLORCA

Mallorca Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Bryan Bennion

CRETE

Crete Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Got a Marco Polo picture of your own?

To submit your photo: either email it to us hayley@marcopolouk.com or send it via our social media channels:  Tweet us @marcopologuides upload it to our Facebook wall or send it via Instagram. Please use the hashtag #marcopologuides

(By submitting your photo you are giving us permission to use your image on our website and social media sites.)

So the only question left is… Where to next?

Marco Polo Pocket Guides

Photo credit: Unamorenaintransit.com

What bloggers are saying about Marco Polo Pocket Guides

Not to be outdone by our new Spiral Guide series… Marco Polo Pocket Guides have also been tried and tested by bloggers all around the world. Here’s what they thought about our handy little series of Pocket Guides (RRP £6.99):

Gretta Schifano – Mums Do Travel

Mums Do Travel - Athens Guide

Photo credit: mumsdotravel.com

Athens Pocket Guide: “The book is a good size, just right to fit into a handbag. The cover is plasticised so that it’s waterproof and hard-wearing. There’s a handy pull-out map of the city in a plastic wallet inside the back cover as well as a street atlas within the guide.

I found the book easy to navigate. I like the fact that the photos in the guide aren’t just of the tourist sites but also of different aspects of the city such as the flea markets and kids skateboarding. The book is divided into clear sections such as Sightseeing, Food & Drink and Where to Stay. The Travel with Kids section covers the attitude to kids in Athens (apparently they’re given a lot of freedom and are allowed to go out with their parents in the evening) and suggests some attractions which kids will particularly enjoy such as the planetarium and the zoo.

There’s a helpful section called Great Places for Free which gives tips such as which museum is free on Thursdays and where to catch the free buses which serve the harbour area. If you’re in a rush then head to The Perfect Day section which shows you how to see the city’s highlights in just 24 hours. I like the list of Do’s & Don’ts which is placed prominently inside the back cover next to the pull-out map. ” You can find Gretta’s blog at mumsdotravel.com

Jamie Alex Carter – Trav Gear

Tenerife Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Tenerife Pocket Guide: “Insightful insider tips and a handy pull-out road atlas make this pocket-sized guidebook perfect for a short break. Maps a-plenty: you’ll find not only a fold-out map of Tenerife, with all major roads clearly marked, but maps of both major cities (Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz) and a separate pull-out road atlas in a plastic pouch. There are several maps in the back of the book, too, in case you lose the fold-out map.

While some guidebooks recommend only the finest places to stay, this guide includes plenty of budget options, free activities and low-cost places to visit, recognising, perhaps, that Tenerife is a common destination for families. The ‘useful phrases’ section is handy, too; it’s accompanied by a short pronunciation boxout.

Perhaps best of all this guide is peppered with really useful and unexpected Insider Tips. Secret picnic sites, adults-only hotels, restaurants that serve local cuisine (hard to find inTenerife), which rooms to ask for in specific hotels and other practically useful advice is given, and highlighted in yellow. The very best are collected in the front of the book, too, so you get some pre-warning. A handy section in the back lists some apps, websites, blogs and forums where you can pick the brains of locals and frequent visitors. It’s a nice recognition that a guidebook needn’t be an all-in-one resource, just a starting point for a journey.

A good value and compact guidebook packed with enough information and top tips to be of genuine use on any trip to Tenerife, Marco Polo’s decision to include plenty of good quality maps and a separate, foldout road atlas map is crucial to its success. Well researched, well designed and easy to use, Marco Polo guides are colourful alternative to books by Bradt and Lonely Planet.” travgear.com

The Foody Traveller

Foody Traveller Marco Polo Guide Switzerland

Image credit: thefoodytraveller.com

Switzerland Pocket Guide: “As ever with the wonderful Marco Polo Guide Books, the Marco Polo guide to Switzerland gives an excellent overview of this beautiful and fascinating country and comes complete with road atlas and pull out map; plus the oh-so-useful Insider Tips.

The Travel Tips for Switzerland are particularly helpful: reminding us that the Swiss currency is Swiss francs (not euros) – along with an approximate currency converter; explaining the workings of the very useful Swiss Card and Swiss Pass; and, bearing in mind that French, German and Italian are all spoken in Switzerland , useful phrases in each language.

We were somewhat concerned on seeing an orange footnote containing the word ‘cholera’ on one of the pages – until we realised that it refers to a predominately vegetable, pie. Evidently this dish was created during a cholera epidemic when people did not dare leave their homes so cooked whatever they had in their larders!” Read more at thefoodytraveller.com

Hannah Walter – Suitcase & Sandals

Suitcase and Sandals

Photo credit: twitter.com/suitcasesandals

Zakynthos (Ithaca, Kefalonia, Lefkas) Pocket Guide: “Although my holiday to Kefalonia was mainly a relaxing one, I wanted to see a little more of the local area around Skala too. Luckily, we had our Marco Polo guide with us, which we found a lot better than the Berlitz one we had bought previously. There was more detail!

The first thing we did, that we found in the guide book, was to learn a little more about the history of the area. I liked that the guide gave us some background information.

I think the Marco Polo guide books are fantastic. I’ll definitely be using them again. They are so good because they go beyond just the history of the city and the details of the places. There is a map at the end of the guide which would have been so helpful if we had been in a city without any accessible wifi to use to help us to navigate!” You can read more on Hannah’s blog at suitcaseandsandals.blogspot.co.uk

Heels in My Backpack

Heels in my backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Berlin Pocket Guide: “….trying out a new guide series is always tricky. I mean, is this guide going to know what I like? Is it going to show me maps of the locations and give me good restaurant recommendations? Well, Marco Polo did a pretty good job. I used their Berlin guide on my recent trip to Germany and it definitely exceeded my expectations.

For a start, it has those ‘summary’ type pages at the start of the guide that I always miss from the guides tailored more towards backpackers. I like to see in a snapshot what the place I’m visiting has to offer. But don’t worry, backpackers are most definitely catered for by Marco Polo, with hostel recommendations as well as budget restaurant advice. The Berlin guide in particular will advise on the best place to get that €2.50 currywurst hit. Furthermore it even has a page dedicated to things you can do in the city for free! Always a winner.

Another plus is that much like the DK guide series, the book is in colour with pretty photos. Which I realise is not the most essential quality you’re looking for in a travel guide, but I just think it helps you get a vibe for the different areas and narrow down what you want to do. Also, the Top Tips are also super handy as they seem more like tips you would read on a blog or hear from a fellow traveller rather than be published in a travel guide.

My favourite part of the Marco Polo guide however is the street atlas in the back of the book. I’ve realised from years of travelling that I am in fact a map geek. I just love them. I like getting my bearings in a new city and knowing my way around. And although my trusty Lonely Planet has mini maps of each destination, it pales in comparison to this in-depth colour street atlas. And the fact that this guide comes with a pull out map as well, just so I don’t have to lug around a book, is the cherry on top really.

Heels in my backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Although a drawback for backpackers travelling Europe is that obviously a guide for just one city isn’t very efficient. I think I would go for a travel guide covering more areas for a big trip. However, for a city break or a trip stopping at 2 or 3  locations, I think Marco Polo have given Lonely Planet and Rough Guide a run for their money…” heelsinmybackpack.com

Munich Greeter

Munch Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Munich Pocket Guide: “A lightweight which fits into every handbag. The categories: Sightseeing, Eating  & Drinking, Shopping, Nightlife and Hotels cover everything a tourist has to know to get around town.

The writing is brief, entertaining and concise. The information on every location is complete – directions to the location, phone number, email address etc. are especially useful. It comes with a foldout plan of the entire city area so you won’t miss the proposed places. Also informative are the brief chapters of certain topics such as “Fine dining in Munich” or “Eating out on a low budget”. These overviews include short assessments of the listed locations. The assessments are to the point and describe shops and locations which actually are frequented by Munich inhabitants.

Last but not least, there are some funny texts on the town and its atmosphere, mentality, culture and clichés. Most of them hit the mark and tune you in on your visit! The photos illustrate the words very adequately and have good recognition value. Of course, most of them were taken when the weather was really nice, but looking at them will whet your appetite for a trip to Munich.

Conclusion: Lightweight and easy to carry around, this travel guide gives all necessary information and up-to-date tips for first time and experienced visitors alike.” munichgreeter.de

See our full range of Marco Polo Pocket Guides covering over 100 destinations!

Have you used our Pocket Guides? What did you think?