Berlin is cold in the winter. So, warming up in style is a skill you need to learn to be able to enjoy this underrated time of year. The good news is that there are many ways to do it. From visiting Christmas markets to frequenting saunas and botanical gardens, we'll show you how to keep warm in Berlin.
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Tip 1: A full day of warmth: Vabali
A trip to Bali is one of the best ways to escape the chills. Getting there from Berlin is a lot easier than you’d think – it’s right beside Hauptbahnhof. Once inside Vabali, countless ways to warm up are revealed. The saunas and the swimming pools are the obvious ones, but there are also warming massages on offer. How about an 80-minute hot stone massage where warm basalt stones are placed all over your body?
Or an Abyanga massage with warm oil? The good news is that you can banish that cold Berlin winter for an entire day in Vabali: it’s open from 9am to midnight.
Tip 2: Warm up: Sauna
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to saunas in Berlin. The aforementioned Vabali is one of the best, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Meridian Spa in Spandau has nine saunas, befine Sports & Spa in Mitte has a gym and a hammam in addition to its sauna, and Hamam on Mariannenstraße is for women only. Lützow Sauna has been in operation for nearly fifty years, and what it lacks in size and facilities, it makes up for with friendly and dedicated staff who keep the place impeccably clean and well maintained.
Tip 3: The cosiest café: Café am Neuen See
Sometimes the right atmosphere will warm you better than any rise in temperature. For a warm and romantic ambience in Berlin, look no further than Café am Neuen See. It epitomises the German concept of Gemütlichkeit, roughly translated as cosiness, one of those things you just know when you see it. Once inside the candlelit restaurant with its roaring wood fire, you’ll understand. If you need a little activity to keep warm, try their curling rinks, but book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Tip 4: Warm up like a Tajik: Tadschikische Teestube
There are some countries that know how to warm up better than most. Tajikistan is one of them. It’s tucked away between China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and, fittingly, Berlin’s Tajik Tea House is easy to overlook as well, hidden away in a courtyard just off Oranienburgerstraße. There, you’ll sit down Tajik-style on cushions on the floor and choose from their menu of teas from around the world, all individually brewed and prepared as they are ordered.
There’s also a menu of snacks on offer, from pelmeni to borscht to bliny, and there are recitals of fairytales and myths every Monday by Berlin artist Ana Rhukiz.
Tip 5: Heat and humidity: The greenhouses at the Botanical Garden
The fantastic Botanischer Garten in Steglitz has an incredible sixteen different greenhouses, each with a subtly different feel and temperature depending on the plants contained within. The Victoria House, home to mind-bogglingly massive water lilies, is the hottest and most humid. It just reopened in 2018 after 12 years of renovations. It’ll warm you up nicely for your walk around the other houses that take you on a tour of the world’s warm climates. You’ll see cactuses from the New World, a whole greenhouse for carnivorous plants (don’t touch!), and yet another separate greenhouse for orchids.
Tip 6: Become a tea connoisseur: Berliner Teesalon
Learn a little about tea and you’ll never be cold again. There truly is a tea for every occasion and situation, and it’s a safe bet that every single one of them is available to buy from the Berliner Teesalon. The staff here are very welcoming and always ready to share their significant expertise with their customers, whether they are fellow tea connoisseurs or don’t know their Assam from their Darjeeling.
Tip 7: Warm up with a hot soup
On cold days, sometimes the only thing that helps is a delicious hot soup, preferably a delicious Pho at the restaurant Ryong in Torstraße with vegetarian Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine. Or stop by Madame Ngo on Kantstraße and embark on a culinary journey to Indochina.
Tip 8: Snuggle up in front of the fire: Kaminbar Oderberger
Checklist for warming up: enormous armchair that swaddles you in a warming embrace. A crackling fire exuding the kind of warmth only a real fire can. Delicious cocktail made to order by an expert. And, finally, either a good book that you can curl up with or good friends to converse with. The Kaminbar on the ground floor of the Hotel Oderberger is one of the few places in Berlin that checks off every item on the list (although you’ll probably have to provide the book and the friends yourself).
Tip 9: Relaxation and warmth: Tranxx Floating
Being cold is stressful, and warming up is relaxing. But you have no idea just how relaxing it can be until you try floating. Yep. Floating. Tranxx has a selection of tanks and pods to let you float in a salt brine, like the water in the Dead Sea. You just lie there, floating…and that’s it. Let your worries slide away, all the stress, all the problems…they don’t matter in your warm little floating pod.
You can either float entirely by yourself in a single pod, or with a friend or partner in one of the larger tanks. The world might seem very loud once you get back outside, but you’ll be warm and relaxed enough to deal with it with confidence.
Tip 10: The art of tea: Paper and Tea
Choosing the perfect tea can be an overwhelming experience. What’s the right temperature? Do I need special equipment? What goes well with it? Not only can the staff at one of Berlin’s three branches of Paper and Tea (in KaDeWe on Tauentzienstraße, in Charlottenburg and Mitte) answer your questions, they can also give you samples and guide you through their array of stunningly beautiful tea accessories.
Tip 11: Outdoor warming: Christmas markets
Most of Berlin’s Christmas markets are outdoors, so you’re going to need a bit of help to warm up. That’s where the Glühwein comes in. We’re not going to recommend the best mulled wine in Berlin – that’s a task for another day. But we can tell you that most stalls offer the option of a Schuß (shot) of rum or Schnapps in your Glühwein, and we recommend taking that shot. Alcohol, however, only provides fleeting warmth. You’re going to need some hearty, filling German grub to finish the job.
A goulash, maybe? Or some cheesy Spätzle? The choice is yours. The Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt, for example, has an Austrian hut-themed stall, and you can be sure that those Alpine fellows know how to warm up.