Christmas – the holiday for the whole family. If you've decided not to celebrate it at home, and instead spend the holiday in Berlin, then you can look forward to the atmospheric Christmas markets and excellent restaurants for your Christmas dinner. Where will you find the perfect restaurant for the holidays and a Christmas tree for your hotel room?
Concierge Sam Ndiaye from the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm shares his personal tips on how you can spend a festive Christmas in the city with us.
First of all: Who is Sam Ndiaye?
For more than 12 years now, guests staying at Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm have been greeted by twinkling eyes and a “Welcome back!” even before arriving at the reception. Sam Ndiaye, who is originally from Senegal, came to Berlin to study law. He has been working as a concierge since 1993 (in the Palace Hotel Europa Centre, Grand Hotel Esplanade Sheraton and Intercontinental). He has been the concierge at Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm since 2005, when it was still the Concorde Hotel. Sam Ndiaye is the chef concierge, and a member of Les Clefs d´Or.
A guest would like to experience a traditional Christmas market. Which Christmas market would you recommend?
Berlin is a city that always has something to offer and is home to numerous wonderful Christmas markets. I visit the Christmas market at the historical Charlottenburg Palace every Christmas. My visit starts with flame-grilled salmon in a bun and a glass of mulled wine. Afterwards, I stroll past the countless stands that offer something for every taste. The Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt is also a great place to get into the Christmas spirit. Its diversity makes it one of the finest Christmas markets in Berlin. Every visitor will find something to make their visit worthwhile – regardless of whether it's the traditional handicrafts or the Christmas music coming from the stage in front of the concert house. The Christmas market in Spandau's Old Town shouldn't be missed either. It offers a highly varied and free-of-charge events programme every day, and every Wednesday is Family Day. And Santa Claus is there to listen to what each child would like for Christmas.
What are the three top restaurants for dinner on Christmas Eve?
Leibniz Klause is one of my favourite restaurants at Christmas. This is where my family and I are served a traditional Christmas goose, carved at the table. Before cutting into it, the waiter recites a poem.
For a fine-dining experience on Christmas Eve with more innovative cuisine, I recommend Restaurant Cinco, which stimulates all five senses with its grandiose and original menus. Enjoy the Christmas magic of Berlin and let Cinco Team spoil you with culinary delights.
Even thought the restaurant Heimlichtreu opens its doors only on December 26, the visit is worthwhile at Christmas time! The restaurant and its team of chefs, who have worked in restaurants awarded with Michelin stars, is hidden away in the second courtyard of a residential building in Prenzlauer Berg. Especially during the contemplative Christmas season the sharing concept that is celebrated in Heimlich treu is a great idea, and there is everything to recommend it. I always like my meal to be accompanied by the fine wines selected by the restaurant's chef Maik. The restaurant is wonderfully decorated and charmingly furnished at every time of year.
Can a guest in your hotel have a Christmas tree put up in their suite? And can you organise for Santa Claus to come by to hand out presents to the children?
What would Christmas be without Santa Claus? Guests can spend an exclusive and enchanting Christmas Eve in our Opera Suites. With a view over the legendary Café Kranzler, along with their modern design and furnishings, we have plenty to surprise our guests. We would set up the Christmas tree in the separate living area, which will put our guests in the Christmas mood with the wonderful view over Kurfürstendamm. To have a chance to practise the Christmas poem beforehand, it's certainly worth making a visit to Santa Claus at KaDeWe, who welcomes children and adults alike from all over the world every year.
Can you name three shops for guests to buy Christmas presents?
Even your first few steps venturing into Käthe Wohlfahrt will have you believing you've stepped into a Christmas paradise. Everything is reminiscent of a cosy winter wonderland with a huge selection of modern Christmas crafts. Anyone looking for something more unique is certain to find something special at Bikini Berlin. The diversity of concept stores have something surprising on offer each and every time you visit, with exceptional and original presents from smaller cottage industries.
Anyone looking for one-of-a-kind presents is likely to find something at the Christmas Rodeo Design Market. On the first three Advent weekends, more than 200 designers and creative individuals sell products they have made themselves, and unique items such as decorations for the tree, works of art, textiles, jewellery and design in the Kühlhaus Berlin. A DJ plays seasonal Christmas songs to get you in the Yuletide spirit.
Who would you recommend as a personal shopper at Christmas time?
Galeries Lafayette offer this service for their customers. Our guests can leave the hustle and bustle behind and try on different designs in a relaxed atmosphere in the exclusive lounge on the 2nd floor.