Think the Oxford Street Christmas lights are a tough show to rival? Think again. Held from 9-20 October 2013, The Berlin Festival of Lights will transform Germany’s capital into a dazzling metropolis – a radiant cityscape of gold, blue, red, green and yellow that could rival the splendor of just about any Christmas light display across the globe.
More than one million visitors are expected to flock to Berlin for the 9th annual light festival in October, so remember to book your Berlin hostel quick smart! Over this two week period, some of the city’s most famous landmarks, museums, shopping centres, parks and impressive buildings will shimmer and shine, from the Bradenburg Gate to the Berlin Concert Hall, the Unter den Linden Boulevard, Berliner Dom and the Oberbaumbruecke Bridge.
These long October evenings will consist of everything from firework displays to unique ‘light disguises’ and personalised messages projected onto Bradenburg Gate. Ever wondered what Berliner Dom would look like transformed into a broken down warehouse? Look left. Yes, folks, that’s a light display from the 2008 festival! Cue chorus of ‘wow’.
Berlin Festival HighLIGHTS
While each night of the light festival will cast a unique glow over Berlin, there are a range of cultural events and festivities worthy of a spotlight mention.
Grand Opening: The Grand Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Festival of Lights will kick off on 9th October at the new festival centre Potsdamer Platz. Special guest at the ceremony will be the governing mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit.
Open City – Night of Open Doors: Open City will offer visitors a ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into some of the venues and attractions taking part in the Festival of Lights. These institutions will throw open their doors for one night only from 7pm to 12am on 12th October. A full list of participating institutions is available on the Berlin Festival of Lights website.
Jazz at the Minister Gardens: Music fans planning an autumn Berlin break may want to check out Jazz at the Minister Gardens on 18th October. The event will feature performances from the likes of Frankfurt Jazz Trio, All About Eve, and the Wieland Möller Trio. Box office tickets will be available for €25 and presale tickets may be bought online.
‘Lightseers’ can view the 2013 Berlin Festival of Lights by boat, bus or balloon throughout its October run.
Aboard a LightLiner bus, travelers can experience all the illuminated highlights on a 90 minute long guided tour. Tours cost €14 for an adult ticket, and take place at 7pm on 9-20 October, and additionally at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. For something a little more memorable, another option is the LightPhoto-Safari, which continues for 4 hours and incorporates photostops at several famous sites including the Bradenburg Gate. Tickets are €30 for adults, and come complete with a tasty Berlin Currywurst snack. For more information about both of these tours, check out the website.
Have a preference for sea over land? Hop aboard the imaginatively illuminated LightShip for some waterside magic. Tours cost €22 and take place daily from 9-20 October. More details can be found on the Reederei Riedel website.
For those not afraid of heights, another great romantic option is a tour trip aboard the Berlin ‘Welt-Balloon’ – one of the biggest helium balloons in the world. In a gondola, tourists will silently ascend to an altitude of 150 meters above Checkpoint Charlie at the very centre of Berlin. Due to the tour’s dependency on weather ocnditions, tickets can’t be booked in advance. They are scheduled to take place daily throughout the Festival of Lights, for more information visit the Welt website.
Fancy a trip on an illuminated horse-drawn carriage? How about a chauffeur ride in your personal light limo? Check out the further range of tours available on the Berlin Festival of Lights homepage.
A Light Bite to Eat
Need a break from the luminous lights of the Berlin night? Why not check out the special ‘Festival of Light’ dinner and cocktail menus available at a range of participating bars and restaurants around the city. Our top picks for light break establishments include:
Karl-Marz-Allee 35, 10178
Alberts café is offering a special Festival of Lights three-course Menu including a consommé of baby chicken and saffron with foam of celery, a duet of red deer and hoofed game with Parisian potatoes and sweet chestnuts, and a trilogy of homemade mini tartlets, all for €24.50 per person. The downstairs basement A-Lounge has also mixed a special ‘Blue Night’ cocktail of vodka, Blue Curacao, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and champagne…decorated with a flaming fountain of course.
in The Ritz-Carlton, Potsdamer Platz 3, 10785
Authentic French Brasserie, Brasserie Desbrosses, is offering a special ‘Crème Brûlèe en Flambee’ dessert for €4. Also check out The Curtain Club at The Ritz-Carlton, which will mix you up a Festival of Lights ‘Flaming Moe’ cocktail of 3-year old Havanna, Vanilla Galliano, mango juice and Old Pascas with crushed ice and a passion fruit decoration.
DANTE on Hackescher Markt
Am Zwirngraben 8-10, 10178
Renowned club and international restaurant Dante will offer a €28 Festival of Lights menu, consisting of a creamy pumpkin soup starter, main of young boar medallions with potato carrot pancakes, roasted mint apples and calvados cream, and a dessert of blueberry passion fruit parfait. Wash this down with a Festival of Lights cocktail, created with rum, coconut, melon and pineapple.
Kilkenny Irish Pub
Am Zwurngraben 17-20, 10178
A great budget option, Kilkenny Irish Pub is offering a special Festival of Lights lamb curry with rice and two dips for €9.50. Also on offer is a ‘Kilkenny Light’ cocktail of vodka, gin, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry for €8.
Scandic Bar & Restaurant
in Scandic Hotel, Gabriele-Tergit Promenade 19, 10963
While the ‘Festival of Lights’ three-course menu is relatively pricey at €49 (although the main of ‘veal beef with beetroot, watercress salad and horseradish ice cream’ does sound delicious), we certainly wouldn’t want to miss the ‘Neon Green Martini’ and ‘Singing the Blues Martini’ that are being served up at the Scandic Bar!
Where to Stay
The Circus Hostel in Berlin is a great choice for backpackers, offering private and dorm rooms from €19 per person per night. Open since 2001, Circus has made a name for itself as the ultimate ‘fun’ locale, with communal facilities as well as rooftop apartments, DJs, live music, ‘Boots’ in Goldman’s bar and an onsite breakfast café…plus, it’s just so very apt a hostel name for this particular light extravaganza!
Another good budget option in central Berlin is the EastSeven Berlin Hostel, which was voted ‘Best Hostel Germany’ in both 2008 and 2009. Dorm and private rooms are still available over the Festival of Lights period from €20 per person per night.