I've been wanting to visit Germany since taking German in 8th grade, and am trying to figure out the best way to do it during the Christmas season (I am an American, and my university employer is closed between Christmas and New Years; going at that time is ideal because I won't have to use up any of my vacation days). I'm thinking of sticking to Berlin -- I've been told that there's plenty to do there, and I'm OK with seeing other parts of Germany another time. I am also thinking that given how big Berlin is, more will be open when I visit.
--Young female traveler who will be going solo. I've traveled on my own before abroad, though most of my experience in non-English speaking countries has been in groups. I'm very comfortable in hostels (though prefer quieter ones to party places, and try to stay in private rooms since I'm a super light sleeper) and would prefer to stick to them for the camaraderie and to alleviate any "Alone on Christmas" loneliness.
--I can speak/read the tiniest bit of German, and will keep practicing until I leave.
--My favorite things to do when I travel are sample the local beer and specialty local foods. I also love visiting museums, libraries, greenhouse conservatories, etc. I am also totally down with any well-done historic walking tours. I've read all the MeFi questions pertaining to Berlin, and have bookmarked all the general "traveling in Berlin things to do" stuff.
1. How much does Berlin close down between December 24-26? This will likely be right in the middle of my trip. I am totally OK with spending 1-2 days taking it easy at the hostel and reading some good books, but wouldn't want to miss out on more of the city life than that. I've heard that Germans "do Christmas" on the 24th, so will it be impossible to find places to eat on the 24th? Will I be limited to sad donner kebab shops? Does the public transportation shut down, or go to limited hours?
2. Has anyone stayed at any of the following hostels: St Christopher's
, Heart of Gold
, or baxpax downtown
? These seem to fit my criteria for the dates I plan to be there (roughly 22-29), availability of private rooms, and things like a bar on site. Any other hostel recommendations?
3. What can I do Christmas-wise on the 24th/25th? I've seen a couple schedules for Christmas markets that appear to be open those days, and some concerts/operas. I'm not religious at all, but I think it'd be fun to attend any midnight Christmas eve services.
4. I'm very comfortable here in the States going into a bar by myself (as a mid-20s lady) and ordering a beer and hanging out with a magazine, but is this considered weird in Germany? If so, are there any lady-friendly places to do it?
5. How cold will it be at that time of year?
Danke schön, Metafilter!