15 Foods & Drinks you must try at the European Christmas Markets
Must-Try Christmas Market Food & Drinks
If you are heading to the European Christmas Markets, I would recommend you go hungry. The food options are bountiful and the smells will inevitably have you lining up at different stalls.
Each town & country puts its spin on things too, so you will likely want to sample many of these dishes as you travel between markets. I have been to over 40 Christmas Markets in 25 different towns and I still feel like there are more treasures to be found.
Your only saving grace will be the increased amount of walking you will likely do wandering the towns and stalls. And hopefully your friends will share in the decadence and split the calories so you can try all of these European Christmas Market treats.
Here are 16 foods I tried and you should too on your adventures in European Christmas Marts:
Bratwürst (German Sausages)
Walk into the markets and your hunger will peak with the smells of grilled sausages and meats. The local sausages come in all shapes and lengths and seasoned with local flavors and served up in a bun.
Condiments of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles are generally available for self-service on a side table after purchase.
Small stand-up tables will be positioned in front of the booths with patrons gobbling up their tasty meals. After you buy your sausages, just walk on up to any open slot at the table, say “Merry Christmas” to your new friends in the local language, and join in the feast.
In Germany, each town seems to sell different varieties.
The Nuremberg sausage is three short links on a bun. Regensburg is a long, thin one. These towns are 90 minutes apart and have a long standing battle for the best Wurst. For many years they also battled over the title “Oldest Sausage Kitchen in the World”, even taking it to the German courts.
The judge settled the issue. Nurnberg’s St. Lorenz (established in 1419) would be called “The Oldest Sausage Kitchen in the World”.
Regensburg’s Wurstkuche (since 1135 but serving brats since about 1146) reigns as “The Oldest Bratwurst Kitchen in the World.”
Klobása (Czeck Sausages)
The grilled meats are served up as well in the Czech Republic.
In Prague, the grill master was serving up a choice of lightly herbed, spicy paprika or kebabs with grilled veggies. The herbed one was perfection.
In Brno, I tried the paprika version. Yikes – they take their spices seriously. Make sure to have water on hand.
I found the vegetables! Thankfully, the markets had large pans of grilled meats with vegetables for consumption in many of the towns.
I love fish but I was not especially fond of salmon until I tried this version in the Christmas markets. I first tried this in Rovaniemi, Finland.
Freshly caught salmon is placed on a wooden planks and lightly sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some lemon. The planks are then placed around a central fire.
The result – delicious salmon without the strong taste and perfectly seasoned. Salmon prepared like this is available in many markets in France, Switzerland and Germany as well.
Reibekuchen (Potato Fritters)
Like the sausages, each market and region seems to have their own take on frying up tasty potatoes. These are served on small plates with apple sauce or garlic sauce.
The carbs will ward off the cold as you gobble up the tasty saturated potato varieties. Or at least that’s what I told myself.
Kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen
Kartoffellanzen or Bramboráky
Raclette is the first dish I tried at my first Christmas Market in Basel Switzerland. It still lives in my memory as my favorite “street market” food.
As I strolled up to my first hut, I saw a huge wheel of cheese that had been sliced in half propped up on its side in a metal machine. The large heater was hovering over the top and the cheese underneath was bubbling. The cheese master then scraped off the gooey deliciousness onto a stack of perfectly fried up potato cubes.
With a toothpick in hand, I dove in. The cheese was just on another level. I still think about this dish and have recommended it to dozens of people when they ask me what to try.
Your waistline will hate me, but it’s a must.
I have found raclette in many of the Swiss, French and German markets.
Smažený sýr (Grilled Cheese)
You had me at cheese! The Czech’s make it easy with the sign in English to find this treat.
The cheese is heated and grilled until gooey. Then placed on a simple slice of white bread.
I spotted this German dish in Augsburg, Munich and a few other Bavarian markets.
The noodles are cooked with sauerkraut and speck (pork). I prefer spaetzle for German noodle dishes, but this is a good runner-up.
I am a big fan of ginger in general and gingersnaps in the USA.
Lebkuchen is the original German version and it is on another level of goodness thanks to fresh & traditional ingredients.
The gingerbread is spiced to perfection. I prefer the fresh cookies for consumption in the markets. You can also find gingerbread decorated with icing and shrink wrapped for great take-home gifts.
Trdelník / Baumstriezel (Chimney Cakes)
This Czech speciality will have you rethinking how to make a doughnut.
A long thick strip of dough covered in a sugar walnut mix is wrapped around a thick cylinder.
The doughnut is then slow roasted over an open charcoal grill. The heat carmelized the sugar for a crusty and tasty treat.
Additional topping can be added including jams and my favorite… Nutella.
In Germany, they will be called a Baumstriezel.
The doughnuts come in more varieties with fruit flavors as you venture into Austria & Germany. This fried dough pastry is filled with a fruit jam and plenty of powdered sugar. In Germany, it is called Knieküchle, Auszogne, Krapfen, Küchl, Nudel or Rottnudel depending on the region.
In Austria, it is called a Bauernkrapfen or Kiachl.
I found this Bauernkrapfen in Linz Austria filled with apricot jam.
Gebranntemandeln (Sugared Almonds)
Welcome to the most addictive treat in the markets – Sugared Nuts!
I love to grab a packet in the larger cities and munch on them while I stroll from market to market. You think you will only eat a few, but you will quickly go through the entire bag.
The nuts are freshly made on-site also, so the smells will drive you mad! Bags are sold for around 3-3.50 € for 100 grams. You can also buy a variety of nuts (Almost, Pistachios Hazelnuts, Peanuts etc) and a variety of flavors (vanilla, chocolate, Nutella, amaretto).
While the French macarons are now available year-round, you will see other sugar cookies only at Christmas time across Europe.
I found these Linzeraugen’s in Linz of course. They are called face cookies with the two eyes and a nose. The jam-filled cookies are a nice lighter treat… relatively.
I knew this was going to be a good one in the Augsburg Germany Christmas Market as this hut had the longest line.
Steamed dumplings are served with a vanilla custard sauce. This will set you back a few pounds.
Apfelkuchen & Quarkbällchen
These treats were sold in combo at this German market in Regensburg.
Quarkbällchen is another version of a German doughnut. This one has Quark mixed in which is a fluffy yogurt light cheese. The quark is mixed in the batter, so you don’t taste cheese directly. It is more like a spongy doughnut.
Apfelkuchen is an apple cake. An apple slice was encased in cake dough and deep fried.
Thank goodness we split these ones!
At Christmas time, different cakes and breads are made to celebrate the season.
One of the most popular across Europe is the Kugelhopf – a yeast-based cake, traditionally baked in a distinctive circular Bundt mold.
You will also find other varieties including Christstollen (German fruit bread) and Bethmännchen (pastry with marzipan)
Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar or honey and almond meal. You will find little bon-bon shaped sweets in stack in the markets. of all flavors.
Glühwein / Svařák (Hot Spiced Wine)
Finally, no visit to a Christmas market is complete without a hot drink in a Christmas mug.
In Germany, it is called Glühwein. In the Czech Republic, look for the Svařák stand.
The spiced mulled wine is served in little Christmas mugs which are unique and collectible at each market. When buying your drink, you will pay an additional 2-4 euros as a “pfand” or deposit. If you want to keep the mug, you forfeit the deposit and have a great collectible souvenir. If not, return it to the same booth and get your deposit back.
Tip: If you are keeping the mug, you can also exchange your dirty mug for a clean one to stash in your day bag and avoid spiced wine drips.
Try this Gluhwein recipe upon your return home.
Inspired to visit the European Christmas Markets?
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