a food guide to German Christmas markets: 7 traditional foods to try on your next winter visit

Being in Germany in the winter time has its perks. Namely, German Christmas markets. Sure, it’s cold, but the lively holiday atmosphere, twinkly lights, and glorious carb-y food is worth freezing. I promise. We set off to Berlin, a favourite European city of mine, to spend time with my German family, hit up the Christmas markets, escape the cold with Hüttenpalast Caravan Hotel, and eat all the traditional food we could get our hands on!

Some of the items on this list will seem obvious, while others you might never have heard of! Here are 7 foods {and drinks, if you include glühwein} I tried at 5 different Christmas markets in Berlin and what I thought of each one.


KEEP READING FOR 7 TRADITIONAL FOODS TO TRY at german christmas markets


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LEBKUCHEN

This is a special German Christmas-time treat whose closest relative is gingerbread. Historians give Nuremberg the honour of being the home of original lebkuchen. Some lebkuchen are small, like a typical cookie. Other times it comes in cake variations or cookies bigger than your head. You’ll find it at every German Christmas market decorated with colourful icing, but traditional lebkuchen stalls will serve up lebkuchen with powdered sugar dusting and almond slices or a drizzle of chocolate instead.

Our little Berlin insider, Alina, told me to save my money for better lebkuchen at a fraction of the cost from a supermarket. So {those following my Instagram stories will know}, that’s just what we did. Luke, Ali, and I headed to a local supermarket a picked up two bags full of traditional chocolate-covered lebkuchen, which was as delicious as it felt festive!

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CONFUSION ABOUT HOW TO EAT TRDELNIK

CONFUSION ABOUT HOW TO EAT TRDELNIK

MY LIVE REACTION TO TRDELNIK FOR THE FIRST TIME

MY LIVE REACTION TO TRDELNIK FOR THE FIRST TIME

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TRDeLNIK

Oh trdelnik, you very controversial little pastry, you. It turns out that, while Hungarians, Romanians, Swedes, and Russians like to take credit for the pastry, so do the Germans. The word trdelnik has Czech and Slovak origins, so perhaps that helps solve the mystery. However, even in saying that, many proud Czechs deny trdelnik as a traditional food and believe that it’s only been adopted as a national dessert for the sake of tourism {watch one of my faves Honest Guide}.

Wherever its from, however it came to be, I’d like to thank that place and those people, because trdelnik is a seriously delicious treat, especially since it’s served warm! Trdelnik is a warm pastry, similar to a donut, in a spherical shape that is covered in cinnamon and sugar. Sometimes it’s drizzled with chocolate and caramel or sprinkled with nuts. You can even find trdelnik filled with nutella and ice cream. No matter what you get on yours, it’s delicious and you have to try it out!

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LUKE’S FIRST CURRYWURST, MESSY BUT APPARENTLY YUMMY

LUKE’S FIRST CURRYWURST, MESSY BUT APPARENTLY YUMMY

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CURRYWURST

Currywurst is a more modern take on the traditional German classic— the bratwurst. A currywurst is a steamed pork sausage that is later fried and cut into slices. The slices of the sausage are covered in a ketchup sauce of sorts and sprinkled with curry powder. It’s served with bread of some kind so that you can soak up the sauce or make a sandwich. Unlike some of the dishes on this list with questionable origins, currywurst is undeniably German and, I’ve been told, undeniably delicious.

Obviously, I didn’t try currywurst, being a vegetarian and what have you. A good chunk of traditional German food is carnivore-friendly. Luckily, I was traveling with Luke, who is always willing to try new foods in the name of research. Luke says that the currywurst he had was sauce heavy, but not spicy. He also says it was very tasty, and he’s turning into quite the foodie, so I find his food reports solid.

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schneeballen

Schneeballen is what would be conceived if sugar, butter, eggs, flour, and cream made love with one another. Schneeball translates to “snowball” in English, and it’s an accurate name. These giant shortbread cookie balls are traditionally only dusted with powdered sugar, but can be found at Christmas markets these days in variations that include marzipan, chocolate, caramel, and nuts.

I found it easiest to eat the schneeball by putting it in the paper bag it was sold in, breaking it into pieces, and eating the little bits rather than trying to take a bite out of the stiff cookie orb. Personally, as someone who prefers salt and spice, Schneeballen wasn’t for me. If you have a sweet tooth and want your cookie fix, however, a snowball is exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t worry about the mess, that’s part of the schneeballen fun!

LAST PRETZEL ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT

LAST PRETZEL ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT

PRETZEL

Most of us know what a pretzel is. In fact, it’s likely that when you think of German yums, pretzels and beer immediately pop into your head, amirite? But, did you know that the pretzel dates back to medieval European times? Apparently, Greeks claim the pretzel as a deviation of their looped sesame seed bread and Italian also take credit for the tasty treat. Apparently, Germans stake their claim to the carb and believe that pretzels were the result of desperate bakeries in Germany being held hostage.

Whatever the origin story, pretzels can be found at every German Christmas market you wander through. Traditionally, pretzels are salted. Today, they’re dressed up in sweet and savory combinations that include cinnamon sugar, poppy seed, and cheese. I haven’t met a pretzel I didn’t like, especially when they’re served warm and the temperature is in the single digits.

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KäSESPäTZLE

Käsespätzle, which translates literally to mean “cheese noodles”, is a traditional dish found in the Bavaria region of Germany. It’s basically a take on macaroni and cheese, or rather macaroni and cheese is a take on käsespätzle. Hot noodles are covered with freshly grated cheese and crispy fried onion. Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. No, it’s not calorie-light.

The käsespätzle I tried contained both fresh spring onion and fried yellow onion, which added a nice flavour to the dish. Ultimately, it’s a good dish if you’re looking for something basic to keep you warm and fill you up. I couldn’t finish my massive portion of noodles, so we split them! It’s definitely a dish worth sharing.

You will be charged a fee for the fork and ceramic bowl containing your meal, but it’s just a deposit in case of loss or damage. You get your money back once you’ve finished eating and return your utensils.

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KEEPING WARM WITH GLÜHWEIN

KEEPING WARM WITH GLÜHWEIN

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GLüHWEIN

Yeah, yeah, yeah…this isn’t a "food”, it’s a drink. But for the sake of this post I threw them all together— beverage and snacks combined. Also known as “mulled wine” and “grog” to the many other countries who claim the beverage as their own, glühwein is essentially hot wine. And, in Germany, they like theirs strong. It’s usually made by combining red wine with mulling spices, fruits, and sometimes the occasional raisin.

I’m not a wine drinker by any stretch of the imagination so, this being my second time ever having glühwein, I should have known I wasn’t going to be a massive fan. I probably would have enjoyed a hot beer more to be honest but I figured when you’re in Germany, you line up at the vendor stalls and order what the locals are having. The blueberry wine I had kept me warm, got me tipsy, and tasted {to my unrefined palette} like someone had heated up red wine {I tasted no blueberry}. I wasn’t too fussed about it, but it’s definitely a must-try-once sort of thing.

You will be charged a fee to rent your glühwein mug, but you’ll get your Euros back once you finish your drink and return it. Alternatively, you can keep the mug as a souvenir!


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