From late November to the New Year a whole new world of amazing options opens up to the hungry, and thirsty, traveler passing through Europe.
Indulging in European Christmas markets food is an essential part of soaking in the whole experience.
One of the things I most look forward to when we travel is the chance to try new food. You are probably not shocked to hear this if you have seen photos of me!
The chance to not only have another bite of some fantastic French pastries but to add a whole lot of new experiences had me very excited, especially reading about the options in the Christmas markets of Europe.
What are you going to find?
We expected to see a lot of sausage varieties served on buns, the mysterious currywurst, Gluhwein, and pretzels. And while we certainly found these in abundance we were delighted to find plenty of other treats, both savoury and sweet. So strap on your feed bag and get stuck into some Christmas Markets food.
This post will have a lot more photos than usual and not just because of my food obsession. You may also find it hard to believe that I actually lost weight during this five-week trip, a testament to the crazy amount of walking we did every day.
European food outside of the Christmas Markets
Let’s start off with something delicious, shall we? Maybe a look at some of the sweet treats we discovered… and devoured.
These amazingly realistic implements are actually made of fine chocolate and were common throughout the Christmas Markets no matter which city we were in.
This store had by far the best display and you actually had to look twice to be sure they weren’t real tools.
You know the trip is going to turn out well when this is the counter of the third shop you see on the first morning in France.
Although it does make the breakfast decision extremely difficult.
We never did get to try this but it looked delicious. Even when you are away from home and keen to try new food you just can’t fit everything in.
These wonderful shortbready, pastry thingies filled the gap as a mid-afternoon snack. Can’t remember where they were from but do remember that they tasted pretty good.
The first Trdelnik we had in Cesky Krumlov set the bar very high as far as these incredibly tasty Czech pastries go. We did have others wherever we could find them and while they were all good, none were better than the first.
Is it bad that I remember how good things taste but have no idea what they are called? We had one of these the first morning in Reims and it was a wonderful surprise. Thin, crispy chocolate over a fluffy marshmallow centre on a thin wafer base.
French crepes are just the best anywhere. Dana even decided to leave a little on her chin for later.
Why would you ever walk around hungry in Heidelberg when you can duck into a cafe and devour one of these crumbly delights for around one Euro?
We waited over two weeks between seeing these for the first time and actually having one. Why? Well, it’s because they are called Rothenberg Schneeballen (snowballs) so we waited until we got to Rothenberg ob der Tauber. They were nice but maybe not worth the wait.
After all that food most people would be searching for a refreshing beverage to wash it down. Since most of this trip was in Germany then you would assume that means a giant glass of beer. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to love a good ale.
So let’s get back to some more food to get that horrible beer taste out of my mouth.
Great barbecue ribs at a trendy Amsterdam food court. We also shared some Moinkballs! If you have never tried these tasty morsels then I suggest you find them at your earliest convenience.
Meatballs wrapped in bacon and slow-cooked in barbecue sauce.
I decided to try something different in Cesky Krumlov after deciding the traditional Czech dumplings were not for me. This tower of deliciousness is a stack of chicken and warm apples in a cranberry sauce. It sounded a bit weird but tasted a lot great.
On a cold and wet night in Brugge, it was nice to sit by this roaring fire and watch our tremendous slabs of beef be cooked with precision and love.
Since I am not a big pork lover I opted for the German mixed grill. Every piece of meat was great and the salty beans with bacon was one of the best side dishes of the trip.
Eventually one needs a change from the relentless schnitzel and sausage offerings. When we met up with our daughter in Prague it was agreed that Mexican was the perfect option. It turned out to be some of the best I have had outside of Mexico.
Speaking of schnitzel, they certainly don’t hold back on the portion sizes as Dana found out in Innsbruck.
But the winning entry goes to this magnificent beast Pauline had in Regensburg. Massive, tender, and delicious, and once again the sweet cranberry sauce was perfect as an accompaniment.
Another standard change of pace food is pizza and it can be a very hit-and-miss proposition. Luckily we had a big hit with our two pizzas in Rothenberg. An unusual combination of toppings but unbelievably good.
One thing that I was never going to try was the unfortunately-named second dish on this board. It seems more at home on a dairy farm than at a restaurant.
One place that you have to eat in Amsterdam is The Pancake Factory. An unassuming little place in a basement beside the canal close to the Ann Frank House. The pancakes are huge and there is certainly no guarantee you will get through your whole meal. None of us did.
One thing we did find was this awesome Brasilian pop-up restaurant in the Christmas Markets on the Champs Elysee. An incredible variety of well-cooked meats that continue to arrive on your plate until you are at bursting point, plus the most ridiculous amount of side dishes. This was just for the two of us!
No meal is complete without dessert. And when in Austria no dessert is complete without strudel. These two impressive offerings were found in a lovely little beer hall in Innsbruck.
A sensational and huge apple pancake for dessert in the appropriately named Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. I was already full from a wonderful meal but luckily the human stomach has that reserve tank for dessert.
And to wrap up part one of this food journey we have the perfect afternoon tea in Salzburg, some magnificent hot chocolate, and the world-famous Sacher Torte, eaten in the Sacher Hotel of course.
The twisted Christmas treat
The obvious place to start when talking Christmas Market food, especially in Germany, is the humble pretzel. Although we soon discovered that there is more to the world of pretzels than just a simple, twisted lump of dough.
You could quite happily, but maybe not healthily, live off the assortment of these wonders for weeks. While the standard pretzel may be a favourite in the beer halls it is the possibility of adding chocolate, nuts, fruit, cinnamon, cheese, or just about anything to them that makes them such a fighter of hunger.
The Wurst decision
The next obvious food group is sausage, or wurst as they call it in these parts.
Shopfronts are filled with every variety you could imagine, and most of them are offered surrounded by bread in all shapes and sizes.
This half a metre of sausage on a roll was a challenge I had to accept.
A common addition at many of the sausage vendors was the amazing potato pancakes pictured below. Delicious on their own but I was also talked into trying one with apfelmus (German applesauce), and what a revelation! It took the potato to a new level of awesome.
Better on a bun
Wrapping something in bread to make it easier to eat on the go was not limited to sausage by any means, from spit-roasted and barbecued meats to incredibly tasty chicken and vegetable skewers, it seemed the possibilities were almost endless.
Eating on the go
If you don’t want any more bread you might try some of the tasty options served in a container or on a plate.
Maybe some potato, bacon, and onion, or some of this sensational slow-cooked vegetable medley which can spend hours simmering along in these giant iron bowls before being offered to hungry patrons.
Or maybe you prefer some slow-roasted mushrooms with pasta. Some much food, and so little time.
If you are longing for something a little more crunchy then why not go for a bag of these thin-cut, fresh-fried potato chips? Perfect for that quick snack on the go with the bonus of the bag warming your freezing cold hands.
Our mysterious highlight
Sometimes you need nothing more than a napkin to hold the most delicious treats. I hate that I can’t remember the name of this culinary wonder but its pure deliciousness will remain with us forever.
Dough is stretched out on a large board, then covered with capsicum (peppers), bacon, and a large sprinkling of grated cheese before being folded and folded like a strudel. After some time in the oven, you are left with a perfect pile of awesome.
Crispy top, gooey cheese, salty bacon, and topped with sour cream, and chives. This was quite possibly the savoury sensation of our trip.
Deep fried delights
We also had the pleasure of trying a number of deep-fried delights.
These varied from town to town but all seemed to be a type of pancake, donut, sweet bun thingy, stretched into a large circle, fried, and then topped with a range of sweet or savoury toppings.
We tried a few of the different options like cinnamon sugar, apfelmus, cheese, and plain. We were never disappointed.
Drinks and dessert
I suppose after all this eating we should find something to wash it down to prepare for some dessert. The most common sight across the Christmas Markets would have to be Gluhwein stands. Always the most crowded areas and also the most festive.
Friends and families congregate to share stories and partake in this warm, spiced wine beverage. I was not a huge fan but did find some delicious warmed and spiced apple juice to take its place. We also loved the souvenir mugs on offer and now have a small collection. We particularly like the Munich boot mug above.
You may be wondering what the cake is in the photo. Wonder no more, Stollen is a German Christmas cake that is usually available wherever Gluhwein is found. They pair beautifully.
I mentioned desserts above and Salzburg wins the award for best market dessert in a bowl. This amazing concoction is a smashed apple pretzel with icing sugar and hot apfelmus. I was very reluctant to share but in the end, the decision was taken out of my hands… as was my dessert!
Beyond the markets
So the final part of our food tour winds down and I have saved the best for last. These may not be Markets foods as such but you can not go to Europe without trying some fine French dessert pastries.
Dana has always been partial to eclairs (as well as donuts of course), while I could never go to France without devouring at least one Tarte au Poire.
The final food offering is our piece de resistance, a masterpiece we found in Colmar simply called Le Cube. A featherlight base of slightly crunchy but sweet crumble covered with layers of perfect chocolate mouse, beautifully tempered chocolate, and topped with a tiny highlight of gold leaf.
We hope you enjoyed our wander through the Christmas Markets of Europe and have filled up nicely. I would love to hear your favourite market foods and if you might know the names of any of these delights.