The season of European Christmas markets is around the corner and my favorite part of the markets is the food, but also the warm alcoholic beverages are not bad. I asked some of my travel blogger friends to share their favorite Christmas market food. I received a lot of responses ranging from cities like Berlin with over 60 markets to unsuspecting picks like Luxembourg. It was a lot of fun putting this article together and reading all of the great recommendations these travelers have for us.
Please do go show all of the contributors some love; click their links, follow them on social media, let them know if their recommendation inspired your next winter getaway. I am currently checking my calendar every day thinking about which markets I should try to visit this year!
You really can’t beat the aroma of mulled wine, homemade gingerbread or lebkuchen, and sizzling sausages, especially if you are at a Christmas market in Germany.
The Christmas markets in Germany are some of the best we’ve ever visited in Europe, and the ones in Cologne certainly top the list! Two of Cologne’s main Christmas markets are located near the impressive 770-year-old Cologne Cathedral; and this year, they are open from 25th November – 23rd December.
The markets here feature a massive Christmas tree, cute, wooden huts known as “buden,” and all sorts of Christmas trinkets and foodie delights. Grab a mug of glühwein to keep you warm as you explore the lively Christmas markets in Cologne. You can even add a shot of German schnapps if you want to spice up your mulled wine!
Of course, you’ll find tons of traditional German bratwursts grilling over open fires, but we opted to try something different called grünkohl und pinkel, which translates to kale and sausage. This hearty, winter dish hales from the Rhine and Northern Germany areas and is usually accompanied with sliced, boiled potatoes and crispy bacon bits. Delicious!
Other foodie options in Cologne include soft pretzels, raclette (a Swiss cheese melted over potatoes), potato pancakes served with apple puree, German apple strudel, local cheeses, and cured meats and even homemade filled chocolates. So there are plenty of options whether you are a vegetarian or a carnivore!
What makes the Cologne market even more special for me is that many of my ancestors originated from the Rhine Valley area before they settled in America! I will always have a piece of Germany in my heart!
Although Krakow has probably the most famous market square in all of Poland, not many people know that the prettiest market square in Poland is actually in Wrocław! Wrocław’s main square is one of the biggest in Europe, and with its cobblestones and pastel colours, it is an Instagrammers dream! However, the time of year that this market square is extra special is Christmas time, when the Wrocław Christmas Market takes over the entire square!
For me, the Wrocław Christmas Market is special because it is so quintessentially Polish. As well as all of the usual international fare you will find stalls selling piping hot mugs of Polish soups (from zurek to borscht and beyond), smoked cheese from the Tatra mountains, fresh pierogi in almost every flavour imaginable, paper plates piled high with kaszanka (blood sausage) and thick crusty bread with lashings of smalec (lard). There is even a Wrocław version of mulled wine that comes served in a little red boot (porcelain of course!).
In addition to the abundance of hearty Polish cuisine, you will find a stage with children singing Polish Christmas carols, a gigantic white Christmas tree next to a reindeer carousel and Father Christmas himself riding a horse and carriage around the perimeter of the square! However, perhaps my favourite things about the Wrocław Christmas Market (as well as the food!) are the tiny wooden cabins known as ‘Fairy Tale Forest’ with fairy tale scenes set up inside complete with fairy lights, music, and moving dolls. In these cabins, you can see the stories of Hansel and Gretal, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinnochio and more all coming to life with the magic of Christmas.
There are many more reasons to visit Wrocław Christmas Market this year, but to find out what they are, you’ll just have to visit yourself!
The whole of Munich is decorated lavishly for the festive season. Sipping mulled wine on Munich’s Christmas markets while looking at the twinkling lights and stars on the wooden stalls and fir trees… you can’t help but feel like the star of a classic German fairytale. I won’t tire of working my way through all the clove- and cinnamon-spiced sweet gingerbread varieties. To enjoy how special these are, I make myself wait until the last weekend in November until I start baking and eating them. That is the time when the Christmas Markets traditionally open their doors.
It is not only the mulled wine or the eggnog and sweet treats I love dearly. Browsing for festive-season decorations, speaking to the artisan people, and I’m in heaven. One of my favourite Christmas Markets in Munich is the one at the Chinese Tower in the English Garden. I love to watch the crowd trying their luck at ice-curling. You need to drink lots of hot drinks, to withstand the freezing cold. Closing my hands around my hot mug, listening to traditional Christmas songs by the horn blowers. I feel cosy and festive. There is always a stall with a reading-granny. When I see all the excited children, I’m reminded of me being that (still), book-loving child. The festive season is by far the best time of the year.
You can catch the bus lines 54 and 154 and get off at ‘Chinese tower.’ I prefer to walk through the English Garden from the Munich borough of Schwabing. Get off the U-Bahn at ‘Münchner Freiheit’ and walk to the market. It is so atmospheric at night. You can see the lights through the naked tree branches as they are dancing in the icy cold wind.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
By Rebecca of Yours Truly Rebecca
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Luxembourg is one of Europe’s smallest countries and unfortunately, it is sometimes overlooked by tourists. Even though it is small in size, the locals sure know how to celebrate Christmas! Each year, Luxembourg City hosts five Christmas markets in total. They are truly the perfect destination for some family fun, Christmas cheer and .. FOOD!
Luxembourgish cuisine is heavily influenced by both German and French cuisines. Did you know that there is a market dedicated solely to food? It is called the Grund market and you can fund pretty much anything there!
Savour in traditional Christmas market food such as sausage with mustard and brötchen, assorted candy, German gingerbread cookies known as Lebkuchen, lots and lots of Glühwein and my personal favourite: fries and mayo!
Not only do they serve the quintessential Christmas markets foods mentioned above, but also some local delicacies such as snails, stuffed baked potatoes, foie gras, classy toasties *sips on glühwein with pinky out* and Bouneschlupp which is a local traditional green bean soup. You can also savour Luxembourgish sausages, also known as Mettwurscht and Gromperekichelcher which are potato pancakes.
If you’re planning a Christmas market trip in Europe, add Luxembourg to your itinerary. You will not be disappointed! Also, check out Things to Do in Luxembourg for more details about visiting during the holiday season.
The German capital is a must-hit for any foodie in the run-up to Christmas. There are numerous Christmas markets scattered around the city with a wide array of German delicacies on offer.
Alexanderplatz is home to 2 different markets, either side of the TV tower. One is home to an ice rink and the generic stalls that most markets are home too – though there was a traditional German beer tent/restaurant present at one side of the ice rink (I’m not too sure skating whilst drinking is the safest activity). Whilst the market the opposing side of Alexanderplatz is more food orientated with cheese, food, roasted almonds and much more on offer throughout the many stalls.
The other markets that stood out the most for me were Gendarmenmarkt and Charlottenburg (which was the scene of the truck attack in 2016). Whilst the affluent Gendarmenmarkt has a higher standard of food, with some sit in restaurants. Here I had a very tasty bread filled goulash meal.
The potato pancakes up for grab in Charlottenburg are to die for! The locals were adding an apple sauce to theirs but I had gobbled mine up too quickly to even consider adding the sauce.
Berlin is the king of choice when it comes to Christmas markets with over 60 markets, and options ranging from currywurst, bratwurst, pretzels, waffles, many desserts, the aforementioned potato pancakes and goulash, and everything in between. Berlin’s Christmas markets are a definite treat for the taste buds.
By Helene of Wandering Helene
Advent in Zagreb has won the best Christmas Market for three years in a row and for a very good reason. I’ve been to a handful of markets across Europe and Zagreb is doing it all right! The market had a little bit of everything from an ice skating rink, lots of stands selling mulled wine, even more stands selling such delicious food, performances, handmade goods, trees decorated with fake snow, the whole center of Zagreb was sprinkled with holiday fun.
While the overall name of the market is Advent in Zagreb it is composed of a handful of smaller markets that connect. You can find lots of delicious treats in any of the sections but head over to Advent on Fuliranje.
Located at Strossmayer Square it is here where you will find local chefs making a wide range of dishes and endless choices for food and drink. With live music and DJs performing the vibe is like being at a fun food festival where the rakija never stops flowing.
It was here that I tried the absolute perfect alternative to a hotdog, čevapčiči (a skinless sausage) with all the goods on top (pictured above). For those craving sweets don’t miss out on fresh knedle (knödel) as pictured above. It is the perfect amount of fried goodness with a sweet touch that doesn’t overfill you!
By Lisa of Clumsy Stray Cat
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I have to admit: I’m not usually fond of German food. But exceptions exist, and my latest visit to the extraordinary Christmas Market in Essen was one of those. The food I had there blew me away, so much even that it made me rethink my whole idea about German food. And even though it will never be my favorite cuisine in the world, I cannot deny: few countries in the world do heartwarming winter food better than Germany. So if you are looking for a Christmas Market with delicious food to warm your soul, you should head to Essen!
The atmosphere is great and the food even better. My personal favorites were the fried camembert and fried cauliflower. I could honestly eat my full weight in those two dishes, except you would probably have to roll me. But there is so much other great stuff to eat and drink as well: bratwurst, potato pancakes, mushrooms filled with cheese, roasted almonds, potatoes covered in cheese, hot chocolate, marzipan, vegetables with melted cheese on top of it, flammkuchen (German pizza), pretzels, raclette (a.k.a. cheese), knoblauchbrot (garlic bread), glühwein (or even glühbier if you want to go crazy), and – of course – more cheese.
So, if you’re looking for your next foodie Christmas destination, search no more… Head over to Essen’s Christmas Market and do eat a bit of that cheese, will you?
Want more to do in Essen? Check out this post about the Zollverein Coal Mine!
By Helene of Wandering Helene
Budapest is not the first place you consider when visiting Christmas markets but if there is food, I will find my way there. While there are several markets throughout the city I am recommending the one at Vorosmarty Square. In my opinion, this was the perfect size and layout for a market. The stands were selling locally produced handmade products as opposed to some of the foreign mass-produced products you might find at others.
At the center of the market is a large food stand that you can probably spend all day looping around watching them cook various traditional dishes. I didn’t eat at a single restaurant while in Budapest because the market had everything! You can try Hungarian goulash, langos, or stuffed cabbage while warming up with a glass of grog or mulled wine. For an intimate and less crowded option, I highly suggest checking out Budapest over the holidays.
Residing in one of the world’s beloved fashion capitals, Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (Milan’s Christmas Market) reminds visitors Italians craft and cook as well as they dress. Impeccably. Everything in sight is simply delectable and magnificent. The fair does stretch around the perimeter of Castello Sfrozesco after all. Nothing screams Christmas beauty like a well-lit castle. The fair falls during the period Milan is celebrating its patron Saint Ambrose. Giving a short window of three or four days to enjoy the festivities usually starting on December 7th.
With Milan being known for its rainy winters, the best way to warm up is with vin brûlé (mulled wine) or rich hot chocolate. You’ll find Lombardy grown olives and creamy cheese like taleggio. Those with a sweet tooth will love homemade breads and sweets such as Sicilian cannoli bigger than your hand or Milanese panettone, a sweet bread stuffed with citrus and raisins. There is also the torrone, a nut-filled nougat also coming from the Lombardy region.
One can’t go to an Italian Christmas market or fair without tasting panforte, a chewy fruitcake usually consisting of honey, almonds, spices, and candied orange. It’ll be the best fruitcake one has ever tasted. According to my Milanese pals (and my own experience), if stored properly, panforte lasts up to six months. Making it the perfect treat to share with family, friends, and coworkers back home. Nothing says happy holidays like Italian baked goods.
By Wandering Helene
Vienna has some impressive Christmas markets. The sensory overload when I walked into the main market at Rathausplatz felt like Christmas had vomited everywhere, but in a good way hah. There were endless stalls with every beautiful ornament or decoration you could dream of, light displays on every corner, and smells of freshly prepared food weaving between the crowd.
I will admit that Vienna isn’t the foodie paradise of other Christmas markets mentioned in this article but if you find yourself here do indulge in the local holiday cuisine. First, grab a cup of glühwein (mulled wine) or punsch and explore the market. Typical snacks you will find are roasted chestnuts (a personal favorite), gingerbread cookies, donuts, candy apples, various nuts, and more sweets than you can ever eat.
Once you are done grazing and ready for a plate of food that will surely put you in a food coma I recommend trying either of those pictured above. On the left is called tafelspitz which is a plate full of roasted meats, fresh shredded horseradish and apples, and potatoes. On the right, is spätzle, I like to describe it as Austrian mac and cheese, but trust me it is much better than the boxed stuff.
London & Cambridge, England
There are SO many wonderful Christmas Markets in England it’s hard to know where to start! However, my top picks would be London because, well, you can’t not go to London at Christmas and Cambridge because of the architecture and community feel to their Christmas events. Each of these places has a bit of a different feel when it comes to food but I can promise you won’t be disappointed by either.
Camden Market is a great place to eat in London all year round but they bring out all the stops for Christmas with their North Pole theme and famous street food stalls. You can pretty much satisfy any craving as their range of both English and international dishes is incredible. Indulge yourself on falafel flatbreads, sushi, Asian noodles, halloumi fries, handmade pizza, jerk chicken, meter-long hot-dogs, BBQ grills, katsu curry burgers and loads more! My personal favourite has got to be their Yorkshire pudding burrito; such a wonderful twist on the classic English dish – and super delicious too! Then, if you’re a bit of a sweet-tooth how does fresh cinnamon doughnuts, churros with dipping sauce, Dutch pancakes, handmade fudge, thick hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, and edible cookie dough sound?
The next best market for fab food in London is the Christmas Carnival at Alexandra Palace. Meet Santa, ride the fairground wheel and watch Elf on the big screen – which is one of the best Christmas films of all time! But of course, the star of the show is their infamous StrEATlife festival. With the collection of established food trucks and breweries, you can sample some of the most incredible food. Burgers including pulled pork and smoked cheese or halloumi and guacamole, mouth-watering smoked meat sandwiches, a selection of delicious soups and stews from all over the world and waffles to die for! What’s not to love!?
In comparison, Cambridge is a different scene when it comes to Christmas market food. Instead of cuisines from around the world, they focus more on European specialties which go down an absolute treat. The North Pole at Parker’s Piece is one of the best Christmas events in Cambridge with a pop-up ice rink, fairground, and fabulous foodies’ market. Their Alpine Cabin Bar serves wonderful winter warmers like mulled wines and ciders, Belgium hot chocolate and festive Christmas cocktails. Plus, be sure to pop over to their Authentic German Swing Grill for some traditional bratwurst and chocolate-covered crepes.
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Which Christmas market food do you want to try first?
This article made me hungry and excited for the Christmas market season. It also reminded me that I never went to a German Christmas market and I think I’d love to squeeze in a visit this year. Now only to decide which one! Let me know in the comments which markets you are planning to visit this year and what is your favorite thing to eat there!
Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!