There’s nothing quite like the magical feeling you get at German Christmas markets. Ever since moving to Cologne in 2019, Christmas Markets (or Weihnachtsmarkt in German) have become my happy place. I guess you could say the holiday spirit really got to me! I fell in love with them after visiting all the adorable Christmas Markets in Cologne, and my obsession really just branched from there. There are so many things to love about German Christmas markets – the gift stalls, the lights, the music, the holiday cheer – but one of my favorite things about them is the food. There are SO many delicious things to eat and drink!
During the holiday season, Germans really bring out the best of their food and drink options to showcase at Christmas Markets. You can find everyday German dishes, like potato pancakes or Käsespätzel, but you’ll also find specialty items that are only around during the holiday season. There is no shortage of things to try while you’re wandering a Weihnachtsmarkt!
Christmas Markets are filled with locals and tourists alike, so don’t be intimidated if none of these dishes are familiar to you. Throughout this article, I’ll be including both the German and English translations for these foods & drinks so you can easily order them during your visit. I’m breaking down all the holiday hits in one helpful article to make sure you sample the tastiest food and drinks that German Christmas Markets have to offer.
Everything You Should Eat and Drink at a German Christmas Market
What to Eat at German Christmas Markets
Reibekuchen (Potato Pancakes)
Not exclusively a Christmas Market food but almost always available at Christmas Markets, Reibekuchen are potato pancakes. This is the fried potato goodness of your dreams! Shredded potatoes are formed into flat patties and then deep fried in a shallow fryer until crispy. It’s kind of like a breakfast hash brown patty but way more delicious and fresh! You typically order Reibekuchen in sets of 1, 3 or 5 with optional dips on the side. Apple sauce and herbed sour cream are the two most common dips, but you can occasionally find other things like camembert cheese or red currant jelly. Reibekuchen are a personal favorite for me — you can probably tell from the overjoyed face I’m making in the photos below!
Price: Typically 2€ – 5€ depending on how many you buy + optional sauces
Käsespätzel (German Mac n’ Cheese)
If you know me, then you know that mac ‘n cheese is my all-time favorite food and it would be my last meal on Earth if I knew I was going to die the next day. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned about the German version, Käsespätzel, which is made with egg noodles instead of wheat noodles. Originating from Bavaria (and most commonly seen there), Käsespätzel has all the ooey gooey goodness you’d expect from a mac n’ cheese. The noodles are slathered in a creamy blend of melted cheeses. Usually the cheese blend includes Emmentaler and Gruyere, but you can find it with different mixes. Typically Käsespätzel is topped with crunchy or caramelized onions, and you can often request bacon or cured pork as well. It is German comfort food at its finest and is simply the perfect, warm meal to fill your belly at the Weihnachtsmarkt.
Price: Typically 4€ – 6€
No, I’m not saying German sausage is the worst… I’m saying sausage in German is called wurst! Wurst is the archetypal German food, and you are going to find a dizzying assortment of sausage options at the Christmas Markets. From a traditional bratwurst to sauce slathered currywurst, I am convinced it is physically impossible to walk through a German Christmas Market without seeing, smelling and then wanting a sausage. It can’t be done!
The available sausages will typically change based on what part of Germany you are in, but they are almost always served with a bread roll to hold the wurst and optional mustard or grilled onions on top. My husband loves a good wurst, so we have tried a lot of different varieties. When we’re unfamiliar with the regional selection, he follows a very simple rule of thumb: choose what looks good, and what everyone else is ordering. This led us to our best ever sausage discovery: the Käsekrakauer at Cologne’s Adventsdorf Christmas Market. A true revelation.
Price: Typically 4€ – 6€
Gebrannte Nüsse (Roasted and Candied Nuts)
The smell of freshly roasted and candied nuts will never not make my mouth water. It is such a distinct and delicious smell that might as well be synonymous with German Christmas markets. A Weihnachtsmarkt is the perfect place for indulging a sweet tooth, and the smell of candied almonds or cashews is sure to tempt you from blocks away. The nuts are cooked in a spinning copper cauldron until the sugar melts and coats the nuts. This is my husband’s favorite sweet treat from Christmas Markets, and we get a bag at nearly every market.
Most stalls have pre-bagged nuts that were roasted earlier, or you can get the freshly roasted ones. You will pay for how much you buy, typically based on weight and type of nut. They come in a resealable bag in case you want to bring them home (although good luck…we usually eat the whole bag). Almonds are the most common nut, but some stalls will have a wide variety like brazil nuts, macadamia and more. Sometimes you’ll also see different types of flavorings like coffee, chocolate, candy bar, and even alcohol flavors like Baileys.
Price: Minimum 3€ or more depending on how much you buy
Raclette (Broiled Cheese)
If you get a whiff of something funky in the air, odds are it’s raclette being broiled under a nearby hot lamp. Originating from Switzerland and then spreading out like a cheesy virus across central Europe, the concept of raclette is really simple – stick half a wheel of cheese under a heat source and wait for it to bubble and brown before scraping it onto a piece of bread. You’ve probably seen one of the viral videos online of raclette being scraped off the wheel because the gooey goodness is so visually satisfying! Traditional Raclette is made with a special type of cheese (called Raclette cheese), but you can also find blends from Camembert or Bergkäse. At most German Christmas markets, you can choose to add extra toppings on your Raclette like crispy onions, fruit jelly or rendered pork fat.
Price: Typically 5€ – 6€
Maroni/Maronen (Roasted Chestnuts)
Ever wonder where that ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ line in “The Christmas Song” comes from? Well you guessed right, it comes from Germany! In Germany, the chestnuts are literally roasting on an open fire at nearly every Christmas Market in the country. These little stalls pop up starting in the fall, but they’ll be everywhere come December. Large shelled chestnuts are thrown onto a stove top or cauldron above a fire, and are cooked until soft. When eaten warm, they will melt in your mouth and Germans find them to be the perfect snack for the cold temperatures. I personally like the smell more than the taste, and it isn’t one of my favorite Christmas Market snacks. But certainly worth trying for a traditional experience!
Price: Typically 2€ – 4€
Handbrot (Hand-held bread)
Sometimes the best things are the simple things, and in the case of Handbrot, that is certainly true. Long loaves of stuffed white bread are cooked in a wood fired oven, similar to a pizza oven. The purveyors use these special extra long pans to make these massive loaves of bread. It is quite a show to watch when they pull them out of the oven, and even more delicious to eat. The bread can be stuffed with cheese, spinach, meat – it just depends on the stand.
Price: Typically 3€ – 5€
Champignons (Sauteed Mushrooms)
You don’t typically think of a Christmas Market as a veggie friendly environment, but there are a few worthy exceptions. Whole roasted mushrooms are one of those exceptions. If you’re looking for a (slightly) healthier snack that won’t clog every artery in your body, Champignons are the perfect choice. I am obsessed with them! Whole button mushrooms are grilled or roasted on a flat top grill until they are nicely browned, and then they are typically tossed in a delectable garlic (knoblauch) cream or an herbed butter sauce. Grab your mini fork and start popping those puppies into your mouth. They’ll be gone before you know it!
Price: Typically 3€ – 5€
This is a German-style hard cookie that is sweetened with honey and spices, oftentimes ginger and nutmeg as well. Lebkuchen has a long history dating back to 13th century Bavaria, and it will definitely be available at any Christmas Market you visit. These cookies tend to be a love it or hate it sort of thing, and I personally don’t think they taste super awesome. Lebkuchen can be served in the authentic way, as star or circular cookie-shapes, but at Christmas Markets, you’ll often find them in heart shapes with thick colored icing. The icing usually spells out cute messages so that the Lebkuchen can be given as Christmas gifts. Completed cookies are then wrapped in plastic and hung from the stand in visually appealing ways. These stands serve as a nice backdrop for Instagram photos, and Lebkuchen can be a fun souvenir from your time at a German Christmas Market.
Price: Typically 1€ – 2€
What to Drink at German Christmas Markets
Glühwein (Mulled Wine)
Glühwein is THE Christmas market drink. At this point, it is basically synonymous with the holiday itself. In case you don’t know, Glühwein is a hot mulled wine served in ceramic mugs. My family drinks something similar to this at our holidays (glögg) so I have a special affinity and love for this warming Christmas drink. It is always my first (and last) stop when visiting a Weihnachtsmarkt! Glühwein translates as ‘glow wine’, derived from the red hot irons used to heat up the wine back from the Medieval times.
Traditionally, Glühwein is a mix of red wine combined with spices like cinnamon, star anise, vanilla, and sugar. However, each stand does it a little differently and each market has different varieties — if you visit enough Christmas Markets, you’ll start to pick up on the subtle flavor differences. You can find white glühwein or rose glühwein, and sometimes you can even find special fruit ones, like a blueberry or cherry glühwein. While there is the occasional grinch who doesn’t enjoy Glühwein, it is pretty universally beloved. Germans get this adorable joyous look on their face when drinking it, and I just think it is the cutest thing ever! I would say this is a must-try drink when visiting a German Christmas Market. You will pay for the Glühwein itself, as well as a deposit for the ceramic mug it comes in (called pfand in German). You will get the deposit back when you return the mug, or you can keep it as a souvenir.
Price: typically 3€ – 5€ + 2-3€ for the pfand
Feuerzangenbowle (Flaming Drink)
A difficult word to say, I know. It translates directly to ‘fire tongs punch’, but basically this is a boozier Glühwein. Rum or brandy is poured over a sugar cube that is resting atop a tong or stick above your Glühwein filled cup. Then it is lit on fire and the whole thing melts into your mug. When the flame goes out, it is ready to drink and oh boy is it good! The extra sugar and booze cuts through the Glühwein and melds well with together. Plus the extra booze helps give you a little extra warmth to bear German winter weather. I would recommend getting Feuerzangenbowle only when you are stationary, standing in one single place. It’s not super fun to walk around with a liquid flame.
Price: typically 4€ – 6€ + 2-3€ for the pfand
Eierpunsch (Egg Punch)
For a creamy alcoholic drink, try Eierpunsch. It is sort of (not really) similar to eggnog, but more like a liquor than smoothie. This warm drink is typically made of egg yolks, cream, German brandy and then a house blend of spices. The spices are usually cinnamon, cloves and vanilla, but you’ll also find cardamom and nutmeg. My husband Sam typically enjoys these and if you’re getting sick of Glühwein, this is a nice way to break it up. This isn’t my drink of choice, but it’s worth it to try once, especially if you’re already a fan of eggnog. It typically comes topped with whip cream and you can request an extra shot inside if it is too sweet or thick.
Price: typically 3€ – 5€ + 2-3€ for the pfand
Kinderpunsch (Kids Punch)
You might have a booze-induced headache just from reading about all these sugary alcoholic drinks – you wouldn’t be the first to overindulge on drinks at a Christmas Market. If you are all boozed out or are choosing not to drink but still want to partake in the classic Weihnachtmarkt experience, grab a Kinderpunsch! Although it translates to kid’s punch, it definitely is not just for children. In fact, sometimes I order these because I just like them. Typically it is a mulled apple cider served hot but you’ll find other juices, like grape or blended stone fruits. They usually come in the same mug as Glühwein, so no one will even know the difference!
Price: typically 3€ – 4€ + 2-3€ for the pfand
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