We love visiting European Christmas markets and attempt to travel to a different city each year at holiday time (for more on our favorite Christmas markets across Europe, see: Our Ten Favorite Christmas Markets Spanning Three Countries in Europe). This year (November 26 - 28, 2016), we embarked on a weekend city break to visit Berlin's Christmas markets and found much to keep us busy in Germany's capital. One of the highlights of any Christmas market, and Berlin's in particular, was the variety of festive Christmas market food and drink of offer. Let me share with you now how we ate and drank our way through the Christmas markets in and around Berlin.
Glühwein in Festive Mugs
I judge any Christmas market we visit by the quality and variety of glühwein mugs that we find. In Berlin, we were served hot mulled wine (red wine and spices often spiked with a shot of something stronger) in a colorful Christmas tree mug at the Christmas market in the shadow of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. My all time favorite shaped Christmas mug is a boot and I was excited to sip from one at Schloss Charlottenburg.
You can take home the glühwein mugs simply by forfeiting the 2-3 EUR deposit. Christmas market mugs are a fun and economical souvenir that we use year round for our coffee. In fact, I'm sipping coffee from one at my desk as I write this :-)
Glühwein in Frosted Glasses with a Side of Currywurst
Christmas markets may be known for glühwein but Berlin is know for currywurst. We found the best of both worlds at the Christmas market on Alexanderplatz where we were served glühwein in tall frosted mugs alongside sliced currywurst noshed using toothpicks.
Another unique Christmas market food find at the Berlin Christmas markets was handbrot (hand bread). The variety that we sampled was from nearby Dresden (Dresdener Handbrot). We watched the stall owner pull piping hot loaves out of a wood fired oven.
Our handbrot was filled with mushrooms and cheese and was delicious and warming on a cold winter's day at the Christmas market near the Rathaus in Berlin. The bread was topped with a dollop of sour cream.
We tend to nibble a lot when we visit German Christmas markets. Sometimes, you just need more hearty Christmas market food. In our case, we sampled cheesy spätzle made with grated cheese at the Weihnachts Zauber Gendarmenmarkt. I had the option to choose between mild and strong cheese. I asked for a little bit of both and the stall owner was happy to oblige. Once again, the dish was very warming and filling, super appropriate for the zero degree weather on the day that we visited.
Another unique Berlin Christmas Market food find was Quark Bällchen, a kind of sweet deep fried cheese balls. Once again we were back to nibbling and enjoying everything that we sampled along the way.
Roasted chestnuts are a staple food at any German Christmas market. The smell of roasting chestnuts is like a magnet for us. We bought a small cone to enjoy while walking around the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt. Make sure you have some glühwein at the ready because chestnuts are definitely delicious but super dry.
Almost too pretty to eat, ginger cookies with different shapes and decorations abound at Christmas markets in Berlin and beyond. I especially loved this sheepish reindeer peering out at us.
Sausages that Draw an Audience
Bratwurst and other sausages are Christmas market food staples throughout Germany. Noshing on a sausage often draws an audience. This dog was looking at us intently as we enjoyed our wurst.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for more traditional German Christmas Market destinations?
Winter Warmer Soups and Stews
Several of the Christmas markets in Berlin featured pop-up restaurants inside heated tents. We took the opportunity to warm up over a bowl of goulash and a venison stew at Schloss Charlottenburg. You'll pay a premium for sitting inside when you eat your Christmas market food, but it's worth it if the weather outside is frightful as the traditional Christmas carol goes (or as in this case it's just freakin' cold).
Sweet cakes and bread are an important part of any German Christmas market. We sampled an almond Christmas stollen from a vendor at the Christmas market in Babelsberg close to Potsdam (a neighboring city to Berlin).
Hipster Coffee in Potsdam
Having cake and coffee is an important afternoon ritual and one that I love in Germany. Eating dessert first is a movement I can definitely get behind. We enjoyed half of this ritual: a cup of craft coffee at Buena Vida Coffee Club in Potsdam. We had our cake a little later at the market itself.
Polish Perogies at the Babelsberg Christmas Market
Berlin's Christmas markets had more international influences than we've seen elsewhere. For example, in Potsdam, there are both Dutch and Polish Christmas markets. We found a stall selling Polish perogies at the Babelsberg Christmas market near Potsdam. There were several flavors on offer. We were able to get a mixed plate with three pork filled perogies and three with mushrooms and cheese. The entire plate was covered with cooked onions and garlic sauce. Yum.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that Christmas markets are a Europe-wide tradition? Explore the referenced posts below to get more information about some of my favorite places to spend Christmas around Europe.
German Beer in Front of a Roaring Fire
Most of our visits to Germany feature at least one stein of beer and this trip was no exception. We visited a tiny Christmas market at Krongut Bornstedt tucked away in a park not far from Sans Souci Palace in Potsdam. We enjoyed a local dark beer in front of a roaring open fire. Such great atmosphere.
Candied Roasted Almonds at the Christmas Market
What goes better with beer or glühwein than a handful of candied nuts. The Christmas markets in Berlin featured an exceptional variety of coated almonds ranging from spicy to sweet. We devoured a package of vanilla almonds and even brought home some cappuccino flavored almonds. Delicious!
I'll conclude by saying that the Berlin Christmas markets have a fix for nearly any appetite as highlighted by these chocolate tools. Who knew that Christmas market food could be so functional!
What are your favorite German Christmas market foods? Which markets have the best food in your opinion, and more importantly, the best mugs?!
Useful Links for Finding Your Way Around the Christmas Markets in Berlin
Update: A few weeks after we visited Berlin and mere days after this post was published, a Berlin Christmas market was targeted in a terrorist attack. Our thoughts are with those who were impacted by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the people of Berlin during this difficult time.