Being at a Christmas market is a sensory overload. You know you’re in close proximity of one when it starts smelling of mulled wine and savory food. Apart from stalls selling local products and Christmas items, you’ll find that there is an abundance of food. You’ll see people gathering around a bonfire, trying to keep warm and enjoying their snack or meal. For us, it is one of the highlights of visiting the market.
There is a lot of choices at the market. And if you have a big appetite, you will have a chance to enjoy all of them. Otherwise, you have to devise a plan to share with another person so that you have space for more.
Here are the top things to try at a Christmas market:
Gluhwein or Mulled Wine
You will not find any Christmas market that does not sell Gluhwein. It is usually prepared from red wine with different spices such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, citrus, etc. This was our way of waring up while perusing through the stalls in the market. It comes in decorated mugs with the city name and year. You can keep the mug or return it in exchange for its deposit (~2Euros). If we don’t feel like being buzzed, we order it without alcohol or kinderpunsch.
We had our first taste of Goulash on our first Christmas market ever in Budapest. It was burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot, which was perfect for the weather. Be very careful! Goulash is a soup or stew with meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices. It originated in Hungary. It was not spicy hot despite its red color. But it will definitely make you feel warm inside.
Langos is a Hungarian food specialty. It is a deep-fried flatbread that is traditionally topped with sour cream, garlic and cheese. You can order it with savory or sweet toppings. But we had the traditional one. The flavor was good and we loved it. But it left us with garlic breath all day! So, be sure to have some gum with you.
Lebkuchen is a traditional German baked treat that is popular during Christmas season. It is like a soft gingerbread cookie made with molasses and other spices. If you love gingerbread, then you’ll definitely love this. It is baked on top of an oblaten or “communion wafer”. When I brought some back to the ship, it made our room small oh so Christmas-y! You can buy the ones that are wrapped with clear plastic and use it as an ornament.
Kürtőskalács or Chimney Cake are hollow treats made by spinning over charcoal. Traditionally topped with sugar, you may also have it with almonds, chocolate spread, etc. They are lovely to have after a savory snack at the market.
What is a trip to Austria or Germany without sampling their many wurst options? Every market we visit, it was as if there was a new kind of sausage to try. All of them were great. But our favorite was the Nurnberger Wurst.
Crepes are common here in the US, too. But we’ve got nothing against Europe. Their menu goes on and on and on. Our favorite was the Kindercrepe. They place 2 or 3 unassuming Kinder bueno bars on top of the crepe just before they start folding it. And as soon as you bite into it, thinking there is something crispy underneath the thin layer of pastry, it melts into its ooey gooey goodness!
There are so many food to try at the market that I almost want to tell you to “come hungry”. But that would not be a good advice. It was a good idea that me and Ran were sharing everything that we were trying. So, we were able to sample a lot. Make sure to carry smaller bills for easier and faster transactions. The buses from the river cruise all had toilets. But if you’re one of those that frequently goes, you need to carry Euro coins. All markets will have WC’s or restrooms that require some payment. It can also get crowded specially during weekends. Be careful with your belongings!
The Christmas Market is a foodie heaven. Enjoy it!