If there’s one thing Christmas markets across Europe are known for, it’s the delectable smorgasbord of treats on offer, of both the sweet and savoury variety. So whether you’re looking for a hearty meal or you’re simply curious as to what delights are on offer at the European markets, here’s your ultimate Christmas Market food guide for Europe!
Which is one of the best Christmas markets in Europe for Christmas market food?
Strasbourg “The Capital of Christmas” France has rightfully earned its nickname. Since 1570, the city has been crafting the art of festive cheer. Today, it is the oldest and largest Christmas market in Europe, welcoming more than two million tourists from all over the world. Here’s a guide to the best Strasbourg Christmas Market Food you simply must sample while in the historic city!
The markets can all be found in the city’s Old Town, which is ringed by the historic canal that eventually slips off into the Rhine River. Although Strasbourg only has a resident population of around 300,000, it has a downright giddy number of markets—11 in total!
The bubbling Christmas spirit makes for an experience that is truly intimate and joyful. At night, when the lights from hundreds of thousands of bulbs glow against the black sky, the Cathedral de Notre Dame (home to an amazing astronomical clock) rises imperiously above it all, swathed in the hazy majesty of its ethereal glow. Meanwhile, at the markets below, a bevy of delicious savoury and sweet treats endemic to the Alsace region are on order.
Savoury Christmas Market Foods
The Alsatian word for pretzel is as fun to pronounce as it is to eat. According to one local source, the perfect bretzel should be somewhere between a bread and a brioche in texture, meaning that the dough should give easily when you bite into it and invite slow chewing to savor the homey texture and perfectly balanced doughy saltiness.
Simple and perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up, popular forms of the bretzel include natural (plain), with melted cheese, and/or sausage of bacon type pieces of meat.
The pizza of Alsace, this food goes by two names thanks to Strasbourg’s history of passing between French and German control. No need to worry though, whatever you choose to call it, the result is the same: a paper-thin dough base rolled extra-thin before being cooked with fresh cream, white cheese, onions, and little pieces of bacon.
If you want extra cheese, simply ask for a “gratinée” version. Or, if you want an extra taste of Alsace, specify that you’d like your order with Munster cheese. It’s worth noting that the sheer popularity of Flammekeuche means that it’s often available in Alsatian restaurants and vegan and vegetarian options (featuring dairy free milks and ingredients such as mushrooms) are increasingly common.
This is a dish that will call to all people who love their pasta hearty. A step ahead of the field, spaetzle is made by poaching pieces of seasoned dough in boiling water. The texture is similar to gnocchi, though a key difference between the two is that gnocchi is also made with potato.
Like gnocchi, after the cooking process is finished, spaetzle is typically topped off with cream, cheese, and soft bits of ham. While you probably won’t see the cooking process behind the spaetzle at the Christmas market, you will have the opportunity to try the finished product in all its rich and creamy glory.
Considered emblematic of Alsatian gastronomy, choucroute garnie is a filling and delicious dish with a rather particular taste. This taste comes from the use of cabbage, which is cooked in Alsatian wine, goose fat, and then seasoned before being joined with heaps of cooked charcuterie (various meats) until all is tender and ready to be served hot. Be warned: You won’t be hungry after this meal.
Sweet Christmas Market Foods
Similar to Berliners or beignets found in Central Europe (particularly Vienna) the Alsatian take on this ancient classic is essentially a local, deep-fried doughnut. They typically appear in a natural (plain) form or filled with homemade jam.
These cute mini doughnuts traditionally appear in a natural form with little “pearls” of sugar grains added to the outside of the baked sweet. Perfect for a snack to tide you over while you peruse the artisan goods also on display at the Christmas markets.
A catch-all phrase to describe little biscuits or baked goods, bredele is a treat that dates back for centuries. Traditionally, they were baked in large quantities and then exchanged with neighbors.
The belief that there’s more than enough for everyone is certainly on full display at the markets! Popular versions you’ll be sure to spot are simple cookies flavoured with orange and cinnamon and sweet, spiced bread (known as pain d’epices).
A yeast-based treat baked in a traditional Alsatian mold, the Kougelhopf is easily recognized by its distinct form, which is a bit like a puffy chef’s hat. Local folklore says that, long ago, a baker was inspired by the large, distinct-looking hats that town leaders would wear on special occasions.
On one such special occasion, he made the first of what would become an iconic Alsatian sweet. Baked with raisins, almonds, and occasionally a splash of rum-like spirit, the result is a melt-in-your-mouth snack.
A newer treat inspired for children who make Santa’s “nice” list, manneles are simple brioche breads baked in the form of a human man with chocolate chips added. It pairs amazingly well with a hot chocolate and can be found at Christmas markets all across Europe.
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About the author: Claire is a take-life-by-the-horns kinda gal whose travels have taken her all over the world. Favorite countries so far: New Zealand and Peru. When she’s not traveling you’ll find her blogging about life as a millennial expat, working on her first novel, and eating her way through Strasbourg. Follow Claire on Instagram.