The festive season is very much upon us, and many towns and cities come alive with the sight of twinkling Christmas lights, the sounds of carol singers and the aroma of freshly cooked festive treats from around Europe, all served from little wooden chalets as traditional Christmas markets continue to boom in popularity.
Continental Christmas markets are now popular across the world, from sleepy little towns around the UK to New York City to down under in sunny Sydney. These markets help to add a bit of festive flavour to host cities around the world, attracting hordes of shoppers keen to make the most of their festive city breaks to UK locations such as York, Lincoln and Birmingham, but also to European cities such as Munich, Vienna and Prague.
Take in a bit of Christmas shopping as you peruse and purchase hand-crafted trinkets, locally produced preserves, honey and stocking fillers including wooden toys, before stopping for a break and warming up with some mulled wine and a plethora of delicious foodstuffs.
Here are just a few ideas of what’s on offer to get your mouth watering:
Bratwurst – cooked on a circular grill suspended over hot coals, these traditional German sausages are usually served in a bun with a selection of toppings, including sauerkraut and mustard. These sausages can also be sliced and served as Currywurst – topped with a tomato-based sauce and a sprinkling of curry powder.
Spätzle – Spätzle are soft noodles, similar to an Italian gnocchi, made of eggs, flour and salt. This batter is then put through a device that resembles a potato ricer, producing small noodles. Usually served with meat-based sauces, you can find stalls selling these delicious little noodles with cheese, ham and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) in edible savoury bowls.
Schnitzel – these meat escalopes usually consist of veal or pork fillets, which are then fried in breadcrumbs and can be served a number of different accompaniments – including fried potatoes, potato salad and sauerkraut.
Lebkuchen – soft gingerbread that is a traditional Christmas food in Germany. This spiced gingerbread can be bought as decorations to hang from your Christmas tree, and larger biscuits are available shaped and decorated with personalised messages, usually in the shapes of hearts and Christmas trees.
Stollen – another traditional German Christmas food, stollen loaf is a sort of fruit loaf that is flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom and dusted with icing sugar.
Strudel – this tasty pastry roll is usually filled with an apple, raisin and cinnamon mixture that is then served with whipped cream or custard, and provides a filling dessert after a plate of spatzel or a bratwurst roll.
Poffertjes – these small fluffy pancakes from the Netherlands are available fresh from market stalls and are usually served with a dusting of icing sugar. You can get around a dozen of them per portion and with a number of different toppings to accompany them, including sweet fruit purees and melted chocolate.
Crepes – made fresh in front of you and available with a selection of fillings, from sweet fruits to a slathering of Nutella, or you could just have them with a dash of lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar.
Roasted nuts – roasted chestnuts are a festive favourite that can be bought from carts around the market, but you can also find stalls which sell something a little sweeter, including caramelised almonds, honey cashews and chocolate Brazil nuts.
Gluhwein – mulled wine is the drink of choice at a Christmas market, providing a sweet and spicy beverage that helps warm you up after a days shopping in the city. Made with red wine and flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and cloves as well as citrus fruits, Gluhwein is usually drank neat, or some places will offer an extra shot of rum or other liqueur for an additional cost, this added extra is known as ‘Gluhwein mit Schuss’.
Beer and Ale – you’ll find a whole host of different tipples to try during your visit to a Christmas market, and you’ll have plenty to choose from depending on which one you visit. From continental beers to ales from local breweries, some of which offer gift sets containing a couple of bottles and a personalised glass for the occasion, you’re bound to find something to quench your thirst this holiday season.
Eierpunsch – a combination of egg yolks, tea and white wine mixed with sugar and spices, this festive drink is similar to eggnog and is usually served accompanied by ginger biscuits.
Trinkets and Crafts
Of course it’s not all about the food at a Christmas market, there’s still a bit of shopping to be done, and you’ll find plenty of stocking filler ideas during your visit. From little wooden toys to hand-crafted glassware and decorations for your Christmas tree, with the chance to personalise some gifts and make it that more special for a friend or loved one this festive season.
So why not get festive during your next visit to a major city? Peruse the stalls and take home some treats for yourself and your family, or treat yourself with some delicious foodstuffs and a nice cup of mulled wine to finish the day.