Germany is the most magical place to visit during the holidays. Cities are filled with travelers who come to experience the twinkling lights, ancient tradition and handcrafts available at the gloriously bedecked markets. Each region has an array of food and drink offered that reflects its history and tradition as well as international favorites like Hungarian chimney cakes, pastry slowly cooked over an open fire or langos, a type of fried bread topped with sour cream and shredded cheese. Most markets also have plenty of spots to rest and sip a schnapps, hot spiced wine or Germany’s sparkling wine, Sekt.
Top Things to Try, Berliner
Berlin is hopping with over fifty different markets during the holiday season. A favorite of the Berliner Weihnachtmarkets is at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. Here you take respite with a beverage of your choice inside a private wine barrel for four, on a swing surrounded by Alpine scenery and enrobed in a fur blanket, or, canoodling snuggly in a romantic mini cabin. Complete your authentic experience with some exquisitely stinky raclette served on hearty bread with crispy pork and pickles, or Handbrot, a wildly popular street food of Saxon origin that is freshly baked bread filled with ham and cheese and slathered with a creamy quark sauce.
If bread and cheese is not your thing, try the infamous Currywurst from Berlin. This German street food at its finest is served at many markets and in stalls throughout the city. Large circular grills are filled with lightly spiced bratwurst that are cooked to perfection over white hot coals then sliced and topped with a spicy ketchup and curry powder, and served with a crusty roll on the side to sop up the sauce. It is the perfect pairing with the endless choices of Riesling available.
A Neighborhood Favorite
At Schloss Charlottenburg market there are over 250 vendors, including a stall specializing in Berliner Winter, a secret recipe of cloudy organic apple juice, spice and vodka. This local delight made in the neighborhood is best served warm and is also available to purchase. This season Berliner Winter will also be available at Spandau and Alexanderplatz. At night the palace is lit with festive colors that are a
site to behold. The impressive grounds surrounding this market make for the perfect place to spend an evening soaking up the local flavors!
The food and beverage scene in Berlin now goes way beyond the standard hearty fare. Delicious restaurants, food halls and wine bars are producing some stellar finds. A must visit is the 6th floor of KaDeWe Department store! Numerous restaurants, a wine shop and bar, cheese and charcuterie counter, foie gras and caviar counter, an expert patisserie and fine chocolates station are deftly displayed to lure you over for a closer look. Six restaurants are featured as well as counters to sit and enjoy a glass of wine with whatever your heart desires. Plan on at least two hours to visit this German treasure.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top food and wine experience, consider Rutz restaurant, wine bar and wine shop, a two Michelin star destination. Chef Marco Muller pulls out all the stops on his 6 to 8 course Inspiration Nature and Flavors menu available with or without wine or nonalcoholic beverage pairing. Each dish is carefully composed and executed with flavors of the sea, earth and forest using only the freshest of ingredients. Downstairs, one of the best German wine collections is available with a small plates menu of Berlin dishes with a modern spin. Rutz is worth a trip from anywhere. Reservations suggested.
Munich Market Marvels
LGBTQ Pink Market in Stephansplatz comes alive at night. This little glowing wonder features pink mustard, rainbow mulled wine and drag or DJ entertainment nightly. Beautifully crafted ornaments are available for sale along with lots of glam and glitter.
Christmas Village in Residenz is inside the large courtyard of the Munich City Palace, so it is protected from cold winds and snow. The crafts here are exemplary including glass blowers, goldsmiths and furriers. Right outside the entrance to this special market is a wine bar dedicated to Franken wine. Settle in for a fabulous Silvaner or Dry Riesling from the Bavarian wonder that is Frank Weinbar.
Schumann’s is a legend in cocktail culture. Four bars in one and many different concepts keep this innovative bar fresh and lively. From classic cocktails to cappuccino, this is a must-visit for beverage enthusiasts. The Les Fleur Du Mal bar upstairs gives you the chance to get up close and personal with your barman while seated at a nine-meter-long table crafted from one single piece of wood. Downstairs is part café, part restaurant, and one of the best cocktail bars in the world.
For another craft cocktail experience try Zephyr, where they use wine, infused gin and things like strawberry dust, spruce needles and lapacho smoke to elevate your cocktail experience. Expect garnishes like torched méringue or a fistful of aromatic herbs to add that little something extra to your tipple.
Must Try Specialties
You simply can’t leave Munich with trying Schweinshaxe, a roasted pig’s knuckle, at Haxnbauer restaurant. The display window at Haxnbauer will have you mesmerized with rows and rows of pork perfection slowly turning on a spit to reach their height of crunchy deliciousness. Served with a large knife on a bed of Kraut, this is German comfort food at it’s finest.
Seek out a fresh pretzel. Bakeries offer these with salt or smothered in cheese and baked till golden brown. Simple yet out of this world, and easily walked off with to see at the markets around town.
Nearly every city has at least one or two markets and each one is unique and beautiful. Tours of the larger markets are available and most run from the last week of November till Christmas eve. Warning: the holiday spirit at these markets is contagious. You will leave beaming with a smile and a full belly, ready to plan next year’s adventure.
Wendy Crispell is a Brooklyn based wine, cheese and spirits professional with a love of all things in the culinary world. She’s also the host of a series of wine and cheese pairings aboard the yacht Manhattan in NYC.