It’s Christmas Eve 2017. And I can’t come up with a better topic than Christmas itself. Being German, Christmas markets are one of the fabulous key elements of Christmas for me. And this year, I’ve been to many of them. In this quick post, I take you with me on this journey. For each market, I will recommend exactly one food place. That’s it.
All of these markets are open beyond Christmas, and most of them until early 2018. I’m only covering the Christmas markets that I have visited this year. Half of them are in Berlin. I’ve been to many more. Wait for next year.
First market: Bozen, Südtirol, Italy
I can’t count how often I’ve been on this market. I mean, we effectively lived on top of that market this year. We attended the official opening. Not only for that reason, it is my favorite market in 2017. Instead, it’s my favorite for the Kaiserschmarrn that I got there. You find it on the Eastern side of the market on Piazza Walther, in front of Walther’s.
The Kaiserschmarrn has the perfect consistency. It’s not gluey, and it’s not hard. They add some blueberries instead of the usual cranberries or raisins. The portion is good for one person, but also satisfies two. Added bonus: No plastic materials are used. The fork is made from residual wood
Second market: Frankfurt/Main, Hessen, Germany
Early in December I had a quick chat with a friend from Rotterdam who moved to Frankfurt. He is Iran’s best ambassador in Germany. When I realized that Ryanair connects Milan with Frankfurt with a very easy flight, I went on a 24-hour trip.
Frankfurt’s market is itself a rather average German market. However, the average German market is still an amazing experience. Said friend considered not to eat anywhere else for the upcoming weeks. I started with a Thüringer Rostbratwurst (grilled sausage from Thüringen). Then I ordered a Dürringer. I had forgotten that this is just the Hessian pronunciation of the same. Anyways, the recommendation:
Baked potato with sour cream and herbs. I did not find this on any other Christmas market, and it was prepared in a nice cast iron oven. It’s located on the Liebfrauenberg. You might overlook it, as it’s a small stand next to one of the typical wooden huts.
Third market: Milan, Lombardy, Italy (Piazza Gae Aulenti)
Milan’s primary Christmas market is a collection of tents around the Duomo. There’s also the Fiera Artigianato, a huge exposition of local food and artisan products from all parts of Italy (and many parts of the World). That one takes place every year in early December. It’s situated in convention halls, and yet comes close to the idea of a Christmas market.
And then there’s the small assembly of huts on Piazza Gae Aulenti. In one of them, they sell Crèpes. And churros. I know of at least one American who was desperately searching for churros in Milan. That earns this spot the recommendation.
Fourth market: Meran, Südtirol, Italy
Meran is Südtirol’s second-largest city, and it also has its second-largest and second-most-popular Christmas market. The huts have a particular modern design, and the market is located at the banks of the Passer. The food is a bit less cliche and a bit more authentic than in Bozen. I had some local specialties that I haven’t found in Bozen.
I also had my best piece of meat that I ate at any point in 2017. It was a few slices of arrosto, incredibly smooth and silky roast from a cast iron pipe oven. It was melting in my mouth. If I consider that I took it only because I was still a bit hungry from what I had before, and didn’t just want to eat yet another Bratwurst…
You need to enter the market vom Via Cassa di Rispiarmio. Before the bridge over the Passer, you turn to the right. It’s one of the first huts.
Fifth market: Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria
We made a trip to Innsbruck to pick up an old wooden box in which we will store shoes and camping gear. It’s a beautiful antique piece of furniture. A friend hat taken it for us from Bayreuth (in the middle of Germany) to Munich (where he lives), and we met half-way between Munich and Bozen. We used that occasion to visit the Christmas market in Innsbruck. It was ice cold. Even with Glühwein, we couldn’t take it for more than one hour.
We first entered the bit of the market around the Svaroski pyramide. That part offers a lot of food but not much atmosphere. Where the market expands into the old city center, it becomes a real marvel. We didn’t manage to see all of it. But we did manage to find some particular food. You should try Zillertaler Krapfen. They are a fried airy dumpling that is filled with a mousse of potato mash, melted cheese, and some herbs. Be alert: The cheese has a strong flavor. You’ll find it opposite of Mexico Arriba, which is a restaurant on the backside of the yellow-painted house at the entrance to the Innrain.
Sixth market: Berlin, Germany (Gendarmenmarkt)
I used to really like this market. This was a few years ago, when it was still a hot-spot for artisan products. As it got more popular, bit by bit it re-positioned towards an upscale market. It’s more expensive than the usual market. I have the impression that nowadays it’s mostly a place where rich people drink theirs Glühwein.
However, expensive prices allow for good food. At this market, I ate Langos, which is a Hungarian specialty. It’a fried flatbread that can be covered with a variety of toppings (I took fresh cheese and herbs). The one at the Gendarmenmarkt might offer you the most unusual selection of them, and it uses biological ingredients. They put it at the side of the market that is closer to the Deutscher Dom (the German one of the two twin churches that celebrate German-French unity since after Napoleon, but before the German-French war).
Seventh market: Berlin, Germany (Hedwigskathedrale)
I visited this and the one on Gendarmenmarkt on the same evening. They are just 300m apart from each other. This one is small, and there’s nothing special on offer, but the decoration is cute. It’s the non-pretentious sibling of the one on Gendarmenmarkt. And you don’t need to pay an entrance fee. If I were to pick a market where only to go for a casual Glühwein after work, I’d pick this one.
You can take this one as a safe bet to find great Kartoffelpuffer. That’s one of the 923 different recipes for potatoes that we have in Germany. Essentially, you grate potatoes, then mix them with a bit of flour and egg, and then deep-fry them. Of course you fry them. You might have figured by now that on Christmas markets, we either fry or roast things.
Eighth market: Berlin, Germany (Schloss Charlottenburg)
Among all the Christmas markets in Berlin, this one is usually my favorite. It’s located right in front of the castle of Charlottenburg that used to be the home of Sophie Charlotte of Prussia (late 17th, early 18th century). At any other time of the year, this spot is worth a trip for the small art museums that are assembled opposite of the castle. In December, come for the Christmas market. In 2017, they also added some huts in the courtyard of the castle itself. There were old men playing instruments, and this market might have the highest diversity of food places in Berlin and some of the most charming artisans.
A must-go for me is the Bavarian Stadl at the central square of the market. This year, I ate Leberkäs im Brötchen. It’s a kind of meatloaf, and it should be served warm. For some strange reason, they didn’t have the authentic sweet mustard, so I went with Ketchup. However, the Leberkäs was prepared near to juicy and tender perfection.
Ninth market: Berlin, Germany (Rotes Rathaus)
Another big Christmas market is the one in front of Berlin’s city hall, right next to the famous TV tower. There’s a big ice rink and a large Ferris wheel. This market is rather cramped. The alleys are often a bit narrow, and there’s a lot of traffic coming in from the nearby shops. Plus tourists.
Towards the TV tower, there’s a small hut that sells Schaumküsse, a sort of marshmallow on a cookie covered in chocolate. Those are a very German thing. I played a bit with the girl that sold them, as I just said “see you later”. That’s a rather unusual way to say goodbye to someone that you won’t see again. So I came back again and said: “I’m back!” And took a second one of them.
Tenth market: Berlin, Germany (Alexanderplatz)
On the other side of the Alexanderplatz train station, there’s yet another market. It’s standout feature is the big wooden pyramid at the bottom of which they serve Berlin’s largest selection of Glühwein. And that’s where you should go at this market. From its surroundings, you’ll also have the best view over the square. However, it may be cold and windy.
I need to say: This one ain’t my favorite. It made it on the list as the last one just because it was on the way. That said, you’ll find a very big vending place of Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas tree decoration on that market. Since that’s kind of the Louis Vuitton of Christmas tree decoration (over-priced and over-hyped), maybe that’s interesting for some.
And, of course, there’s good sausage everywhere. Take Currywurst only in Berlin, Käsekrainer only in Frankfurt, and Meraner only in Südtirol. Rostbratwurst, however, you can take anywhere. As long as it smells deeply roasted.