Germany’s Christmas markets are the perfect attraction for December travelers to get a hit of seasonal charm. These markets are known for their genial festive atmosphere. Many are located in quaint, snow-covered villages and town squares decorated with Christmas lights. Tented vendors sell handmade gifts from wood-carved toys to candles to sheepskin slippers. The ambience is probably what makes these markets so beloved, however: The warmth of the orange and red Christmas lights, combined with the cute wooden stalls and the scent of gingerbread cookies and mulled wine, creates a magical holiday wonderland.
Though the wide range of artisan goods are world-renowned, Germany’s Christmas markets also offer an equally tempting variety of carb-heavy snacks that will warm you up on chilly winter evenings. Germans typically favor meat dishes, and some of the most famous foods at German Christmas markets, such as meaty bratwurst sausages and currywurst, are not vegetarian-friendly. Luckily, there are still plenty of tasty options available for those who enjoy a meat-free lifestyle.
The most popular Christmas markets in Germany include the picturesque Dresden Striezelmarkt or the expansive Christkindlmarkt in Munich’s main square. The Christmas market in Leipzig has been operating since 1458 and features around 250 stalls each year. These markets are typically open in November before closing for the season on Christmas Eve. Here are some of the best vegetarian options that you have to try at all of these markets during your Christmas visit to Germany.
1. Flammkuchen (German pizza)
Unlike an American pizza, flammkuchen has a thin flatbread base with a layer of crème fraîche on top. Other toppings such as vegetables and cheese are also sprinkled on before the pizza is cooked in a woodfire oven. Traditionally, this dish is sprinkled with chunks of bacon, however vegetarian options topped with tomatoes, onions, or mushrooms can be found throughout the markets.
2. Champignons (roasted mushrooms)
Champignons are a great option if you’re in the mood for a slightly healthier snack than the typical fried and grilled market fare. These small bowls of roasted mushrooms are commonplace at German markets. You can order them plain or roasted with garlic, and you also have the option of having your champignons topped with sour cream or a rich garlic sauce. Market vendors will also include a slice of bread on the side.
3. Kartoffelpuffer (potato hash browns)
Sometimes also known as reibekuchen, kartoffelpuffer are fried German potato fritters, served hot off the grill with a side of applesauce. These filling and greasy, but delicious, snacks are the ultimate choice for warming up with a savory snack that has a hint of sweetness.
4. Pommes (fries)
These salty, greasy, thick-cut fries are a classic Christmas market snack. Still well-loved by locals, they’re a solid option for vegetarians who need to fill up while their friends are eating sausage. Served in a paper cone and topped with mayo, pommes are a cheap and simple snack that will keep up your energy levels while you stroll through the markets.
5. Brezel (pretzels)
Pretzels are an iconic German snack food, so it’s essential that you try one on your visit to Deutschland. Bakers sell their bready pretzels in the markets with a plain topping of salt or sometimes with baked with a cheese filling. There are even versions covered with sugar or nuts if you’re craving something sweeter. Served warm, these doughy treats will satisfy all your carb cravings.
6. Schmalzkuchen (little donuts)
If you’re a fan of donuts, then you’ll probably enjoy schmalzkuchen. These mini yeast dough squares are freshly fried then placed in a paper bag where they are topped with a generous serving of powdered sugar. You can usually choose from a small or large portion, so pick the size that best reflects your hunger levels (or your sweet tooth).
7. Lebkuchen (gingerbread)
Gingerbread hearts appear everywhere throughout Christmas markets in Germany. These treats are meant for friends and couples to gift to each other, so the hearts are usually decorated with an iced message such as Ich Liebe Dich (“I love you”) on the front. They come in all sorts of sizes and are decorated with ribbons of icing, angels, stars, and Santas. Some versions are bigger than a dinner plate — for people who want to profess their love in style.
8. Schneeballen (snowballs)
These pastry balls are seen mostly in the Christmas Markets in the central and southern areas of Germany as the snack originated in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a town in northern Bavaria. Strips of pastry are shaped into a ball and covered in confectioners sugar or chocolate. The pastry might seem a little dry to someone who hasn’t tried schneeballen before, but it’s a local favorite.
9. Schoko-früchte (chocolate fruit)
There are all sorts of fruits doused generously in chocolate to be found in Christmas markets. Some of the most popular are choc-bananas, choc-strawberries, choc-grapes, or choc-apples. Served on skewers, these fruits are doused in white or milk chocolate, drizzled in even more chocolate, and sometimes even topped with sprinkles. If you’re on the hunt for a dessert that is sure to indulge your inner child, schoko-früchte might be the way to go.
10. Gebrannte mandeln (roasted nuts)
There’s nothing more satisfying than the scent of roasted nuts drifting through the air in winter. Germany’s Christmas markets have a variety of stalls selling roasted almonds that are candied with a sugar coating, and they taste just as good as they smell.