Dreaming about mulled wine and Christmas markets? Us too! Here are five market treats to inspire your European Yuletide wanderlust.
Located on the main market square and the Old Town’s center, Krakow’s Christmas Market is rooted in the city’s tradition and history. Historically, local traders would sell Christmas trees, decorations and ingredients for the 12 traditional Polish dishes served on Christmas eve for what is known as the “Wigilia meal.”
The evening starts with the sharing of an oplatek wafer, offering good fortune for the year ahead. Afterwards, each of the 12 dishes are served in memory of the Twelve Apostles and include meat-free items like red borscht (beet soup) with mushroom dumplings, cabbage with split peas, rice stuffed cabbage rolls, carp fried or baked in aspic, poppy seed cake, Polish gingerbread, traditional wheat-flower and honey dessert and more.
At the market, you’ll find yourself in a perfect maze of medieval streets immersed in the festive spirit as you shop for traditional Christmas decorations, gifts, toys and deliciously authentic treats. Bring your appetite as the market is full of grilled meat and try a typical Polish appetizer called smalec. It’s a unique spread made of lard and many different spices, served on top of a hot slice of fresh bread and topped with sausage, bacon or fried onions and mouth-watering Polish pickles.
Step directly into a fairy tale as you explore the Christmas capital of Europe, Strasbourg, and discover France’s oldest Christmas market.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market dates back to 1570 and has expanded over 400 years, with 300 stalls available to explore today. Because of its geographical location in the Alsace region, Strasbourg’s cuisine mixes French and German culinary traditions. At the market, look out for flammekeuche or tarte flambée which is a wood fired pizza made with crème fraiche, bacon, onions, sausages or sauerkraut. Bite sized biscuits called bredele are made in Alsace during the festive season and include a variety of different spices like anis, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, hot red pepper and others. spaetzel is another regional delight with German origins which in Strasbourg uses pasta made with fresh eggs and tastes like the most indulgent and rich macaroni salad when you order it with crème fraiche and cheese. Add “lardon” to your noodles and you experience a better than bacon-filled noodle salad. Finish your foodie adventure with mannele, a brioche shaped like tiny people which represent Saint Nicholas, full of raisins or chocolate. Alternatively, sample kügelhopf – a bundt cake made around the Christmas season filled with raisins and dusted with powdered sugar.
At Prague’s Christmas Market, you’ll find a most colourful sight set against a Gothic skyline. Try a steaming mug of svařák, traditional mulled wine, full of cinnamon, cloves and sliced oranges, along with the local trdelník pastry. The pastry is made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick and grilled, with a mouth-watering sugar and walnut mix topping. You’ll typically smell “Prague ham” in the market before you come across the smoked, boneless ham roasting over a flame which is an EU-branded delicacy, known throughout Europe. The influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Prague’s Christmas markets shines through via langoš – a Hungarian flatbread topped with cheese, garlic and ketchup that will delight your palate.
pasja1000Whether you’re looking to experience unique and traditional treats like Blini-style crepes with caviar, piroshki (stuffed buns with meat), kulebyake (Russian salmon pie), and sbiten (a hot and spicy honey-based winter drink) or simply looking to pick up cultural items to bring back home like Khohloma toys and Russian gingerbread, Moscow’s Christmas market is the perfect stop. The entire city joins in on the celebration of the season and Moscow’s districts each bring their own influence to the Christmas market at Red Square. Expect to find sensational street shows, traditional cooking classes and fun for the children with fairground rides found in the middle of the market. If you’re heading to St. Petersburg, don’t miss the favourites on Moskovskaya Square, Pionerskaya Square, as well as Gatchina Palace, where four generations of the Romanov family lived. Visitors should expect impromptu concerts and grottoes, alongside gingerbread, toys and traditional Christmas dinners including an incredible variety of dishes like roast goose with apples, stuffed pig’s head, pies and pierogis, along with desserts: kolyadki (Russian Christmas cookies with curd cheese), pampushky (Ukrainian doughnuts stuffed with jam) and so much more.
Find the weihnachtszauber (Christmas magic) in Berlin with over 80 Christmas markets to choose from. Gendarmenmarkt is said to be the most magical square during Christmas with the most famous Christmas market and one of the most beautiful. Appearing like a small city full of tents with over 1,000 fairy lights, look for German treats like kartoffelpuffer, similar to a potato pancake, or käsespätzle which is similar to mac and cheese. Instead of macaroni, it’s served with egg noodles, slathered in Emmental cheese and fried onions. In some parts of Germany, you can even find stecklerfish which is fish on sticks or smoked eel and salmon.
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