People travel to Germany for the sights and cities, but also for good German food. If you are a foodie and about to embark on a journey through Germany, here are the must-have German dishes you have to try in your travels.
From German food markets to beer gardens to wine festivals to mouthwatering German restaurants, here is the best of Germany’s varied cuisine.
Roasted pork knuckle is exactly what you think of when you think of hearty German food. Served in hulking proportions with crackling skin, it is often paired with a knödel or klöße (bread or potato) dumpling, a generous portion of sauerkraut, and a liter of beer.
A Bavarian classic, you can find it at Munich's best restaurants, Oktoberfest, and beer halls around the country. A similar dish, eisbein, comes with boiled pork knuckle instead of roasted, and originates from the north.
It is impossible to avoid wurst (sausage) in Germany, and that is a good thing. With a history dating back to 1313, the bratwurst is the perfect street food, served with both ends sticking out of the bun.
There is also the surprisingly spicy currywurst, created by a German housewife who traded alcohol for curry powder after WWII. A combination of ketchup and Worcestershire, this unique sauce is splashed over a fried sausage, served sliced with a roll or french fries.
Another favorite is the southern weisswurst, or "white sausage." Traditionally, it is served no later than noon in a pot of warm water with a hefeweizen for Bavarian breakfast.
Döner kebab, the street food you can find just about anywhere in Europe, started in Berlin. Brought to Germany by Turkish immigrants, this meal is symbolic of the multicultural nature of the country's capital.
If you have never had one before, you will be drawn in by the massive cones of meat in the window. Upon ordering, the spit is moved closer to the heat and shaved off in salty strips. The meat is then placed in a hearty triangle of Turkish bread with a generous helping of salat (salad) and soße (sauce).
Everyone has their favorite döner stand—usually the most convenient location between your favorite bar and home. If you want the best, however, the Berlin-based institution of Imren Grill is worth seeking out.
Want a taste of the country's rich history and cuisine? You better make you way to the bar. Having brewed lager for more than 500 years, Germany has without a doubt mastered beer culture. From Bamberg to Cologne and Berlin, German beer tells a story.
You can learn about the brewing process by hopping on a brewery tour anywhere in the country—but if you're just here to drink, you can sample on your own at the Germany's many biergartens and beer festivals.
With vineyards dating back to Roman times, fine German wines are finally getting their due.
Germany has 13 wine growing regions—most of them concentrated in the west and southwest—making it the 8th largest wine-producing country in the world. The largest of these regions is Rheinhessen (Rhenish Hesse), followed by the Pfalz (Palatinate).
Due to Germany's climate and its vineyards, the majority of German wines are white, including Riesling and Müller-Thurgau. You can find reds as well, such as Spätburgunder (German for Pinot Noir) and the full-bodied Dornfelder.
All forms of German bread are revered, none more so than Bretzel. Served fresh and hot, it can be covered in cheese, paired with mustard, or split and filled with things like schmalz (fat) or butter.
Pretzels are sold just about everywhere: stands, train stations, and sit-down restaurants. In Munich, you can even find them at high-end bakeries like Zöttl and Wimmer and Karnoll's Backstandl in Viktualienmarkt.
International Cuisine at City Markets
It isn't all meat and pretzels in German cuisine: Its cities, particularly Berlin, serve up incredible international cuisine, especially in markets.
Berlin's Markthalle IX in Kreuzberg is one of the few remaining market halls in the city. Along with daily fresh offerings, there are exciting events like Street Food Thursday, cheese festivals, and dessert markets. Dong Xuan Center is solely international, specializing in Vietnamese cuisine.
Other markets like Munich's Viktualienmarkt offer quintessential German food in addition to international fare.
Germany's love of fish might be most apparent on its northern coastline, but you you can enjoy it anywhere in the country. Favorite dishes include fischbrötchen (fish sandwiches) and steckerlfisch, which is marinated, skewered, and then grilled to perfection.
One of the best places to indulge in fresh fish is Hamburg's 300-year-old Fischmarkt. Open every Sunday morning, this is where 36,000 tons of fresh fish are sold and 70,000 visitors walk the stands.
This meal is made by grating a ball of dough against a specialized wooden chopping board (Spätzlebrett) into boiling, salted water. When finished, the spätzle rise to the surface and can be topped with fried onions or spinach. Käsespätzle, one of the most common versions of the dish, is mixed with Gruyère, and is often compared to mac and cheese.
Unless speck (bacon) or minced pork liver is added, this is a commonly found vegetarian-friendly dish.
An East German version of meatballs, Königsberger Klopse are named after the Prussian capital of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Covered in a creamy sauce with capers and lemon, they are usually served with boiled potatoes.
For more daring diners, try Sülze, Schwartenmagen or Presskopf (a jellied meat loaf flavored with pickles or vinegar) in East Germany.
Almost as beloved as its bread and beer, cheese is a German essential. In addition to the ever-present gouda, bergkäse, and quark, there is obatzda. A southern favorite, this tasty spread is a blend of a soft cheese (think Camembert), a little bit of beer, and spices like paprika and garlic. Pair it with brezen, pickles, and onions to go full German snack mode.
While it springs from Bavaria, southern style restaurants are popular around Germany and will usually have it on the menu. For example, the Hofbräuhaus has locations in most big cities and is the perfect place to order obatzda.
Few East German products outlasted the fall of the Wall, but the Spreewald pickle is one beloved Ostalgie item that was good enough for reunited Germany. The Spreewaldgurken is not just a source of briny enjoyment: It's a point of pride in the Spreewald region south of Berlin.
The pickles are served from barrels in an assortment of flavors from senf (mustard) to honig (honey), both in the touristy villages of the Spreewald and fancy grocery stores.
Coffee and Cake
A break between lunch and dinner with coffee (or tea) and cake is a welcome respite from the business of day-to-day life.
Some German cake classics:
- Apfelkuchen: Apple
- Schokoladenkuchen: Chocolate
- Käsekuchen: Translated as "cheese cake," this dessert is a little different from the American version.
- Rübelitorte: Carrot
- Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte: "Black Forest Cake" has decadent layers of chocolate sponge, whipped cream, and sour cherries.
- Gugelhupf: Light sponge cake topped with fresh fruit and sweetened whipped cream.
- Zwetschgenkuchen: Thin sheet cake covered with pitted plums (Pflaumen).
Go into any bäckerei (bakery) and they are sure to have an assortment of freshly baked confections.