An essential element of the perfect weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) visit is eating and drinking. This is both a cultural experience and a necessary step to avoid freezing to death in German winter.
Stollen, a German Christmas cake, is a must-have in any German home during Christmas. Dense and moist with loads of fruit, spices, and nuts, it is sweetened with a covering of powdered sugar.
At Christmas markets and grocery stores you can buy your own little loaf, each said to resemble Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. This traditional cake dates back to the 14th century in the regal city of Dresden. It has the oldest Christmas market in Germany and a festival dedicated to the loaf.
The Stollen Festival presents the world's biggest stollen at 3,429 kilograms, 3.65 meters long, 1.75 meters wide and over a meter high. It is carried through the crowds by a team of horses and surrounded by the pastry chefs who completed the feat. Buy a piece of the beast at the Dresden Striezelmarkt with all the profits going to charity.
Most often associated with Oktoberfest celebrations, this gingerbread cookie makes an appearance at every German festival. Best for decoration rather than eating, they are undeniably charming and make for a great gift.
Usually sold in its characteristic heart shape with German sayings like Ich Liebe Dich (I love you), there will be a few more with Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas) at the weihnachtsmärkte.
You'll smell this treat before you see them. Gebrannte Mandeln are sugared almonds that release a sticky sweet scent and are served in portable papiertüte (paper cones). Try the basic version, or experiment with different flavorings like cocoa powder, Nutella, chili, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts. A cone only costs about 2.50 euro for 100 grams making it impossible to resist.
Licorice and Bonbons
Usually sold alongside the Gebrannte Mandeln, colorful candies and licorice are a treat for the eyes. Long ropes of red, blue and green are most popular, but the Scandinavian version of salty black licorice is also a local favorite - if more of an acquired taste.
Another colorful option are the hard candies like the Krauterbonbons. This candy is also relies heavily on anise and fruity flavors. In some markets, booths produce the candy on-site, pulling the sugar and pressing it into molds.
These fluffy little German doughnuts have a variety of names. Whether you call them schmalzkuchen or mutzenmandeln, they are delectably deep-fried and rolled in confectioners sugar.
Served piping hot, they warm your hands and your belly. They are best fried fresh so watch the shop carefully before buying.
A Schneeball is as fun to eat as it is to say. What literally translates to the word "snowball" is actually a ball of shortcrust pastry which is then fried and coated in a variety of toppings. Often covered in powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate, for true decadence select one with nuts or chocolate or marzipan fillings.
Skewered fruit is a offered candied or covered in chocolate. Fruchtspieße (fruit skewers) are very popular with a selection of strawberries, apple, banana, and pineapple impaled on a stick and covered in chocolate to munch on while you walk around.
You will also find paradiesäpfel (candied apples) and schokoladenapfel (chocolate apple). If you prefer your fruit without a chocolate coating, there is a wide selection of dried and candied fruits.
Marzipan is a German classic. Made with ground almonds, sugar and honey, as well as eggs, it can be sold simply like in a pile of tiny potatoes, or molded into elaborate shapes like animals, flowers, or other food items. I even saw one shaped like currywurst!