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Must-try traditional food and drink at Europe's Christmas markets

From sugary rolled dough to bitters from the 18th century - you are sure to feast like royalty this festive season.

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No matter what time of year it is, for some folks, it’s never too soon to think about Christmas and to think about food. Glorious food. Bring the two together and what do you get? Joy.

And what’s the perfect place to harness the power of these two magical festive components?  Christmas markets, of course. Whether you’re hoping to stay closer to home or to wander around Europe, visiting the atmospheric stalls that line frosty city streets and seeing locals selling homemade wares and delicious treats, is such a delightful way to wind down a year. 

While there’s a vast range of festive markets to visit in your hometown or home country, Europe is where you want to be for the biggest, most traditional Christmas markets. If your stomach is already rumbling, here is the food and drink we recommend trying at the Christmas markets around Europe:

Prague's rolled dough 

The Czech Republic is the ideal place to show up hungry. Head to Prague's Christmas markets and you can feast on smoky barbecued sausages (klobása), filling meat dumplings (knedlíky plněné uzeným masem), and the always-satisfying spiced gingerbread (perníčky). But if you are hunting down the real showstopper of edible Christmas offerings, you cannot go past the trdelník. These cylindrical desserts consist of rolled, grilled dough generously covered with a heavenly combination of powdered sugar and walnut mix. 

Truth be told, this Bohemian city is home to an abundance of festive markets. The city centre, specifically Old Town Square and Wenceslas square, hosts bustling Christmas celebrations each year. For a quieter, more laidback experience, you can of course pay a visit to the smaller markets at Republic Square or on the square out front of St George’s Basilica.

Montreux's spiced crepes

If you fancy your Christmas treats with a picturesque view, your end-of-year holiday has got to be Montreux. This Swiss town is fringed by the towering alps, as well as rows of vineyards and undulating hills. Each year, the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva dazzle locals and travellers alike with the Montreux Christmas markets. While these celebrations aren’t on the same scale as the markets in Prague or Edinburgh, they certainly have a charm.

But onto the important matters. What is there to eat and drink here? If you’re thirsty, hunt down a glass of vin chaud. This colourful French mulled wine is the ultimate cold-weather pick me up, featuring a medley of red wine, brandy, orange, cranberries, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. And if you need a bite to eat, tuck into a spicy yet sweet cinnamon crepe. Embrace the mess.

Kraków's warming wine

The heart of gloriously medieval Krakow comes to life in the winter months with wooden stalls brimming with handmade toys, Christmas decorations, and tasty spiced nuts. What you need to try during your festive visit to Poland, is contained within a hefty wooden barrel. Inside, you will find a comforting kind of mulled wine, known locally as grzaniec galicyjski. This warming red is enhanced with a delicious mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. And the best part is, you won’t even have to look for it. Just follow your nose! Ggrzaniec galicyjski is the perfect accompaniment to the cold weather.

Once you have a drink in hand, take a wander about the historic city square, paying a visit to the historical townhouses (kamienice) and the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice).

Riga's unique bitters

Each and every December, the capital of Latvia is filled with vibrant stalls selling a delicious array of smoked meats and local honey. And what better way to wash it down than with a traditional beverage? On offer is warm herbal bitter, known as Riga Black Balsam. The memorable beverage dates back to the middle of the 18th century and is made with natural botanicals inside oak barrels, resulting in a smooth, unique taste.

Riga is an incredible place to spend Christmas not only because of the food and drink but because of its rich festive past. According to some records, in 1510, Latvia was the first place to adorn a tree with winter decorations.

Book your end-of-year festive break with us! Explore our range of Christmas market escorted tours here.

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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