The first Christmas Market recorded in Europe was in Germany in 1384. While the wares have changed since the 14th century, the magic has not.
I had all the delicacies of a European city in front of me without having to move from hotels, hail cabs or stress about exactly where to go. Viking River Cruises runs a Danube River itinerary in November and December each year through some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe. It was an adventure that gave me a taste of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Passau, Germany, is said by its residents to be the birthplace of gingerbread (Lebkuchen). It’s made with honey, sugar and molasses into cakes, cookies and even ornaments. You’ll also find crepes rolled up for walking, chocolates, nuts and donuts here.
Salzburg, Austria, is where Mozart was born and the Sound of Music was filmed so there’s no shortage of history — or interesting food — here. Hit the markets for rich chocolates bearing the composer’s name, as well as teas and meats. [slideshow:810119]
The culture of Vienna extends well beyond the music of Johan Strauss. You can find 21 Christmas Markets in this popular Austrian city. Look for huge pretzels, fruit-filled chocolates, candied apples, fish, bratkartoffel, freshly fried potato chips, huge donuts and Sacher tortes.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Even though it’s bordered by Austria and Hungary, it has a bit of variance in their markets from their neighboring cities. Here you’ll find all types of breads, as well as huge pieces of fruit and cheese strudel.
The Christmas Markets of Budapest are a complete food fest. Look for a “chimney cake” made by wrapping dough around a wooden stick and baking it. You’ll also see plenty of meats and treats, like mulled wines made from various grapes and flavors.
To see more great food-finds to look out for at European Christmas Markets, click through our slideshow.