Wondering what to eat in Germany on your upcoming trip? Rest assured you won’t go hungry! Here’s a list of traditional German food that you should try.
Mention traditional German food and most people tend to think of sausage, sauerkraut and beer — but German food is much more than these three things. While it is true that most authentic German foods are pork based and include hearty stews and lots of potato dishes, German food includes a great variety of fresh local produce, and seafood depending on which area of the country you are in.
Germany has a long culinary history reflecting its rural roots and geography. Over the years, German food has evolved as a national cuisine through centuries of social and political change with variations from region to region. For instance, the area around Hamburg is known for fresh fish dishes while the South is known for all types of foods made of pork. But what they all have in common is the German heartiness and richness that you won’t find elsewhere.
But before I share all the traditional German food you need to try, here are some useful info on where to eat in Germany.
Where to Eat in Berlin
Berlin is Germany’s most visited city and it’s easy to see why once here. It’s got an interesting mix of old and new, which can be seen in its culinary scene too. Here are some of the best places to eat in Berlin:
Rogacki — This restaurant has over 90 years of history in Berlin dating back to the 1920’s. It’s a fixture in Berlin’s culinary scene. It sells some of the finest meats and sausages, but the star of the show here is its smoked trout and eel. Read the Tripadvisor review.
Café am Neuen See — Arguably the most beautiful biergarten (beer garden) in Berlin the Café am Neuen See is located on the shores of a lake. The cafe serves grilled specialties and of course beer.
Prater Garten — Berlin’s oldest beer garden the Prater Garten is hidden away in what appears to be someone’s backyard of the Kastanienallee. You can enjoy your beer in relaxed comfort and as it gets dark, the trees are lit with fairy lights adding a touch of romance to the evening. The attached restaurant, which is covered, is famous for its German classic cuisine and the Austrian schnitzel. Read the Tripadvisor review.
Zur letzen Instanz — One of Berlin’s most iconic restaurants and the oldest, this place has been in the same location since 1621. Legend has it that the famous and infamous from Napoleon to Charlie Chaplin have eaten here.
Markthalle Neun — This market hall is without a doubt the cultural epicenter of German cuisine both past and present. Reopened in 2011 exactly 120 years after its original opening, the market plays hosts to a massive variety of food booths from US BBQ to fish smokers and small craft brewers. There is a weekly street food market on Thursdays, every third Sunday there is the breakfast market and on Tuesday, Fridays and Saturdays you can treat yourself to the traditional German weekly market.
Wikimedia image by Pedelecs
Where to Eat in Munich
Munich is an incredibly charming and historically rich city, and in my opinion, it’s also the best place to taste traditional German food. Here’s a look at some of the best places to eat traditional German food in Munich:
Hofbraeuhaus — Munich’s largest and most famous beer brewery offers the whole German traditional experience while serving you the best food in town. Here, large pints of homemade beer served alongside tantalizing local dishes. The serving staff are dressed in the traditional dirndl and lederhosen. The atmosphere itself is worth it to get into the true spirit of Germany – the clanking of beer steins and glasses, lots of raucous laugher and a huge hall echoing with the happiness of the beer drinkers. Read the Tripadvisor review.
Kuchlverzeichnis — This is another excellent place to try German traditional dishes in Munich. Traditional Bavarian decor, costumed wait staff and a lovely warm atmosphere make this a hot favorite. All the traditional German food listed above can be found on the menu here. It’s also less crowded than Hofbrauhaus. Read the Tripadvisor review here.
Café Luitpold — If you love, an amazing pastry and visiting places that speak to the romantic in you find your way to Cafe Luitpold. This is the source of the absolute best pastries in Munich from which you can select your favourites from a huge array at the counter.
Ratskeller Munich — If you are a foodie of any description, you would have heard of the Ratskeller Munich, a heritage tavern housed in a historic building. Entering the restaurant, you descend down this grand stone staircase and the place looks like an ancient palace with its cove ceilings lined with mahogany, stained glass windows and gorgeous handmade wooden chairs and tables. The Ratskeller specializes in traditional Bavarian food as well as serving one of the best dark beers in Munich. Read the Tripadvisor review here.
Where to Stay in Berlin
Hotel Adlon Kempinski — For those looking to splurge, this high-end five star hotel is one of the best hotels in Berlin. It features large rooms elegantly furnished and a brilliant spa to relax in. Located beside the Brandenburg Gate, the hotel is within walking distance from most attractions, including the Holocaust memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. State-of-the-art facilities include a double Michelin-star restaurant and a shopping arcade. Check for the latest rates here.
Mandala Hotel — This 5-star design hotel in central Berlin offers stylish studios and suites with kitchen facilities. It is located opposite the Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz and features an elegant spa, free WiFi and a double Michelin-star restaurant. Brandenburg Gate is a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and Potsdamer Platz Station is just 100 m away. Book here.
Grand Hostel Berlin — This is constantly rated one of the best hostels in Berlin and Germany. Set in an elegant 19th-century building, this hostel in Berlin’s colourful Kreuzberg district offers free Wi-Fi, great transport links, and welcome packs with a map of the city. The Möckernbrücke Underground Station is only 200 m away, ensuring easy access to attractions throughout the capital. Book here.
Where to Stay in Munich
Most Munich hotels are concentrated around the city center, mainly along Karlsplatz and around the main train station. There are plenty of options, ranging from budget hostels to high-end hotels in the area.
Hotel Laimer Hof — If you can afford a grand 5 star luxury hotel, try the stunning Hotel Laimer Hof west of the city centre near the Nymphenburg Palace, the Baroque summer residence of past Bavarian monarchs. Built in 1890 it is a cream coloured building with turrets and towers. It’s a 25-minute S-Bahn ride from the Old Town, but despite its relatively remote location, it is rated as the top Munich hotel on Trip Advisor. Check the latest rates.
Hotel Jedermann — We stayed at Hotel Jedermann, an affordable three-star hotel along Bayerstrasse Road, next to the train station and within 5 minutes’ walk to the center. With room rates starting from 50euros/room and a great location, it offers great value for money. Book here.
Hotel Mirabell Munich — This family-run hotel in Western is located next to the Nymphenburg Castle and a 10-minute walk from the old town. Built in 1886, the family-run Laimer Hof am Schloss Nymphenburg is a Neo-Renaissance villa offering rooms that are individually furnished in a classic style. All rooms include satellite TV, a desk and a private bathroom.
Here’s a list of some traditional German food that are worth trying.
Traditional German food is quite heavy and rich. There will be meat at every midday and evening meal, often also at breakfast.A typical meal usually includes hearty meat portions drenched in rich, creamy sauces along with buttery rolls, baked squash and a full glass of beer. Let’s start by looking at some of the staple meat dishes in Germany.
Sauerbraten (Roast Beef Stew)
The German pot roast is a deep and delicious hearty stew of tender beef, marinated in tenderising vinegar and various spices. This hearty stew is traditionally served with red cabbage and potato dumplings (kartoffelklöße) or boiled potatoes. It usually involves days of marinating beef, horse meat or venison in a wine vinegar mixture over several days. Having been named one of the national dishes of Germany, the sauerbraten is often the main star in restaurants’ menus.
Schweinshaxe (Pork Knuckle)
Often the size of an adult human head, the schweinshaxe is the ham hock or pork knuckle, located at the end of the pig’s leg, just above the ankle and below the meaty ham portion. It is usually roasted till the skin falls easily off the bone, the meat gets tender and juicy, and the skin is crispy and brittle. It is especially popular in Bavaria. A variation of this dish is known in parts of Germany as eisbein, in which the ham hock is pickled and usually slightly boiled.
Schweinshaxe is one of the formerly typical peasant foods, in which inexpensive cuts of meat were used. Such inexpensive cuts usually require long periods of preparation. The meat is marinated for days, in the case of big cuts up to a week. The Schweinshaxe is then roasted at low temperatures, typically—depending on size—for two to three hours. They are then served with potatoes and cabbage variations.
The best place to try this is definitely at the most famous brewery in Munich, Hofbraeuhaus (read more below).
Rinderroulade (Beef Roll)
A typical dish in Saxony, this beef roulade packs different flavors into one single dish. Quality thin beef slices are rolled around bacon, onions, pickles, and mustard, and then roasted with red wine to produce a dark rich flavour. These days, beef or veal is typically used, though some food scholars tend to believe that the original version was probably venison or pork, and pork is still popular in some areas in Germany. The beef as we know them today have become popular over the last century.
Rouladen are traditionally served for dinner, with either potato dumplings or mashed potatoes and pickled red cabbage. Roasted winter vegetables are another common side dish. The gravy is an absolute requirement to round off the dish and is usually poured over the meat.
Schnitzel (Breaded Cutlet)
Although a schnitzel is more of an Austrian dish, it’s extremely popular in Germany, and found throughout Munich. The Wiener Schnitzel, a cutlet coated in breadcrumbs with cheese and ham sandwiched within, is served with green salad and potatoes. Even the Germans love it, you’ll hafta taste it for yourself to know why.
Hasenpfeffer (Rabbit Stew)
I am a stew-lover, so I definitely couldn’t leave out this traditional German dish. Bite sized parts of a rabbit, which are often too small to be roasted, are braised with onions and wine for hours to produce this deliciously rich stew. The marinade is made from wine and vinegar, then thickened with the rabbit’s blood.
Hase is German for “hare” and pfeffer means “pepper”, although the culinary context refers generically to the spices and seasonings in the dish overall. Seasonings typically include fresh cracked black pepper or whole peppercorns, along with salt, onions, garlic, lemon, sage, thyme, rosemary, allspice, juniper berries, cloves, and bay leaf. In Bavaria and Austria, hasenpfeffer can include sweet or hot paprika.
Traditional German Sausages
A long tradition of sausage-making exists in Germany; more than 1,500 different types of sausage are made. There are many regional specialties, such as the Münchner weißwurst (Munich white sausage) popular in Bavaria or the currywurst (a steamed pork sausage sliced and spiced with curry ketchup) popular in the metropolitan areas of Berlin. They are commonly eaten as street food, but you’ll also find them served on a plate with sauerkraut and mustard in restaurants for very decent prices.
Here’s a look at some of the most famous Germany sausages:
Bratwurst (Grilled Sausage)
One of the most popular street foods in Germany is the bratwurst. These are a type of fresh sausage, typically made with pork and veal, and seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, coriander, or caraway. It is served grilled with a slightly crispy skin and loaded up with mustard and ketchup. You can also have it with sauerkraut and mustard, or simply in a bread roll. You’ll see them grilled over sizzling barbecue stands all over Germany, especially in summer.
Knockwurst (Boiled Sausage)
Made from finely ground beef and pork, a knockwurst looks like a big hot dog. However, the quality difference is huge and the knockwurst is made from far superior, quality ingredients. The pinkish colour comes from a light smoking after the first boiling and the special casing gives the knockwurst that “snap” when you bite into it. This sausage is prepared in bulling water like hot dogs are, and then served on a good rye bread with Dijon mustard.
Weisswurst (Bacon Sausage)
Weisswurst is a traditional Bavarian sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon. It is usually flavoured with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom. Usually served for a mid morning snack the weisswurst is prepared by cooking gently in hot water. You mustn’t use boiling water as it splits the casing. They are then served with a great pretzel a dollop of sweet mustard and a good beer.
Currywurst (Sausage with Curry Sauce)
Invented in Berlin by Herta Heuwer in 1949 the currywurst is usually made of a pork sausage with a sauce made from ketchup and curry powder. Somehow, these ingredients were sourced from British soldiers after the war and served on a grilled sausage. These days the currywurst is Germany’s most popular sausage and there is even a museum that honours it. In Berlin and Hamburg, it is served with fries and a bread roll.
Potato is the main staple of traditional German food. Potatoes entered the German cuisine in the late 17th century, and were almost ubiquitous in the 19th century and since. Also common are dumplings (including Klöße as the term in the north or Knödel as the term in the south). Noodles made from wheat flour and eggs are quite common specially in the southwestern part of the country.
Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancake)
This is a fried potato pancake similar to a latke. Mashed or grated potatoes are mixed with parsley, eggs, onions into a flat circular shape and then deep fried to form a pancake. They are usually served with eggs for breakfast. They can also be served with applesauce and sour cream for a more dessert like dish.
Kartoffelkloesse (Potato Dumplings)
These traditional German potato dumplings are made two ways: with cooked potatoes and with a mixture of cooked and raw potatoes. The potatoes are cooked, mashed and kneaded into big sticky balls and then finally boiled in salted water. This is a perfect side dish to meat dishes also great as a standalone vegetarian dish. It is usually served as a side dish with lots of gravy for the dumplings to soak up.
There is a dumpling museum that if you are in Germany you can visit. It is the Thuringian Dumpling Museum and you will learn the history of the dumpling, how to make the dumpling and have a tasting festival at the end. It is listed as one of the top ten cuisine museums in the world.
Wikimedia image by Schlassinger
Sauerkraut (Fermented Cabbage)
This is yet another hugely popular German food that’s found throughout the country. Sauerkraut is basically fermented sour cabbage. The finely cut cabbage is usually fermented by various lactic acid bacteria. It has a long shelf life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage. It’s served alongside many meat dishes.
Spätzle (Egg Noodles)
A completely vegetarian dish, spätzle is an extremely popular dish not just in Germany but also Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The egg noodle is handmade with flour, eggs, salt and a drizzle of fizzy water to fluff up the dough. Traditionally, spätzle are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden (sometimes wet) chopping board into boiling salted water where they cook until they rise to the surface. After the noodles have become firm, they are skimmed and put aside.
Spätzle are served with a large amount of melted cheese, as a side dish to meaty dishes (like Schnitzel) or can even be a main dish themselves.
Wikimedia image by Stefan xp
Butterkäse (Butter Cheese)
“Butter cheese” is traditionally made near the Swiss Border and it has a creamy texture and is quite delicately flavoured. It is over 50% fat content, which is why the buttery flavour comes through, and it melts beautifully. It is also called damenkäse or “ladies cheese” for these reasons of delicacy and no odour.
German pretzels or Brezeln are a requirement when you visit Germany. You’ll find it sold on the streets and in major supermarkets or grocery stores. Big thick pretzels are usually sold lightly salted or with sesame seeds on them. You can eat them on their own or dip them into some hearty mustard. It wouldn’t be Germany without a decent pretzel.
You can’t come to Germany and not drink beer. The beer-drinking tradition in Germany goes back centuries and it continues to be an important part of their lifestyle today.
Pilsner is the most popular beer in Germany. It is a pale lager, with most towns brewing their own version. Beyond that, there are many other varieties of beer including Dusseldorf’s hoppy altbier; the sweet, high alcohol content maibock to celebrate the beginning of spring; and the malty marzen found at Oktoberfest.
Of all the regions in Germany, Bavaria is the most well known for the variety of beer due to the various kinds of hops grown in this verdant region. Bavarian beer includes the distinctive cloudy beer called hefeweizen, or wheat beer.
Traditional German Desserts
Lebkuchen (Gingerbread Cookies)
A true German Christmas favourite. These are a version of gingerbread cookies and they are sometimes covered with a dark chocolate coating, nuts or powered sugar. You can buy boxes of them at the Christmas markets and usually one or two of the stalls will sell them with “spicy” sayings iced on the tops of the cookies.
Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake)
A sort of German apple cake that is simply delicious. The apples are soaked in sugar, cinnamon, and some lemon juice and then baked into a buttery pastry mixture. Raisins are tossed in before baking and the cake is cooked quite quickly and then served with a great cup of coffee.
Mohnstrudel (Poppy Seed Strudel)
Poppy seed streusel is a staple in every German household during g the Christmas holidays. A simple streusel made with yeasted bread dough and a creamy poppy seed filling.
Kaiserschmarren is a sort of traditional German pancake that is made from a sweet batter and then cooked in butter. Because the egg is beaten separately into a meringue, which is added to the batter the pancake becomes very fluffy. Traditionally the Kaiserschmarren is then split with two forks into pieces when fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The pancakes are also called the “Emperor’s Pancake” as Kaiser Franz Josef was a big fan of these pancakes.
Black Forest Cake
A hugely popular cake back in the 1980s, this cake was always the one to be served at a party. It became so hugely popular around the world that it’s put Germany’s Black Forest on the map. A Black Forest cake is chock full of cherries, chocolate, liquor and whipped cream. The official German name is “Schwarzwälderkirschtorte,” which is rather a long-winded way of saying a cake soaked in Kirsch liqueur before being baked.
This German traditional bread is usually served at Christmas. It’s basically a fruit cake chocked full of powdered sugar and candy. Its name in Germany is Christstollen and it’s a must-try if you’re in Germany for Christmas.
Wikimedia image by knusperj
It is true that most people don’t go to Germany for the food; but German food can really surprise you. Before you order at a restaurant, ask what’s local so you can try the regional dishes. Knowing these things about eating in Germany will go a long way in helping you to explore Germany’s food culture and enjoy your visit to this country.