A foodie’s guide to Europe’s Christmas fare

December 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM
During the festive season you'll have no trouble finding Bûche de Noël in pastry shops across France.

During the festive season you’ll have no trouble finding Bûche de Noël in pastry shops across France. (Photo: appaloosa)

There is more to Christmas travel than just winter sports and Christmas markets. One of my favourite things about this time of year is that no matter where you travel, delicious food is inevitably a part of the celebrations. Christmas is a great time of year to experience culture and tradition through your taste buds. If you’re a travel-loving foodie who takes delight in new flavours and aromas, then here is a guide to some of Europe’s most fabulous Christmas fare.

Fruit cakes and breads

German stollen (Photo: Butaris)

German stollen (Photo: Butaris)

Holidaymakers in France can taste a traditional French Bûche de Noël (Yule Log), which is a Christmas cake rolled into the shape of a log and traditionally covered with buttercream and pistachios. These days you’ll find a variety of different Yule Logs at any pâtisserie in France.

A German favourite during this time of year is stollen – yeast bread filled with nuts, raisins and fruit. The city of Dresden is famous for its stollen, but you can find it at Christmas markets and supermarkets anywhere in Germany, and if you’re staying in a German holiday rental you can always try your hand at making your own stollen as the recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients are readily available in the supermarket.

You can’t mention Christmas breads without talking about panettone. This sweet Italian yeast bread originated in Milan, and is made with raisins, citrus fruit and pine nuts and is baked in a tall cylindrical shape. Italians usually serve slices of panettone with hot beverages or sweet wine.

If you’re staying in a holiday rental in Norway you can eat warm julekake, which is delicious yeast bread baked with raisins. Although you can buy julekake at any supermarket it’s easy to make at home and it fills the room with the wonderful aroma of cardamom.

Warm up with gluhwein

Warm up with gluhwein this winter (Photo: George Nell)

Warm up with gluhwein this winter (Photo: George Nell)

During the festive season all around Germany, cold hands are warmed around mugs of gluhwein. You’ll find this traditional hot spicy drink at Christmas markets around the country and while you’re walking around these beautiful Christmas markets with a mug of gluhwein you can nibble on lebkuchen (gingerbread).

The Germans aren’t the only ones who warm up with gluhwein. The Swiss also enjoy the mulled wine beverage and if you’re spending the festive season in Austria this year you can enjoy gluhwein as well as rumpunsch (rum punch), which go down well with delicious Austrian pastries and cakes.

The Hungarian version of mulled wine is forralt bor, and the Nordic version is glögg.

A food lover’s feast

Christmas fare in Spain wouldn't be complete without tasty turrón. (Photo: Lablascovegmenu)

Christmas fare in Spain wouldn’t be complete without tasty turrón. (Photo: Lablascovegmenu)

It doesn’t get more lavish than 12 courses. That’s what you can experience if you spend this holiday season in Poland. The feast consists of one dish for each of the 12 Apostles, and excludes red meat. Dishes include borscht (beetroot soup) with uszka (ravioli), carp, and makowiec (poppy seed cakes). Krupnik, a sweet alcoholic drink is sometimes served after dinner.

If you’re a food lover travelling in Spain you can also enjoy a traditional Christmas feast on La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). The feast usually begins with simple tapas like chorizo, and ends with after dinner drinks. The primer plato (first course) often includes seafood dishes, while the main course is a traditional meat-and-potatoes type of meal. Of course no Spanish feast would be complete without including dessert like delicious turrón as well as a few glasses of Spanish cava for the toasts.

If you spend Christmas in Hungary you’ll get to enjoy a festive spread of halászlé (fish soup), ham, goose, beigli (poppy seed rolls), vanilla kifli (crescent cookies), szaloncukor (candy), mézeskalács (honey cakes) and mákos guba mézzel (poppy seed bread pudding with honey).

Christmas in the UK

A traditional Christmas dinner (Photo: Robert)

A traditional Christmas dinner (Photo: Robert)

You don’t have to travel far to taste fabulous Christmas fare. In the UK roast turkey, gravy, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, brussels spouts, parsnips and carrots can be found on dinner tables across the country. Mulled wine is a popular holiday beverage and no list of fabulous Christmas fare would be complete without including plum pudding and mince pies.

What will be on your table this festive season?

For more tasty inspiration take a look at HomeAway’s gastro travel guides.