Guest post by Kelly Atkins.
After much persistence this year I finally caved in and agreed to join my mother on a mother daughter trip with some family friends to Germany.
Faced with the possibility of having to finish my Christmas shopping in the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, I decided the week before Christmas was better spent getting into the festive spirit in Dusseldorf’s Christmas Market.
Unlike any holiday I have been on before I had not booked, planned or googled anything – I really had no idea what to expect. But after Kavey offered me the opportunity to write this guest post one thing was certain... I was absolutely going to consume more food and drink than necessary, all in the name of research.
Hotel Flora was exactly as described elsewhere – clean, well positioned with friendly and incredibly helpful staff, providing you have no need to alter your booking or discuss money.
One of the best parts of staying in this hotel is that it offers free tram travel for the duration of your stay and the staff will happily talk you through the location of the markets and the great places to shop and eat.
The Christmas Markets
Due to building work, this year, unlike others, the markets were split up into a series of smaller areas making it harder than usual to navigate.
Known for its ambience and selections of hand crafted gifts the Dusseldorf markets particularly come alive throughout the evening when the lights create a picturesque scene and locals come and join the tourists to enjoy a mulled wine or cold beer.
The gifts available are so beautiful you could almost be convinced that buying miniature gingerbread houses is what all your friends and family want to receive this Christmas – but it is the food and drink that keeps you coming back.
No Christmas market would be the same without a German sausage on offer and as suspected the Bratwurst lived up to its reputation, but there were many other options on offer. Crepes, gingerbread and tea cakes were perfect for those with a sweet tooth and with most stalls offering a try before you buy you could make sure you bought a flavour you were sure to enjoy.
Here are some of my favourites as well as my disappointments from the stalls:
Fritters – Not particularly my favourite out of all of the food options due to it being incredibly greasy to the point of sickening. The most impressive part of the Fritters is by far the way they mass produce them with industrial mixers in full view of the market.
Kinderpunch – is quite literally Christmas in a cup. Made with eggnog, white wine and a German buttercream, even when it was snowing in Germany it managed to warm me up.
Raclette – Saving the best until last - who knew cheese on toast could be so addictive? This has to be for me the best thing I consumed throughout the entire holiday, so much so I went back more than once. The melted cheese is scraped onto a choice of flavoured breads, including garlic and herbs and even writing this makes my mouth water.
Despite being a Swiss and French dish this highlighted one of the best parts of modern Christmas markets all over the world – the opportunity to experience a range of different cuisines from guest stalls. I have since heard that there is a Raclette stall in Borough Market and I’m already planning a trip there to try it out!
Dusseldorf like the majority of European cities has a wide range of cuisines at a range of prices.
Feeling rather tired the first evening we only ventured next door to Auf’m Hennetamp, a Greek/ German restaurant which initially seemed like a bizarre combination.
Auf’m Hennetamp were incredibly welcoming and were happy for us to avoid set meals and served platters of meat, fish and salad for us all so that we were able to sample a range of different dishes. This was the cheapest of all of the restaurants we ate in over the course of our stay. We were able to eat 2 courses with wine for as little as £15 per person and we were even given a shot of Schnapps to try at the end of the meal and before being promptly told that it was not customary for women to drink Schnapps in Germany.
Cape Town as the name suggests is a South African restaurant famous for its cocktails. But it was in fact the food that excelled all expectations.
Between the four of us we tried a mixture of Ostrich Stew, Beef Clay- Pot, Traditional South African Chicken and Cape Town Vegetable Stir-fry. Not only were the dishes beautifully presented but each mouthful, even down to the last vegetable was packed full of flavour and seasoning that we all felt a desperate need to finish every bite, despite all feeling full half way through.
The infamous cocktails for myself lived up to their reputation, however they did seem to change in flavour every time a new one was made. I like to think this was not because I was becoming more intoxicated but that, as I suspected, the ingredients seemed to be subject to change.
Another great foodie experience...
In the majority of pubs in Dusseldorf you are able to order a takeaway from a selection of authentic restaurants nearby. Ranging from Thai to Italian you can relax in a laid back pub environment and take your pick to suit your stomach. Even better still – the pub will put the takeaway on a tab so that you can pay a full bill at the end of the evening.
The Best Parts
Aside from enjoying a relaxing break with my mother and family friends the most enjoyable part of the Christmas Markets is the ability to get involved in all areas of the market. During my time there I was able to get behind nearly ever stall I requested and aside from the merry go round which I have been informed I am definitely too old for I was able to try my hand at it all.
As we are already looking at Belgium for this year I can safely say – I am a Christmas market addict!