Soljanka and the Christmas market in Dresden, Germany

Seasonal cuisine has been sold at Dresden’s Striezelmarkt since the market’s inception back in the 15th century. The Christmas market was first documented in 1434, allowing locals to claim it is Germany’s oldest. Over time it has grown to encompass more than 250 stalls and now draws travellers from around the planet.

The Striezelmarkt is held each Advent on Dresden’s cobbled Altmarkt, the city’s oldest market square. It was originally a one-day event at which locals would purchase provisions for their Christmas feast.

Busy streets by market stalls in Dresden's Old Town.
Busy streets by market stalls in Dresden’s Old Town

Flavours at the Striezelmarkt

On chilled winter evenings city residents mingle with visitors to socialise while sipping cinnamon-laced Glühwein (mulled wine) served in colourful mugs. Anyone asking for one ‘mit schuss’ is looking to get a shot of spirit, normally rum, added to their steaming drink.

It’s a good idea to grab a bite to eat before you down too many of those. Fortunately, there are snacks aplenty to be had at the Striezelmarkt.

People meeting after dusk by stalls at Dresden's Striezelmarkt.
People of all ages head to Dresden’s Striezelmarkt

Bratwurst from neighbouring Thuringia, roast over charcoal, is an ever-popular dish and delicious when served with a dollop of mild mustard made in the Saxon town of Bautzen. Don’t be surprised if you smell Bohemian Rauchwurst — smoked sausage — sizzling too. After all, Prague is less than 150 kilometres (around 90 miles) from Dresden. You’ll even find a stall serving game and horsemeat sausages at the Striezelmarkt.

I’ve visited Dresden’s best-known Advent market many times and have friends from the region. It’s an informal tradition for them to encourage newcomers to try a plate of Kartoffelpuffer — scone-sized pancakes made from grated potato, served with apple sauce for dipping — on arrival at the market.

Traditional wooden carvings depicted on a sign for Dresden's Striezelmarkt.
Traditional wooden carvings depicted on a sign for Dresden’s Striezelmarkt

What to buy at Dresden’s Striezelmarkt

Shuffling between stalls to load up on food and drink brings opportunities to view handcrafted wooden Christmas decorations. The wares include stylised figures carved the Ore Mountains, known as Räuchermänner. Lighting tiny cones of incense makes the painted figures look as if they are puffing away on a pipe.

Sugar-dusted Dresdner Stollen, a traditional style of seasonal fruitcake, is sold at several of the Striezelmarkt’s stalls. City residents claim true Dresden Stollen use of significantly less sugar than the mass-produced cakes that are available across Germany and beyond.

Dresdner Stollen (traditional fruit cake) on sale at Dresden's Striezelmarkt.
Dresdner Stollen (traditional fruit cake) on sale at Dresden’s Striezelmarkt

Where to enjoy the best views of Dresden

One of the best places to get an overview of the famous Christmas market is from the nearby tower of the Lutheran Kreuzkirche — the Church of the Holy Cross. The observation platform, at a height of 54 metres above the market square, can be reached after climbing 259 steps. It looks most magical at dusk.

You can also view the square from the platform 67 metres up on dome of the Frauenkirche — the Church of Our Lady. The church collapsed on 15 February 1945 following aerial bombardment by Allied forces. For decades the city centre ruin was as a reminder of destruction wrought by Western powers during World War Two. Since rededication, in 2005, the sleek silhouette of the Frauenkirche has doubled as an icon of the city.

A chalkboard menu lists food sold at a market stall
A chalkboard menu lists food sold at a market stall

The Neumarkt —  meaning ‘new market’ — also hosts an Advent market with wooden stalls. Strolling from the Frauenkirche along Münzgasse will take you past a handful of stalls on the way to the River Elbe.

One of my favourite sights in Dresden is the Fürstenzug — a tiled depiction of Saxony royalty running the length of a wall. It’s worth meandering by on the way to Dresden’s Castle and the city’s famous opera house, the Semperoper.

People enjoying an evening at the Striezelmarkt.
People enjoying an evening at the Striezelmarkt by a stall selling chocolate covered fruit

Dining out in Dresden

Traditional Saxon cuisine is hearty and tends to be ideal for winter nights. Schnitzels and Saxon potato soup feature on the menu of the Weinstube zum Rebstock (Hauptstrasse 17; tel. +49 (0)351  563 3544), which serves a selection of regional wine by the glass.

If you prefer beer, head into the Altmarktkeller (Altmarkt 4; tel. +49 (0)351 481 8130), a beer cellar handily placed next to the Striezelmarkt. One of my favourite dishes on the menu is Soljanka, a soup with Russian origins.

Friends tell me that occupying Soviet troops introduced the soup to eastern Germany. To most residents of Saxony it proved more palatable than the presence of a foreign military power. Soljanka has remained popular following German reunification.

People socialising at the Striezelmarkt.
People socialising at the Striezelmarkt

Grandmother’s style Soljanka recipe

Soljanka is one of those recipes that you can adapt to whatever you have available. It can be served with meat or fish. The soup has a spicy paprika-tomato base.

The preparation takes around 15 minutes. The cooking time is about 30 minutes.

Ingredients

Serves four:

3 onions

3 capsicums (the peppers can vary in colour)

3 cloves of garlic

200 grams of salami

200 grams of meat (e.g. pork chop)

85 grams of unsmoked pancetta (or bacon)

500 grams of passata (or tomato juice)

4 gherkins

3 heaped tablespoons of tomato puree

1 vegetable stock cube

2 heaped teaspoons of brown sugar

Soured cream

1 lemon

Heaped teaspoon of paprika powder

1/3 teaspoon of chilli powder

Oil for frying

Salt and pepper to season

A bowl of soljanka soup garnished with a wedge of lemon and spoonful of soured cream.
A bowl of soljanka soup garnished with a wedge of lemon and spoonful of soured cream.

Method

  1. Chop the vegetables and fry them in a large pan until they soften. Add the paprika, chilli, the sugar and crumble in the stock cube. Pour in the passata and add a cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes then use a blender to smooth the mixture.
  2. Slice the salami and meat into small pieces. Dry fry along with the pancetta (or bacon).
  3. Serve the soup into bowls. Share the meat and stir it in.
  4. Garnish the soljanka with a spoonful of soured cream, a wedge of lemon and sliced gherkin.
Eating a bowl of soljanka soup.
Eating a bowl of soljanka soup.

Further information

Titan Travel has been organising escorted tours to destinations around the world since 1978, including Germany. For more travel inspiration, and seasonal culinary ideas, view Titan’s 12 Days of Blogmas page.

Dresden is in a region that’s known as the Cultural Heart of Germany, consisting of three states, including Saxony. The Dresden Strizelmarkt is open until 24 December.

Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.

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Declaration: This post is sponsored by Titan Travel. It was written in collaboration with Titan as a part of the Blogmas campaign. Stuart retained full editorial control over the content of this post.

'Greetings from Dresden's Christmas Market' says icing sugar on the gingerbread heart
‘Greetings from Dresden’s Christmas Market’ says icing sugar on the gingerbread heart

10 Comments

  • Agness of Fit Travelling

    December 11, 2017 at 12:29 Reply

    Dresden seems so charming during Christmas time, Stuart. Excellent post and stunning pictures. I am definitely adding this Christmas market and their mulled wine to my bucket list! 😉

    • Stuart Forster

      December 11, 2017 at 16:56 Reply

      Thank you, Agness. Enjoy your visit there, there’s lots to do and see.

  • Barry Stephen

    December 18, 2017 at 14:37 Reply

    The Christmas markets in Germany are great places to visit, in my opinion. The market at Nuremburg is probably my favourite. I’d like to see the one in Dresden after reading this.

    • Stuart Forster

      December 18, 2017 at 17:57 Reply

      Make sure you head to the Striezelmarkt if you do get to Dresden before Christmas.

  • Sally Anderson

    December 20, 2017 at 15:33 Reply

    This sounds a fabulous city to visit for the Christmas markets. It’s on my list of places to visit in 2018.

    • Stuart Forster

      December 20, 2017 at 16:15 Reply

      Enjoy your visit!

  • Geoff Moore

    December 21, 2017 at 16:09 Reply

    Great feature another German city to put on a visit list !

    • Stuart Forster

      December 22, 2017 at 10:15 Reply

      Thanks Geoff. Definitely once to visit if you enjoy traditions, history and interesting architecture.

  • Kathryn

    December 23, 2017 at 11:16 Reply

    I try and visit a new Christmas market every year as I love photographing them but I’ve not managed to make one this year. Thank you for this Christmas market fix. Lovely photos.

    • Stuart Forster

      December 29, 2017 at 10:22 Reply

      Thanks Kathryn, the one in Dresden is certainly worth considering for your future Christmas market trips and has lots to photograph.

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