Germany’s cuisine doesn’t have the same reputation and fame as places like France and Italy, but trust me, there’s delicious food here when you know what to eat in Germany. You’ll find regional differences throughout the country as well as certain foods that are almost everywhere. You’re probably thinking of beer, pretzels, and sausages, and while these are definitely a part of the food culture, there’s a lot more to it. So what do people in Germany eat? Here’s a look at foods to try in Germany to get a better understanding of the cuisine.
Where to stay in Berlin
Berlin has lots of great neighborhoods for you to stay in and explore. If you’re visiting Berlin for the first time, it might be best for you stay somewhere central. Many of the attractions are in Mitte or easily connected to Mitte by Berlin’s public transport, so you should stay somewhere in that region. Here are a few hotels we recommend.
For a more detailed look at the different neighborhoods and our recommendations, check out our guide to where to stay in Berlin.
Germans eat lots of bread. Bread is one of the most important foods in Germany. It’s not one you’ve probably heard about, but I promise they care more about bread than sausages.
German bread comes in so many varieties and has so many different names for different types. Some you’ll find throughout the country, but there are also regional bread specialties. There are various grains, some breads have seeds on them, and many are more dense than you’re used to.
Brötchen is one of the most common forms of bread you’ll find. It’s a small bread roll about the size of your fist, and they’re usually only 10 or 20 cents. These are commonly eaten at breakfast with a slice of meat or cheese or a spread such as jam, honey, butter, or Nutella.
Bakeries are everywhere because it’s important to have access to fresh bread every day. These bakeries will typically have delicious pastries too. If your hotel charges for breakfast, you can easily skip it and head over to a bakery instead to get an inexpensive croissant, chocolate croissant, nut swirl, or another tasty pastry.
Often bakeries will also sell small sandwiches. But remember, the bread is the star here. That little sandwich will likely have only one slice of meat or one slice of cheese, along with a tomato, a piece of lettuce, and some butter. If you need a quick lunch and you’re ok with something small, this will do.
Pretzels are a popular form of bread you’ll see throughout Germany. But they really originate from southern Germany. In Munich, you’ll sometimes see pretzels two or three times the size of normal ones.
Bakeries will sometimes sell pretzels with nothing on them, but sometimes you’ll see them with butter. It’s a little more common to find them with butter in the southern regions. And it’s delicious!
Also, the word “Bretzeln” describes that pretzel shape you’re used to seeing. But “Laugen” is the type of bread, that pretzel-looking brown color on the outside, and it comes in many different forms, like a roll or a log-shaped bread.
Of course you will see lots of sausages in Germany. If you’re traveling to different parts of the country, be sure to try whatever the local sausage is in the city you’re visiting. Sausages are definitely a regional thing, and different areas have completely unique types.
Your sausage will usually come on bread. This is one time when the bread is not the star, so sometimes it’s just a Brötchen, but I’ve even seen a cheap piece of sliced bread used to hold the sausage.
Currywurst is still sausage, but it deserves it’s own section. This is a sausage similar to a hot dog that’s been cut up into discs. Then a dollop of ketchup with curry powder in it is dropped on top. It’s a very Berlin thing, but you will find it all around Germany. This makes for a quick, cheap meal if you need one.
Another famous Berlin food, Döner can also be found in other parts of the country. It’s meat on a spit that’s shaved off into bread along with veggies, sauce, and sometimes a few fries. Döner is another great option if you want something fast and inexpensive while sightseeing in Berlin.
Many cultures have some sort of cutlet, and in the German-speaking world, it’s Schnitzel. The meat gets pounded flat, breaded, and pan fried. The famous type is Wiener Schnitzel, which is Schitzel from Vienna, and it’s made from veal. In Germany, you’ll often find Wiener Art listed on the menu, which means it’s a Schnitzel in the Vienna style, but it will be pork instead of veal. It’s still delicious.
You can also find other varieties of Schnitzel. It could have a sauce on it, it could be made with turkey, and there are several options for sides, though usually it’s potatoes.
Germans eat a lot of pork. You will find chicken, turkey, and beef on menus, but the meat of choice is usually pork. Pork knuckles, pork Schnitzel, sausages, salami, you name it. I’ve even seen spreadable meat paste made from pork. When in doubt, assume it’s pork.
Potatoes are another big staple in the German diet. Fries are called Pommes, and it’s common to use ketchup or mayo or both. Boiled potatoes or pan fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) or roasted potatoes are common side dishes. Potato salad is very common in Germany too, and I’ve seen it with mayonnaise or with vinegar. I like the vinegar version better.
There are so many varieties of potatoes that there’s a stall at our local fresh market that sells almost nothing else besides potatoes.
Speaking of potatoes, Kartoffelpuffer is a fried potato pancake you’ll find often at Christmas markets or other festivals. They’re delicious but greasy. Often they come with applesauce, but I’ve also seen garlic aioli and quark (a German spread that’s sort of halfway between sour cream and cream cheese) as options.
Sauerkraut often comes as a side dish with sausages or other meat dishes. While it was originally fermented cabbage, these days you will most likely be getting pickled cabbage. I’ve had some really tasty sauerkraut in Germany, and I definitely recommend trying it.
Another version you might see is Rotkohl. This is red cabbage instead of green/white, so it has a slightly sweeter taste.
You might not know about Spätzle, but it is a German noodle dish. They’re fresh egg noodles and usually made with cheese, sometimes gravy, and it often comes as a side dish. I’ve seen it alongside Schnitzel and other meat dishes. This is one of the foods Germans eat that I think people should try when traveling to Germany because it’s not something non-Germans usually know about.
This is a typical southern German food that is similar to a ravioli. Maultaschen is a pasta type outside with some sort of fillings, like meat, spinach, etc. They are boiled, and then sometimes pan fried. Sometimes they’re served in a soup. If you see this on a menu, I recommend trying it for something a little different.
I never knew white asparagus existed before moving to Germany. And I never realized anyone cared so passionately about a vegetable. But asparagus season is a big deal in Germany.
The asparagus grows under a cover so it doesn’t get the same sunlight as the green kind you’re used to. This variety of asparagus is also much thicker and fatter. And when spring comes, you will definitely know it’s asparagus season (Spargel zeit) because it will be everywhere. You can’t escape it.
I’ve seen asparagus on pizza, asparagus turned into a sauce, asparagus as the main meal instead of a side dish, and asparagus cheese. Yes, that’s cheese with asparagus bits in it, sold at a cheese stall in the market. Every restaurant will have at least something on the menu involving asparagus. I’ve even seen some Asian restaurants get in on the action.
If you ask for water in a restaurant in Germany, the default is fizzy water. The tap water is clean and safe to drink in Germany, but for some reason they don’t like to drink it and prefer bottled water, fizzy water in particular.
Fizzy water not your thing? Make sure you order “Stilles Wasser” (still water) to get the non-bubbly kind. It will still come to you in a bottle and with a price tag. Asking for tap water is frowned upon, and the only time I’ll do it is if I’m drinking alcohol and I figure they’re ok giving me free water alongside it.
This is a popular non-alcoholic drink option that Germans love. It’s apple juice mixed with fizzy water, and while you can technically get it with any number of juices, apple is the most common one. At a restaurant, they will mix it themselves, but you can also buy bottled Apfel Schorle at the grocery store or at a Späti.
Of course you know about the beer. Germany is probably more famous for beer than any other food. The Rheinheitsgebot is an old traditional rule about how to make beer, and it dictates that the only ingredients can be barley, hops, yeast and water. Traditional breweries still stick to this rule, holding German beer to a consistent standard.
Pils is the most common type of beer. It’s a light colored beer with a bitter flavor. If you simply order “Bier” this is what you’ll get. Hefeweizen is a wheat beer, and it’s also very common. It’s usually cloudy and not quite as bitter. And then there are loads of other varieties, such as dark beers.
There are a handful of national level beers, but mostly there are regional and local breweries. When you’re traveling around the country, ask what the local beers are and try those.
Craft beer has gained popularity over the years, especially in the bigger cities, and you can certainly find some interesting beers at craft beer bars in Berlin.
Not a beer drinker? No worries, Germany has lots of great wine too, even at beer gardens. This is home of Riesling after all. Other types worth trying include Müller-Thurgau and Spätburgunder (the German version of Pinot Noir). Sekt is a sparkling wine, sort of the German version of Champagne. You’ll find more dry than sweet here, but when ordering, you can always ask for whatever your preference is and they’ll point you in the right direction.
What food to try in Berlin
Berlin is a very international city with cuisines from all around the world. If this is your only stop in Germany, then by all means, try some German food. But remember that this isn’t like the rest of Germany, and not every restaurant is serving German food. If you’re in Berlin for a few days, try lots of different types of food.
Döner and currywurst should be on your list of foods to try in Germany, but especially in Berlin where they are said to have originated. These are quick meals that won’t break the bank, so if you’re limited on time or money, they’re good options.
Berlin has a big Turkish population, and even though the Döner has Turkish roots, there are all kinds of Turkish restaurants to try while you’re in Berlin. There’s also a large Vietnamese population in Berlin, and you’ll notice lots of Vietnamese restaurants too. Just try to stick to the ones that don’t also sell sushi.
You really can find almost anything here. There are some fantastic Thai restaurants. We’ve had wonderful Japanese food. If you’re really craving Mexican food (or a somewhat Americanized version of Mexican food) you can find some decent places here. There’s excellent Italian style pizza and fancy French food. Russian, Polish, Israeli, Indonesian…the list really does go on and on.
Keep an open mind. I know people usually want to eat the cuisine of the country they’re visiting, and with good reason, but when you travel to Berlin, you really don’t have to stick to only eating Germany food.
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Berlin Travel Resources
I want you to have the best trip to Berlin, and hopefully this list of foods to try in Germany and Berlin is helpful. But there are lots more tips on the site!
Check out this extensive list of the best things to do in Berlin. It’s full of activities, attractions, and more. If you’re staying in Berlin for more than a few days, you might want to take a day trip from Berlin. Also, if you love castles, here are some castles in and near Berlin.
Here’s what you should know before coming to Berlin. From practical tips to quirky facts about the city, it’s all in there.
You’re probably going to be using public transport to get around Berlin. Read this handy guide to Berlin’s public transport system and how to get around Berlin.
Visiting Germany? Don’t forget travel insurance!
It’s always a good idea to travel to Germany with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here is reasonably safe, but you never know when something could happen. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or become a victim to theft.
We recommend World Nomads insurance for travel. Travel insurance helps you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.