German cuisine is not only Frankfurt sausages and Bavarian beer, but also a variety of vegetable soups, aromatic breads and a rich selection of baked, fried, stewed, smoked and dried dishes from all possible types of meat. There are also regional variations of traditional dishes, more than 1400 breweries, about 15 varieties of wine and unique Christmas sweets. And although German cuisine is considered one of the highest in calories in Europe, the food-savvy traveler can find a large number of world-class restaurants in Germany, and those who travel on a budget will be delighted by the numerous southern European, Eastern and traditional German places offering delicious lunches for a reasonable price.

Peculiarities of German сuisine

Like the language, German cuisine varies greatly depending on the region and the crops available there. The north of Germany is a region of seafood and multigrain dark bread. The dishes here are close to Scandinavian cuisine. A lot of potatoes, green cabbage and berries are used in their preparation, and the combinations of ingredients may seem exotic for some. South German cuisine, especially in Bavaria, is more floury, rich in dairy products, wheat products and, of course, a wide selection of beers.

The West Rhine lands are distinguished by their winemaking traditions, known here since Roman times. Vast vineyards are found in Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. White wine accounts for 65% of all wine produced in Germany (mainly Riesling and Müller-Thurgau), while Pinot Noir and Dornfelder are the most popular red varieties.

German wine regions

Aromatic gingerbread and other sweets are no less popular in western Germany. Interestingly, the Rhine region is sometimes not limited exclusively to Germany, since neighboring Belgium, Luxembourg and France have similar dishes and culinary traditions.

In eastern Germany, some dishes created during the GDR era are still in use (and are back in style in some regions): Ketwurst — ketchup plus sausage, Krusta — the East German analogue of pizza, only square, baked on a baking sheet. Also in the east, you can taste traditional dishes of the already defunct German eastern lands, for example, Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in white sauce).

Regional dishes of Germany

The table is made in such a way that one city represents one region and only the most classic traditional dishes are mentioned in it, so that when traveling to Germany one knows what he has to try. Hovering the cursor over the question mark near the name of the dish, displays the German name.

CitySoupsAppetizersMain courses
BerlinCabbage soupCooked smoked sausageBerlin-style liver
MunichMeatball SoupPretzelBaked pork
FrankfurtFrankfurt lentil soupFrankfurt sausagesFrankfurt green sauce
HamburgBlack SoupSmoked sausagesStuffed oxtail
StuttgartPancake soupRaw smoked sausageDumplings
CologneBeer soupRye bunHeaven and Earth
DresdenPotato soupCheesecakesDresden chopped cutlet

Regional desserts and drinks in Germany

German sweets are distinguished by an abundance of flour and berries, which is also due to the geographical location and traditions of agriculture. As for beer, a separate chapter of this article is devoted to it.

CityDessertsBeerOther drinks
BerlinRum cakeBerliner WeisseCask lemonade
MunichHot dumplingsPaulanerFruit Schnapps
FrankfurtFrankfurt gingerbreadHenningerApple wine
HamburgBerry puddingHolstenCumin Schnapps
StuttgartSwabian PuddingSchwabenbräuTrollinger
CologneBerg wafflesKölschRiesling
DresdenStollen cakeFeldschlößchenRiesling

History — what influenced German cuisine?

For a long time, there was no unified Germany, and individual regions honed their culinary skills in close connection alongside the non-German people. So, Bavarian cuisine is close to Austrian cuisine, and that, in turn, borrowed a lot from the Balkans. Gulasch-Suppe, popular in the south, is only an adaptation of Hungarian goulash, and bean soup came to Germany from Serbia.

In the western regions, on the Rhine, onion soup (Zwiebelsuppe) is quite popular due to French influences. It is not known for certain who first came up with the idea to mix potato starch with red berries, but the specialty of northern Germany, Rote Grütze (or as they say in northern Germany, Rode Grütt) is known in Denmark as Rødgrød and literally translated as red porridge

The situation is even more complicated in the east, because for a long time the Polish Silesia and Russian Kaliningrad (Königsberg) regions were inhabited mainly by German-speaking residents, and the regions themselves had long-standing culinary traditions closely intertwined with Polish and Baltic cuisine. Often, the same dishes have two names, and disputes about the origin of individual dishes between Germans and Poles are still ongoing. For example, the meat delicacy Rouladen (oven-baked smoked bacon with pickles wrapped in a thin piece of veal or beef) in Poland has been known as rolada śląska. In addition, in the lands that were a part of the GDR, dishes from Russian and Ukrainian cuisines, for example, solyanka, are still popular.

Popular foreign cuisine in Germany

There are numerous fast food places in major German cities: from the usual chain restaurants to small oriental eateries. As a multicultural country with a large number of immigrants, Germany has many restaurants serving Middle Eastern, Asian, South and Eastern European cuisine.

It should be noted that the quality control of food and catering in Germany is at the highest level, so you can safely have a snack right on the street or dine in a cafe in chinatown.

Foreign dishes are most prevalent in fast food — today almost 75% of all street food consists of the most famous dishes of Turkish, American and Italian cuisine.

Restaurants serving Italian, Greek and Spanish cuisine are the most popular. This is not solely because a fairly large number of immigrants from these countries are in Germany, but due to the countries being the main travel destinations of Germans themselves.

Gourmet cuisine in Germany and Michelin stars

When it comes to gourmet cuisine, here, as in many other areas of German life, you can trace a clear division into western and eastern parts. For various economic reasons, there is not a single restaurant in the east that has received the highest Michelin rating. Sometimes exquisite restaurants are located in five-star hotels. For example, the Schwarzwaldstube restaurant is located at the spa and hotel complex in the picturesque Black Forest region, so a visit to an elite restaurant can be combined with a trip to nature and some spa procedures.

Three-star Michelin restaurants

Every year the rating is updated in accordance with the dishes offered and the quality of the chef's work. Curiously, the design of the restaurant and customer service are considered secondary criteria for evaluation.

LandCityRestaurantYear of award
BavariaRottach-EgernRestaurant Überfahrt Christian Jürgens2014
Baden-WürttembergBaiersbronnRestaurant Bareiss2008
HamburgHamburgThe Table Kevin Fehling2016
Lower SaxonyWolfsburgAqua2009
Rhineland-PalatinateDreisWaldhotel Sonnora1999
SaarlandPerl-NenningVictor's Fine Dining by Christian Bau2006
SaarlandSaarbrückenGästeHaus Klaus Erfort2008
North Rhine-WestphaliaBergisch GladbachVendôme2005

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How much does it cost to eat in Germany?

The table shows the average cost of lunch in different cities in Germany according to the statistical average of each city.

CityLunch at a fast food restaurantBusiness lunch in the downtown areaDinner for two in a restaurant
Berlin10 USD15 USD47 USD
MunichUSD19 USD59 USD
Frankfurt11 USD21 USD51 USD
Hamburg10 USD12 USD56 USD
Stuttgart10 USD12 USD56 USD
Cologne10 USD14 USD61 USD
DresdenUSD11 USD52 USD

How to navigate the different types of restaurants and bars in Germany?

Gasthaus/Gasthof/Landhaus/Pension — this is the name of the traditional German roadside motels, which usually have a bar, restaurant or a banquet hall. A good option for those travelers, who want to save money and try the local cuisine. Also found in Switzerland and Austria.

Biergarten (literally "beer garden") is a summer beer bar, where tables are located on a square surrounded by trees. Some biergärten are very large: for example, the Hirschgarten in Munich can accommodate about 8 thousand guests.

Ratskeller / Ratsklause — a drinking establishment, which is located in the basement of the city hall. For example, the Bremen Wine Cellar.

Bierhalle / Bierpalast / Bierstube — large pubs, which can be found in almost every German city with a population of over 100 thousand people.

Brauhaus / Bräustüberl / Pannhaus / Bräues — sometimes referred to a tasting bar at the brewery (as well as the brewery itself).

German beers: Endless variety

Beer sommeliers distinguish over twenty varieties of this traditional German hop beverage. The beer itself attracts more than a million tourists to German cities every year, especially during the "beer festivals" in the summer and autumn months. Lagers are subdivided into several main varieties. Each variety has its own history and origin, a special method of preparation, and taste.

VarietyOriginFeaturesProportion of alcohol
Bock/MaibockLower SaxonyStrong6.3-7.2%
Doppelbock/EisbockMunichThe strongest9-14%
Zwickel/KellerRhineland-PalatinateUnfilteredup to 5%

Ales in Germany are mainly represented by Bavarian wheat beers (German Weizenbier), although in some large German cities traditional wheat beers form an important part of local traditions.

VarietyWhere to tryFeaturesProportion of alcohol
AltDüsseldorfDark, wheat4.8%
Berliner WeisseBerlinSour ale3%
GoseLeipzigWith coriander4-5%
DunkelweizenBavariaDark, wheat4-7%
WeizenbockBavariaStrong, wheat7-10%
HefeweizenBavariaWheat > 50%4-7%
KristalweissBavariaFiltered, wheat4-7%
The most popular beer among Germans, according to opinion polls

Even if Bavarian beer is the best, today it is not the most popular among the Germans themselves. German regionalism can be traced literally in everything, including loyalty to local beer brands.

KrombacherNorth-Rhine WestphaliaKreuztal10%
WarsteinerNorth-Rhine WestphaliaWarstein9.7%
König PilsenerNorth-Rhine WestphaliaDuisburg7.8%
VeltinsNorth-Rhine WestphaliaMeschede7.2%
OettingerBavariaOettingen in Bayern5%
Largest beer producers in Germany
  1. Oettinger
  2. Krombacher
  3. Bitburger
  4. Veltinis
  5. Warsteiner
  6. Beck's
  7. Paulaner
  8. Hasseröder
  9. Radeberger Pilsener
  10. Erdinger Weißbier
Where and when to drink beer?
  • March – April
  • August
  • November – December
Hamburger DOM1329
Munich20 Apr – 8 MayMünchen Frühlingsfest1810
Stuttgart21 Apr – 18 MayStuttgarter Frühlingsfest1818
Erlangen17-28 MayErlangen Bergkirchweih1755
Hanover29 Jun – 8 JulSchützenfest1529
Kulmbach29 Jun – 6 AugKulmbach Bierwoche1939
Forheim20-30 JulForchheimer Annafest1840
Berlin3-5 AugInternationales Berliner Bierfestival2001
Straubing10-20 AugGäubodenvolksfest1812
Manching25-28 AugBarthelmarkt1354
Lammersdorf25-28 AugLimmersdorfer Lindenkirchweih1729
Munich22 Sep – 7 OctOktoberfest1810
Berlin22 Sep – 7 OctOktoberfest1950
Hanover28 Sep – Oct 14Oktoberfest1964
Stuttgart28 Sep – Oct 14Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest1818
Bremen13-29 OctFreimarkt1035

Interesting facts

  • German beer is considered one of Germany's top export commodities and is subject to very strict quality control. The Reinheitsgebot (purity law) has been in effect in Germany since 1516. Under this law, beer can only contain three ingredients: water, barley, and hops. Yeast was not included in the text of the original law, since humanity did not yet know about its existence.
  • The recipe for the famous North German delicacy — Lubeck marzipan — is kept secret and has its roots in the era of the Hanseatic trading cities. In Lübeck itself there is a marzipan museum.
  • Germany has the only airport brewery in the world — Airbräu in Munich. In the spacious courtyard of the airport, under a huge glass canopy, a beer garden is open in summer and a Christmas market in winter.

Books about German cuisine