Though traditional dishes like dumplings, Wurst (sausages), pastries, and beer may make Germany seem the worst possible place to eat healthfully, in reality, restaurants are offering foreign foods and neue Küche (modern cuisine). Chefs trained in Switzerland, France, or Italy return to Germany to open Continental restaurants, and Italians and Turks, many of whom originally came to Germany as "guest workers," own restaurants featuring their own culinary traditions.

Regional Specialties

  • Bavaria & Franconia: In southern Germany, you can feast on such hearty fare as Leberkäs (a chilled mold of minced pork, beef, and liver), Knödel (dumplings or soaked bread), Haxen (pork or veal trotters, most often consumed with Sauerkraut), Rostbratwürste (small finger sausages), and Leberknödel (large liver dumplings in a clear broth). Schweinwurst mit Kraut (pork sausages with Sauerkraut) is another unforgettable local dish.
  • Lower Saxony & Schleswig-Holstein: Here in northwest Germany, with its maritime tradition, a typical local dish is Aalsuppe -- sweet-and-sour eel soup flavored with bacon, vegetables, and sometimes even pears and prunes (or perhaps other fruits). The sailor's favorite is Labskaus, a ground-together medley of pork, salt herring, and beef, along with potatoes and beets. The traditional topping is a fried egg and a side dish of cucumbers. Bruntes Huhn is salt beef on a bed of diced vegetables, a robust winter favorite. Rollmops, pickled herring rolled in sour cream, is another local specialty, as is Finkenwerder Scholle (plaice) and oysters, raw or baked with cheese.
  • Berlin: During those cold nights in old Prussia, Berliners took comfort in their soups, notably Kohlsuppe (cabbage soup) and Erbsensuppe (pea soup), along with dark bread, especially Westphalia pumpernickel. Hase im Topf is a delicious rabbit pâté. Other favorites are Bratwurst, a pork sausage, and Regensburger Wurst, a spicy pork sausage. For dessert, Berliners like Kugelhupf, a marvelous coffeecake, and Käsekuchen, or cheesecake. But probably the most typical Berlin delicacy is Eisbein (pigs' knuckles).
  • Hassen & Westphalia: Famed for its hams, this region eats food guaranteed to put hair on your chest. Sample their Sulperknochen, made from the pigs' trotters (feet), ears, and tail, and served traditionally with pea pudding and pickled cabbage. Try Tüttchen, a ragout of herb-flavored calves' heads and calves' brains, or settle for Pickert, sweet-potato cakes flavored with raisins.
  • Baden-Württemberg: In the southern region around Stuttgart, begin with such dishes as Schneckensuppe (snail soup), Spätzle (egg-based pasta), or perhaps Maultaschen (ravioli stuffed with ground meat, spinach, and calves' brains). A dish beloved in the area and widely consumed is Geschnetzeltes (slices of veal in a cream sauce). The favorite local dish in Stuttgart itself is Gaisburger Marsch, a beef stew. Another commonly served dish is Rostbraten, braised beef, invariably accompanied by Sauerkraut or Linsen mit Saiten, lentil stew cooked with sausages.
  • Saxony & Thuringia: In eastern Germany, you can feast on everything from Linsensuppe mit Thüringer Rotwurst (lentil soup with Thuringian sausages) to Rinderzunge in Rosinen-Sauce (calves' tongues in grape sauce). Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup) remains a favorite of the district, as does a baked appetizer, Quarkkeulchen, made from curd, boiled potatoes, flour, sugar, and raisins, topped with cinnamon and served with applesauce. Each city in the district also has its own popular local dishes. Leipzig, for example, has its Leipziger Allerlei, a blend of carrots, peas, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, crayfish, oxtails, bits of veal, and dumplings.
  • Rhineland: The Rhineland features dishes that have made Germans the subject of good-natured ridicule, especially in neighboring France. For example, there's Saumagen, stuffed pork belly with pickled cabbage. Also beloved is Schweinepfeffer, a highly seasoned and spicy pork ragout that's thickened with pig blood. After that feast, it's on to Hämchen, pork trotters with pickled cabbage and potatoes, or else Sauerbraten, beef marinated in wine vinegar and spices. Postwar Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was a Rhinelander, and one of his favorite foods was Reibekuchen, small potato pancakes with a blueberry sauce or applesauce. Taverns along the Rhine fill up when Federweisser, partially fermented new wine, comes in. They drink it while devouring onion tarts.

The Best of the Wurst

The German love affair with Wurst (sausage) dates from the dawn of history. Every region of Germany has its own specialty, but the overall favorite seems to be Bratwurst from Nürnberg, made of seasoned and spiced pork. Germans often take their Wurst with a bun and a dab of mustard. Weisswurst (white sausage) is a medley of veal, calves' brains, and spleen. Bauernwurst (farmer's sausage) and Knockwurst are variations of the Frankfurter, which originated (naturally) in Frankfurt. (Oddly enough, small Frankfurters, which are called wieners or Vienna sausages in the United States and Wienerwurst in Germany, are known as Frankfurters in Austria.) Leberwurst (made from liver) is a specialty of Hesse. Rinderwurst and Blutwurst (beef sausage and blood sausage) are Westphalian specialties and are often eaten with Steinhäger (corn brandy).


For variety and quality, German beer is unequaled. The world's oldest brewery is in Bavaria, but other regions in Germany have proud beer-making traditions. Export beers and the rather more bitter Pils, the most popular type of beer, are also produced in Berlin, Hamburg, the Ruhr, Hesse, and Stuttgart. Altbier, a very early product of the brewer's art, can be found today all over Germany.

In Germany, if you go into a beer hall and ask the bartender for ein Bier, you'll probably get the standard stock beer, Vollbier, which is 4% alcohol. More potent is Export at 5% or Bockbier at 6%. Connoisseurs specify the type of beer they want and often the brewery. The following is a bit of beer vocabulary. When the malt has been darkly roasted and fermented for much longer, it becomes dunkles Bier, or dark beer. Doppelbock is an extra-dark beer with a 6% alcoholic content. Helles Bier is light and brewed from malt dried and baked by the local brewery, or Brauerei. Many Germans, especially the citizens of Bamberg, like their beer "smoked." If that appeals to you, request Rauchbier. In nearby Bayreuth, Richard Wagner's old hometown, locals prefer a "steam beer" known as Dampfbier. The denizens of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt can often be heard requesting Alt, a brown, barley-malt brew. Kölsch is a light beer drunk mainly in Cologne in tall fluted glasses. Hefeweizen is a yeasty wheat beer consumed often with a squeeze of lemon. Berliner Weisse is made from wheat, like a Bavarian white beer, but with a dash of raspberry or woodruff syrup. Dark and sweet, malt beer has hardly any alcohol, whereas Starkbier is a powerful beer served when the barrels are opened after the post-Lenten celebrations in March. It has the highest alcohol content of them all. Finally, Pils, or pilsner, beers are light and contain more hops. Dortmund has earned a reputation in this field.

O' zapfstisl ("The Barrel Is Tapped") -- The oldest brewery in the world is at Weihenstephan, a former Benedictine monastery 30km (19 miles) northeast of Munich in Old Bavaria. It dates from the year 1040, although there is evidence that a hop garden already existed near the grounds of the monastery in A.D. 768. The monks here brought beer to the masses in Europe. Even today, the oldest brewery within Munich itself, Augustiner, reflects brewing's monastic heritage.

Over the centuries, monks brewed a strong beer for consumption during the fasting period of Lent, during which they were technically supposed to drink only water. The story goes that the pope heard about this custom and ordered that the beer be transported to Rome for him to sample. When the pope finally tasted the beer after its long journey (it didn't have preservatives back then), he decided it tasted foul and decreed that the beer was strong enough punishment for the Bavarian monks to drink it during Lent. Today, all Munich breweries brew this strong beer during Lent; Salvator and Triumphator are the best-known brands. Ator in German means a strong beer. By long-standing tradition, the names of German Doppelbock Bier (a type of strong beer) end with an "-ator" suffix.


Germany has produced delightful wines for centuries, but sometime in the 1970s, German wine became the butt of jokes. The postwar German economic miracle had led to a boom in wine production. Many new vineyards sprang up suddenly, and quality was not always their first priority. Cheap, cloyingly sweet table wines flooded the market. One label in particular, Liebfraumilch, began to sully the reputation of the entire industry; the mere mention of its name to anyone in the know met with a knowing titter or contemptuous sneer. Today, however, German viticulture has many smaller producers producing excellent wines.

Good German wine is renowned for its natural lightness and its delicate balance of sweetness and acidity. Most vineyards flourish on steep hillsides, protected from harsh winds by wooded neighboring hills, especially on the banks of the Rhine and Mosel rivers and their tributaries. The vineyards profit from the warmth reflected off the sunlit water. The slow maturing of the grapes gives German wines their typical fresh, fruity acidity.

Germany does produce red wine, but as a rule it's better to stick to white or perhaps a rosé. Trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (semidry) are often given on the labels; look for them if you want to escape anything sweet. This avoidance, however, should not extend to the dessert wines, which resemble nectar.

The overload of information on a German wine label is often puzzling to foreigners, but it's not really that hard to decipher. First of all, the grape variety should be indicated. Legally, German wines are only required to contain 85% of the declared variety. The classic is Riesling, which can range widely in taste from fruity to spicy. Other grapes include Weissburgunder, used to make dry wines, often with an aroma of melon or pear, and Scheurebe, which produces delicious, high-quality wine with the aroma of red currant. No grape reference on the label often means a poorly blended, inferior-quality wine.

"Vintage" refers to when the grapes were grown (not harvested). The question of origin is also something to keep an eye on. It's best if the label gives a single vineyard, but these can be distinguished from the less specific vineyard zones only if you are in the know or can consult a pocket guide, such as Johnson's.

Next, check for the level of ripeness. German law distinguishes between Tafelwein (table wine) and Qualitätswein (quality wine). QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) on a bottle means the wine is made from the approved grape varieties, which will give it the particular and traditional taste of its region. QmP refers to Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (wine with distinction) and carries one of six special attributes. These, in order of ascending price, are Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese (BA), Eiswein, and the exclusive Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA).

As a classification, Kabinett was first used by Eberbach Abbey in 1712 to denote quality. This wine is especially good as an aperitif with light snacks or veal. The mildly sweet and fruity Auslese from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region and the rich Spätlese are well suited to richer dishes such as duck, smoked fowl, and oysters. Those trocken and halbtrocken Rieslings from the Rheingau and Mosel-Saar-Ruwer are perfect with pork, sausages, and Sauerkraut, as well as with mild cheeses. A fuller-bodied Riesling Spätlese and Auslese Trocken from Rheingau or Pfalz goes excellently with wild boar and lobster. The rarest vintages, those sweet wines carrying the BA and TBA designations, are best left for anything oily or pungent in flavor, such as goose-liver pâté or rich cheeses. They are also wonderful with desserts.

Many foreign visitors tour one of the winegrowing districts. Since reunification, a number of wine districts have emerged in eastern Germany; however, the traditional German wine country, stretching from the middle Rhine at Bonn down to Lake Constance on the Swiss border, is still the most charming, with its classic scenery of imposing castle ruins, elegant spas, and Brothers Grimm villages replete with spires and black-and-white gabled houses.

Meats & Poultry (Wurst, Fleisch & Geflügel)

Aufschnitt -- Cold cuts

Beefsteak -- Hamburger steak

Brathuhn -- Roasted chicken

Bratwurst -- Grilled sausage

Eisbein -- Pigs' knuckles

Ente -- Duck

Frankfurter -- Hot dog

Gans -- Goose

Hammel -- Mutton

Kalb -- Veal

Kassler Rippchen -- Pork chops

Lamm -- Lamb

Leber -- Liver

Ragout -- Stew

Rinderbraten -- Roast beef

Rindfleisch -- Beef

Sauerbraten -- Marinated beef

Schinken -- Ham

Schnitzel -- Cutlet

Schweinebraten -- Roast pork

Tafelspitz -- Boiled beef usually served with applesauce and horseradish -- a famous staple of Austria

Truthahn -- Turkey

Wiener schnitzel -- Breaded veal cutlet

Wurst -- Sausage

Fish (Fisch)

Aal -- Eel

Forelle -- Trout

Hecht -- Pike

Karpfen -- Carp

Lachs -- Salmon

Makrele -- Mackerel

Muschel -- Mussel

Rheinsalm -- Rhine salmon

Schellfisch -- Haddock

Seezunge -- Sole

Eggs (Eier)

Eier in der Schale -- Boiled eggs

Mit Speck -- With bacon

Rühreier -- Scrambled eggs

Spiegeleier -- Fried eggs

Verlorene Eier -- Poached eggs

Vegetables (Gemüse)

Artischocken -- Artichokes

Blumenkohl -- Cauliflower

Bohnen -- Beans

Bratkartoffeln -- Fried potatoes

Champignon -- Mushroom

Erbsen -- Peas

Grüne Bohnen -- Green or string beans

Gurken -- Cucumbers

Karotten -- Carrots

Kartoffel -- Potato

Kartoffelbrei -- Mashed potatoes

Kartoffelsalat -- Potato salad

Knödel -- Dumplings

Kohl -- Cabbage

Reis -- Rice

Rettich -- Radish

Rote Rüben -- Beets

Rotkraut -- Red cabbage

Salat -- Lettuce

Salzkartoffeln -- Boiled potatoes

Sellerie -- Celery

Spargel -- Asparagus

Spinat -- Spinach

Steinpilze -- Boletus mushrooms

Tomaten -- Tomatoes

Weisse Rüben -- Turnips

Desserts (Nachtisch)

Auflauf -- Soufflé

Bienenstich -- Honey almond cake

Blatterteiggebäck -- Puff pastry

Bratapfel -- Baked apple

Dolce di Castagne -- Chestnut roll

Eis -- Ice cream

Kaffeecreme -- Coffee mousse

Käse -- Cheese

Kirschtorte -- Black Forest cake

Kompott -- Stewed fruit

Obstkuchen -- Fruit tart

Obstsalat -- Fruit salad

Pfannkuchen -- Sugared pancakes

Pflaumenkompott -- Stewed plums

Schlagsahne -- Whipped cream

Schokolademus -- Chocolate mousse

Tarte Tatin -- A tart filled with, most often, apples

Topfenpalatschinken -- Cottage cheese pancakes

Zwetschkenknodel -- Plum dumplings

Fruits (Obst)

Ananas -- Pineapple

Apfel -- Apple

Apfelsine -- Orange

Banane -- Banana

Birne -- Pear

Erdbeeren -- Strawberries

Himberren -- Raspberries

Kirschen -- Cherries

Pfirsich -- Peach

Weintrauben -- Grapes

Zitrone -- Lemon

Beverages (Getränke)

Bier -- Beer

Ein dunkles -- A dark beer

Ein helles -- A light beer

Eine Tasse Kaffee -- A cup of coffee

Eine Tasse Tee -- A cup of tea

Eistee -- Ice tea

Geist -- Brandy

Hiesse Schokolade -- Hot chocolate

Kaffee -- Coffee

Kaffee mit Rahm/Milch/Zucker -- Coffee with cream/milk/sugar

Kaffee mit Suss-stoff -- Coffee with artificial sweetener

Kaffee Schwarz -- Black coffee

Koffeinfrei -- Decaffeinated coffee

Kräutertee -- Herb tea

Leicht -- Light (wine)

Likör -- Liqueur

Limonade -- Lemonade

Milch -- Milk

Mineralwasser -- Mineral water

Mit Eis -- With ice

Mit Wasser -- With water

Ohne Eis -- Without ice

Ohne Wasser -- Without water

Pur -- Straight

Rotwein -- Red wine

Saft -- Juice

Schaumwein -- Sparkling wine

Schnaps -- Schnapps

Schokolade -- Chocolate

Soda -- Club soda

Soda mit gas -- Soda with gas (to make sure your club soda is carbonated)

Süss -- Sweet (wine)

Tee mit Milch -- Tea with cream

Tee mit Zitrone -- Tea with lemon

Trocken -- Dry (wine)

Wasser -- Water

Weisswein -- White wine

Condiments & Table Items (Würze & Tafelgeschirr)

Brot -- Bread

Brötchen -- Rolls

Butter -- Butter

Eis -- Ice

Essig -- Vinegar

Flasche -- Bottle

Gabel -- Fork

Glas -- Glass

Kalte pikante sosse -- Ketchup

Löffel -- Spoon

Messer -- Knife

Öl -- Oil

Pfeffer -- Pepper

Platte -- Plate

Sahne -- Cream

Salat Zubereitung -- Salad dressing

Salz -- Salt

Senf -- Mustard

Tasse -- Cup

Teller -- Platter

Tischzeug -- Napkin

Zucker -- Sugar

Cooking Terms

Gebacken -- Baked

Gebraten -- Fried

Gedämpft -- Steamed

Gefüllt -- Stuffed

Gekocht -- Boiled

Geröstet -- Roasted

Gut durchgebraten -- Well done

Heiss -- Hot

Kaltes -- Cold

Mittep -- Medium

Nicht durchgebraten -- Rare

Paniert -- Breaded

Pochiert -- Poached

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.