10 Christmas traditions from Europe to try at home

Blog 10 winter foods and drinks from around the world
Date: 4 November 2020

10 winter foods and drinks from around the world


As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, there’s nothing better than warming up from the inside out with a hot, hearty meal, followed by a tasty nightcap.

From rich reindeer stews to aniseed-infused milk, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite winter foods and drinks from around the world to keep you cosy until spring.

Try making some of these delicious dishes at home. Then when the world fully opens up again, you can experience the real deal, first hand!

Note: Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the availability of the activities mentioned in this article could be affected. Remember to check current travel restrictions before booking travel.

1. Finnbiff, Norway

Bowl of reindeer stew
Warm up with some reindeer stew in Norway. Photo: Jeremy Keith – Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Reindeer meat is a staple winter food in Norway. Salty, smoky and lean, it’s packed with flavour and goodness. Want to try it? Order a plate of finnbiff, or reindeer stew.

To make it, the meat is cut into strips and cooked with bacon, mushrooms, juniper berries, sour cream, thyme, and brunost – a tan-coloured ‘whey cheese’ with a distinctive caramel flavour.

The dish is filling, bursting with flavour and guaranteed to warm you up on a frosty night.

Read the finnbiff recipe here, and don’t worry if you find it difficult to get your hands on some reindeer meat, you can use other types of lean meat.

Tip: Want to try some other new flavours while in Norway? Check out these weird and wonderful Nordic foods you’ve probably never heard of for some ideas.

2. Sarmi, Bulgaria

Bowl of sarmi
Stuffed cabbage leaves never tasted so good! Photo © DescubreBulgaria.net

If you’re visiting Bulgaria, make sure you try some sarmi – rolled vine or cabbage leaves, stuffed with minced meat, rice and spices. They’re warming, healthy, and taste divine, especially when dipped in creamy Bulgarian yogurt.

Fear not vegetarians, the meat-free version, filled with rice, raisins or walnuts, is equally moreish.

Find out how to make sarmi here.

Tip: Sarmi is the perfect winter food to keep you fuelled as you explore everything Bulgaria has to offer. Don’t know where to start? Get some tips from our post on 8 places you have to visit in Bulgaria.

3. Glühwein, Germany & Glögg, Sweden


Glass cup of Glühwein next to a small wooden figure
A warming mulled wine is Germany’s winter speciality

Glühwein is Germany’s version of mulled wine. Made with red wine and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and sugar, it’s hot, sweet and spicy all at once – the perfect winter drink.

The best bit? The antioxidants packed inside each glass can ward off evil winter colds. So, go ahead, glug a glass of Glühwein, as it’s guaranteed to warm the cockles!

Find out how to make Glühwein here.

Tip: A traditional Christmas drink, you’ll find Glühwein everywhere in the lead up to the big day, not least at Germany’s fabulous Christmas markets.


Glass cup of glögg, topped with cinnamon sticks and orange slices
Go for the Swedish version of mulled wine, and add an extra shot of Christmas spirit

The Swedish version of Glühwein is glögg, and each glass is packed with ingredients. In addition to red wine, cinnamon, root ginger, orange peel, cardamom pods, cloves and sugar, the Swedes add a shot of aquavit (Scandinavian potato-based spirit) for an extra kick. And almonds and raisins are placed in the glass before the glögg is poured in. Cheers!

If you’re heading to Stockholm around Christmastime, enjoy a glass or two of glögg on this Stockholm Christmas walking tour. Admire the views of Stockholm as you stroll through the Old Town and learn about how the Swedes celebrate Christmas today, as well as how it was celebrated in times gone by.

Find out how to make glögg here.

4. Plokkfiskur, Iceland

plate of Icelandic fish stew
Fish stew makes for a filling lunch before continuing on your Icelandic adventure. Photo: Thiane – Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Iceland is renowned for its top-quality seafood. So, it’s no surprise that fiskisúpa (fish soup) is a favourite winter dish. But if you’re headed to the Land of Ice and Fire during the colder months, don’t leave without trying some tasty plokkfiskur (fish stew), which consists of haddock, potatoes, onions and béchamel sauce. It’s delicious, warming and filling.

Find out how to make plokkfiskur here.

Tip: Order some Icelandic rye bread on the side. This is the traditional way to enjoy the dish.

5. Chocolate caliente, Spain

A cup of hot chocolate with someone dipping a churro into it
Dip a churro in your thick melted chocolate as you explore the streets of Barcelona during wintertime

On a cold winter’s morning, there’s nothing better than a cup of hot chocolate, especially if you’re in Spain.

Dark and decadent, chocolate caliente is so thick, you can stand a churro in it. In fact, that’s the best way to enjoy a Spanish hot chocolate – with a side of long, sugary doughnuts. Yum!

Find out how to make hot chocolate and churros here.

6. Goulash, Hungary

A bowl of goulash with a pepper as a decoration on the top and a wooden spoon next to it
Spicy and hot, a bowl of goulash is the best way to ward off the chills when discovering Hungary

Goulash is Hungary‘s best-known national dish, but the traditional way of making it is different from the variations you’ll find outside the country.

More of a soup than a stew, it’s the perfect fodder for a cold winter’s day – think tender chunks of beef, vegetables, and plenty of paprika.

With its distinct smoky, spicy-sweet flavour, it’s the ideal way to round off a busy winter’s day exploring Buda and Pest (aka Budapest).

Find out how to make goulash here.

Tip: If it’s too cold to walk around the city, why not spend an afternoon in one of Budapest’s many thermal baths?

7. Cheese fondue, Switzerland

hands holding fondue forks dipping boiled potatoes into the cheese fondue
Fondue is a classic winter warmer in Switzerland, best enjoyed when shared with good friends and some white wine

If you like cheese, you’ll love fondue. This traditional Swiss dish, that originated in the Alps, is extremely popular in winter. Ideal for sharing, people spend many a cold night dipping crusty bread and potatoes into communal pots of hot, gooey cheese (usually Gruyère and Emmental, or Vacherin).

Traditionally served with tea or white wine, and a shot of kirsch (cherry brandy), it’s delicious, but heavy. You’ve been warned!

Find out how to make Swiss cheese fondue here.

Tip: Staying in Geneva? Book a day trip to Gruyère, visit the La Maison du Gruyeres cheese factory, and taste the world-famous Gruyère cheese.

8. Anijsmelk, the Netherlands

two cups of anijsmelk with some star anise and spoons in the foreground
The Dutch like their warm milk with an aniseed kick

Anijsmelk is a Dutch drink consisting of hot milk, flavoured with aniseed and sweetened with sugar.

The warmth of the milk and the soothing qualities of the aniseed will make you want to curl up and snooze. Perfect for those long winter nights in the Netherlands!

Find out how to make anijsmelk here.

Tip: If you’re in Amsterdam between November and January, don’t miss the city’s famous Festival of Lights.

9. Latke, Israel

two latke potato pancakes on a plate
Latkes can be found in many different countries and cultures, but they’re eaten mostly around the time of Hanukkah

Latkes are a perfect winter warmer. They’re pancakes consisting of shredded potato, onion, egg, flour, and breadcrumbs, and can be found in many places all over the world, but namely Israel.

These crispy treats are fried in oil, and symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah, when a small jug of oil kept the menorah in the Jewish temple lit for eight days, instead of just one.

Served hot, with apple sauce or sour cream, latkes will warm (and fill) your belly nicely while you’re exploring Tel Aviv

Find out how to make latkes here.

10. Locro, Argentina

Bowl of Argentinian locro with beans and meat and a plate of white bread next to it
The best way to enjoy locro is with some slices of freshly-baked bread. Photo: Stevage – Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

While you may not associate Argentina with cold weather, it can get pretty nippy in the winter months. But thankfully, they have the perfect dish to counteract the frost.

Locro, a national dish of Argentina, is a thick, hearty soup that was introduced by indigenous tribes living in the Andes during the time of the Incan empire. Nowadays, the dish is most popular in the northern regions of the country.

Typically made with hominy (whole corn kernels that have been soaked in a lime solution), beans, onions, potatoes, and meat, it’s best-served piping-hot with a side of crusty, freshly-baked bread.

Find out how to make locro here.

Tip: If you’re planning a trip to Argentina, be sure to read our tips on Argentina for first-timers. It’s a vast country – you’ll need help figuring out what to prioritise!

Get your fill of Norwegian

Glass cup of Glühwein with Christmas lights behind it
Travel the world, warm up with Glühwein and earn CashPoints

This assortment of winter dishes and drinks will certainly keep you warm while discovering a new destination.

And don’t forget, you can get more out of your culinary travels with Norwegian Reward. Every time you book a tour, hotel, or hire a car, you’ll earn CashPoints which can be used towards future trips with Norwegian. Bon appetit!


10 Christmas traditions from Europe to try at home