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On a Roll with European Breakfasts

By Rick Steves Modified: March 27, 2013 at 10:26 am •  Published: March 27, 2013

        The Scandinavian breakfast buffet is the perennial favorite for the “most food on the table” award. It pays to take advantage of breakfast smorgasbords when you can. For about $20 (cheap for these parts), you can dig into an all-you-can-eat extravaganza of fresh bread, cheeses, yogurt, cereal, boiled eggs, herring, cold cuts, and coffee or tea. In another variation on cereal and milk, Scandinavians like to pour thick yogurt over their granola.

        Throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe, expect a more modest buffet--but you’ll still find plenty of cheeses, meats, fruit, yogurt, and cereal. In Poland, track down “jajecznica,”the local wake-up call of eggs scrambled with kielbasa sausage, served with a side of potato pancakes. The breakfast of choice in Russia is “oladi,” pancakes perfectly fried to be crisp on the outside but soft in the middle, then topped with sour cream, honey, or berries.

        Germans have an endearing habit of greeting others in the breakfast room with a slow and dour “Morgen”(Morning… short for “good morning”), though they have plenty to be happy about. Breakfast is usually included, and offers hearty fuel for the day: ham, eggs, cheese, bread, rolls, and pots of coffee. For a filling cereal, try “Bircher Musli,”a healthful mix of oats, nuts, yogurt, and fruit. If breakfast is optional, take a walk to the nearest bakery--Germany and Austria have a world of enticing varieties of bread and pastries, baked fresh every morning.

        Come to the European breakfast table with an adventurous spirit. I’m a traditionalist at home, but when I feel the urge for an American breakfast in Europe, I beat it to death with a hard roll.


 (Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at and follow his blog on Facebook.)