One of the holiday season’s most popular traditional treats, especially in central and southern Europe, is marzipan, which may be the oldest classic Christmas confection. Marzipan, a candy-paste derived from almonds and sugar, either originated in the Middle East or passed through there on its way to Europe at some time during the Middle Ages. It was likely first introduced in the Muslim kingdoms of Andalusia in Spain and in Southern Italy. By the time of the Renaissance, marzipan had spread to much of Europe.
At some point between the 15th and 17th centuries, marzipan made it to the Holy Roman Empire, where it was embraced as a holiday treat. Production of marzipan became a cottage industry in the cities of the Baltic Sea region, especially in Lubeck, which became the defacto marzipan capital of Europe. So popular did Lubeck-brand marzipan become that in the late 20th century “Lubecker Marzipan” became a protected trademark.
In 1806, Johann Georg Niederegger opened a confection shop that specialized in marzipan. By the end of the 19th century the Niederegger shop produced the finest marzipan in Lubeck. Its candies were shipped all over Europe; one of its regular customers was the Russian royal family. The Niederegger Café itself was one of the most popular cafes in the city, and required numerous expansions over the years. It is still in operation today, and is one of the favorite shops in the city, both at Christmas and throughout the year.
The Niederegger Café is located close to the town hall in downtown Lubeck, approximately 35 miles northeast of Hamburg and 145 miles northwest of Berlin. The huge café is always busy. Next door is the Niederegger Salon, a marzipan museum of sorts, where patrons can ponder the history of marzipan while indulging. The café is open weekdays from 9:00am-7:00pm, Saturdays from 9:00am-6:00pm and Sundays from 10:00am-6:00pm. Web: www.niederegger.de (official website of the Niederegger Café)