Entrance to the Home of the Elves, Cologne, Germany

Bratwurst & Baubles, Cologne at Christmas

In Christmas, Europe, Germany, Memories, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Why Germany cuts the mustard.

If you only ever try one Christmas Market, make it a real German Christmas Market, you really won’t be disappointed. We first went to Cologne in 2006, skipped it in 2007 for the sunny climes of Costa Rica and then sampled Strasbourg at Christmas in 2008.
 
In 2009 we returned to Cologne and have continued to return every year since then, there is something quite magical about it.

Entrance to the Home of the Elves, Cologne, Germany

Why? We often get asked, return to the same destination time and again, but for us every year is different.

The markets have continually evolved and in Cologne there are 6 Christmas markets sprinkled around the city, which all have their own unique theme.

The old ice rink at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Not only do the markets keep evolving, but even the culinary delights have a different twist each year. Which is sometimes disappointing if you have favourite, but there are always new treats to try.

The new ice rink & more at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

We like to treat our annual pilgrimage as a mini road trip, therefore, we always drive and catch the Le Shuttle. From Calais to Cologne it is around 260 miles (420km) and should take around 4 to 4 ½ hours, weather dependent (as snow is often a factor).

Gary points out that it’s 3 roads, and 99% motorways, with the last 4 miles (6.4 km) being through Cologne. It’s a day when we touch 5 countries en-route, leaving the UK, through France & Belgium, briefly touching southern Holland before entering Germany.

The Dom towers over the Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

Cologne hosts one of Germany’s most popular Christmas markets, with the Dom Cathedral being the VIP of the party. The Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom, which the cathedral looks down upon, is a festival of little red wooden cabins, lovingly decorated.

The centre piece for this market is the 25 meter tall Christmas tree that has hundreds of tiny lights draped from it, to give the effect of a twinkling parasol folding around you. This is particularly wonderful on a misty evening with darkness drawing in.
 
We have sooo many memories & keepsakes from our Cologne Christmas market trips, that it’s struggle to condense them all.

From the wonderful joyous atmosphere on the streets, to the welcoming locals in the bars.

We still have a beer mat that a German businessman wrote upon and recommended a small town for us to visit in Bavaria. We visited it as part of our Lakes and Lederhosen tour,

Beer mats from Bierhaus en d`r Salzgass

Now come 2016 we are including Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in our 5 town German Christmas market tour.

However, there are always stand out points on any trip. Here are ours…

Our favourite travel reads






Highlights


First and foremost, it has to be the six markets.

The centrepeice for Cologne as mentioned above, is the Dom market with its impressive Gothic Cathedral, which was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996. Work begun on this imposing cathedral in 1248, but was not finally completed until 1880.

A view over the Dom Market, Cologne, Germany

At Christmas this square is turned into a sea of red with its 150 stalls.


The 2nd market on the list, and my favourite, is ‘Heimat der Heinzel’. A market in Cologne Old Town also known as ‘Home of the Elves’. This is Cologne’s largest market and spreads from Kolner Altstadt to the end of Heumarkt.

Elves everywhere at the Heimat der Heinzel Christmas market, Cologne, Germany

The elves theme is carried through the whole market, with little beings hanging and appearing from where you would least expect it.




Here you can also find the amazing ice rink that loops around the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm III.

The ice rink at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Here you can also find the amazing ice rink that loops around the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm III. You can view the ice rink and curling lanes from various points around the market, including the 2 story bar next to the carousel. It is unbelievable that these delightful Hansel & Gretel style wooden cabins are temporary and only used for around 6 weeks of the year.

Skating around Friedrich Wilhelm III, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

It is unbelievable that these delightful Hansel & Gretel style wooden cabins are temporary and only used for around 6 weeks of the year.


The 3rd market is the ‘Market of Angels’ at Neumarkt. This is another fantasy filled market, where you float amongst the twinkling white cabins being swept along with the atmosphere.

The Angel, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Market of Angels is the temporary home of the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. If you want to look around, arrive early as there are often queues out the door.

The Angel Market at night, Cologne, Germany




Market no. 4 is the ‘Village of St Nicholas’ located in Rudolfplatz. This market has been transformed over the last few years and is a magical place for all the family.

The Hahnentorburg gate & Village of St Nicholas, Cologne, Germay

With the Hahnentorburg gate looking down, this smaller market has some wonderful food stalls along with a ‘children’s workshop’ and an extremely large advent calendar.

Advent in Nikolausdorf, Cologne, Germany
Sipping the glühwein at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany




 This a great place to meet with friends and enjoy a couple of glühweins in the ‘Gasthaus’.

The 5th market, Cologne’s ‘Harbour Market’ is on the banks of the River Rhine, next to the Lindt chocolate museum and has a distinct nautical theme. This market has a swashbuckling feel and a more modern take on Christmas, but equally good fun.

Everything nautical at the Harbour Market, Cologne, Germany

Here you can experience the spiced mulled beer, along with various seafood treats.

When we first came to Cologne this was a medieval market and there was also a floating market. So it shows how the town is not sitting on its laurels.

If it has been a long day, you might want to consider jumping on the ‘Dotto’ train to take you back to the other markets.


  • The 6th and final market is at the Stadtgarten, set within Cologne’s oldest park. It has a warm friendly atmosphere, with the cabins mingled amongst the trees. We found some different arts and crafts stalls here, so certainly worth a visit.






Pleasures


All the little cabins throughout the city have had so much love and care taken upon them.

Equally the fantastic outfits that the stall holders wear.

Now what's he selling? Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany
Inside the alpen lodge at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany




The arts, crafts and gifts that are sprinkled amongst all the stalls are wonderful, it is a Christmas lover’s dream.

Row after row of baubles, candles, tree toppers, lanterns, lights, gingerbread houses to name just a very few.

Arts & crafts stalls at the Christmas Markets
Baubles & more at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

A large part of the Cologne market atmosphere is the delicious food and drink, it just seems to taste so much better standing outside laughing and joking in the cold.

Friends gather at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Firstly, the array of food is amazing, it’s a sausage lover’s paradise, bratwurst, currywurst, feuerwurst, rinderwurst, krakauer and there were more.

The Grillhaus at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany




Then there’s the steaks and kebabs (1/2 metre long).

The salmon is a particular treat as this is cooked over wood burning flames.

Salmon cooked the traditional way at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Then comes the backfisch, flammkuchen, raclette, reibekuchen, sautéed garlic mushrooms, gulaschsuppe, pretzels……….

Flammeckeuche to share, Cologne, Germany

If you have a sweeter tooth, try the baked apple, waffles, gingerbread, crepes, strudel or stollen.

Mum enjoying a baked apple, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany




A waffle selection, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Ohhh and secondly the choice of beverages. Glühwein is a must, you can choose red or white and if you are feeling brave you can have it with a shot of rum, amaretto or calvados.

Working flat out at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

This is great on a cold winter evening, standing around hugging your mug.

The local beer in Cologne is Kolsch, which is served in 200ml or 300ml glasses.

Gluhwein &hot spiced beer at the Harbour Christmas market, Cologne, Germany




This is sold on the markets as well as in the bars. At the harbour market you can try the spiced mulled beer.

The drink that is a spectacle to watch is feuerzangenbowle, it is a glühwein with a rum soaked sugarloaf balanced on top.

Flaming feuerzangenbowle at the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

The sugarloaf is lit and the alcohol burns and then drips into your glühwein.

A little more unusual is the eierpunsch (egg punch), Alpenglüher (cherry punch).

Cafe Paris, Angel Market, Cologne, Germany

A hot chocolate is also very welcoming and if you wish you can have this with a shot of Baileys.


The bars in Cologne are very friendly, we have found a few we enjoy, but in Papa Joe’s you can even enjoy a jukebox with Bavarian music.




Outside Papa Joe's, Cologne, Germany
Inside Papa Joe's, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Take time to listen to the bands and street musicians dotted around the city.

And the band played on at the Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

The whole town appears to embrace Christmas and if there is tree or streetlamp, it will be adorned with festive lights.

Beautiful at night the Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

We stay at a very friendly hotel named Eden Hotel, which is in the heart of the Christmas action, overlooking the Dom Cathedral market.


Visiting Bierhaus en d`r Salzgass and watching the barrels of fresh Kölsch popping up through the bar. There is only one beer, Kölsch, only one size 200ml (around a 1/3 of a pint), and when you’ve finished another will appear at your table.

Inside Bierhaus en d`r Salzgass at Christmas, Cologne, Germany

Your waiter will add another mark to your beer mat, and this goes on until you ‘tap-out’ by placing your beer mat on your glass.

The great thing about the smaller size is that the beer stays fresher & cooler – plus you can drink at your own pace when in a group.






Treasures


Souvenir mugs collected over years, that bring back a smile.

Glühwein in the souvenir mugs,, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

The solid wooden nutcracker soldiers that stand proud on the fireplace every Christmas.

The Nutcracker

Kathe Wohlfahrt decorative Father Christmas incense smoker.

Santa Claus in wood






A slight disappointment


A year is a long time to wait.

Something to make your travels easier?



What I would do differently


We used to eat at restaurants in the evenings, but the last few years we have eaten around the markets, as the food is enjoyable and reasonably priced.



A funny moment


Performing the conga with a bar full of German strangers in Täglich Köln






Point of Note


If you wish to fly, it only takes about 1 hour 25 minutes from London, or alternatively coach trips are also very popular.


You really need to book early as these markets are very popular.


Be warned these markets become extremely busy at the weekends, particularly in the evenings. Children may feel a bit swamped with the crowds.


Dress warm and comfortable & don’t forget your santa hat.

Christmas hats, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

If snow is predicted and you are taking your car, then snow tyres would be a good option if you have them.






(These options are provided by GetYouGuide.Com. We will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you book through our site)

Have You

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And the band played on, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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Comments

  1. Enjoyed Meeting with Gary and Janis at the Cologne Christmas market in December and thought this is a great idea, so I am writing to show my support.

    1. Hi Nicole,It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and your sister at the Angel Market in Cologne, I trust you got away before the rain came in on the Saturday lunchtime. We took refuge in a great little restaurant on Hahnenstraße called Reissdorf am Hahnentor. We had a fabulous time in Cologne, and still managed to discover new things to see & do despite it being our 9th visit to the city.On our trip we visited 7 different towns & cities, and Cologne was still our favourite, however if you’re looking for somewhere different to try for 2017 then why not consider Nuremberg, or Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We’ll have posts on those, and the other places we visited, on our site very shortly so be sure to pop back, or sign up for the weekly newsletter.Wishing you the very best Christmas, and a wonderful 2017Janis & Gary

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