What to see & do in Cologne during yuletideGermany's Christmas Markets are the best
Cologne at Christmas is magical, I whole-heartedly believe it will melt away the inner Scrooge in anyone. What’s not to love about the aroma of roasted chestnuts, carol singers, glühwein and sometimes even snow.
That’s just a winning combination for me.
Whether you’re visiting Cologne for the day or long weekend, there is so much to feast your festive eyes upon. 2021 will be our 12th visit to Cologne at Christmas, and each year the excitement never fades.
The Germans just know how to celebrate Christmas, and what we love is that it’s aimed at all ages, big kids young and old. We definitely fall into the latter category.
Those things to do Cologne
Now, here’s a little bit of knowledge about each market.
The first and the one with the most incredible backdrop is the Dom Christmas Market. The towering cathedral makes this market very iconic, with around 150 wooden cabins tempting you with their wares.
The Dom market is right near the railway station, so a great one to visit first if you’re heading in from out of town. It has a maze of stalls encircling the 25 metre Nordmann fir and all the food and drink delights you could imagine.
Then there’s the Angel’s Christmas Market in Neumarkt. Enchanting day and night and as you can guess all the little chalets are decorated with an Angel theme.
This is quite a large market and one you’ll definitely want to visit, it has some unusual decorations & the place we always grab a warm mug of hot chocolate.
Get you KölnCard
Not too far from the Angel market is the Village of St Nicholas at Rudolfplatz.
It has a lovely medieval backdrop of the Hahnentorburg gate.
This market has grown on us over the years we’ve been visiting Cologne, and now one we always head to. Great atmosphere and slightly smaller than the Dom or Angel markets.
A little bit further out from the old city centre is the Stadtgarten Christmas market. This market first appeared in 2009, so a more recent addition.
We found it had quite a local feel about it and a good selection of unique crafts. However, a little smaller than its siblings in the old town.
Next is 'Heavenue’ the LGBT Christmas market, and one that doesn’t appear to pop up in so many searches for markets in Cologne. However, certainly, one to visit for a different type of festive experience. It used to be named Christmas Avenue, it’s by Schaafenstraße and is colourful, glitzy and cheerful, what more could you want?
Ohh, perhaps a chocolate lolly with a difference!
Now head to the banks of the Rhine river to the swashbuckling Harbour market, which is located right next to the chocolate museum.
This market gives another little twist on your advent celebrations and dishes up all things maritime. There are around 70 seafaring-themed stalls and has a great family atmosphere.
Last and by no means least is our favourite market, should we have a favourite? Heinzelmännchen (house of gnomes), is located in Alter Markt and Heumarkt in the Old Town.
This truly is a Christmas lover’s dream, chocolate goodies, decorations, twinkling candles and festive gnomes helping out everywhere. There are so many highlights in this market, and that’s even before I get started on the glühwein, the ice rink here is incredible.
Good to know
It’s not only where you can have fun watching inexperienced Brits clinging to the outer barriers, but, it feels like it encourages a whole festive atmosphere of its own.
Families, work colleagues and visitors can enjoy taking to the ice, playing ice stock curling, or just soak up the glühwein and bratwurst.
Where to stay
- Eden Hotel Früh am Dom - A pleasant, modern hotel close to Cologne's Dom.
Underground public parking close by in the Dom car Park
Where is Cologne?
How to get to Cologne
- By Air
The nearest airport is Cologne Bonn Airport which is about 15-20 minutes (10mls/15km) from the centre of Cologne by taxi. There is also a rail connection that takes about 20 minutes.
- By Train
From the UK a Eurostar to Brussels and then change to get to Cologne.
- By Car
It's an easy drive from Calais, around 260 miles/415 km, or around 4 hours at a steady pace. - for more check out our post 'Your first German Christmas Market by car'
If like me a bratwurst is not always your go-to choice, then boy, there are so many other delights to choose from.
Salmon, smoked over burning wood, gulaschsuppe, roasted ham rolls and the turkey skewers doused in chilli sauce are some of my favourites.
Good to know
Ok, so glühwein is at no.8, I didn’t say I was putting my suggestions in order of preference; otherwise this may have been no.1 or 2.
Gary & I both enjoy a glühwein, we tend to veer towards the red (rot in German) more often, although it makes a pleasant change to have a white (weiß in German) one.
Now, talking of mugs, if you’ve not visited a Christmas market before, the mugs that you drink from are unique from market to market. So, you can start your own collection, we have purchased a few over the years and use them as Christmas decorations.
Word of warning, you can also enjoy your glühwein with an additional shot of spirit (schuss), either rum or amaretto. But beware this could turn out messy!!!!!
Good to know
When you buy a glühwein, they are around €4 each (2021 prices), and then a deposit (pfand) is charged. If you don’t want to keep the mug just hand them back and you’ll deposit will be returned. If you do want to keep them then take them back and ask for clean ones.
It's also worth noting all the festive drinks are served in 200ml quantities.
Now, if there are any unusual drinks on offer, it is usually Gary that is the chief sampler.
I’m not a lover of kirsch, and often this is slipped in and for me ruins a pleasant drink, Gary just thinks I’m odd.
Although, if you have fond Christmas childhood memories of egg-nog, you’ll love an eierpunsch. This is the one that Gary has a soft spot for.
More about the food & drink?
Have we tempted you yet?
As you can probably see, the Cologne Christmas experience really comes to life after the sun has gone down.
To get the most of the time enjoying the Christmas spirit, you need to spend at least a couple of nights, ideally three.
Start creating your own Christmas Market adventure and discover the culinary delights for yourself, take a browse through ebookers.com for departures from your local airport.
Discover more of Germany on a road trip like us, why not check out Rental Cars as they search multiple well-known car hire brands for the best deals
Ok, so you can pop into one of Cologne’s many bars throughout the year; however, Christmas just seems to enhance the fun even further.
What’s not like about sharing a table with a crowd of friendly Germans singing along to an Oompah band.
Or perhaps one of our funny moments was when I was dragged into a conga line, and we danced around the bar. Such fantastic lasting memories.
The local brew in Cologne is a Kölsch beer, it’s usually served in a tall, thin, 20-cL glass and in some bars, this is all they serve. So, it makes your decision making easy.
In case you don't know
More from our visits to Cologne
We make no secret of our love for Cologne. Our first German Christmas Market and we have visited many times since.
There are so many things to enjoy about this city, why not take a look at some of our other posts.
* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.