Cologne's floodlight cathedral at night with it's Christmas Market, dominated by a central Christmas tree in front of it.

15 Things to do at Cologne’s Christmas Markets

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

What to see & do in Cologne during yuletide

Germany's festivities 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.

The Dom and the Christmas tree in the heart of Cologne

The Dom and the Christmas tree in the heart of Cologne

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Whether you’re visiting Cologne for the day or long weekend, there is so much to feast your festive eyes upon. 2020 will be our 12th visit to Cologne at Christmas, and each year the excitement never fades.

People entering through an advent arch into the Meimat der Heinzel market as snow falls in an already wintery scene.

One entrance to the Home of the Elves

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. 


Visit the 6, or is it 7 main Christmas Markets?

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.

The Dom towers over the Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

The Dom towers over the Christmas Market

Then there’s the Angel’s Christmas Market in Nuemarkt. 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.

The Angel Market at night, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

The Angel Market at night

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.

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

The Village of St Nicholas market

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.

The Stadtgarten Christmas market

The Stadtgarten Christmas market

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!

Glitzzy - Christmas Avenue, Cologne Christmas Markets, Germany

Heavenue - it's a bit glitzzy

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. 

Everything nautical at the Harbour Market, Cologne, Germany

A nautical theme at the Harbour market

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. 

Illuminated trees at the Elf Christmas Markets Cologne, Germany

Illuminated trees at the Elf Christmas market

Pros & cons; All these markets are fantastic, and you’re visiting them to have fun, however, just be aware that they can get very busy, particularly of a weekend and the evenings. So, I’d advise visiting earlier in the week if you’re not too partial to crowds.

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Good to know

If your feet are beginning to ache, there’s the Christmas Market Express dotto train, you can catch. It runs every 15 minutes and stops at four markets around the city, the Dom, Alter Markt, Harbour Market and Angel.


Take to the ice

Did someone say ice rink? Cologne’s ice rink is the most impressive we’ve seen at a Christmas market. It has changed remarkably over recent years (in a good way).

The ice rink , Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

One end of the ice rink at the Market of the Elves

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.  

Curling on the Ice, Cologne Christmas markets, Germany

Curling on the Ice - all part of the ice rink

We’re not skaters ourselves, due to having two left feet, although, we are pretty good at dishing out advice from the side-lines.

Let us know

What's your favourite German Christmas market is, as we’d love to add them to our list.


Cologne’s Cathedral

I know you’re visiting Cologne for the Christmas Market fun; however, a stroll around the iconic Dom is one not to be missed. The magnificent Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is free to visit.

The Dom, Cologne, Germany

The Dom at night

Inside the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany

Inside the Cathedral of Cologne

If you wish to climb the tower to catch the rooftop view across the city, there is a small charge.

Want to make more of you stay in Cologne?

If Cologne is the city for you, and you fancy some further reading to ensure you don't miss a thing, grab your travel guide and start planning.


Carol singing in the Dom Market

I love the Dom Christmas market, for its charming traditional atmosphere. But, you must hang around to catch the local choirs and bands that perform on the stage, under the glistening Christmas tree. Grab yourself a hot drink, a bite to eat and indulge, you’ll love it!

Crowds under the blanket of lights, Cologne, Germany

Crowds under the blanket of lights enjoying a carol concert

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Our Tip

Dress warm and comfortable, especially make sure you have comfy shoes.


Relish a Sausage

You surely cannot visit Germany and not try a bratwurst (unless you vegetarian of course), but, other than that there is no excuse. There are so many different sausages to sample, currywurst, krakauer, chillibratwurst, rinderwurst to name a few. Also, depending on where you are in Germany there are some regional specialities as well.

Selecting your sausage at the Angel Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

Selecting your sausage - there's plenty of choice

I must admit, sausages are not always the top of my list to eat while wandering the markets; however, I always enjoy a currywurst.


Currywurst with plenty of sauce - ready chopped foryou to enjoy


Other savoury snacks

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. 

Meat and Chicken Kebabs, Cologne, Germany

Meat and Turkey Kebabs - Mmmmm

Salmon the traditional way, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Salmon the traditional way

Then there are flammeckeuche, roasted chestnuts & another dish that appears to be a German favourite is a reibekuchen. This is a deep-fried potato cake often served with apple sauce. In Cologne, they are bought in 3’s, however, in my opinion, they have to be shared, they are so filling, but hey, I'm not German.

Flammeckeuche to share, Cologne, Germany

Flammeckeuche to share, or not?

Sampling different dishes while soaking up the festive atmosphere is what Gary and I love about going to Cologne. What’s also fantastic is that the markets aren’t just enjoyed by tourists, the locals love them too.

Good to know

Some of these markets get very busy at weekends so small children may feel a bit swamped with the crowds.


Sweet treats on the markets

Now I’m talking, these are just so hard to resist. Lebkuchen (gingerbread) is always a firm favourite of ours and one we often bring back home for our families at Christmas, along with sweet sticky macadamia nuts.

Aachener Printen for sale at the Dom Christmas Market, Cologne, Germany

Aachener Printen for sale at the Dom Christmas Market

However, it’s the baked apples, waffles and crepes that I find it hard to resist & who can blame me?

Enjoying a baked apple, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

My Mum enjoying a baked apple on the Christmas markets back in 2012

Don't Forget

To see what you can do other than the chirstmas markets checkout - 'The 10 things to do in Cologne, other than the Christmas markets'


Indulge in the glühwein

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.

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

Gluhwein in the souvenir mugs

If you are driving or you don’t like alcohol, you can always get a kinderpunsch, no one will know, they all come in the same mug.

Glühwein at the Angel Market, Cologne, Germany

Glühwein at the Angel Market

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!!!!!

Alpenpower and Glühwein, Cologne, Germany

Alpenpower and Glühwein from the Dom market

Good to know

When you buy a glühwein, they are around €3.50 each, 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.


It’s not all about the glühwein

If gluhwein isn’t your cup of tea (no pun intended, oh perhaps it was) then try a hot chocolate topped with cream, this is a treat. If you’re partial to a Baileys then ask for it ‘mit Baileys’ I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, it is Christmas after all.

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.

Eggnog and glühwein, Cologne, Germany

Eggnog and glühwein - guess Gary's drink!

So you know

All the festive drinks are served 0.2ml quantities.


Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt store

You’re in Germany, surely there is only one store to get your Crimbo decorations from and that’s Käthe Wohlfahrt

A Käthe Wohlfahrt decoration, Cologne Christmas Markets

A Käthe Wohlfahrt decoration apt for the traveller

Head to the pop-up store in the Angel market, there are some fantastic wooden toys, glass baubles and tree toppers, that would melt any bah humbug’s heart.   

Santa Claus in wood from Käthe Wohlfahrt

A smoking Santa?

Our Nutcracker from Käthe Wohlfahrt

Our Nutcracker from Käthe Wohlfahrt

We’ve bought some delightful nutcrackers and smokers over the years. Make sure you’ve not had a gluhwein before heading in, you’ll never know what you’ll come out with.


Pick up some Christmas presents

Not everything on the markets is sparkling, there are some great gifts to be had for family and friends. I bought my mum a handbag from one of the stalls years ago, she still mentions today how much she loved it.

Something different, Cologne Christmas Markets, Germany

Pick up something different from the Christmas markets

So, take a stroll around and see if you can discover the gift that stands out from the crowd.

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Tempted to?

If you’re like us and you want to visit more than one German Christmas market, why not hire car with SIXT car hire and visit a few. You’ll be surprised at all the little differences each city has to offer.


Stay for the evening

When the sun sets, is when the markets truly come alive and the magic starts to happen. The little wooden cabins and chalets are glistening, and the tree stands proudly with its shroud of Christmas lights draped above the market, like a warm blanket.

Beautiful at night, Christmas Markets, Cologne, Germany

Beautiful at night - The Home of the Elves

So, we grab our gloves & bobble hats and embrace the chill of the winter evenings. There’s such a friendly atmosphere, and it’s so pleasing to see people of all ages enjoying themselves.

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

The ice rink looks beautiful after the sun's gone down

Cologne’s Christmas markets usually close around 9pm during the week and 10pm at the weekend. However, if you want to continue your festive fun then head to one of the city’s bars and sample the local beer, a Kölsch.

Why not?

Start creating your own German Christmas Market adventure and discover the delights Cologne for yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.


Visit a Kölsch bar

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.

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

Inside Bierhaus en d`r Salzgass - enjoy!

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

If you’re in a Kölsch bar, then the etiquette tends to be that the barperson will chalk up your beer mat, every time you have a Kölsch. Once you are finished and want to pay up, then place the beer mat on top of your glass. Job done…


Relax in a stylish café

We fancied a break from the hustle and bustle of Cologne’s Christmas markets, so headed to enjoy a relaxing coffee and cake in Café Fassbender.

Café Fassbender, Cologne Christmas Markets, Germany

Café Fassbender, Why not try it?

It’s not too far from the old town and a great way to escape for a ½ hour or so. 

Hot chocolate at Fassbenders, Cologne, Germany

Hot chocolate at Fassbenders

We felt like we had stepped back in time with its elegant surroundings and wonderfully polite staff. It was a real treat and highly recommend it. 


Stroll the Rhine

For one of Cologne’s iconic views of its cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge, take a stroll across the Rhine, when the sun has set. You won’t be disappointed, with the cathedral lit up it looks incredible.

The Dom and Hohenzollernbrücke, Cologne, Germany

The Dom and Hohenzollernbrücke

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Inspired to visit Cologne’s Christmas markets?

I’m just excited thinking about it.

We love to stay in the heart of the city by the Cathedral and highly recommend the Eden Hotel Früh Am Dom.

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15 Things to do at Cologne’s Christmas Markets

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About the Author


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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