Cologne's Christmas Markets are the ones to visitAll you need to know about this magical German market
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.
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 numerous Christmas markets sprinkled around the city, all with their unique theme.
Not only do the markets keep evolving, but even the culinary delights have a different twist each year.
It is sometimes disappointing if you have a favourite and it disappears, but there are always new treats to try.
The centrepiece of this market is the 25-metre 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 is a struggle to condense them all.
Christmas market at Cologne Cathedral(Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom)
At Christmas, this square is turned into a sea of red with its 150 stalls.
It is here you can find the stage where various events are held during the season, all free. Grab a Glühwein and listen to Silent Night in the original German.
Heinzels Winter Fairytale(Heinzels Wintermärchen)
The second market on the list, and my favourite, is ‘Heinzels Wintermärchen’. 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.
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 fantastic ice rink that loops around the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm III.
The Market of Angels(Markt der Engel)
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.
It is also where we have our heiße Schokolade mit Baileys at the Engelbar. That is a hot chocolate with Baileys, and if it sounds good it's because it is. Have that after visiting the Kathe Wohlfahrt store or you might end up purchasing more than you planned!
Village of St Nicholas(Nikolausdorf)
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.
Cologne Harbour Christmas Market(Hafen Weihnachtsmarkt) Sub-headline
The fifth market, Cologne’s ‘Harbour Market’ is on the banks of the River Rhine, next to the Chocolate museum and has a distinctly nautical theme.
This market has a swashbuckling feel and a more modern take on Christmas, but equally good fun.
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 a floating market. In later years we saw the addition of a giant Ferris wheel.
It shows how the city 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.
Stadtgarten Christmas market(Weihnachtsmarkt Stadtgarten)
We found some different arts and crafts stalls here. It feels like this one is for the locals, less tourist razzamatazz.
There are more Christmas markets that come and go, and some a little further out, for the the latest information, check out the official 'Cologne at Christmas' page
Where to stay in Cologne
Eden Hotel Früh am Dom - This friendly hotel is in the heart of the city centre with and just a couple of minutes walk to Cologne Cathedral.
We've stayed at Eden Hotel on many occasions and it never disappoints. It is owned by the Früh Brewery and has a bustling restaurant in its cellar.
Cologne's Christmas Market Stalls
Food on Cologne's Christmas Markets
A large part of the Cologne market atmosphere is the delicious food and drink. It tastes so much better standing outside laughing and joking in the cold.
Firstly, the array of food is fantastic. It’s a sausage lover’s paradise, bratwurst, currywurst, feuerwurst, rinderwurst, krakauer and there were more.
Drink on Cologne's Christmas Markets
Sometimes you may want to take the weight off your feet.
Well, the two-storey Gasthaus at the Village of St Nicholas in Rudolfplatz has you covered. It's great a little bit of people-watching
The local beer in Cologne is Kolsch, which is served in 200ml or 300ml glasses. This is sold on the markets as well as in the bars.
At the harbour market, you can try the spiced mulled beer.
The Aierpunsch (egg punch) and Alpenglüher (cherry punch) are a little more unusual for us; still, Gary loves them.
Hot chocolate is also very welcoming; if you wish, you can have this with a shot of Bailey's. We always have our Heiße Schokolade mit Bailey's in the Angel Market.
Cologne's Bars at Christmas
There is only one beer, that's the Kolsch, only one size 200ml (around a 1/3 of a pint),
When you've finished another will appear at your table. 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 whole of Cologne at Christmas
They range from relatively inexpensive baubles to more ornate products from stores such as Kathe Wohlfahrt.
This is the reason why we opt to drive to Cologne. It gives us complete freedom to buy as much as we want, there are now luggage limits, nor a fear of them being damaged on the journey home.
It's obvious but...
It's not like a normal mini-break
You had to be there...
Performing the conga with a bar full of German strangers in Brasserie Täglich Köln.
There have been other moments, but that's the one I will own up to.
I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Germany road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
If you wish to fly, it only takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes from London.
You really need to book early as these markets are very popular.
Although all these markets are fantastic to visit during the day, they really come alive in the evenings, don’t miss it.
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; this is essential because it was cold in December.
Germany’s Christmas markets are for all ages, don’t be put off that it is all for children; it really isn’t. We are all big kids at heart…..
Final point, the most remarkable thing about Cologne at Christmas, is the warmth and friendliness of the people.
We’ll see you again.
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