Christmas Markets in Cologne

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If there’s one country that is renown for taking Christmas seriously – it is Germany. Having seen countless photos and been told about their incredible markets time and time again, I thought it was high time I got myself to Germany to experience the wonder of a German Christmas for myself. I chose to visit the Christmas markets of Cologne for a couple of days… Cologne has not just one, not even two… but a whopping SEVEN different Christmas markets. How could I not get festive in a city like that!?

 

Christmas markets originated in Germany some 700 years ago. So it’s no wonder then that the markets there feel so very authentic and different! They really are a meeting place for friends and family alike to come together and enjoy the festive season. Swarms of happy people gather in atmospheric market places that truly have a little something for everyone.

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1-3
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 


Christmas Markets in Cologne


The aforementioned seven Christmas markets in Cologne vary from a harbour-side floating market on the river Rhine to an LGBT themed one in the centre of town. Cologne seriously has Christmas covered. By the way if you’re on a mass market tour, save your legs and jump on the Christmas Market Express, which (for £10) drives from market to market delivering jolly market-goers at each stop. Market-going has never been so comfortable or efficient!

 

While each is a little different to the next, one thing they all have in common is that they are a sensory overload! Sights, smells and sounds fill your heart and soul while your thoughts are flooded with sense of childhood nostalgia and wonder. The aromatic smell of cinnamon-infused gluhwein and sugar-roasted nuts wafts through the air, strings of lights dazzle in almost every direction, and the sounds of cheery chat can be heard amongst carol songs.

 

Lanes upon lanes of heavily decorated wooden chalets sell all sorts of craft – from small wooden toys and beeswax candles to hand-knitted woollen socks and Christmas decorations. Every so often between lanes of stalls you’ll find a cabin that serves as a bar. Rugged up people gather around merrily enjoying a mug of gluhwein. Unlike the UK where mulled wine is served in plastic throw-away cups, in Germany you are given a proper mug. Every market has its own personalised mug, with a new design for each year. When you buy your drink you pay a small deposit for the mug. Once you’ve finished your steaming, spicy mug of goodness, you can either return the mug and recover your deposit or keep it as a souvenir! So brilliant! There really is something to be said for wrapping frostbitten fingers round a proper china mug!

 

With such a selection of Christmas markets in Cologne it’s hard to know where to start first, I’ve highlighted my top four below, but if you have time there are a few more!

 

Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral

It is a world-heritage site and symbol of the city, the ‘Dom’ is Cologne’s signature landmark, an enormous Gothic cathedral from the 13th Century. With two huge spires and a facade that is larger than every other church in the world, it is an impressive sight! Meters away in the cathedral square lies Cologne’s most famous Christmas market. It’s not the largest nor oldest Christmas market in Cologne, but with an enormous central Christmas tree, a blanket of twinkling lights and the cathedral as a backdrop it is something quite special.

27th November – 23rd December 2017

Open daily from 11 am – 9 pm, (Thursday, Friday and Saturday are open until 10 pm)

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 

Heimat der Heinzel – Home of the Elves

Legend has it that every year hundreds of hard-working house elves turn the cobbled streets of Cologne’s old town, into a winter fairytale. And what a fairytale place it is! The ‘Home of the Elves’ is the largest and oldest of Cologne’s Christmas market collection. As is tradition, the lanes of stalls are arranged in order of what they sell. As with all Christmas markets there are fir trees, lights and little stars, however at this market, perched on the roofs of almost every stall are little gnomes/elves enjoying the festivities too. Chalets are dotted every few meters and gluhwein flows proficiently. If you’re up for a bit of entertainment head to the ice rink and get skating! Or, have a go at ice curling just around the corner. There is also an old-fashioned merry-go-round… Activities for everyone!

27th November – 23rd December 2017

Open daily from 11am – 10 pm

Christmas Markets in Cologne
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

Market of Angels

In the heart of Cologne, near the most popular shopping streets is the ‘Market Of Angels’. Situated in a square surrounded by trees, this spectacular market sits under a canopy of white glowing stars. The market lanes are wide and ideal for a slow meander. Women dressed as angels drift in and out of the crowds, sprinkling fairy dust, chatting to stall-keepers and spreading good cheer. It is a beautiful market with a sophisticated feel.

27th November – 23rd December 2017 

Open Sunday to Thursday 11 am – 09 pm, and Friday and Saturday 11 am – 10 pm

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 

Village of St Nicholas

Set against the historic backdrop of the Hahnentorburg (medieval gate) is the Village of St Nicholas. It is a small but sweet market decked with evergreen garlands and twinkling lights. This market is a favourite among families for its arts and crafts classes as well as gluhwein and shopping stalls. There are entire cabins laden with Christmas Decorations too – plenty of gift ideas.  

27th November – 23rd December 2017

Open daily from 11 am to 9 pm, and on Saturday until 10 pm

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 

 


German Christmas Market Food


Ahhh what would a market be without good food? Rest assured you won’t go hungry while at a Christmas market in Germany… there are a tonne of options at every stop! Here are a pick of my favourite…

 

Champignons mit knoblauchsoße
A bowl of hot creamy mushrooms and garlic sauce accompanied with a thick slice of bread to mop up the delicious gravy. It’s served steaming hot and it’s delicious. You’ll see people huddling over, sharing a bowl on every corner.

Kartoffelpuffer
A most popular specialty! Also known as Reibekuchen, these fried potato pancakes are everywhere. They’re typically served with applesauce and their crispy outside and hot, soft insides will fill you up and keep you warm like no other!

Spiessbraten
Hot slow-grilled ham cooked in onions and spices, served with sauerkraut in a bun. Simple as that and deeeeelicious. You won’t find it everywhere – but when you do, make sure you make room for it!

Bratwurst
You’ve not really been to Germany unless you have a German sausage right? Every so often you’ll find large grill plates dangling over smokey fire pits layered with sausages, steaks and kebabs. For just €3-€4 grab yourself a bratwurst in a roll and lather on the mustard. My favourite things were the sauce udders. Hilariously practical.

 

And of course there are a large array of sweet treats too.. From waffles, crepes and strudel to glazed apples, gingerbread and candy-floss… If there is on thing thats certain – you WON’T go hungry at a German Christmas market. 

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 


What else can I do in Cologne?


Visit a Brauhaus
If (for some bizarre reason!) you aren’t already full… make sure you pay a visit to a traditional German beer house, known as a Brauhaus. The locally brewed beer is the ‘Kolsch’, a light, pale beer always served in a small (only 0.2L!), straight-sided glass. This goes down rather well with a pork knuckle,  sauerkraut and mashed potato – the oldest local food speciality in Cologne.

Visit the Great Berry
The thing about traditional German food is that there is a lot of meat, if you’re vegetarian, vegan, or in need of a meat-free meal, head to The Great Berry. A cosy spot with the friendliest staff, serving acai bowls, smoothies and superfood salads. Raw, healthy and completely different to traditional market food!

Visit Koln Triangle
For a wonderful view of Cologne, take a trip across the river and up Koln Triangle – a sky scraper with a great roof top. For only €3 you can stand at the highest point in Cologne and admire views across to the Cathedral and surrounding town around. Sunset is a pretty spectacular time.

Climb the Cologne Cathedral
For another impressive view of the city you can climb the Cologne Cathedral south tower… 533 steps straight up will take you to the panoramic platform, quite a climb! Thankfully, the climb has a couple of distractions…as well a being up close to the intricate architecture it’ll take you past the bell chamber which houses the world’s largest freely swinging church bell – 24 tonnes!


 

There are so many markets in Cologne, it’s hardly likely you’ll get bored. But if you are after some more Christmassy destinations to add to your holiday festivities, check out this post here. Nicola from The Polkadot Passport, covers some amazing Christmas spots, and it was she who inspired me to head to Cologne!

 

Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1
Christmas Markets in Cologne-1

 


If you have any questions, drop a comment below – I’d love to help out.

Otherwise, I’d love to know…have you been to Cologne? Or a Christmas market in Germany? What did you think?


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