I know it’s almost February, but indulge me and let me show you Cologne’s beautiful Christmas markets. By now I’m sure you know that I am a huge fan of this German Christmas tradition, so you can imagine that I took full advantage of being in Germany during December. I love the lights, stands, foods, drinks, atmosphere, … It just makes me feel all warm and happy inside. And that’s not just the Gluehwein talking 🙂 Did you know that Cologne alone has seven Christmas markets? And they are all different: different locations, different themes, different shops. When I stayed with my sister in Cologne last month, I managed to visit five of them. Some visits were quite brief, others involved a few more Gluehweins and shopping around. I have three favorites. Yes, three 🙂 How could I possibly pick just one?! I like them all for different reasons…
Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral/ Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom
Where is it? Roncalliplatz
This is one of my favorites since a long time. The setting is of course hard to beat with the huge cathedral in the background. They also usually have a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the square and everything is decorated beautifully with little Christmas lights. They sell the traditional Christmas market foods and of course Gluehwein and, aside from the typical socks, scarves, toys, etc., they also sell cute little things from Cologne that make nice gifts for others or souvenirs for yourself (e.g., Spekulatius cookies).
Market of Angels – Christmas at the Neumarkt/ Markt der Engel – Weihnachten auf dem Neumarkt
Where is it? Neumarkt
I loved this one! It doesn’t have the cathedral as a backdrop, but they decorate it very nicely. For example, they have a ton of little stars in the trees above the stands. Very pretty! It’s also one of the bigger Christmas markets in Cologne and you have a great choice of foods and shops with little knick-knacks here. I would choose this if one of your goals is to buy a few last minute Christmas gifts. It was packed when we went, but because it’s so big, we still managed to find a little place for us to hang out and have a few drinks. It’s here that I switched from Gluehwein to Lumumba (hot chocolate with rum) for the night; I hadn’t had it in so long that I almost forgot how good it tastes! If you’re not a big fan of Gluehwein, you should try this hot drink instead. And give the delicious Backfisch a try too!
Kölner Altstadt “Heimat der Heinzel”/ Cologne Old City “Home of the Heinzel”
Where is it? Heumarkt
This one is smaller, but really cute. It’s right around the corner from the one at the cathedral. The surroundings are really pretty with older Cologne houses, a church, and a statue. The stands were really nicely decorated with little Heinzelmaennchen – this year’s theme of this Christmas market. According to legend, the Heinzelmaennchen are little gnomes that used to do all the work for Cologne’s inhabitants while they were sleeping; they stopped after a tailor’s wife got too curious and set a trap for them one night. Anyways, the stands were decorated beautifully and it was really cute. This is one of the more traditional Christmas markets where they sell drinks and food of course (we had delicious white Gluehwein here), but also delicatessen to take home, and more hand-made crafts such as candles, wooden things, etc. Really neat!
These next two Christmas markets were nice, but I’d be ok skipping them next year.
Weihnachtsmarkt im Stadtgarten/ Christmas Market in the Stadtgarten
Where is it? Venloer Straße/Spichernstraße
This Christmas market was by far the least touristy and most popular with Cologne’s younger demographic. It looked pretty nice and seemed to have nice stands for last-minute gift-shopping, but it was so packed when we went that you could barely turn around. The lines were really long for getting something to drink and – big turn-off for me – this was the only Christmas market I went to in Cologne that didn’t have its own, themed cups. I usually keep at least one from every Christmas market I go to; totally legal since you pay a deposit for having them in the first place by the way. It’s like buying one!
Märchenweihnachtsmarkt auf dem Rudolfplatz/ Fairy Tale Christmas Market at the Rudolfplatz
Where is it? Rudolfplatz
We came to this one after leaving the one at the Stadtgarten and while they had an old big city gate (very impressive by itself) as well the typical foods and drinks, it all seemed to be put together a little indifferently: barely any decorations (and I imagine that would have been so easy with “ fairy tales” as the theme), the stores didn’t really have any nice products, … The whole market kind of just left me a feeling a little… blah. Oh well, it probably wasn’t that bad, I was just spoiled by the first three we went to because they were so good.
And, for completeness sake, these are the two I didn’t get to visit this year. Maybe in the future 🙂
Cologne’s Boat-Christmas-Market 2011/ Kölner Schiffsweihnachtsmarkt 2011
Where is it? Frankenwerft
Harbor Christmas Market at the Chocolate Museum/ Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt am Schokoladenmuseum
Where is it? Am Leystapel
As you can see, Cologne Christmas markets are really special. If you ever happen to be in Germany during December, you might want to come visit them yourself 😉 By the way, we visited all the ones we went to in Cologne via subway. Really easy.
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