The delicious smells of waffles, the people wrapped up in scarves and hats cradling brightly coloured mugs of mulled wine – is there anything more festive than a Christmas Market?!
Earlier in December we visited our friends in Cologne for the weekend. The weekend was largely based around eating and drinking, and I have done a post about that already, but I couldn’t stop myself from mentioning the Christmas markets too!
We managed to visit 3 of the christmas markets in Cologne – the Old market, the Cathedral market and the Harbour market. There are however a few others we didn’t get round to on this trip – the Angel market, where all the lights are white; Heavenue, which is an LGBT focused christmas market which looks pretty fun and wonderfully sparkly; the Stadtgarten market and the Village of Saint Nikolaus; which is more family orientated. There is even a little road train which will take you to four of the markets (the three we went to plus the angel market) either between two or hop on and off round trip, which is cool if you don’t fancy the walking or want to see them all in a day.
We had the Saturday afternoon to explore a selection of Cologne’s christmas markets briefly, having got up late after a big night and with big dinner plans ahead that evening, so we set out to see as much as we could.
First thing I will say is that they were unbelievably busy. I suppose this is hardly surprising with it being a Saturday in December, but most of them are actually fairly compact – think I have got a bit too used to the space available at WinterWonderland here in the UK and forgot that most christmas markets are pretty small especially when packed with people! So if you can go at a less busy time I would definitely suggest that – there is still bound to be a festive atmosphere with much less queuing for drinks, drinking them squished in a corner and jostling through people. I have very few photos because it was so hard to not be surrounded by people and in their way to take one!
The Old Market
That being said, the old market was very picturesque. There were little gnomes everywhere – which they call Heinzelmännchen – house gnomes, who allegedly helped the locals prepare services and goods.
The little wooden huts were decorated nice and festively, including the beer hut we stopped in for a Gluwein and a beer. It had a beer serving polar bear statue on the roof which meant it had to be a fun place right?!
The Gluwein mugs here all have different pictures and numbers on – you pay a deposit for the mug and if you want you can keep it, or return it and get the money back. Apparently it is a thing to collect the different mugs, which is quite sweet. Definitely a good souvenir!
The food smells were honestly divine, but we went for a snack at Peter’s Brauhaus nearby off of the square as we wanted to check that out for their famous Kolsch (beer famous to the region of Cologne), but we could have had crepes, sausages, all the traditional foods you would expect and more and it all looked incredible. Word of warning though lots of the stalls only take cash, so bear that in mind!
You can find this market next to the town hall – it is called the Alter Markt in German and is located at 50667 Köln.
The Cathedral Market
Craig really wanted to go and see the Cathedral, or Dom as it is known in German. We walked to this and I have to say the market here was absolutely vast. Again however, full of crowds.
We went for a look inside the Dom, which was spectacular and the pictures really don’t convey the scale of the place – it is truly ginormous! Definitely recommend a trip in there if you like architecture, churches, or just enjoy visiting impressive buildings and fancy seeing a bit of culture and history.
Back out in the square there were hundreds of little huts with red roofs covered in LED lights, where you could get food, jewellery, crafts, toys, drinks, everything you could imagine, as well as see a giant tree in the middle covered in lights.
We didn’t stop here for a drink as it was very crowded and we had a dinner reservation to get ready for, but I am glad we walked through and soaked up the atmosphere.
The main shopping streets, Hohe Straße and Schildergasse will lead you right here if you fancy taking a look yourselves.
The Harbour Market
The final market we frequented on our trip was the harbour market, surprisingly located on the harbour on the river Rhine. This market is pretty cool as it is designed to look like a harbour market, but with a festive feel, which was a nice change to the other two more traditional markets we visited. You can even buy your Gluwein from a giant ship with a bar in it!
It is right by the chocolate museum, so an ideal stop if you have been visiting there. We went on the way to dinner, which was at Ox and Klee just further up the harbour. We enjoyed a delicious Gluwein and took in our surroundings before rushing off to dinner. There were loads of cool craft stores and a big puppet show on offer here though, so if you are in the harbour area or want a less traditional market this is definitely a good one to stop by.
And there you have it, my thoughts on our whistle stop tour of a few of Cologne’s Christmas Markets! I would love to go back and visit each market more thoroughly, try some market food and spend a bit of time at each one on another trip. And I would really recommend going on different days to the weekend if you possibly can as it was extremely packed in most of them and hard to find a spot to stand and enjoy our drinks! But I definitely wasn’t disappointed with my experience, with this being my first visit to german markets in about 13 years (since I went on an exchange trip back in high school haha), I am very glad to have been back and definitely look forward to revisiting and really getting to explore in the future.
Let me know in the comments if you have been and found a quieter time!