Since the Germans are the masters of the Christmas markets universe, I decided to go to Germany again (I’ve been to Aachen, Berlin and Dusseldorf in the past) for my annual Christmas market pilgrimage. This year I chose to explore the Christmas market in Cologne, a pretty city that sits on Germany’s Rhine River, and an easy drive (which I did on the way there) or bus or train ride (which I did on the way back) from my home in Holland.

There are 7 different Christmas markets around Cologne, and I made it to 6. The first was the Weihnachtmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral). This market, which in the shadow of the cathedral, is the flagship Christmas market.

Heimat der Heinzel, also has a Ferris wheel, carousel and other fun rides, so it’s a great one for kids. This market also had the best food and drink stalls, IMO, and I did my best to sample as much of it as I could.

The Rudolfplatz Christmas Market is really small, so I didn’t spend much time there, but it’s location next to Hahnentorburg, the monumental gates that were part of the former medieval city wall, which for me, was reason enough to go. It’s also where you’ll find St. Nikolaus’ house, so it’s another good choice for kids.

I walked up the Malakoof Swing Bridge to the entrance to the Harbour Christmas Market, overlooking the Rhine. The “Christmas market on water” is next to the medieval Malakoff Tower, the German Sport & Olympic Museum and the Chocolate Museum, which is where I actually spent most of my time, because it was cold outside, and because…CHOCOLATE.

It is the main one; the big kahuna; the one that you do not miss. I was there in the evening, which is the best time to go – as evidenced by the gazillion people packed into that tiny space next to the cathedral – because everything is lit up, most notably the Christmas tree that towers over the starlit huts offering lots of handicrafts, food, and of course glühwein. I bought a couple of tins of the Kölner Dom cookies for Miss P and Miss V, and a nice hand-knit hat before making my way to the Neumarkt Christmas Market.

Weihnachtmarkt am Kölner Dom is Cologne’s biggest market, but Angel’s Market at Neumarkt is  the oldest, and situated next to the main shopping area, it’s also one of the busiest. Neumarkt’s magical, “stars at night” theme makes this market simply magical, and almost makes you forget you’re packed in a small space like sardines. Almost.

After hitting two of Cologne’s busiest markets, I was done for the evening.  I saved the others for the next day, starting with the whimsical Heimat der Heinzel, or “home of the elves”, which has fun elf/gnome figurines throughout.

Though most of the markets are within walking distance, there is a little hop on-hop off train that stops at multiple markets. The Christmas-Market-Express winds through the festively decorated streets of Cologne’s Old Town, making stops at several of the markets. Since I wanted to get to all of the markets and have a little time to shop, and have yet to encounter a hop on – hop off tour I didn’t like, I hopped on one. You can choose between a single trip ticket, which goes from one Christmas market to the next, or a round-trip ticket, which allows you to hop on and off at each market. The Christmas-Market-Express departs every 15 minutes, and the duration is 15 minutes between each stop, and 60 minutes for the round trip.

The Cologne Christmas markets are on until December 23. Visit Cologne Tourism for more information.