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, situated in the square in front of the magnificent Gothic cathedral, is Cologne’s flagship Christmas market, which is apropos since the cathedral is home to the Sarcophagus of the Magi, which is thought to hold the remains of the three wise men.
It is the main one; the big kahuna; the one that you do not want to 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, Cologne’s legendary house of gnomes, which has fun gnome figurines throughout.
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 located 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 the market where you can find lots of wooden toys, and St. Nikolaus’ house, so it’s another good choice for kids.
Walk up the Malakoof Swing Bridge to the entrance to the Harbour Christmas Market, which overlooks 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.
Though most of the markets are within walking distance, there is a little hop on-hop off train. 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 because I 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 start in late November and last until December 23. Visit Cologne Tourism for more information.