Since the Germans are the masters of the Christmas markets universe, I decided to go to Germany again (I’ve been to Aachen, and Berlin 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.

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Cologne’s Christmas markets are considered to be among the most special in Germany. This is in no doubt due to the market at the Cologne Cathedral, home to the Sarcophagus of the Magi, which is thought to hold the remains of the three wise men. There are 7 Christmas markets in total in Cologne, including Heimat der Heinzel, the legendary house of gnomes, and the “Weihnachtsmarkt Express” or Christmas market hop on-hop off trolley provides an easy way to get around to them all. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

Weihnachtmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral) sits on the square in front of the cathedral, and is Cologne's biggest and most popular Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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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.

Angel’s Market at Neumarkt is Cologne's oldest and largest Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

Be sure to enjoy all of the delicious eats and treats at the Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

Delicious Kölner Dom treats to be found around Cologne's flagship Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

The magical Angel’s Market at Neumarkt is Cologne's oldest Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

Cologne's legendary house of gnomes, Heimat der Heinzel, with its Ferris wheel and other fun rides, is a great Christmas market for kids. Photo credit: Monique White

Be sure to enjoy all of the delicious eats and treats at the Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

Cologne's legendary house of gnomes, Heimat der Heinzel, with its Ferris wheel and other fun rides, is a great Christmas market for kids. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

 

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Cologne’s Christmas markets are considered to be among the most special in Germany. This is in no doubt due to the market at the Cologne Cathedral, home to the Sarcophagus of the Magi, which is thought to hold the remains of the three wise men. There are 7 Christmas markets in total in Cologne, including Heimat der Heinzel, the legendary house of gnomes, and the “Weihnachtsmarkt Express” or Christmas market hop on-hop off trolley provides an easy way to get around to them all. Photo credit: Monique White

Rudolfplatz Christmas Market is located next to the monumental gates, Hahnentorburg, and is where you can find St. Nikolaus' house, so it’s a good choice for kids. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

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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.

Delicious Kölner Dom treats to be found around Cologne's flagship Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

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.

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If you haven’t gotten your German Christmas market fix after visiting Cologne’s markets, then hop over to Düsseldorf to double up on the holiday merriment. Cologne and Düsseldorf are situated a few miles apart from each other along the Rhine, and an easy 45-minute train connection between the two cities makes it convenient to visit both during one trip.

Gingerbread house stalls and lots of lights are the hallmarks of the Christmas markets in Düsseldorf. The gingerbread houses, which have different themes, are sprinkled throughout the city. The Marktplatz Christmas market is at Düsseldorf’s city hall and sits at the feet of the statue Jan Wellem, a Düsseldorf landmark. Also at Marktplatz is the almost 100-year old merry-go-round and the hand-carved life-sized manger, which is always a major attraction.

The Marktplatz Christmas market is at Düsseldorf’s city hall and sits at the feet of the statue Jan Wellem, a Düsseldorf landmark. Photo credit: Monique White

The hand-carved life-sized manger at Marktplatz is always a major attraction of Düsseldorf’s Christmas market. Photo credit: Monique White

Other markets include the Flinger Straße market, whose huts are modeled after Düsseldorf’s old townhouses, the family-friendly Schadowplatz market, with its huts adorned with large Santa Claus hats, merry-go-round and activities specifically for children and “Engelchenmarkt” (“Little Angel Market”) on Heinrich-Heine-Platz, which features huts that draw their inspiration from the Art Nouveau music pavilion and is decorated with floral motifs and angels.

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Gingerbread house stalls and lots of lights are the hallmarks of the Christmas markets in Düsseldorf. The gingerbread houses, which have different themes, are sprinkled throughout the city. Photo credit: Monique White

While in Düsseldorf, take time to walk down the city’s elegant shopping street, Königsallee with its giant chestnut trees brilliantly illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights.

Take a stroll down Düsseldorf’s elegant shopping street Königsallee, or Kö, and admire the giant chestnut trees. Photo credit: KerstMarktDusseldorf.com

Düsseldorf’s elegant shopping street Königsallee, or Kö, is noted for it numerous boutiques, shopping malls and flagship-stores. Photo credit: Monique White

Known as Kö, the street is noted for its numerous boutiques, shopping malls, and flagship-stores.

Both the Cologne and Düsseldorf Christmas markets start in late November and are open until the end of December. Visit Cologne Tourism and Düsseldorf website for the exact dates and times. 

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Cologne and Düsseldorf are situated a few miles apart from each other along the Rhine, and an easy 45-minute train connection between the two cities makes it convenient to visit both during one trip. Photo credit: Monique White

 

Updated November 2019