Germany doesn’t do thing by halves (football, beer and cars are proof of that) and it’s safe to say that Weihnachten (Christmas) is no exception. With a weekend to spare in the run up to the big day, I thought what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by dusting off my German A-Level skills and heading for a couple of days of festive fun in Christmas capital Cologne.
With most of the bigger German cities boasting their own take on this festive tradition, Cologne was my top choice due to its roster of impressive Christmas markets dotted all about the city. In fact, there are seven in total, all delivering their own personal take on Christmas cheer. We managed to visit six in a whirlwind 48-hour trip.
Here is my comprehensive guide to Weihnactsstadt Cologne.
Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral)
The most popular of all the Christmas markets, the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom is situated against the backdrop of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. This market was the first we visited and probably my favourite of the trip. With 150 stallholders selling traditional goods, you could spend hours looking at all the trinkets, gifts and treats on offer. Upon entering, we were greeted by the most beautiful 25 metre Christmas tree I have ever laid eyes on (Rockefeller Center eat your heart out) and, glühwein in hand, we strolled through the hundreds of stalls, feasting on traditional delicacies like curry wurst and kartoffelpuffer with apple sauce (a traditional fried potato cake a bit like a giant hash brown).
Heinzels Wintermarchen(Heinzels Winter Fairytale)
Twinkling fairy lights wrapped around towering tannenbaums, noble nutcracker soldiers standing to attention, and more glühwein than you can shake a stick at is just what greeted us as the old town favourite Heinzels Wintermarchen. This is the biggest of all the Christmas markets and boasts a huge ice rink, curling, live performances and traditional themed alleys selling toys, sweets and much more.
Market Der Engel (Market of Angels)
Situated at Neumarket in the heart of Cologne, this beautifully decorated market is made up of tiny huts each selling yet more delicious food, treats and traditional gifts. The aisles are much wider than some of the other markets, meaning this is the perfect location to take your time strolling and sipping on hot cider or mulled wine. They also have the most delicious crepes here too.
Nikolausdorf auf dem Rudolfplatz (Village of St. Nicholas at Rudolfplatz)
The prettiest of all the Cologne Christmas markets, this magical market is an ode to the man himself, Santa Claus. Decked out with hundreds of dazzling fairy lights and festive decorations, it really could be mistaken for Father Christmas’ hometown. You imagine elves to be at work crafting beautiful wooden toy sets ready to nestle under the tree at Christmas. It’s a great place for all the family with a children’s workshop and a stage for festive performances alongside even more market stalls.
Kolner Hafen Weihnachtsmarkt (Cologne Harbour Christmas Market)
Located near the Chocolate Museum and overlooking the Rhine, this maritime market isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other markets, but it does have an unmistakeably aquatic theme which is super fun. Here, you’ll find traditional festive goods and some of the more unusual German delicacies like rabbit stew.
Weihnactsmarkt im Stadtgarten (Christmas market in the Stadtgarten)
On our final day, we were treated to a flurry of snow and decided to finish off our Christmas market tour with this modern, village-like market, situated in one of the big parks just outside the city centre’s Belgian quarter. With a big bar (and some undercover seating with heaters, yay!) plus plenty of lifestyle gifts from soaps to candles, and tons of delicious delicacies from raclette to waffles, it was the perfect market to round off our trip.
We ran out of time so didn’t get a chance to visit Heavenue but I’ve heard its pop art style, fun lighting and epic entertainment is well worth a visit!