It’s the festive season and what better way to get into the mood than Cologne Christmas market.
Try as they will, export markets around Europe lack the Tradition that the German Christmas market pulls off so well.
Nothing quite like the Christmas music, arts and crafts, toys, decorations and the aroma of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and gingerbread that fills the air of a German Christmas market.
It’s not that it’s different, it just feels authentic and real, maybe because the Germans like to knock you over as you try to fight your way through to the next stand or maybe the fact that you have to speak a whole new language and pay with a monopoly style currency called the Euro. It all adds to the fun and excitement that makes a genuine German Christmas market.
Out of all the Christmas markets around Germany, Germans will argue which is the best one, I’ve decided to go to Cologne Christmas market as not only does it hold one market, you can find a whopping 7 scattered around the city.
Colognes Christmas markets are best visited over two days, mainly because you will struggle to fit 7 markets in one day, but it still is possible.
Cologne Christmas market is best visited when the sun goes down and the Christmas lights turn on, it’s more magical in the evening and feels like a whole new experience.
However, my guide is all about visiting over a long day to try and fit it all in and cut out hotel costs, if you do want to visit over a weekend, then you can try AirBnB which is growing in popularity within Cologne to seek cheap accomodation.
Cologne (Köln) opens its Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) on the first Monday before the start of the advent calendar (24th November – 23rd December 2014).
Cologne is Coach tour city on the weekends and you might feel more like you’re about to enter a football stadium rather than a Christmas market.
If you can visit on a weekday (better with budget airlines) you can experience a far more easier flow. However weekends might only be your only option, it does get busy and don’t be afraid to get comfortable with the other visitors.
I managed to visit 4 Christmas markets comfortably out of the 7 over the course of one day. Visiting all 7 will be too ambitious on a day trip and will hurt your feet if you plan to walk to all of them.
Two of them, which I didn’t visit, the one by the harbour and the one in Stadtgarten are located on other sides of the city and too far out to reach by foot.
The 4 I did visit was easily done by walking to each one following a map (I’ll write down a brief walking guide in the blog post).
If you still wanted to visit all 7, They can be reached by a Christmas Market bus service, public transport or via kiddy train, but with the large crowd’s this would have added too much bother with the trip and I didn’t go for this option in the end to save money.
So here is a run down of the 4 markets I visited to help you plan your next visit to the Cologne Christmas market.
Cathedral Christmas Market
Surrounding the jaw dropping Cologne Cathedral (This is one old building) your find a nice collection of Christmas stalls to wander around, However if you’ve travelled by bus this can get packed first thing in the morning. The market opens at 11am and is the first to open at 10am on a Saturday.
To start off the morning what better way than by grabbing a coffee, you can add a shot of Bailey’s which adds a nice festive kick and will set you back only €3.
Tip: Remember that all glasses and mugs have a return deposit on them, if you like what you have, you’re welcome to keep it, they do make good keepsakes, but remember even the beer glasses (not so stunning as a Christmas mug) have a deposit so be sure to return them or you be paying more than what you bargained for.
Here you can try the traditional Reibekuchen which is a fried Potato like pancake with an apple sauce, you can get three of them with the sauce for €4, without the sauce its €3.50 and if you’re not as hungry as I am in the morning here you can buy just one for €1.50 whilst else where you can mostly only buy them in portions of three.
Home of the Elves Christmas Market
Next, you can walk along Hohe Straße just off the Cathedral square which is the main shopping street of Cologne, take a left on Obenmarspforten and you find yourself in the Elfs village. Surrounded by Christmas trees and hundreds of little elf statues it makes a wonderful Christmas market.
Here you can try your hand at ice skating for €7. As far as Ice skating went for Christmas markets its well worth ago. Even though it’s a temporary one it still has an ice machine to smooth it out and is top quality, they don’t seem too bothered how long you spent on the ice either, well worth ago if you fancy it.
Here has the best opportunity to buy a 0,5L Beer at €4.50, so if you don’t fancy ice skating and want to kick back and watch the ice skating whilst you enjoy a nice German brewed beer, this is your place.
Around this time you might feel a bit peckish, you can find a Bratwurst in a bun with sauce for €3 and it was delicious (Germans can make a mean sausage)
From here you can follow Schildergasse down to the next market located in Neumarkt.
Fairy tale Angels Christmas Market
In my opinion the prettiest Market to visit at night time, the whole area has these hanging stars in the trees and makes it very magical.
Lots of hand craft goods to be found here and those with a sweet tooth can find the best candy and fried snacks on offer. By this point you might have had enough of walking, but the next market can be found shortly down Mittelstr.
St Nicholas Christmas market
Has a sort of Tutor like design to the stalls and is magical at night time when it all lights up. It surrounds the Old city hall (two tower castle looking). I thought at first this was the old market as it looks the most traditional but I was mistaken.
By this time you might have had enough of Christmas Markets, but luckily just at the entrance you can grab a nice Hot mulled wine. The mug was shaped like a boot and ended up being the mug of the day that I kept, made a nice souvenir to hold onto with the date on the design.
around the corner from the hot wine stand was a stage where they started to sing German Christmas songs and it was a nice way to end the day.
If you plan on visiting the 4 markets suggested above and you’ve followed the route and want to save yourself the journey back to the first market, you can take the public metro from Rudolfplatz back to the Cathedral. It’s cheap enough, saves your tired legs and avoids getting lost down the not so safe back streets of Cologne.
Where to eat in the evening?
If you are tired and want to sit down in the warmth with a nice beer, check out this place in Cologne:
Located just off the Cologne Cathedral square you will find one of Colognes most traditional Beer Houses.
Here you can find some traditional dishes from Cologne to enjoy at welcomed prices. As the markets can pack out the local restaurants, this place has a lot of seats, so you can try your luck for an authentic local experience.
The beer is light and crisp and always flowing in this place, its a top quality place to find authentic German beer brewed in Cologne.
Cologne has this traditional metal beer carrier sort of like a milk float style and can be experienced at this place, make sure you grab a photo opportunity with the waiter.
Just make sure that when you have had enough beer place your beer mat on top of your glass to indicate that you have had enough (yes, when does this happen to Travel Dave) This shows you’re ready to leave and you want to pay for your tab.
Thank you for reading my blog post all about how to best enjoy the Christmas markets of Cologne in one day, I hope you found it useful. If you happen to have any more great tips, feel free to post below in the comment section: