Cologne Christmas Markets Guide. Your greatest resource to the different markets and what to eat, drink, see and do.
Cologne Christmas Markets are one of my favourites. There are six different markets dotted around the city. Each one has its own unique vibe and atmosphere. That means when it comes to a European Christmas Market break, the Cologne Christmas Markets offer great value for money. They give you the most bang for your buck. Also, they have the much sought after ‘traditional’ European Christmas market experience. Therefore, if you’re thinking of booking a German Christmas market break, Cologne should be top of your consideration list.
This Cologne Christmas Markets guide will tell you all about the six different markets. It also has the Cologne Christmas Markets dates and times. If you if need more travel advice about how to get from the airport to Cologne city centre, how to get around, where to stay and the top things to do in Cologne, then have a read of my Cologne City Guide blog post.
Getting around the Cologne Christmas Markets
Especially for getting around the Cologne Christmas Markets there is the Christmas Market Express train. This runs between four of the Cologne Christmas Markets. The four markets are; the Cathedral Christmas Market, Christmas Market Alter Market, Harbour Market and Angel’s Market.
This is a fun way to visit the Cologne Christmas Markets. It’s great if you are in a hurry or have children, they’ll love it.
If you need a map of the Cologne Christmas Markets you can download one from the Cologne Christmas Market official website.
The Cologne Christmas Markets Guide
There are actually six Christmas markets dotted around Cologne. Each with its own distinct character, however, they are all variations on a theme. Therefore, if you’re short on time, don’t stress about trying to see them all. You won’t miss out. Having said that, I was able to walk from one market to the next as they aren’t that far apart from each other. However, I do love to walk, for hours.
If you are there on the weekend you can get 13 hours of Christmas markets a day. Technically, you could spend two hours at each one. Even if you are there during the week you’ll still get 10 hours of markets a day. So, you should have plenty of time to visit them all. Again, you can maximise time by availing of the Cologne Christmas Markets Express train. The Cologne Christmas Markets 2019 dates are from 25th November to 23rd December 2019.
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
From 25th November – 23rd December 2019
Daily from 11 am – 9 pm (Saturday from 10 am)
Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10 pm
The Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market is the biggest of all the Cologne Christmas Markets. The takes place beneath the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland beside the fourth-tallest church building in the world. It is picture perfect and exactly what you picture a traditional European Christmas market to look like. It is a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, festive music and aromas of sugar and spice. The 25 metre Nordmann fir Christmas tree is the shining heart of the market. It dazzles with its 50,000 LED lights.
The Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market has 150 traditional wooden huts and stalls.
They sell unique handmade gifts like wood carvings, glass balls, ceramics, accessories, children’s toys, soaps and even clothing. There is a huge variety of food and drinks stalls too. You can chow down on currywurst, as well as many other types of German sausage in bread. There are fresh waffles, doughnuts and chocolate dipped fruit. You can wash everything down with German beer or warming, gluhwein which is spiced mulled wine. The gluhwein is served in cups shaped like Santa’s boot. It is kitsch and silly and a must do for everyone.
The best thing about this market is the big stage with 100 Christmas performances of music and entertainment. I saw a male voice choir concert and was very moved by the experience. Perhaps it was the gluhwein or being under the blanket of twinkling Christmas lights, but I got the warm and fuzzies.
For children, there is a traditional carousel and a children’s wheel of fortune.
Angel’s Christmas Market
From 25th November – 23rd December 2019
Sunday to Thursday 11 am – 9 pm
Friday and Saturday 11 am – 10 pm
Angel’s Christmas Market is Cologne’s oldest Christmas market and it is held on the Neumarkt in the shopping district. This market has lovely white chalets selling much the same stuff as the Cathedral Christmas Market. however, I think the food and drink offerings at this one are better. There are fewer queues so you can watch all the delicious meals being cooked right before your eyes. The smell of sizzling barbecue and mulled wine are mouth-watering.
This market also seemed a bit more local. People gathered here after work for a quick drink and bite to eat. This market just feels a lot more relaxed than the Cathedral market.
Children will love the Angel’s Christmas Market.
The Angles are dressed in white and walk around sprinkling glitter powder aka Christmas cheer. Once a week, Santa Claus, together with an angel, makes his grand entry on horseback. This is pretty special and very magical for the little ones.
Harbour Christmas Market
From 22nd November – 23rd December 2019
Sunday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm
Friday – Saturday 11 am – 10 pm
The Harbour Christmas Market overlooks the Rhine and is very picturesque. Being by the water it has a maritime flavour. There’s a big pirate ship and the items on sale here are a bit different to what you find at the other markets. The best thing about the Cologne Harbour Christmas market is that is it right beside the Chocolate Museum. Therefore, when you are done at the market you can take a tour of the Lindt factory. Here you can make your very own bespoke bar of chocolate and learn about the history of chocolate making. It is really is a great thing to do in Cologne. More on the Lindt Chocolate Museum in my Cologne City Guide blog post.
Old Christmas Market
From 25th November – 23rd December 2019
Daily from 11 am – 10 pm
The Old Christmas Market is located on the Alter Markt in front of Cologne´s town hall. It is huge but it is probably the best one of the Cologne Christmas Markets for families and children. This market is protected by the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes). The gnomes are dotted all over the market and oversee things. They make sure everyone is having a good time. To make sure everyone has a good time there is plenty of shopping and food stalls and a big pub area.
For family fun, there is an ice-rink. For kids only, there’s an old-fashioned children’s roundabout, puppet theatre, Santa Claus’ quarter and many toy stands. If you need to tire the kids out quickly head to this market.
Stadtgarten Christmas Market
From 21st November – 23rd December 2019
Daily from 4 pm – 9.30 pm
Saturday and Saturday from 12 pm
Christmas Market in the Stadtgarten is my favourite of all the Cologne Christmas Markets.
It is perfect for couples who want to cosy up under the romantic lights whilst sipping gluhwein. Also, it’s great for groups who want to let loose and enjoy the more adult and grown-up side of the Cologne Christmas Markets. This market is very pretty, with loads of overhanging lights and lanterns. You’ll get some fab Instagram shots here. It’s also very relaxed too. There is a great vibe to this place. There are live jazz concerts and other musical treats. The stalls here sell more artisan pieces compared to the more traditional crafts of the other markets. Furthermore, the food here is seriously good. Treat your taste buds to some hearty stews, tarte flambée, crêpes, almonds, raclette and waffles. There are beers and organic mulled wine, too, and tea and coffee if you want to keep warm and sober.
There is plenty of kids entertainment like puppet shows and storytellers. But, once the kids have had their fill, get them to bed and get a babysitter. Then head back out here for some relaxed late-night Christmas adulting.
Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market
From 25th November – 23rd December 2019
Daily from 12 pm – 10 pm
Cologne is Germany’s gay and lesbian capital. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the population is gay. Therefore the Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market is a fun place and authentic place to explore. It takes place in “Christmas Avenue” which is lined with pink and purple chalets. There is plenty of love tokens and trinkets to buy your partner. You can get a personalised heart-shaped Lebkuchen biscuit or chocolate covered body part if you so choose. This market is a little smaller than the others but there are some unique stalls and again, fabulous food and drink. When the market ends, those who want to continue the party head for the bars in the Bermuda Triangle (between Schaafenstraße und Pilgrimstraße).
The Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market in Cologne is very inclusive and open to everyone, although, if you don’t want to explain to your young child what a chocolate covered willy is then you may want to avoid this area with them but otherwise it is good (almost) clean fun.
Eating and drinking your way around the Cologne Christmas Markets
Start with an apéritif of ‘Pilgrim Drops’. It is a herbal flavoured alcohol sold in bottles around the market. Furthermore, it has medicinal properties, so it must be good for you. It is sure to open the taste buds and stimulate the appetite.
Try something to eat at a few different stalls. Start with a bread course and grab a fresh salty soft doughy warm pretzel and then find some warming soup or stew to dip it into. Follow this up with some traditional German sausages smothered in ketchup, mayo or mustard from the comical over-sized squeezy sauce bottles that hang outside the stalls. If sausage isn’t your thing there is always pork chops, schnitzel, hamburgers, other barbecue meats and roast chicken.
There are some seafood options too but these are better at the Harbour Christmas Market, naturally. For vegetarians, there are plenty of vegetable kebabs, pasta dishes, french fries, fried potato cakes, pizza slices, roasted mushrooms and cheese. So. Much. Cheese.
Got a sweet tooth? There is no end to the options. You are spoiled for choice, so much so that I would forgo the savoury stuff and just get on a sugar high straight away. My personal favourite is warm apple strudel. Comforting and delicious.
There is more chocolate at the Cologne Christmas Markets than I have ever seen anywhere else. Apart from chocolate bars and candies, there are chocolate covered fruit kebabs, chocolate covered fresh waffles and crepes. There are hot roasted nuts and chestnuts, and traditional spiced German biscuits in different shapes of the biggest tourist attractions. You cannot leave the Cologne Christmas Markets without eating a biscuit shaped like the Cologne Cathedral.
You also need to find and eat the cute weckmann pastries. This tasty treat is made from Stuten, a sweet leavened dough, and is shaped like a man with raisins for eyes and he has a clay pipe. Not only does it look great it tastes great too, a bit like a fruit-filled brioche.
Finally, if you are still standing after all that gorging, you should find a gluhwein stall, you can’t miss them, they are everywhere, and sip some hot spiced wine out of a cup shaped like Santa’s boot. If you don’t like mulled wine you can try a whole selection of festive drinks poured from the bars or buy little bottles from the stalls.
Top Tips for Visiting the Cologne Christmas Markets
I went at the end of November and start of December (29th to 2nd) and the Cologne Christmas Markets weren’t very busy during the daytime but at night-time, they were crowded.
Therefore, be ready to queue up for food and drink and accept that you may get a few people bumping into you to get by.
Also, make sure you have lots of change on hand so you can just pay for things and leave the queue as quickly as possible.
Finally, it was freezing when I was there, my thighs were particularly numb with the cold so be sure to bring some thermals and proper winter clothing.
Things to do in Cologne apart from the Cologne Christmas Markets
When I visited Cologne I spent four days and three nights there. I managed to see all six of the Cologne Christmas Markets, with plenty of repeat visits. Also, I managed plenty of sightseeing and relaxing too. You can read all about those in my Cologne City Guide. You can read more about my trip to the Cologne Christmas Markets over on the I Love Cooking website.
Have you been to the Cologne Christmas Markets? What did you do and see and eat and drink? Tell me all about it in the comments below. I love to hear from you.
If you like visiting European markets, have a read of my guide to La Boqueria food market Barcelona.
You might also like my Madrid food and drink guide.
And don’t forget to read my Cologne City guide.
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