Some may be closed, but the Cologne Christmas markets are in full swing this year! Here’s what you should know to get the most out of them.
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Know Before You Go
Most cities with Christmas markets actually have many, not just one. They’re scattered throughout the city, usually in their major squares and parks.
These can have different decor styles, different themes, or just different vibes. I try to check out as many as possible when I go to a city for their Christmas markets!
If you want a whirlwind trip, you could do 100% of Cologne’s markets in a day. They open around 10:30 and are closing around 8:30-9pm, with crowds increasing as the day goes on. But I’d advise spending two days in Cologne to have a relaxed, meandering visit with time to see some of the city as well.
Unique Parts of the Cologne Christmas Market
If you’ve been to Christmas markets before, you know that collecting the little gluhwein mugs is a big thing. Every city has unique ones. Cologne takes it a step further and has different ones at each market! Nearly every stall in a given market uses that market’s design. The only exception is at Stadtgarten- their mugs are basic glass, so no need to collect that one.
Cologne’s Christmas markets have a great wide selection of food. Local specialties like pork knuckle, rievkooche (potato pancakes served with applesauce) and of course Kolsch beer. They also have regional specialties they border, like waffles, dampfnudel (I only knew what this was thanks to GBBO) and raclette. Plus, there’s always the German national dishes of sausages and spaetzle!
Cologne Christmas Markets
There are seven main Cologne Christmas markets, plus other groups of stalls that pop up nearby!
One thing Cologne does really well is that the booths don’t seem cookie cutters of each other. The sheer variety of art and handmade creations makes it easy to wander for hours. The crepe stalls area all decorated differently, and the nutcracker stalls have slightly different design styles even on the traditional ones. You can tell they’re not all owned by the same company.
My favorite Cologne Christmas market is Heinzel’s WinterMarchen, located in Altermarkt. Take note that it spreads through two squares, connected by a pedestrian street lined with more booths. It offers a good mix of food, drinks, and crafts. There’s also ice skating here and a game that looks like bocce played on ice! It’s kid-friendly without being only about the kids.
The easiest one to find sits next door to the Cathedral. For that reason, it’s often the most crowded, but there’s so much to see and try that I didn’t mind! I also loved the Nikolausdorf, sitting right under the Hahnen Gate – both are classic Christmas markets and fun day or night!
The Stadtgarten market and Heavenue are more about the nightlife, sitting in the Belgian Quarter and LGBTQIA neighborhood, respectively. They’re mostly bar-focused with a few crafts and food stalls. Their target audience skews young adults, and they’re only open in the late afternoons and evenings. The Angel Market also slants a bit bar-focused, but still has a good balance of other booths. It also looks somewhat more upscale than the others.
There’s a nautical-themed one along the river called the Harbour Christmas Market. It sits right in front of the Chocolate Museum, so its draw is pretty easy to see! It also tends to the one of the most touristy because it’s right along the river where the cruise ships dock.
If you want more details on the exact locations of each market, check the official Cologne Christmas market page.