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Cologne during the Christmas season is one of the best places to be. We first visited on our honeymoon so it always feels romantic and nostalgic to us. And, to top it all off, it has a lot of Christmas Markets. One magical December, we spent two weeks in Cologne and went to a Christmas Market at least every other day. To us, they really are the embodiment of joy during the holiday season. Even though on the surface they may appear a bit touristy, they are a hugely local thing. Everyone is just happy to be there enjoying good food, hot Glühwein, and friendly company. We think the Cologne Christmas Markets are the best in Germany, and we hope this post inspires you to visit and enjoy them.
The seven Christmas Markets in Cologne
Cologne has seven major Christmas Markets located in different neighborhoods. But the city is pretty compact and easy to get around (on foot or by U-Bahn), so it’s easy to see all of them during a one or two-day visit. Lucky for us, we had two whole weeks to explore all the Cologne Christmas Markets. And lucky for you, we’re pretty much experts. Here’s our run down of and top tips for each.
In 2019, the Cologne Christmas Markets are open from November 25-December 23. Check back here for opening dates and times for each market as we get closer to the season.
Christmas Market am Dom
The most impressive Christmas Market in Cologne is definitely the one under the Dom, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. The Dom is a gorgeous, ornate building, and it looks even more beautiful when it’s towering over a Christmas tree and festive Christmas Market huts.
One can also climb to the top of the Dom. We did this on our honeymoon before Sarah was diagnosed with LAM (although climbing 533 steps would be difficult for her with or without a lung disease!). If you can manage it’s a really great experience. The views out the little windows on the way up and from the top can’t be beat.
Christmas Market at Alter Markt (Heinzels Wintermärchen)
The Christmas Market at the Alter Markt (aka Heinzels Wintermärchen) is massive and actually seems like two markets in one. It starts a few minutes walk from the Dom, going through the Altstadt. It’s lined with wooden statues of gnomes (Heinzelmännchen) and goes right behind the beautiful Rathaus (city hall).
One of our favorite Christmas Market eats can be found here. Schupfnudeln is a dish made of hand-rolled potato noodles. It’s typically served with sauerkraut and bacon, which is quite tasty. But one of the stalls in this Christmas Market has a version with arugula, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and crème fraîche. It’s absurdly decadent, but so delicious. And there’s greens in there, so you can convince yourself it’s not a complete lost cause.
The large market continues through to Heumarkt. The highlights here are alpine huts (where better to drink Glühwein?) and a skating rink (a pretty big one considering)! We had a really fun time skating in such a beautiful setting. Although Sarah forgot Justin is an expert skater, and that this activity requires exertion! But not to worry, there were plenty of benches where she could take a little breather.
Markt der Engel was our favorite Christmas Market the first time we visited Cologne. We were pleased when we learned it was pretty close to where we were staying this time around. It’s angel-themed, and there are two people dressed as angels who walk around the market and dutifully sprinkle children with glitter and pose for pictures. There are twinkly lights everywhere and it’s quite beautiful.
It was at this market that we also enjoyed a new Christmas Market treat: Prague ham sandwiches. We saw these stalls throughout all of the markets and the delicious spit-roasted meat didn’t disappoint. And of course the side of kale made the whole meal super healthy. It’s not like it had cream and Wurst in it or anything.
Christmas Market at Rudolfplatz
Our go-to Christmas Market when we visited was the one at Rudolfplatz. It was close to where we were staying, but we also loved the vibe. It’s a much smaller market with fewer stalls but just as much delicious food, warming Glühwein, and super happy people. It’s positioned under the Hahnentorburg (Hahnen Gate) which, originally built in the 13th century, was one of the 12 gates to the city in medieval times.
A smaller Christmas Market in the same area as Rudolfplatz and the Angel’s Market is Heavenue. It’s billed as the LGBTQ Christmas Market. All the stalls were wrapped in pink and purple metallic wrapping paper. It was open late and also had live music and was quite a fun place to be.
The Statdgarten Christmas Market seems a bit more upscale than the others. Its Glühwein was organic and cost 10 cents more than it did anywhere else. It’s definitely they place to go for proper Christmas Market shopping, with a more unique offering of gifts and crafts. It’s a little bit outside the center, but reachable by tram in just a few minutes.
Harbor Christmas Market
The Harbor Christmas Market is located directly in front of the Chocolate Museum, which looks delicious (we’ve never actually gone in). It’s in a beautiful setting at the harbor with views of Cologne all around you. It’s maritime themed, which mainly means they sell more seafood and some of their huts are shaped like ships.
Christmas Market Express
If you only have one day to see Christmas Markets in Cologne (which would be a tragedy), or if you have mobility limitations, or you just don’t want to walk, you can hop on the Christmas Market Express. This green and yellow trolleybus drives visitors to the four Christmas Markets in the city: the Dom, Alter Markt, Harbor, and Angel’s. It’s like a hop off/hop on bus for Christmas Markets. If you buy a round trip ticket (10 EUR), you can get off and back on at each stop.
Bonus: Bonn Christmas Markets
Bonn is a quick and easy train ride away from Cologne so we went for an afternoon to see even more Christmas Markets and explore the city. There are a few Christmas Markets quite close together which made for easy wandering.