Pack your suitcases and spend this holiday season experiencing one of Germany’s finest Christmas markets – the Cologne Christmas Market. I’ve been to my fair share of Christmas markets in Europe, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is and declare that the Cologne Christmas Markets are the best ones in Europe.
With a number of markets throughout the city of Cologne, you can explore the city and its festive markets at your own pace. Each of the markets is beautifully decorated, with a mixture of wooden chalets, festive lights, and traditional German marching bands which add to the festive atmosphere.
Prepare to spend your days and evening grazing on the delicious market food, and purchasing unique holiday gifts as you make your way through Cologne. I absolutely loved the festive cheer that was evident everywhere we went and could have spent days soaking up the atmosphere.
When are the Cologne Christmas Markets?
The Cologne Christmas Markets start on 21st November 2022 until the 23rd of December 2023. With the Heumarkt open until the 8th January 2023. Open daily from 11 am until 10 pm (or 9 pm depending on the day of the week, with longer opening hours on the weekends).
Where are the Cologne Christmas Markets?
Throughout the city, you can find the Cologne Christmas Markets dotted around. Most are located in the center of Cologne and around the Dom, or a short walk from it. Some are located a bit further out. Check out my map for the locations of each market.
Cologne Christmas Market Express Train
Hop on board the Cologne Christmas Market Express Train that will take you around the various markets around the city. If you plan on visiting all of the Cologne Christmas markets then I highly recommend purchasing a hop-on-hop-off ticket that will take you to all the stops around the city.
Of course, there’s nothing better than walking around and exploring the city, especially if you have eaten your way around the Christmas markets and feel the need to stretch your legs. For example, the Market of Angels at Neumarket is a 15-minute walk from the Dom, totally manageable for most, but if you are trying to squeeze all the markets in, perhaps purchasing a ticket for the Christmas Market Express is a good idea.
What to eat at the Cologne Christmas Markets?
Bring a big appetite because the food at the Cologne Christmas Market is so good! We purposefully decided to forgo lunch so we could munch our way around the markets. My advice is to wander around one of the markets first before committing to one of the food stalls.
The portions at the Cologne Christmas Markets are very generous. Most dishes seem to be priced between €5 & €8.
One of the most famous drinks to get at any of the Christmas markets is Glühwein – a spice hot wine that is perfect on cold winter nights.
Most of the markets in Cologne have their own Glühwein drinking mug. For a small price of €5 you can keep the mug, or hand it back at the end of the night and get your €5 back. A lot of people collect the mugs (we did), and its a nice memento to have from the Cologne Christmas Markets.
With variations of hot beverages to choose from such as spiced apple punch (non-alcoholic) and a new favorite – a Hot Aperol, just remember to bring wet wipes as it gets sticky pretty quickly.
Reibekuchen (Potato Pancakes)
Delicious potato fritters (think like a Swiss Potato Rösti), the Reibekuchen are traditionally served with apple sauce. A portion of the Reibekuchen was €6 and had 3 enormous potato fritters with a huge dollop of apple sauce.
Warm caramelized nuts that have the ability to break a tooth, but are totally worth the trip to a dentist. Delicious. 100g of Gebrannte Mandeln – €4
Sausage lovers rejoice! Cologne Christmas Markets is heaven for those who love all types of German sausages. My partner B is a huge sausage fan, and he rated the Bratwurst mit käse (a cheese sausage) as his favorite. There’s a lot of variation of sausages throughout the markets. €6 per Brat.
Spotted in the Neumarkt was Cathedral-Shaped Waffles, inspired by the Cologne Dom.
A potato spiral deep-fried and finished off with a salt topping of your choice. I went for Paprika and it was a solid 10/10 for me.
My favorite discovery of the Cologne Christmas markets was the Apfelpfannkuchen – a pancake with softly stewed apples. Finished with powdered sugar, it may not look the prettiest, but it sure was the tastiest. €5.
Cheese lovers head to the Heumarkt and for €6.50 you’ll get a baguette slathered in hot melted raclette cheese. You can add toppings such as cranberry sauce, ham, crunchy onions, or jalapenos. An absolute highlight and I’m still thinking about it.
This is just the tip of the Cologne Christmas market food ‘iceberg’. There were so many other items I would have loved to have tried, but there is only so much you can eat!
Tips for visiting the Cologne Christmas Markets
- Bring cash. A lot of the vendors do accept cards, but cash was required in a lot of the stalls.
- Wet Wipes – Between the sticky gluhwein and the food consumed, you’ll be thankful to have something to get your hands clean again for the next round of treats.
- Visit during the week. Naturally, the weekends are the busiest times to visit the Cologne Christmas markets, but if you can, head during the weekdays for a more relaxed visit. We went on the opening day and it was the perfect balance of being busy but not frantic.
- Wrap up. Bring warm jackets, scarves, and gloves because Cologne can get pretty darn cold.
Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom
This is the largest and most popular of the Cologne Christmas markets, located right in the heart of the city center and underneath the Dom. The setting of the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom is home to over 150 stalls selling everything from traditional German foods and drinks to handmade gifts and decorations.
The Christmas Markets at the Dom are some of the more spacious of the Christmas markets, and there are a lot more gift & decoration stalls than at the other nearby markets. The setting underneath the Dom is quite spectacular, as is the sparking tent of Christmas lights that add to the festive atmosphere. Be sure to try a cup of glühwein (mulled wine) to get into the festive spirit!
The Angel Market (Neumarkt)
Neumarkt is also known as the Market of Angels and is located near the main shopping street of Schildergasse. To access the Neumarkt you can take any of the exits/entrances underground to cross the large and busy street.
You’ll see numerous angels walking around the Neumarkt, and the fantastic Gabriel’s bar offers plenty of drinking options. The food stalls in the Neumarkt were some of the best and offered a huge variety of options. If you love an Aperol Spritz, I highly recommend the Holy Aperoly!
Old Town (Alstadt)
We stayed in the CityClass Hotel Residence am Dom which looked directly over Heinzels Winter Fairytale which consists of the Alstadt (Old Town) & Heumarkt. Two feet from the entrance of the hotel was the Alstadt Christmas Market and I loved the location.
Heinzels Winter Fairytale market is one of the most atmospheric, with its quaint cobbled streets and medieval buildings. This is the perfect place to find unique gifts, as many of the stalls sell handmade goods. There are also plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat or a drink, with several traditional restaurants and cafes dotted around.
There is a small Ferris wheel here that looked absolutely stunning albeit terrifying. It was one of the fastest Ferris wheels I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if the screams we heard were of fun or of terror. €3 ride on the Ferris wheel.
The Heinzels Winter Fairytale is perfection to me. It’s exactly how I imagined the Cologne Christmas Markets to look and it completely surpassed my expectations.
Heumarkt is one of the liveliest markets, with a huge range of activities on offer for kids and adults alike. There’s an ice rink where you can skate surrounded by fairy lights, as well as an ‘Ice Stock Sport’, a sort of curling sport that looked like a huge amount of fun.
Heumarkt was easily my favorite of the Cologne Christmas Markets, as it had the perfect balance of vendors and activities. There are numerous places to grab a Glühwein and watch the ice-skating rink. The entrance to the Heumarkt is decorated with gnomes, who make an appearance throughout the market.
The Heumarkt Christmas Market is one of the only Cologne Christmas Markets to stay open until the 8th of January.
Cologne Harbor Christmas Markets
Although we didn’t get time to experience the Cologne Harbor Christmas Markets, we passed them on our drive out of the city. Located by the Chocolate Museum of Cologne, the Cologne Harbor Christmas Markets have a nautical theme running throughout. With white tents, they looked remarkably different from that of the Neumarkt or Heinzels Winter Fairytale.
You’ll find over 70 stalls and a 48-meter Ferris Wheel which offers stellar views over Cologne city. The Cologne Harbor Christmas Markets promise sea shanties, pirates, and lots of fishy dishes.
On the 26th of December, it transforms from a Christmas Market to a New Years Market and is open from the 26th of December 2022 to the 8th of January 2023.
St Nicholas Market
My one regret is not getting the opportunity to visit St Nicholas Market at Rudolfplatz during the Cologne Christmas Markets. Set a little bit outside the main city center of Cologne, the St Nicholas Markets are more local and appear to be beautifully decorated.
The buildings are festively adorned with stringed lights, and food stalls offer delicious goodies. If you are looking for a Glühwein mug for your Christmas mug collection, then St Nicholas Market has the best Glühwein mugs available in the shape of a boot.
This is definitely one for foodies, as there are several gourmet stalls selling everything from artisan cheese and cured meats to freshly-baked bread and pastries. Make sure you leave room for dessert!
Where to stay for the Cologne Christmas Markets?
CityClass Hotel Residence am Dom – Located immediately opposite Heinzels Winter Fairytale, this 4-star hotel is the perfect location for visiting the Cologne Christmas Markets. We loved the hotel, its huge rooms and it made dropping off things to the hotel room really easy. Highly recommend.
How to get to the Cologne Christmas Markets?
Car – Driving in Cologne center is pretty straightforward. You will need a low-emissions sticker for your car known as a Umweltplakette. Most rental cars will come with this sticker that can be used throughout the entirety of Germany in city centers. There are lots of parking lots on the outskirts of Cologne for reduced rates. Parking lots in the city center are a lot more expensive with 24-hour parking costing €27.
Train – Cologne’s Central Station (Köln HbF (Hauptbahnhof)) is conveniently located right beside the Dom. Traveling around Germany by train is incredibly easy and affordable. Purchase your train tickets here. The train from Frankfurt to Cologne takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Plane – Cologne-Bonn Airport is the nearest airport flying to 31 countries. The largest international airport is located in Frankfurt.
There’s no better way to get into the festive spirit than by spending a few days at one (or more!) of Cologne’s world-famous Christmas markets. With so many different markets to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Let me know which of the Cologne Christmas Markets was your favorite!