Christmas Markets in Cologne
I visited the German Markets in Cologne with my husband, Greg, just before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed them. Each market has a unique look and feel to it, and all of them offer a completely different experience at night than they do in the daytime.
We actually visited all 7 of the markets in the first day, although we ended up walking around 9 miles to do that!
We started with the market on the harbourside, which consists of about 80 stalls and has plenty of stalls with fresh food.It also has a lot of artisan crafts, including home made clothes and other items.
The reason for starting here was the obligatory visit to the Lindt Chocolate Museum and cafe, which was our first port of call, and which is conveniently located right next to the Harbourside Market.
The biggest market is the one located outside the Cathedral. This was busy at all times of day. It was certainly the one with the biggest light show at night. Most of the market was under a canopy of bright, shining lights. It has a large stage, which offered plenty of live entertainment from late afternoon into the evening. This included a sing-along to German Christmas songs, which most of the audience seemed to know and were very happy to bop along to.
We went out to the furthest market, with is the Stadtmarkt, located close to the University grounds, We misjudged the U-Bahn station we needed to get to it, so ended up walking miles through the park.. It is the UniversitatStrasse station that is needed. We eventually found where we needed to go with a bit of help from the good old satellite GPS on Greg’s phone, which made it well worth the £3.00 daily overseas roaming charge.
This market was more geared to children, with children’s activities and entertainers. It was one of the smaller ones, with the stalls being more tightly compacted and narrower walkways that other markets. This was the one market where I felt really in danger of being run over by a pushchair!
We made our way back to the RudolphStrasse market, which is located on a square by the same name, close to one of the old entrances to the City. We got to this one as dusk was falling and the market was extremely busy. It had a lot of stalls selling Christmas decorations, including a huge shop dedicated purely to decorations in the Centre of the Market.
This was the market where I managed to bite into a piece of German Lebkuchen and broke my tooth, which subsequently needed removing when I got back to the UK, so that market does not have good memories for me!
All the markets had a huge selection of food and drink, both savoury and sweet to tempt you. Most of the markets were relatively quiet during the day, but all came to life as a vibrant social scene in the evening.
Each market had traditional gluhwein for sale, in a variety of flavours and each one had its own mugs. When you buy your first gluhwein in a market, you pay 3 euros for the gluhwein and 3 euros deposit for the mug. You can fill the mug up on any stand in that market and, if you don’t want the mug, you return it to any gluhwein stand in that market and get your deposit back. One of the best bits of the Rudolph’s Platz Markt was the cute little boot shaped mugs that the Gluhwein came in! We had two different mugs, that looked like they were a part of a set of about eight different mugs.
Close by is another market, which is run by the lesbian and gay community. There was a lot of hype about this on the websites that I visited before I went to Germany and also in the City Guide, however, I was quite disappointed with it, as it was one a small street, with very few stalls and I did not think it had much life or vibrancy to it. The only thing that really caught my attention was the huge cake, with silver and purple ribbons on it. I am not quite sure what it was made of.
My favourite Market was the Heinzel Markt in the Altstadt (Old Town), which seemed to have the most atmosphere. It was the only place where we found 1/2 meter meat on skewers, which were delicious. Heinzels are gnomes, which are steeped in the legend in the city, which is probably why I was so fascinated with them.
In this market, there were some fascinating craft areas including hand made leather books and a farrier, who was making lucky horse shoes with your name on them.
I managed to acquire the most appropriate Heinzel mug for me, which was about the shoemaker, who was also the dreamer, who went to sleep and awoke to find the others had done the work for him. I like that idea!
There was also a ferris wheel here and it was one of the main stopping points for the train that did a tour between all the markets.
As expected there were a lot of stalls in all the markets selling candles. If you buy honey or bees wax candles, especially anything with a shape (such as a Father Christmas) they don’t last more than 5 minutes and burn down into a goo-ey mess!
Where stands are repeated across markets, pricing is much the same from one market to another. The Heinzel Markt was the one place where I found a lot of things that I did not see elsewhere, such as a stand selling notebooks with a handmade leather cover and handmade paper. I absolutely had to have one of those!
From the HeinzelMarkt , officially called the NeuMarkt (New Market) which is located in the AltStadt (Old Town) you could walk down to the market near to the HeuMarkt station. This was one of the main eating and drinking markets and also the one that had a large outdoor ice-skating rink and ice-curling area.
Across the markets, there really was something for everyone.
We stayed outside the cite centre at the Novum Silence Hotel at Koln Bruck. It is located towards the end of the U-Bahn, (underground/overground train), which was very useful, with trains running every 10 minutes. It was a 20 minute train ride to the city centre. At the hotel we were given a map, showing up the main markets and how to get to them, which was very useful. We also bought a day ticket each for 8.30 Euros, which allowed us to hop on and off the trains, which was most useful. A single adult trip costs 3.80 euros, so we saved money by doing what we did. You can buy your tickets on the trains. The ticket machines are multi-lingual, however you do need plenty of coins, as the machines do not take cards or notes. The receptionist at the hotel very kindly gave us change each day.
Across the different markets, there are numerous nativity scenes, which are all made out of different materials, including wood and metal.
We had a four day trip, arriving late on the Monday evening and leaving late on the Thursday evening. This proved to be plenty of time to take in all the sights and sounds of the markets, re-visit our favourite ones, do most of our Christmas shopping and visit the stunning Cologne Cathedral.
The weather was warm and dry on most of the days, which was a bit of a let-down! Some cold weather and snow would have been lovely. We only had one wet day and it was not fun wandering around in the rain, however there are plenty of the eating and drinking establishments which have undercover areas, so you can sip your gluhwein and munch on your German Sausage until the weather clears up.
A great trip with plenty of variety.
I would go again.