Sizzling sausages, barbecued beef, steaming gluwein, interesting gifts, colourful arrays of handcrafted lamps, hustle, bustle and jolliness…
These are all the things that spring to mind when I remember the amazing festive markets in Cologne.
That and how freezing my feet were from standing in the snow with my hands wrapped around a steaming hot mug of gluwein.
The Koelnerweihnachtsmarkts (or Christmas Markets) were the whole purpose of my visit to Cologne this December and I was not disappointed. In fact, I think the only place where I have had so much market fun was in Chiang Mai in Thailand. Tune in tomorrow to find out why…
Cologne boasts at least five markets throughout the city and they are open every day in December until 10pm. My favourites were the one by the cathedral, close to where I stayed, and the one at the chocolate museum, which was spread into two halves across the river and had the cosiest atmosphere.
What to expect from Cologne’s Christmas Markets:
Cologne’s famous markets are a great place to eat, drink and be merry. The food and drink alone is enough to fill a whole post, which you will see here soon but there is plenty more to see and do other than eat and drink.
The stalls that make up the markets all look like little wooden huts with matching decoration identifying each market. When I was there it snowed and when the snow settles on top of these huts it looks so festive.
Most of the markets sell the same or similar things, which means that if you wanted you could get all your shopping done at just one market, but you must make sure that you visit all the markets to enjoy the different atmospheres and themes.
The things on offer at the Christmas markets in Cologne are normally handcrafted and are unique, meaning that nothing is exactly cheap. If you plan to do a bit of shopping at Cologne’s markets then be prepared to go through a fair few euros.
You will find great original gifts though, so it’s worth shelling out: I bought many ornaments, decorations and candle holders, and everyone who has been to my house since my return has commented on something or other.
Wrap up warm at Cologne’s Christmas Markets
Cologne’s Christmas markets are all outdoor. When I was there it snowed. It was below zero degrees during the daytime. Needless to say it was very very cold!
Remember that when you walk around a market you stop and start a lot. You need plenty of warm clothes and a warm, waterproof coat.
You need hat, scarf and gloves (all of which you can buy in the markets). And most importantly of all, you need good strong boots with a thick sole. There is a lot of standing about on stone floors and your feet will freeze if you haven’t got a decent pair of socks and a decent pair of boots.
Got to try the gluwein
When you find yourself getting cold, head for one of the gluwein stands.
The wine is served hot in mugs and makes a nice, warm feeling as it travels into your stomach. Look for a gluwein stand that has its own deck, not just a hatch. There are many that are like proper bars and they have wooden floors, which are much better to stand on away from the freezing stone.
If you don’t fancy mulled wine (gluwein), though it’s not strong at all, you can try the hot beer (glubier), the hot cider (Äpplewoi) or a mug of hot chocolate.
If you need more of a kick in your drink, get the gluwein with a shot of rum or amaretto. The best place to get this is at the chocolate museum market where they put a lump of brown sugar in your gluwein, cover it with the alcohol and then light it until all the sugar has burnt away.
Of course, if you are not into hot drinks very much then you can order a simple glass of kölsch (very light lager typical in Cologne).
How long do you need to visit Cologne’s Christmas Markets?
If pushed for time you could actually get around Cologne’s markets in a day. Personally I think that it would be a shame to rush and I prefer to spread them out and combine them with different things, for example, if you visit the chocolate museum market you could then combine this with a visit to the chocolate museum. And if you visit the cathedral market, you could visit Cologne’s cathedral at the same time.
It’s much more enjoyable if you spread the market visits over a few days because that way you can enjoy more of the amazing food on offer in the markets. I ate extremely well around the markets and there are so many typical types of street food to try.
Don’t know your knofibrot from your snitzel and your kölsch from your zunfttpunk? Find out more about the amazing food selection in Cologne’s Christmas markets here.
Remember that if you do decide to visit Cologne, the best time to go is December when the Christmas markets are on. Remember that it gets very busy at this time of year with tourists so start to plan your already for next winter…
Have you been to Cologne? What did you think?
Have you been to other Christmas markets elsewhere? Any recommendations?
Check out more things to do in Cologne right here.
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....