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  • Writer's pictureJulie Stevens

Christmas in Cologne - Markets, Meals & Glühwein

Updated: Jun 30, 2023


Cologne Germany Christmas Markets Couples Nicholas Village
Cologne Christmas Markets

There are so many different ways to celebrate the holiday season, and one of our favorites was experiencing the Christmas markets in Cologne, Germany. We took the train from London to Brussels and then onto Cologne. The moment you step out of the station, the iconic Kölner Dom is your backdrop to one of the oldest cities in Germany. It was also the setting of the first of many markets to come.


Cologne Cathedral Germany
Cologne Cathedral

There are seven delightful markets to explore, each with its own theme, so there's no shortage of twinkling lights, gifts and Glühwein. The markets open during the week before Advent and stay open until December 23rd. One exception is The House Elves' Winter Fairytale Market which has two sections. The Alter Markt closes on the 23rd and the Heumarkt reopens for one last day on December 26th. Market information can be found at



Cathedral Market


The Cathedral Market (Dom Markt) is one of the most famous in the city and houses nearly 150 booths. This was our introduction to this renowned holiday tradition, and we were transported by the traditional German music, savory scent of bratwurst and pretzels, the aroma of candied almonds and nougat, and the gentle wafting of spiced wine in the air. Grab a mug and stroll blissfully by the 85-foot Nordmann fir tree that is the market's centerpiece.





Heinzels Wintermärchen


As soon as you pass through the festive gates of The House Elves' Winter Fairytale Market (Heinzels Wintermärchen), you are entering a youthful world of merriment and gnomes. This market is split into the Alter Market & Heumarket, and you will feel like you've entered an enchanted forest with the detailed tree carvings, elves, and gingerbread. Both offer endless choices for local and handmade treasures, and a wide variety of food and drink stalls. Heumarket goes the extra mile with an ice rink and curling lanes. Most markets here in Cologne serve their Glühwein in mugs that represent the theme of that market. When you order you will pay about 6 euro, but if you choose to return your mug, you will get 3 euro back. Needless to say, we are now the proud owners of 8 adorable Christmas market mugs.






The Angels' Market


The Angels' Christmas Market (Neumarkt) is the oldest market in Cologne and located right in the city center. They have done a heavenly job with the angel decor, silver chalets and a sea of twinkling stars. If you like fancy candle holders, leather goods, spaetzle & reibekuchen (elevated hash browns for those of us from the U.S.), this is the place for you. If you hang around long enough, you may catch a glimpse of angels performing on stilts.




Angel Market Cologne Germany Reibekuchen
Reibekuchen at the Angel Market


Nikolausdorf


The Nicholas' Village Christmas Market (Rudolfplatz) with its 13th-century Hahnentorburg gate entrance and Bavarian stalls, adds an experience unique to the other markets. Here you will be spoiled with boot shaped Glühwein mugs, massive brats smothered in spicy mustard, and handmade scarves and hats. This is also a wonderful place for families as you're sure to see St. Nikolaus or Santa Claus, and the kiddos can participate in children's workshops. The charm and concept of this market will definitely remind you that you're in Germany.



Advent Village & Stadtgarten


These two markets were some of the smaller ones on the list, and well worth a visit. Advent Village is located between the Cathedral Market and Alter Markt and has a stunning 30-foot tall Christmas pyramid as its centerpiece. These are a traditional staple of the German markets and it's quite impressive to see one this tall. Stop in for a mulled wine or my new favorite beer, Kölsch.


Advent Village Cologne Germany Pyramid
Advent Village

Stadtgarten opens a bit later in the day, so it's a great market for a dinner and cocktail gathering. Set in a park and away from the city center, it's a lovely way to work off the empanadas and nougat on your way home. The exhibitors were a mix of traditional and modern, and I purchased a beautiful pair of ornate hoop earrings. The owner said I reminded her of Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City". Sold!


The only market we missed was the Haven Weihnachtsmarkt (Harbor Market) located on the River Rhine. It's located next to the famous Cologne Chocolate Museum and is a newer addition to the market scene. I guess this means we'll just have to return next year.


Christmas Eve & Christmas Day Activities


Because our trip to Cologne included Christmas Eve & Christmas Day and the markets were closed, we were able to explore the city with no timeline. I highly recommend a visit to the cathedral which is open to visitors year round. The inside is just as breathtaking as the outside. We spent Christmas Eve at the Vespers service enjoying prayer and songs of the season. Yes, it was all in German, but I've always enjoyed attending church services when I travel to foreign countries.


Cologne Cathedral Germany Christmas Eve
Cologne Cathedral on Christmas Eve

A lot of the restaurants and brew halls are still open during the holidays, and I recommend Gaffel Am Dom Brauhaus https://gaffelamdom.de or Bauhaus FRÜH Am Dom https://www.frueh-am-dom.de/brauhaus.html for a traditional meal and brew.

There are plenty of food choices and after several days of German market fare, we opted for a less traditional route on our final few days. We devoured a massive plate of sushi for lunch and were spoiled with the cuisine and service during our Christmas dinner at Fein Fein. https://feinfeinsein.de We spent over three hours laughing with staff, eating, drinking and being merry. Now that is what I call a leisurely European dining experience.


Just a word to the wise, the food in Cologne is out of this world, so this is not the time to calorie count or fuss over a few pounds. My husband and I made sure we went in under our fighting weight in preparation for this indulgence. Guten Appetit!


Spend a day walking along the River Rhine and watch the small cruise boats mooring for their guests, or explore the Hohenzollern Bridge and its massive wall of love locks. The bridge stretches across the river, and you will find some of the best views on the other side. Stroll through Cologne's Old Town with its colorful buildings and centuries old history.


Cologne Germany Old Town
Old Town

Christmas in Cologne was as joyful and memorable as we had imagined it to be. It's a fairytale environment that wraps you up in cheerful decor, mouth-watering scents, classic and modern traditions, and that feeling of childlike wonder.


Cologne Germany Hohenzollern Bridge Rhine River
Views of Cologne


Check out my YouTube video on the highlights of our adventures in Cologne.




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