The Cologne Christmas Market are the most famous and oldest Christmas markets globally, usually held during the four weeks of Advent from the end of November until Christmas Eve.
A Christmas Market is an open-air winter street market originated from Germany, with the first Christmas market said to be held in 1384.
After sunset, Cologne Christmas Markets are transformed into night carnivals with brightly lit fairy lights and Christmas music blasting through the speakers all night long.
Here are the 7 Cologne Christmas Markets in 2021 that you should visit this Christmas:
- Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
- Alter Market Christmas Market
- The Angel’s Christmas Market
- St Nicholas’ Village Christmas Market
- Heavenue Christmas Market
- Stadtgarten Christmas Market
- Cologne Harbour Christmas Market
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7 Best Cologne Christmas Markets
There are seven Cologne Christmas Markets held around the city and attract at least 4 million visitors yearly. Cologne Christmas Markets dates for the year 2021 are between 22 November to 23 December 2021.
These Christmas Markets operate from 11 am onwards until late at night and if you are in Cologne for the weekend, you can visit all of them within one day as they are located near each other.
If you are too tired to walk from one market to another, there is a mini green train known as “Christmas Market Express” that will take you between Cologne Markets €3.00 ($3.50) for a single trip.
This is the most famous Christmas market in the city, located next to the stunning Cologne Cathedral and Central Station, with over 160 red-roofed huts set up around the city’s largest Christmas tree.
A colourful carousel is set up for young kids underneath this gigantic Christmas tree, and daily musical performances are held in this central area.
You can find handmade German Christmas souvenirs and ornaments in this market with various food stalls selling German food such as pretzels, wurst (sausage), glühwein (mulled wine), and kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes).
This Christmas market attracts the largest tourists crowd; therefore you may want to opt to visit during the day so that you can enjoy strolling through this market comfortably.
The Alter Market Christmas Market is located in front of Old Cologne Town Hall, which is about 200m from the Cologne Cathedral.
This market’s theme is based on Heinzelmännchen, the legendary house elves or gnomes who take care of Cologne citizens’ work during the night.
You will find tiny gnomes used as decorations around this market, and you can even buy a small gnome to take home with you as a souvenir.
This is one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Cologne and is set up at the Neumarkt Square, about 15 minutes walk from the Alter Market Christmas Market.
The trees here are illuminated with twinkling star lights, while the wooden huts are painted white and beautifully decorated with natural materials.
You can find stilts walkers dressed up as angels cruising around this Christmas market, giving you a magical feeling while strolling here.
One of the best snacks available in this market is Flammkuchen €4.50 ($5.30) which is sold at the stall across the kids’ carousel. It is a thin bread dough served with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon.
This traditional Christmas market is set up at the castle gate of Hahnentorburg, located on the west side of The Angel’s Christmas Market.
This mini village Christmas market is relatively small compared to other Christmas markets, with only 40 vendors selling similar items and foods.
A mini chapel is built at the centre of this Christmas market and is modelled after the original St Nicholas Church.
While you are at this market, head over to the chestnut stall run by Liebe Almond Roastery to try organic chestnuts roasted on-site.
If you would like to visit a modern Christmas market, be sure to head down to Heavenue Christmas market that is decorated with bright pink and blue neon LED lights.
This unique Christmas market is organized for gays, lesbians, and friends at the Rudolfplatz gay district.
Every night, there will be stage shows held between 7 pm to 9 pm and you will be entertained with choirs, queer shows, and drag shows.
This Cologne market is located in the Belgian Quarter, Cologne’s trendiest neighbourhood, and is uniquely set up in a city garden surrounded by trees, unlike other Christmas markets in Cologne.
The items that are sold in this market are pretty unique, and you can find artisanal handmade gifts and traditional local food produced by the locals.
This market also offers activities for children as well including storytelling sessions and puppet shows.
The Stadtgarten Christmas Market can get crowded later in the evening as the locals drop by to have a drink or two after work; thus you can opt to visit this market earlier to avoid the crowd.
This Christmas market with a nautical theme is set up next to the Chocolate Museum at the harbour along the Rhine.
Cologne Harbour Christmas Market is one of the smallest markets, with approximately 70 vendors selling under white tents offering similar food and items that you can find in other Cologne Christmas Markets.
This is a family-friendly Christmas Market where you can find play tents and playboats set up for children with occasional appearances from “Rhine Pirates” to entertain and delight the young kids.
What To Eat And Drink At Cologne Christmas Markets
Wurst or sausage is not just a cuisine, but it is considered as Germany’s national heritage and you can easily get various kinds of sausages in Cologne Christmas Markets.
One of the most famous wursts is currywurst, deemed to be the most popular street food in Germany. It is widely sold in almost every corner of the streets.
Currywurst €4.30 ($5.00) is a German sausage covered in spicy tomato sauce and curry powder served with french fries.
2.Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes)
Another popular snack food sold at Cologne Christmas Markets is Kartoffelpuffer €4.30 ($5.00), also known as Reibekuchen.
This potato pancake is made from finely grated potatoes, flour, and egg mixture. It is normally served with applesauce or sour cream.
Let me warn you first, this is a highly addictive snack, and after eating your first piece, you would want to have another!
Glühwein €5.00 ($6.00) or mulled wine is deemed the Christmas market drink served warm in a festive collectable mug.
This alcoholic drink is made from red wine and various mulling spices such as nutmeg, fennel seed, cinnamon, and cardamom.
There should be more than one stall selling Glühwein, therefore look for wine in good red colour and avoid mulled wine that is brown.
4.Himmel und Erde
Himmel und Erde which is translated as “Heaven and Earth”, is a traditional German dish that is popular in Rhineland.
This traditional food is made with homemade applesauce mixed with mashed potatoes and caramelised onions.
During winter, it is usually served as a side dish with black pudding or pork chops and is a specialty food in Cologne. Thus, do not leave Cologne without trying this unique dish.
A visit to Cologne will not be complete if you have not tasted the famous Kölsch Beer that is considered one of the best beers in the world.
Kölsch Beer is brewed according to Reinheitsgebot or the German purity law of 1516, which dictates that any beer sold in Germany can only be produced using water, barley hops, and yeast.
Kölsch Beer is served in a 0.2L tall glass known as Stange and at a colder temperature to maintain the beer’s freshness.
What Is There To Do In Cologne?
This UNESCO World Heritage is located along River Rhine and is one of the most
visited landmarks in Germany.
Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, was first built in 1248 and completed 632 years later in 1880.
This majestic Gothic cathedral was built to house the sacred relics of Three Kings and despite suffering from fourteen aerial bombs during World War II, the building structure survived the war and remained strong.
Tourist visits are allowed with appointments made at the cathedral entrance.
If you want to have a fantastic view of the River Rhine, you can climb 533 steps of the spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform about 330 ft above the ground.
Museum Ludwig is located within a short distance from Cologne Cathedral and is home to an extensive modern art collection, including 774 works by the world-renowned artist Pablo Picasso.
This museum was built and named after Peter Ludwig, a German chocolate manufacturer who donated more than 300 artworks to Cologne.
Entrance tickets to Museum Ludwig €10.00 ($12.00) can be purchased online and every first Thursday of the month, the museum will remain open until 10 pm for Late Night Thursday events such as live concerts, artist talks, and performances.
This bridge was built back in 1907 and completed in 1911 and is one of the most stunning bridges in the world.
It is currently only accessible to pedestrian traffic and used as a railway bridge with over 1’200 trains daily.
The bridge has become one of Cologne’s most romantic spots where couples will write their initials on padlocks and attach them on the bridge railings before throwing the key into the River Rhine below.
You can take a stroll on the Hohenzollern Bridge and enjoy the views of Cologne city from the bridge while admiring more than 40’000 love locks at the railing of this famous bridge.
House of Fragrance 4711
Eau De Cologne which means “Water From Cologne”, was created here in Cologne back in 1709 by an Italian perfume maker named Giovanni Maria Farina.
The most famous brand of Eau De Cologne is 4711, which was named after the address it was created in 1792. The building located at 4 Glockengasse used to be the factory that produced 4711.
This quaint building has become a significant tourist attraction and houses the flagship store of 4711 and a fragrance museum.
You can book a guided tour to discover the history of 4711 and experience the world of fragrance €7.00 ($9.00, Duration: 50mins).
Where To Stay In Cologne?
If this is your first time in Cologne, it is highly recommended to stay in Innenstadt, the central district of Cologne. This is where the key tourist attractions such as Cologne Cathedral, Museum Ludwig, and Cologne City Hall are located.
The best area to stay in is in the Old Town area and here are some of the best hotels in this historic town centre:
- Haus Enteresan (from $74 per night)
- Hotel Arde Cologne (from $76 per night)
- Hotel Cara Vita Cologne (from $75 per night)
- Urban Loft Cologne (from $99 per night)
- Courtyard by Marriott Cologne (from $116 per night)
- Hilton Cologne (from $171 per night)
How To Get Around In Cologne?
You can follow this guide “Cologne Introduction Walking Tour” to lead you to 9 major tourist attractions around the city centre.
Alternatively, you can also sign up for a free walk tour around Cologne city which will take you approximately 2.5 hours to complete. Booking is required for this walking tour without any charges.
If you wonder whether Cologne is suitable for cycling, rest assured you will have an enjoyable day discovering the city with bicycles.
The cycling facilities here are well established, with dedicated bicycle lanes for cyclists.
Rent a bicycle for €15.00 ($17.50) per 24 hours per rental and return it at any official station.
Unique Tips You Should Know When Visiting Cologne Christmas Markets
- You can opt to get the Cologne Card €9.00 ($10.60) per ticket which offers you free access to all public transportation systems; buses, trams, and rails within the city of Cologne.
- When you order a drink from the Christmas Market, you need to pay €2.50 ($3.00) as a deposit for the mug. Each Christmas Market has its own mug design; thus you can choose to keep the mug as a souvenir or return the cup to retrieve the deposit.
- If you are interested in visiting all the museums in Cologne, consider getting the Museum Card €18.00 ($21.00).
Cologne is the perfect year-end holiday destination if you want to visit Christmas markets in Germany.
It is challenging to decide which is the best Christmas Market in Cologne because each one has its uniqueness and offers a differentiated experience to visitors.
One thing is for sure, you will have a wonderful time in these winter wonderlands.