Cologne Christmas Markets

Cologne is an awesome city to visit year-round, but if you want to see some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, plan a trip during the holidays! This is an overview of the Cologne Market from 2022, but each year the markets are just about the same, so you can use this as a general guide for planning (unless there’s another pandemic).

LINK TO MAP OF ALL NINE COLOGNE CHRISTMAS MARKETS: https://goo.gl/maps/SRT1qXum5UhyUmhq8

Around Cologne…

Cologne

THE CITY You need at least one full day to see all six main markets in Cologne, but I recommend an extra day to see the sights the city has to offer including the great Kölner Dom (record breaking cathedral), love lock bridge, harbor and old town areas. If you want to fit in the bonus two markets (that’s right, there are actually eight!) you will need that extra day, too.

LODGING There are many places to stay around Cologne at every price point and to fit every need, but I recommend finding a place that is either within walking distance of one of the markets or within walking distance to a metro/train. We like the Leonardo Hotel Köln (it’s on the outskirts but close to trains) when we have the whole family, and the Hilton Köln when we visited as a couple (it’s in a great location and walkable to everything).

TRANSPORT As mentioned before, you can drive into the city and park (here is good spot), but the better bet is to just take a train! Shoot for the main train station Cologne Cathedral as it’s the perfect place to start the market loop. There is even a special Christmas Train that takes you around the city from market to market (four of the six main markets) and costs €12 adult/€6 child for the full loop or €4 adult/ €2 child for a partial route ride per person.

FOOD You’re going to the Christmas markets, right? Just plan on eating all the things there! Food prices range from about €3-€10 per item depending on what you’re buying, and it’s always a good idea to carry cash. However, in Cologne most places accepted card and “tap to pay” which was very convenient. Cologne also has terrific restaurants and street food outside of the markets, but I definitely recommend taking advantage of the yummy delights at each market.

HOURS The markets run from approximately 21 November through 23 December and will usually be about those dates each year. Take note that there are a couple of markets that open earlier by a day or two, so double check on the websites linked here before you go. See below for the map of Wolter’s Christmas Market train!

Map of the train route covering four Market areas. (Missing are Rudolfplatz and Stadtgarten)

KÖLN CHRISTMAS MARKETS

There are SIX main Christmas markets in Cologne, and we visited them all! But did you know there are actually eight markets in the city? That’s right! Two little bonus markets are a little harder to find, but I will cover them here at the end even though we didn’t have time to see them this year. Here are overviews for each market including approximate opening dates, opening times, locations, links and what to expect.

WEIHNACHTSMARKT (KÖLN CATHEDRAL MARKET)

  • DATES: 21 November – 23 December
  • TIMES: Sunday-Wednesday: 11.00-21.00
    Thursday-Friday:  11.00-22.00
    Saturday: 10.00-22.00
  • LOCATION: Roncalliplatz next to Cologne Cathedral
  • WEBSITE: http://www.koelnerweihnachtsmarkt.com/de/

The Cologne Cathedral market is the perfect place to start as it is a festive introduction to the Köln vibes. This is a great market with nice mugs (yay!) and glasses and classic decor with one of the coolest backdrops – the great cathedral! This market also features an enormous 75 foot (25m) high tree! Here you will find cozy winter gear, artistic items, and gifts that are similar to other markets in Europe. This is one market that focuses on social action and charity market stalls. There is also a large stage where performances are held throughout the season and a small carousel for children.

MARKT DER ENGEL (ANGEL MARKET)

The Angel Market is one of the original markets in Cologne and one of my favorites as well! It has such a sweet, whimsical energy and all the market stalls have organic and natural products. This market is known for its street performers (an angel on a horse, winter queen with her snowy owl, and illuminated mythical creatures on stilts) and special adult drink stalls that are different than elsewhere. I love the copper Moscow mule mug I picked up as well as the angel market mug with a clown riding a bike! The food here is also delicious and especially cheesy with pasta in a cheese bowl or stuffed breads, and classics such as fire roasted salmon sandwiches, potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer or Reibekuchen) and waffles. Gifts here are sparkly and clean, ceramic or glass crafts, and many of gifts are unique food items like honey, locally made alcohols, candles and tea.

Nikolausdorf at Rudolfplatz

  • DATES: 18 November – 23 December
  • TIMES: Sunday-Thursday: 11.00-21.00
    Friday:  11.00-22.00
    Saturday:  10.00-22.00
  • LOCATION: In Rudolfplatz
  • WEBSITE: https://www.nikolausdorf.com/

The St. Nicholas Village Market is a bit smaller than the other markets but I absolutely loved the decorative “woodsy” theme, boot mugs (!) and picturesque stalls. We picked up wooden gifts and noticed there were lots of hand crafted Christmas themed items here. There were meat stalls, tons of drinks for adults and kids, and all with the backdrop of the medieval 13th century Hahnentor. Here you can find Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) making an appearance at 16:00 and stage performances as well. Inside the main building there are also craft stations for children. Definitely make time to wander through this market.

HEINZELS WINTERMARKT (Old Town gnome market)

The Gnome Market is definitely one of the best markets in Cologne! This is not to be missed. It is totally decked out with Gnome-themed winter fairy tale decor and has tons for the whole family to do. It is also the largest of the markets in Cologne as it has two main locations that connect. Here you will find the coveted gnome mugs, of which there are 15 to collect. This is also the destination for winter sports including a 2400 square meter ice rink for skating and curling. This is also a great place to take in the markets from above – head to the center chalets and walk up the stairs to the balcony to enjoy a hot drink and watch the skaters. There are so many stalls here that it can be overwhelming. Gifts and toys galore, sweets, classic German market foods and all the drinks. See how many gnomes you can count! There is also a carousel and ferris wheel for the kiddos. *Note: If you want to ice skate or curl, you need to sign up online. We were told they were sold out (and we visited on the first weekend) for the whole market season, but then others visited and said they were able to walk right in and ice skate. It’s worth asking! They stay open until January.

Hafen Weihnachtsmarkt (HARBOR MARKET)

  • DATES: 18 November – 23 December and 26 December – 8 January
  • TIMES: Daily 11.00-22.00
  • LOCATION: Next to the chocolate museum along the river
  • WEBSITE: http://www.hafen-weihnachtsmarkt.de/

The harbor market was probably my least favorite market, but it did have a funky pirate ship and pointy white stalls that reminded me of angelic gnome hats – but I think they’re supposed to remind us of ship sails. They also had this delicious garlic bread and spiral potato chips on a stick that were a hit with the kids for food. This market had a distinct nautical theme (appropriate for a harbor) and the biggest ferris wheel in Cologne at 50m. It also is the only market that stays open after the new year! Head to the ship for drinks (all the beer here) and peruse the stalls for unique gifts, food (lots of fish) and sweets. There is also a nativity scene and entertainment program including children’s play tent and pirate juggling. Remember that the chocolate museum is a worthwhile visit of its own, too!

Stadtgarten

This was the last market we visited as we knew it opened the latest so we planned accordingly. It was dark by the time we arrived and it had a completely unique feel compared to the others – it was a good size and felt nestled into a forest. This is also a great spot outside of the holiday season as it’s a beer garden usually. With the market stalls though, it’s a bit cramped. The stalls had handmade items (I especially loved the felted, wool, paper and knitted gifts), aromatics, clothing, toy gifts, specialty alcohols, jewelry and organic beauty products. The food was good here, too, with a few unique pasta and felafel items and meat stalls. There were unique drinks but no cool collectible mugs. Truth be told we were quite tired by the time we reached Stadtgarten and it was on our way to the outskirts of the city near our hotel, so we didn’t spend much time here. We appreciated the cheeky good humor with which signs were written and noticed a whimsical circus like tent where a puppet show was entertaining children in German. This is a very cozy, family friendly market!

BONUS MARKETS!

Double check the websites to make sure these markets are running each year, but keep an eye out for these fun additional markets in the city!

Heavenue (the Gay Christmas Market)

This Christmas market perfectly represents Cologne as the city is the gay capital of Germany! Heavenue is off the beaten path, located inside a shopping center. Keep an eye out for glittery, colorful stalls, fairy lights and clouds, fun performances and great DJ music! Would you expect anything less? Don’t miss the selfie station…and consider going without the kids as the gifts have a distinct sexy theme.

ROOFTOP COLOGNE

This unique Christmas market is billed as the “highest market” in Cologne. It is located on top of a parking garage and is open only in the evenings for drinks and appetizers plus festive lights and unique handcrafted gifts. The market limits how many people can visit, but it’s also not as popular as the other markets so it shouldn’t be a problem to enter if you arrive early. Make a reservation if you want to dine – the menu looks great!

  • DATES: 18 November – 23 December
  • TIMES: Monday-Thursday: 16.00-22.00
    Friday: 16.00-midnight
    Saturday: 15.00-midnight
    Sunday: 15.00-22.00
  • LOCATION: Top parking level multi-storey car park Brückenstr. Ludwigstrasse 1, 50667 Cologne
  • WEBSITE: https://www.rooftop-cologne.de/

Advent Village (Am hof)

This tiny Christmas nook is tucked away near the Cathedral – but you can’t miss it if you spy the giant wooden Christmas pyramid! With an advent theme and lots of drinks and sweets, this tiny market is worth a peek. Just pop on by when you’re near the Cathedral market and grab gingerbread cookies and a warm brew!

Photo: theunknownenthusiast.com

And just for fun, how many of these Christmas Market Foods can you find in Cologne? Keep an eye out for:

  • Pasta
  • Pretzels
  • Baumbrot (tree bread, found at the Angel Market)
  • Kartoffel-Spiral (potato chip spiral)
  • Bratworst/Keilbasa
  • Fire Roasted Salmon
  • Reibekuchen (potato pancakes)
  • Flammekuchen (like pizza bread)
  • Waffles (often shaped like the cathedral)
  • Langos (fried dough with various toppings like sour cream, garlic & cheese)
  • Muzen (like a German donut)
  • Stuffed Breads
  • Raclette (warm scraped cheese from a wheel)
  • Candied Roasted Almonds
  • Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce & Potatoes
  • Handbrot (hand bread stuffed with meat or cheese)
  • Schupfnudeln (potato dumplings)

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