After I moved to Belgium a few years back, one of the things I was the happiest about was that I was on a city with a beautiful Christmas market. And not only that, but only a few hours away from many others. In every city, or capital around here, there’s at least one interesting market. You can visit the weirdly lighten one in Brussels. Or the rustic in Liege. Or maybe the lovely one in Brugge. Each one of them has something special, but none compares to the Christmas market of Cologne. Because is not one or two, they have seven Christmas Markets!
A German Christmas tale
If there is something that German people know how to do is Christmas. When you think of the typical Christmas fairy tale, with the small town and the picturesque snowy streets… They’re actually describing any small German town. The decorations are amazing and the people is so nice that visiting any city there is delightful. Even though there is a Christmas Market in almost every city and town of the country, but because of closeness, I usually go to Cologne every year. For some, it looks like a boring thing, every year the same, but each time it’s a unique experience. I eat something new, or I discover a new stand I’ve never seen before.
The different Christmas Markets of Cologne
There are many ways to classify the Christmas markets in Cologne, so I am going to talk to you about them starting from the one I like the least to the one I enjoyed the most.
The “gay” Christmas market
It’s not the most common theme for a Christmas market, but diversity is always welcome! This market has only a small number of stands, about a dozen, all of them wrapped in metallic and wrinkled paper foil. It looks tacky, and to be honest, it kind of is. There are many places were they make some cocktails, and plenty of chocolate penises… and that would be about it all.
The market of the garden city
Usually on my typical route, I would start in this market. Is the one that it’s the most far away from the centre and, even though it has its charm and it’s the perfect place for the first gluhwein of the day, it’s not one of my favourites. It may be because it’s completely separated from everywhere. Or maybe it’s just because it’s at the end of a bit of a sad park… But still, it’s not too high in my list of favourite Christmas markets.
In this market too, you can find many artisan crafts there. They could be in the shape of hat, some globes or paintings worth hanging from the coolest dining room. Or handmade cheese, or beer. Interestingly, the stands of this market are set forming circles around a small building on the park. It’s a bit complicated to navigate, but it’s always nice to get lost in these places!
The harbor market
This market doesn’t have anything special, but its location: in front of the Lindt museum. For those you don’t know it, there is a huge shop/museum from Lindt in Cologne. There’s this huge chocolate fountain and a shop with great chocolate varieties not usually available anywhere else. This museum it’s in a weird building constructed on the river with the shape of a boat. Chocolate aside (if that’s even possible), the Christmas market is composed by a few stands with a more “seaish” flavor. There are some bars, and other places where they sell fish and some other things. Even though the market is quite original, when you compare the ones I’m about to tell you about… well, there’s no competition!
The market of the new square (or Rudolf’s market)
This market starts to be one of the cutest. There are many stands, mostly forming a few streets where there’s food everywhere. From hams being slowly cooked, to sausages barbecued while hanging from the ceiling. And almonds. And Kolsch (the typical beer from Cologne). The place is beautiful. And everything is decorated with lights and artificial snow. Also, in each end of the market there’s some sleighs being thrown by mooses and Rudolph heads everywhere. It’s very cute!
The angels’ Christmas market
This market is located right across the street of the “gay” market. And you should see this market after sunset. It’s a must. Why? Well, this market is in a square surrounded by trees. Hundreds of bright stars are hanging from the tree branches, lightening the night to a magical setup. All the stands are made of wood, and cute decorations finish to give the perfect final touch to the picture. In this market you can find never ending food stops, even though the most common ones are of tree ornaments and cookie molds. They have all shapes you can imagine and they are very cute and cheap!
The Cathedral’s Christmas Market
This one is the most striking market of them all, and usually the one most people prefer. A complicated pattern has the stands placed around a huge Christmas tree and a beautiful net of lights covering them. Each one of the stands is red and decorated with little white lights. Visually, it’s spectacular. In this market you can find absolutely anything you want, from food to wine and decorations. Also, the market is right behind the Cathedral, so if you mix it all, the result is amazing.
My choice: Elf’s Christmas market
This market is massive. There’s a ice rink where you can skate, a second one where you can play to a kind of ice-petanque. A bit weird, but looked fun. There are also some stands so big that could overshadow some restaurants. A small elf-only ski slope and some elfs here and there doing some antics.
This Christmas market occupies two squares and it’s the biggest of all of them (in Cologne). Half of them is embraced by trees lines in beautiful red lights, and, the other half, by two majestic big trees, one carrying hearts, and the other candles. There’s even a small noria!
When can you visit the Christmas markets of Cologne?
Well, you can always visit Cologne, because it’s a beautiful little city. But, the Christmas Markets usually open four weeks before the day of Christmas and they end the 23rd of Decembre. They open daily and they remain like that until late. Even though they are always nice, the best time to visit them is after the sun is down, so after 4pm.
The “Must” of these Christmas Markets
If there’s something you really need to do once you are there, is having a gluhwein in more than one of the markets. In each one of them, they have their own mug, some times a boot, some times a little ball, with something related with the topic of the market. It’s a great souvenir that you can enjoy or return if you decide no to keep it. But they are so cute…!
Each Christmas Market has its own beautiful part, so… Have you been to them? Did you like them? Which one was your favorite?
Please, tell me all about it in the comments section!