Travel to Germany for Cologne’s Christmas markets. Christmas time in Germany is one of the most magical times to visit. The country lights up with the most beautiful Christmas markets from Berlin to Munich to Cologne and much more. The famous German Christmas Markets each have their own unique charm.
These German Christmas markets are often times set up like a tiny Alpine village, with one of a kind light decorations, filled with tiny shops, crafts, food, drinks and activities. One of the most popular things to do at these markets is to drink the mulled wine served in unique christmas mugs to collect, and to go shopping for some of the most extraordinary ornaments.
Köln or Cologne, Germany
Köln or Cologne, Germany is a small city in southwest Germany, near the German and French border. I recently had the pleasure of visiting some of the most famous christmas markets in Cologne Germany.
Cologne’s Christmas markets run from the second last week of November until Christmas. Cologne has 6 distinct Christmas markets, all within a 10 to 15 minute walk from one another: Old Town, Cathedral, Harbor, Newmarket or Angels market, The Gay and Lesbian market, and the Stadtgarten market.
Traveling from Amsterdam to Cologne
There are a few ways to get from Amsterdam to Cologne: you can take a car, fly, or take a train. There are direct trains from Amsterdam Central to Cologne Central Station. Train tickets are about $60 each way for second class, and takes about 4 hours.
Friday Night in Cologne or Köln
We arrive into Cologne around 6pm on a Friday in December. As we walk out of the station it was very dark out, and the first thing we see is the magnificent Cologne Cathedral; all lit up. This Cathedral is colossal next to all the other buildings that surround it; a bit dizzying to look at at times. There are people everywhere, coming from all parts of Germany and the world to enjoy Cologne’s Christmas markets.
I pull up my handy google maps, and get the turn by turn directions on so we can navigate to our hotel, the Dorint.
Hotel Dorint am Heumarkt Köln
Hotel Dorint am Heumarkt Köln is located in central Cologne, just west of the Rhine River, in the Old Town neighborhood. This is a great hotel choice if coming for the Christmas Markets, as it is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from Cologne Central Station, Cathedral, Newmarket and Harbor Christmas Markets. For those who do not like to walk, Cologne’s main tramlines are located right out front of the Dorint, taking you east and west of the city.
Dinner in Cologne
After walking in numerous circles, we finally arrive, check in and drop our bags. FIrst order of business is to find a place to eat dinner in Cologne. Hitting up tripadvisor and google reviews, I start searching for places near our hotel. It was Friday night, during peak season for Cologne’s Christmas markets, with no reservation, I knew we were going to have to wait.
Taking our chance we head over to Weinhaus Brungs, a restaurant specializing in German cuisine and wine; about an 8 minute walk from our hotel. There is a crowd of people out front of the restaurant, all waiting to get seated. The look on Matt’s face says it all; he is not thrilled. He hates waiting. As we talk to the host we are informed that there is only outdoor seating available, unless we wait 40 minutes for an inside table. It is warm out but not that warm. Convincing Matt we will have to wait wherever we go, we stay and hope for the best.
We are so hangry and this is one of the top restaurants in Cologne for traditional German food. Like an angel hearing my prayers, the host comes back out and tells us he can seat us if we order and eat quickly. YA$$$$$$. I’m so happy. Schnitzel and bratwurst please! The food was excellent, the service fast and nice, and we had some of the most amazing German mustard ever. Danke Weinhaus Brungs.
Cologne’s Old Town Christmas Market
Finishing up our exquisite dinner we off to our very first German Christmas Market, Cologne’s Old town Christmas market. The Old Town Christmas Market is right around the corner from our hotel and down the street from the Weinhaus Brungs restaurant.
The night is dark, warmer than usual, with a feeling of coziness that surrounds us. The Old Town Christmas market is adorable, every bit of magical as people say. Enclosed by all sorts of spruces, this tiny alpine village comes to life with rows of wooden cottages selling crafts, food, mulled wine, complete with its own ice rink and a canopy of lights strung over it all.
As I mentioned prior the most popular drink to order at Cologne’s Christmas markets, or any German Christmas market, is mulled wine. Each market serves up it’s mulled wine in their very own uniquely decorated Christmas mugs correlating with its markets theme. Our favorite mugs came from the Old Town Christmas Market, in which the mugs were adorned with mischievous gnomes. Be careful walking around as the red mulled wine will get all of your clothes and shoes white line gets out red wine so maybe have both in your hand.
Overall Cologne’s Old Town Christmas market is by far our favorite Christmas market as it offers the most activities and shops, best flow of traffic. The Old Town Christmas Market has an ice rink that circles the main area, a curling rink, small rides for kids, a the best bratwurst, the best mugs, and several bars to drink at.
Day 2: Exploring The Famous Cologne’s Christmas Markets
Day two in Cologne is going to spent exploring all the famous Christmas Markets. From Newmarket, Harbor and Cathedral Christmas markets. Waking up extra early, like always, I pressure Matt to hurry up and get ready so we can get a head start…or so I thought.
Cologne’s Newmarket or Angel Christmas Market
I was foolish thinking the markets would not be crowded at early in the morning, as everyone and their kids were out. Our first stop is Newmarket or Angels Christmas Market; about a 10 minute walk up the road from our hotel. The Newmarket or Angels Christmas Market is the oldest Christmas market in Cologne Germany. Newmarket is set up similar to the Old Town Christmas market as it enclosed by pine trees, and wooden cottage like stands, however this one is all white. They have a large ornament store in the center of the market selling the most amazing Christmas decorations. Most of the stands at Newmarket seem to be selling very similar items to that of Old Town. Too early to start drinking, we finished our awesome German pretzels and coffee and moved on to our next Christmas Market.
Cologne’s Cathedral Market
Our next stop is Cologne’s Cathedral Christmas Market. The cathedral Christmas market is beautiful with the famous Cologne Cathedral as the backdrop of this market. This is one of the smaller markets, with very tight walkways and hundreds of people; it is a cluster fuck. Pretty yes, especially at night when the Cathedral is all lit up, but if you get claustrophobic stay away. If I had to redo, I would go to this Christmas Market first to beat the rush of people. We make a swift exit.
Cologne’s Harbor Christmas market
Next on our list of Cologne’s Christmas markets to visit is Cologne’s Harbor Christmas Market. The Harbor market is set along the Rhine River, next to the Lindt’s Chocolate Museum. This is the smallest of the four Christmas Markets we visit in Cologne. It is by far the least impressive of the Christmas Markets with nowhere for people to eat and drink, The vendors at this market seem to be selling the most unique goods such as nautical and rustic goods. The upside of this christmas market is it is the least crowded, it is set along the river and there is a gigantic chocolate factory next to it. Hungry, we leave to find some lunch.
Lunch in Cologne
With so many people packed in a small city, it is making finding somewhere to eat impossible. The wait times to eat lunch exceeded an hour. So we meander the alleys of Cologne until we past this beer hall. Very gimmicky, we are both a bit apprehensive, but they seat us right away and we decide to go with it. Service is great, and super fast. There is a system to these beer halls and it works! Ordering a few beers, brats and pork knuckle…let the feasting commence. It is both of our first time eating pork knuckle and surprisingly it is delicious.
Belly’s full, we head back to the hotel for a mid afternoon nap before we make our evening rounds of Cologne’s Christmas Markets.
Second Evening in Cologne
Feeling rejuvenated it is time to hit up the christmas markets at night. The Christmas markets are so much better to visit at night because they are all lit up. Our game plan is to go to Newmarket or Angels market, Cathedral Market, and then back to the Old Town Christmas Market.
As we enter the Angels Christmas Market, the first thing we notice is how the crows has completely changed, from young families to teens and an older drinking crowd. It was more of a socializing scene than spending the evening with the family. Newmarket is way more crowded than it was during the day and nearly impossible to get a drink and find a place to drink your drink. I would compare it to the stalking we do in the US to find a parking spot at a mall during the holidays. You have to be somewhat aggressive.
Cycling through the markets, we find ourselves back at the Old Town Christmas market at the same bar that we’ve been to three times before. Creatures of habit. Several mulled wines later and countless spills, we are ready for dinner.
Holy shit we thought yesterday was bad for dinner. Saturday night in Cologne during the Christmas market season, we can not find a table anywhere. Desperate and hangry, we try to go to Hard Rock Cafe. Seriously, we are that desperate. The hostess tells me it is going to be a two hour wait. I laugh in her face. Hard Pass. Room service it is.
Day 3: Back to Cologne’s Old Town Christmas Market
Two days of christmas markets is plenty of time. The next day we decide we will train back to Amsterdam earlier than we planned. We pack our bags and checkout. Before we leave Cologne, we want to go to the Old Town Market on last time. We had some chocolate and other little tchotchkes we want to buy for Christmas gifts.
Circling, and dodging people we work up an appetite. We opted with a random bratwurst, not expecting much. This bratwurst is the best tasting most delicious food we have had in Cologne. No joke. I love it even more because the bun matched the size of the bratwurst. Typically we would buy a bratwurst with a dinner roll sized bun. Satisfied we walked back we grab our bags and walk over to the Cologne Central Station. All aboard we train back home to Amsterdam.
Top Tips for Visiting Cologne’s German Christmas Markets
- For the best christmas mugs go to Cologne’s Old Town Market.
- Wear dark colored clothes because red mulled wine spills everywhere, and it stains. Protect shoes and avoid wearing suede.
- Book a hotel room in Old Town as it is central to all of Cologne’s christmas markets
- Make reservations for dinner weeks prior
- Visit Cologne’s christmas markets at night for a more charming feeling.