Cologne is world renown for the best Christmas markets in Germany. Thousands of tourists travel to Cologne to visit their markets and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. As a Canadian in Europe, the German Christmas markets were a must to experience.
My hotel was in the train station, located on the square and facing the famous Dom Cathedral. A perfect location for a train traveler visiting for a few days. My first site tour was to the Cathedral, how could I not, it was right in front of me and omnipotent. The original Cathedral was built in 1170, and has survived fires and wars.
The church is the home of the remains of the three Maji and is subject of many European pilgrimages. The Cathedral was bombed 14 times during WW2 and is in a constant state of construction. Many different stones have been used in its formation, and with the weather and pollution, the appearance of the stones are black. Outside the church is the main pick up point for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus tours. Since there was time left in the day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see the city before the sun set. The bus had a pre-recorded description for people to follow along the route. The bonus for taking the tour is that I got to see where the other Christmas markets were set up and places I would like to visit the next day. The bus ticket was good for 48hrs.
Behind the Cathedral was the site of my first Christmas market. The centre piece of the market was huge Christmas tree with a ceiling of lights. The market had a variety of food stalls and spiced wine, and Christmas music permeated throughout the aisles, it was all very magical. The stall attendees also dressed up in Christmas attire or traditional German outfits, all adding the festive nature. My first tasting was a potato pasta dish with onions and gravy, it was interesting.
Each Christmas market in Cologne sold their own gluhwein mugs (spiced wine). The mugs represented the theme for the market and are collector items. They were reusable, and if you didn’t want to keep it, you could return it and get your money back.
The markets are more than sales, they are entertainment venues and meeting places for people. The Cathedral Christmas Market a stage and performers in the evening. This night a brass band played English Christmas carols.
The Cathedral Christmas Market was walking distance to another market. However, if you didn’t want to walk, for an 8 Euro day pass, a Christmas tram took visitors from market to market. I decided to walk to see more of Cologne. The walk from the Cathedral market to the Old Town Market wove its way through the pedestrian only shopping streets. This was really helpful to see the sales while on my on pilgrimage.
The Old Town Market’s theme centered upon the German house gnomes or the Heinzelmännchen. Each alley had a different theme dedicated to the gnomes. For my dining pleasure, I couldn’t resist ordering the traditional sausage. In Canada, we may eat sauerkraut with a sausage but no vendors here served any. I wore a Canadian pin on my coat, though I think they thought I was British and the vendor sliced up my sausage and put it in curry sauce. I still asked for a bun and like most Canadians, I politely wiped off the curry sauce and got some ketchup and mustard.
This market was about fun. There was a skating rink, Alpine village and a German tavern. I ordered a pint of local beer and watched an Oom-pah band play Christmas music from atop of the wooden tavern/ski chalet.
The next day, I took Hop-on/Hop-off bus and toured the Angel Christmas Market. Illuminated wooden angels were strung through the evergreen trees. This market had a few seats for those to enjoy their wine and food. The one issue, for me, with these markets was that they don’t have seating areas, so if you have knees problems or can’t not stand for long periods, the markets may have to be coordinated so you have to find a nearby place to rest.
From here I walked to other markets. The first was the Village of St. Nicholas, it was set behind the historic old wall of the medieval Hahnentorburg. I had to buy the gluhwein as their mug was in the shape of Santa’s boot. This market’s theme was fairy tales.
Across the street was another market that was still setting up. The stalls were decorated in tinsel and shiny wrap. The Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market.
Later, I caught the tour bus and got dropped off at the Harbour Christmas Market. This market was located next to the Chocolate Museum and the Rhine. Many of the stalls were the same as the other markets, so I quickly made my way through the market. It was the end of the day now and the sun was setting. It was nice walk along the Rhine back to my hotel. The European River Cruise ships were docked along the river’s bank.
It was cool to peak in the windows. On the path, many people rode their bikes in the dark and wore flashlights on their heads, even little kids.
This route led
me in to the back access of the Cathedral, there were some shady characters hanging around, so I walked fast and where there was street lights. I returned to the Christmas Market at the Cathedral for one last mug of mulled wine and some apple strudel and listen to Christmas carols.
Excerpt from Original Post from 2014